Wednesday, September 7, 2016

SHG: Bobby Darin: "Dream Lover"

Bobby Darin: “Dream Lover”
Entered the chart on: 5/4/1959
Peaked on: 6/8/1959
Weeks at #2: 1
Song at #1: “The Battle of New Orleans” by Johnny Horton

Lots of folks forget that Bobby Darin started out as a rock & roller. I mean, nobody would confuse him with Jerry Lee Lewis, but I think that “Splish Splash” was definitely a credible stab at the genre (and it’s obvious he was really trying to emulate JLL, so let’s give him an A for effort).

This one was from that era, too. In fact, right on the cusp of that era, as we’ll soon find out.

The first thing that strikes me is the quality and smoothness of Bobby’s voice. There’s a little “catch” in it, though, that lets you know he’s feeling the lyric. Call me cynical, but I relate better to songs like this, about a lonely man wishing for someone to warm his bedside, than in songs that espouse how good it feels to be in love. For the record, I do believe this pre-dated Bobby’s romance to popular starlet Sandra Dee.

I guess because rock & roll was now Big Business, the arrangements were getting bigger too. Yes, the spiky electric guitar is there plucking along, but like with the Impalas song we have a full orchestration with a big mixed-voice choir backing him. The producer also added a smidgen of reverb to Bobby’s voice which isn’t strictly necessary, but is nonetheless a nice touch.

This is a very good song, but you could kind of already hear that Bobby felt that he was outgrowing this kind of thing. He graduated from this song to transform himself into an old-school song stylist à la Tony Bennett. Apparently, in an interview after his performance of this very song on American Bandstand, Dick Clark came out and told Bobby he thought he’d lost his mind when he said that the next song he’d be doing would be an old and already much-covered standard from Kurt Weill’s A Threepenny Opera.

Obviously Bobby had the last laugh, as that song topped the charts for nine straight weeks and acted as the second wind for his music career. That is, until 1966 when he picked up an acoustic guitar and re-invented himself as a folk troubadour, with an affecting rendition of Tim Hardin’s “If I Were a Carpenter.”

Bobby Darin, pop music’s original chameleon. Move over, David Bowie.

Rating: 4

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