Bobby Darin

TrackAlbum/Single
Dream LoverDream Lover / Bullmoose
If A Man AnswersIf A Man Answers / A True True Love
If I Were A CarpenterIf I Were A Carpenter / Rainin'
Jailer Bring Me WaterThings / Jailer Bring Me Water
Me & Mr HohnerCommitment LP
MultiplicationMultiplication / Irresistible You
Simple Song of Freedom (live)Simple Song of Freedom /
I'll Be Your Baby Tonight
Splish SplashSplish Splash / Judy, Don't Be Moody
ThingsThings / Jailer Bring Me Water
Work SongEarthy LP

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Contributor: Peter Viney

A standard-free Bobby Darin Toppermost list.

Kevin Spacey’s biopic of Bobby Darin, Beyond The Sea, was a labour of love. Darin was a rock ‘n’ roller, a night club crooner of standards, a pop singer, an R&B / gospel singer, a C&W singer, a folk singer, a 70s rock singer, and a protest singer.

Kevin Spacey imitated him near perfectly in the film, and I’m casting my eye down the soundtrack list: Hello Young Lovers, Mack The Knife, Beyond The Sea, Some Of These Days, Lazy River. The film bookended Darin’s career, focussing on the rock singer (Splish Splash, Dream Lover), tuxedo standard singer and moustachioed protest singer (with a name change from Bobby to Bob).

However, he largely missed the Darin I know and love. He has If I Were A Carpenter and Splish Splash, Dream Lover and Simple Song of Freedom but otherwise the soundtrack fails to match my top ten.

The early years included Early In The Morning by The Rinky Dinks, coincidentally the name of a youth club band I was in. Queen of The Hop was an early contender for my list, partly because one has to eradicate Charlie Drake’s comedy cover of Splish Splash out of mind.

I’m into early 60s Bobby Darin. Around 1963, I used to persuade the local record store to allow me into the listening booth for just one more listen to Work Song from the Earthy album. I must have a dozen versions of Work Song, but none match the simplicity of Darin’s voice with double bass, drums and nothing else. Earthy and Golden Folk Hits are paired on the CD The Capitol Folk Albums. On the second he did all the bleedin’ obvious ones, ending up with much the same track list as Johnny Rivers’ contemporary effort to also embrace the folk boom.

Spacey just skipped the pop singer period, and I can’t imagine a Darin Top Ten without Multiplication. The 4 CD box set cuts out his spoken ‘They’d better!’ at the end, which is on the single. I’m choosing both sides of a single: Things and Jailer Bring Me Water, the B-side. Jailer Bring Me Water always sounded traditional to me, but no, Darin composed it. Trini Lopez, Jackie DeShannon, Johnny Rivers, The Bachelors and Freddie & The Dreamers (among others) covered it and credited him.

Darin did good B-sides. The B-side of Splish Splash was Judy Don’t Be Moody. Dream Lover is another one where the B-side is tempting, Bullmoose. An obscure B-side (it was only on the British version) is True True Love on the back of If A Man Answers. For years I used it in stage shows whenever an obviously soppy romantic song was required. I love it, but I think it would be to few tastes.

Spacey smoothed over the C&W period on Capitol too, so missed 18 Yellow Roses, You’re The Reason I’m Living as well the jaunty If A Man Answers. He also skipped Milord, Mame, Hello Dolly, Baby Face, You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby … all examples of Darin treading where so many had before, though Darin did them better than most. Spacey got Tim Hardin’s If I Were A Carpenter, but missed Hardin’s The Lady Came From Baltimore and Reason To Believe.

The singer/songwriter, denim jacket, moustache years gave John Sebastian’s Darlin’ Be Home Soon, Blowin’ In The Wind, Simple Song of Freedom, Me & Mr Hohner and Randy Newman’s Sail Away (which was on Tamla Motown). Let’s miss Talk To The Animals from Dr Dolittle.

Me & Mr Hohner, from the Commitment album, which he wrote, is atypical, more in Tony Joe White territory with a touch of talking blues. The Hammond organ playing in the song is memorable, as is the mouth harp. Both were played by Darin. From the same album, Sugar Man (not the Rodriguez song, but with an identical theme) was another one I seriously considered.

It was only after I’d selected the Top Ten that I realized I’d gone overwhelmingly for Bobby Darin compositions: eight out of ten.

The Legendary Bobby Darin

Bobby Darin biography (iTunes)

TopperPost #42

3 Comments

  1. Merric Davidson
    Aug 8, 2013

    One of the earlierst discs in my record collection was Bobby Darin’s 1959 No.1 UK hit, Dream Lover b/w Bullmoose. Because you didn’t have many records then, the B-sides always got a good hearing and, although I really liked Dream Lover, his own composition (still do), it was old Bullmoose that got more plays: Did you hear the story ’bout old Bullmoose? He played piano, really tore it loose. Whenever his heart was filled with gloom, he’d beat out a song in the old lunchroom. All the guys and gals would gather ’round, just to hear that Bullmoose sound.

    Then came Mack The Knife, perhaps surprisingly not selected here, and another UK No.1 for Bob. Wow, what a record that was. Didn’t have a clue what it was all about until many years later but it caused a “big sensation” at the end of the 50s. I’d sing along merrily, making the words up as I went along, right up to the big teenage ending. Fantastic record.

    The third Darin single that I’d include is hardly an original either. It was written in 1947 (I had to look this up) and originally recorded by Nat ‘King’ Cole (I knew that) but I hadn’t heard Nat’s version when, in 1961, Bobby Darin produced a sublime version of Nature Boy. It didn’t trouble the top 20 (reached No.24) but I think it’s probably Darin’s best single from the early days.

  2. Dave Stephens
    Aug 26, 2018

    Peter, thanks for pointing me at this Topper and I hope that more readers follow me to this, at times, surprising piece, though I mean that in a good way. You zero in on Darin’s pop period and quite rightly in my view. The fabulous “Dream Lover” was one of the few exceptions to the general rule that most teen pop of that era was c**p and I do wonder how much the Atlantic/Atco production experience and expertise helped in its creation You also, again correctly, remind us of the Darin role in popularising some of the key singer/songwriters of the period, and his versions still stand up. And you don’t ignore the man’s country phase (which is probably too sugary for some). The surprise of course, is the slight downplaying of Darin’s Tony Bennett period. I agree with Merric, that much of the whole amazing thing about “Mack The Knife” was that anyone coming from pop/rock would not only attempt such a style but would do it so well. The record would certainly be in my Ten but you were being rather more daring.

  3. Peter Viney
    Aug 29, 2018

    It was in the days when we did very short Toppermosts. This morning amazon informed me of a double “lost” Motown Bobby Darin unreleased songs set – there is already a 2 CD Motown set of more obvious stuff. Definitely the new one is a set I’m going to explore. I reckon “Mack the Knife” wore out for me doing lights on Frankie Vaughan two shows a night, six days a week, though I remain a Frankie fan, I got fed up of that one. Darin does it far better, but I had had enough of the song!

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