Music critics and enthusiasts often refer to the early 60s of rock and pop as the “Bobby era” due to the amount of singers named Bobby: Bobby Darin, Bobby Rydell, Bobby Vinton, Bobby Vee.
The reference is pejorative.
The inference is that the Bobby’s were interchangeable and indistinguishable.
Accordingly the music has not been explored or researched as much as other genres of 60s rock n pop.
And this is a shame.
To be fair the Bobby’s here to have a few things in common. They were:
- from ethnic migrant families: Italian (Darin and Rydell), Polish (Vinton), Norwegian (Vee);
- of (largely) working class backgrounds;
- pop rock singers who also dabbled in trad pop to varying degrees;
- singers primarily who did not (largely, though not exclusively) write their own material;
- of a common squeaky clean image;
- very successful in the charts.
But, there is nothing bad with any of these things.
Do deny them their place (or not applaud them) in music is more than a little unfair.
If you can listen to Billy Joel, Elton John and any other number of rock n pop singers from the 70s then you can listen to Bobby Rydell from the early 60s.
Granted the early 60s aren’t as hip as the 70s and that may be part of the problem in selling Rydell and his compatriots.
People need cynicism in their music for it to be taken seriously and the early 60s in pop was too bouncy and optimistic (though there are dark undertones that are often overlooked)
That optimism combined with a generally held and assumed belief that nothing existed in music between Elvis going into the army and the Beatles international arrival in 1964 means little discourse on the music of time.
But, as regular readers of this blog may now it is an era of rock (‘n’ pop) I love … I like the optimism and the innocence, and I like the (occasionally) hidden dark undertones that something is not quite right. They resonate more when they are hidden in an upbeat song or amongst upbeat sunny numbers.
I note for completeness sake that those darker tunes were fully manifested in the “teenage death songs” of the era.
Rydell wasn’t likely to sneak in cynicism into his songs. His music is buoyant, sunny pop and it is infectious.
Rydell’s career was in full swing in 1963.
He had three top twenty hits in the preceding year and in April of 1963 the movie version of the stage production “Bye Bye Birdie” featuring Bobby Rydell was released. The original stage production had no real speaking role for Rydell’s character, but the movie script was rewritten specifically to expand his role. The film went on to become the 13th highest grossing film of the year (in the US).
In those day you rewarded success with more work. You churned out the product to capitalise, and to ride the wave.
This album, was Rydell’s eighth album in four years and it doesn’t depart from his earlier ones (from what I have heard) … it is poppy rock with a good dose of trad pop … rhythm with a beat but with trad instruments and arrangements.
It is sunny happy, summer holiday pop, all beach balls, water holes, and walks along piers ice cream in hand.
Its charm lies in the music and vocals perfectly putting across despite what was happening in the world.
The Cuban missile crisis of October 1962 was a distant memory, Berlin remains divided, tensions in Vietnam escalate, students riot in Venezuela, members of Ku Klux Klan dynamite a Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama killing 4 young girls, earthquakes in Yugoslavia and Libya, a hurricane in Haiti and a tsunami in Bangladesh kill tens of thousands, Pope John XXIII dies, and President Kennedy is assassinated (in November) …it is hard to remain buoyant in the face of that.
But people were buoyant.
The concerns of the world seem remote and distant and summer is here and everyone can holiday. And, everyone does, this is not exclusively, as you would assume, west coast but makes references to (well I see references to) those summer days on the east coast, in the north, and in the south.
This is a holiday album for the whole of the United States where no one is excluded.
It may not be real but you don’t really need to look in the mirror all the time.
Tracks (best in italics)
- Wildwood Days – (Appell, Mann) – The Dovells featured the song on the flip side of their “Bristol Stomp” hit single released in the spring of 1963.?The Wildwoods is used as a collective term for the four communities that have "Wildwood" as part of the municipality name in New Jersey. A great bouncy pop tune that evokes the holidays and carefree youth beautifully. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wildwood_Days also, http://www.atlanticcityweekly.com/news_and_views/the-story-behind-rydell-s-wildwood-days/article_5cbffa33-067b-5d5a-8e50-86a791a64a40.html
- Summertime Blues – (Cochran, Capehart) – Eddie Cochran had a (magnificent) #8 with it in 1958. This is weird, replacing Cochran's insistent thumping guitar and surly attitude with horns and Bobby's rounded vocals. He doesnt sound like he has the summertime blues. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summertime_Blues
- Moon Over Miami – (Leslie, Burke) – an old tin pan alley song done by everyone though Bill Haley and His Comets released a rock ‘n’ roll version in 1957. (Ray Charles did it in 1960 and the Platters did it in 1963 just before Bobby). This is full voiced but quite evocative. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon_Over_Miami_(song)
- Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days Of Summer – (Tobias, Carste) – the title to Nat King Cole’s album from 1963 (#14) and a song identified with Nat. The tempo on this popped up a bit but it still works though it not as lazy or hazy.
- Kissin' Time – (Lowe, Mann) – Bobby’s #11 hit from 1959 … I’m not sure if this is re-recorded or just filler. Later recorded by KISS (1974) (!). A excellent pop rock tune with a hint of Chuck Berry (and his "Sweet Little Sixteen") https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kissin'_Time_(song)
- Steel Pier – (Appell, Mann) – This was also released as a one sided promo single which was tied in with a concert Bobby gave at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City on August 14, 1963. Very Bobby Darin and there is nothing wrong with that.
- Sea Cruise – (Smith, Vincent) – Frankie Ford (Vincent Francis Guzzo) #14 (#11R&B) New Orleans rocker from1959. Not a flavourful as the Ford song but not too bad. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_Cruise
- Surfin' U.S.A. – (Brian Wilson) – The Beach Boys had a #3 in 1963. Nothing suggests California summer sun like the beach Boys in their early period. You wouldn't think that Rydell would cover The Beach Boys as they seem to be from other musical times with different impulses but they did co-exist at the same. This is pure cheese with keyboards and trad pop stylings, but quite enjoyable. Of course Chuck Berry got a co-write of this later (it was based on his "Sweet Little Sixteen" from 1958). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surfin'_U.S.A._(song)
- Old Cape Cod – (Rothrock, Yakus) – A Patti Page #7 from 1957. It fits in thematically with the album but it is of another era and not really updated (tyoo much). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Cape_Cod
- Down By The River Side – (Dazz Jordan) – An old traditional spiritual which was given some new secular lyrics by John Bernie Toorish (Dazz Jordan was a pseudonym). Everyone had done the trad version and the new version was often covered also, most notably by the The Four Lads in 1953 and Sal Mineo in 1958. Very catchy
- Lovin' Doll – (Lowe, Mann) – a album track from Rydell’s first album "We Got Love " (1959). I don’t know if it is a re-record (it sounds like the original). I'm not sure where the "lovin" comes from as Bobby seems to sing "livin".
- See You In September – (Edwards, Wayne) – the Tempos had a #23 1959 (but the biggest hit was for The Happenings #3 1966). Catchy with some chintzy, cheesy keyboard work. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/See_You_in_September
Give me a coffee shop, with a table on the sidewalk, serve me with a coffee, drench me in afternoon sun and put this on. Let the world pass me by … I'm keeping it.
1963 Wildwood Days #17
Failed to chart
Moon Over Miami
Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days Of Summer
Old Cape Cod
Down By The River-Side
See You In September