Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Bobby Darin

The Record Baron was a store on Grant Avenue, in River Heights, in the big strip mall at the corner of Kenaston. I didn’t get there often, it wasn’t exactly my home territory, but I remember the few times I did go, I got The Zombies, The Spencer Davis Group, Roger Miller, and Bobby Darin.

The Bobby Darin I got was The Bobby Darin Story, and the odd thing about the album was that it was originally issued with 10 tracks, and 3 tracks were added to later releases, the cover was slightly altered, but the narrative was not amended accordingly. Narrative? Bobby Darin himself recorded a few snippets of narrative for the album, one before Splish Splash, one before Mack The Knife, one before Beyond The Sea, one before You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby, which was originally the final track. Beyond The Sea, though, was the first track on side 2, originally. And so Bobby says “we go from the number one hit in the nation to the number one song on this side.” But it’s not the first track on side 2 anymore. So it’s a bit discordant.

Besides The Bobby Darin Story, I had a cassette collection called 18 Yellow Roses that had his Capital hits, and some oddball tracks from a CD collection. He actually recorded for a while for Motown; I don’t have any of those tracks.

Altogether Bobby Darin had 41 top 100 singles; I have 31.

This collection also includes The Rinky Dinks, who were Bobby Darin in disguise. Their one hit was Early In The Morning, which was included on The Bobby Darin Story.

Bobby Darin:

Splish Splash – Maybe the only song ever to draw a nexus between bathing and partying. Darin didn’t remain a rock and roller for long, but it was good while it lasted. Darin’s first hit, from the summer of 1958.
Early In The Morning – Should be in a separate post. Oh, it’s Bobby Darin alright, but the song was released by “The Rinky Dinks;” it has something do with contract issues. The song is a refreshingly defiant leave-taking, contrast Softly I Will Leave You. Buddy Holly had a competing version. From the summer of 1958. Not the Nilsson song.
Queen Of The Hop – Bobby is dating a girl known for dancing talents, he is damn proud of it, and who can blame him. One of those songs with a list of rock and roll allusions in the lyrics. From the fall of 1958.
Plain Jane – Among the myriads of songs of beautiful woman, there pops up now and then a song like this, about a girl who just doesn’t have it in the looks or style department, but Bobby loves her anyway. Of course, it’s just as disparaging either way, and it’s great pop in any case. From the winter of 1959.
Dream Lover – I learned this song from a Gary Lewis & The Playboy LP when I was relatively young. It was a long time before I heard the original; it’s a great rock and roll ballad, and I used to sing it to my kids when they were babies. From the summer of 1959. I also have a remake by Rick Nelson.
Mack The Knife – Usually titled Theme From Threepenny Opera, Darin’s straight-as-an-arrow reading of this tale of murder and horror blew all the competition out of the water. Darin’s straight reading is brilliant. A huge it, number 1 for 9 weeks in the fall and winter of 1959.
Beyond The Sea – Gets into Sinatra territory with this. This is La Mer, recorded by many, and a hit for Darin in the winter of 1960.
Clementine – Oh My Darling, all fancied up. From the spring of 1960.
Bill Bailey – A jazzed up version of this. Whitburn lists it as Won’t You Come Home Bill Bailey. Fair enough, it’s what he sings after all. From the summer of 1960.
Artificial Flowers – A song about a 9 year old girl who has to support herself selling artificial flowers. This song of saccharine sentiment was a hit in the fall of 1960.
Somebody To Love – Not the Jefferson Airplane song, but same idea. Someone to call me Turtle Dove. I don’t know if I’d want that. The B side of Artificial Flowers and a hit in the fall of 1960.
Lazy River – Another old standard, a lazy song about a lazy river. From the spring of 1961.
You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby – Extrapolation. Yet another updated old standard. There is a version of this by The Dave Clark Five also. From the fall of 1961.
Multiplication – A song about reproduction. Too clever by half. From the winter of 1962, the B side of Irresistible You.
What’d I Say – It was particularly brave of Darin to tackle this one, given Darin’s notorious inability to countenance negative comparisons. It’s not bad though, compares favourably to Jerry Lee’s and Elvis’s covers. Original of course was by Ray Charles. Like the original, the song is spread out over 2 sides of a 45, and it was part one, which ends rather abruptly, that was the hit. Darin sticks fairly closely to the original. This was from the spring of 1962
Things – A song about association and memories. It’s a jaunty performance but it rings true, proving that sad songs don’t have to be slow nor maudlin. From the summer of 1962.
18 Yellow Roses –Nobody would say “you belong to another” about a girl and her father. There is something incestuous about this. Here is where the Capital songs begin. From the summer of 1963.
The Good Life – Bobby Darin takes this song made famous by Tony Bennett and gives it his best night club performance.
Treat My Baby Good – Never mind the grammar. This is Take Good Care Of My Baby redux, and if it sounds more adult it’s in Darin’s delivery, not in the lyrics.
The Things In This House – Reminds me of Walls by Jim Reeves, but I’d rather listen to Bobby Darin. Another great example of sad but uptempo and jazzy song. Not to be confused with Things. From the fall of 1964.
If A Man Answers – From the fall of 1962. This is another way of saying The Night Has A Thousand Eyes, or He’ll Have To Go. Except this: Darin doesn’t grovel.
You’re The Reason I’m Living – Darin tackles a straightforward, slightly country flavoured love song, and he does it well. From the winter of 1963. My Stein / Marsh book lists this as You’re The Reason I’m Leaving, a typo that turns it around.
Be Mad Little Girl – Think Go Away Little Girl by Steve Lawrence, Young Girl by Gary Puckett & The Union Gap, Come Back When You Grow Up by Bobby Vee. “I’m not the guy who made the laws!” he protests, while she taunts “you chicken!” From the winter of 1963 / 1964.
Hello Dolly – This is a tough one to pull off. To his credit, he doesn’t touch Louis Armstrong. He does a respectable performance but the song is too much the show tune for it to work. From the winter of 1965.
I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now – Another old standard updated with a slightly country feel. The country style was very similar to what Dean Martin was doing on records like Everybody Loves Somebody, and this may have been Capital’s revenge. From the winter of 1964, the height of Beatlemania. There is a very good version of this by Harry Nilsson.
If I Were A Carpenter – The Tim Hardin song, a hit also for The Four Tops, and recorded by many more, including Joan Baez and Johnny Cash & June Carter. Darin’s version was one that put Tim Hardin on the public radar; it was a hit in the fall of 1966, and marked his return to Atlantic.
The Girl Who Stood Beside Me – Another record in his then new folky style. The tune and the arrangement are understated; the lyrics are a powerful statement of a marital bond. From the winter of 1966 / 1967.
Mighty Mighty Man – The title taken straight from the lyrics of Good Rockin Tonight, and the style and delivery too.
I’ll Be There – A beautiful song of separation. A hit for Gerry & The Pacemakers in early 1965, and covered by Elvis. Darin’s original was the B side of Bill Bailey and a small hit in the summer of 1960.
Beachcomber – A piano instrumental from the fall of 1960.
Nature Boy – A slight update of Nat King Cole’s hit. From the summer of 1961.
Baby Face – A bit too cute for my tastes. I wonder if anyone could save this. From the autumn of 1962.
Irresistible You – From the winter of 1962.
Lovin’ You – Bobby Darin does John Sebastian, and does him well. Originally recorded by The Lovin’ Spoonful, but it was Darin who had the hit in the winter of 1967.
Simple Song Of Freedom – Bobby Darin goes political. This song was a hit of sorts for Tim Hardin, Hardin’s way of repaying Darin for making a hit of If I Were A Carpenter. This is a live recording of Darin accompanying himself on guitar, with a small band and female harmony. The result is understated beauty.

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