Monday, August 16, 2010

Bobby Darin

>>>Last night I watched the movie "Beyond The Sea" with Kevin Spacey. While watching this movie, I vaguely remembered that you said you were going to re-run a series you did about Bobby Darin. Am I right about that?
I missed it the first time around. Any ballpark time-frame for it ? Don't worry ... I won't hold you to it. Just curious.
Frank B.
Actually, what I REALLY said was that it would take me about 100 hours to edit this 2005 month-long series and get it up on the website ... something I still fully intend to do but now, at a time where I'm lucky to be able to devote five or six hours to keeping the CURRENT website up to date, it's just an impossibility. But I haven't forgotten about it ... as I've said before, I get two or three of these "reminders" and / or requests every month ... so the interest is certainly there to follow through on this "promise". Stay tuned! (kk)


Interestingly enough, I did have the opportunity to revisit our Bobby Darin Series this past week when I was putting together a little something for Scott Shannon. As such, we'll run a short "teaser" today to tell you about one little-known aspect of Bobby's career that you may not have been familiar with. And, with a little more "inspired nudging" like Frank's letter above, maybe I'll actually start the re-editing process necessary to get the WHOLE thing posted up on the website, too.
For now ... here's just a brief chapter:

Bobby Darin bought Trinity Music, a music publishing house, in 1963. In addition to producing his own hits "You're The Reason I'm Living" and "18 Yellow Roses", Trinity Music proved to be a lucrative business venture for Bobby Darin, who now, in addition to singer, songwriter, successful Vegas lounge act, movie actor and television star had added the titles of publisher and businessman to his resume! With over 700 titles already in its library, Trinity also boasted a song-writing staff that included Terry Melcher, Kenny Young, Frank Gari, Artie Resnick, Rudy Clark, Van McCoy, Bobby Scott and Debbie Stanley.

In addition to writing The Top Five Drifters' smash "Under The Boardwalk", Trinity staff writer Rudy Clark also wrote their follow-up hit "I've Got Sand In My Shoes" and, two years later, had a Number One Record when The Young Rascals recorded his composition "Good Lovin'". Betty Everett's recording of Clark's "The Shoop Shoop Song" has gone on to become a '60's classic. Terry Melcher would write two Top 40 Hits for The Rip Chords in 1964 ("Hey Little Cobra", #4, and "Three Window Coupe, #28) while under Darin's publishing umbrella and Bobby also brought young song-writing upstarts Jesse Colin Young and Roger McGuinn onboard as staff writers!

Yet despite his success rate at finding hits for his new company, Darin reportedly passed on the opportunity to record songs like "Do You Believe In Magic", "Daydream", "Younger Girl" and "Summer In The City" ... songs that today are considered '60's classics by one of the decade's master songwriters. Back before The Lovin' Spoonful ever had a hit record of their own, the music of their leader, John Sebastian, was first offered to Bobby Darin to record ... and he turned it all down, one by one, feeling that either the music simply wasn't right for him or that it didn't hold "hit" potential.

After watching hit after hit climb the charts for The Lovin' Spoonful, Darin finally took a stab at a couple of John Sebastian compositions himself. His first success came in 1967 when his version of "Lovin' You" went all the way to #32. (It would become his last Top 40 Hit, coming right on the heels of his Top Ten comeback success with "If I Were A Carpenter".)

In fact, it was John Sebastian's publishers, Charles Koppelman and Don Rubin, who first brought these songs to Bobby's attention. They had been working with The Lovin' Spoonful, The Turtles and Tim Hardin ... and Hardin's "If I Were A Carpenter" was the first song that they were able to convince Bobby to record.

After his rock and roll and then nightclub success, Bobby virtually re-invented himself with these folk - rock / protest tunes. In addition to "Lovin' You", he also eventually recorded John Sebastian's "Daydream" ... one of the first songs he turned down...and then released Sebastian's "Darling Be Home Soon" as a single later that year, where it stopped at #93.

When Bobby Darin was first offered the John Sebastian song "Younger Girl" (ultimately a hit for The Critters, The Hondells and The Lovin' Spoonful), he turned it down, too, feeling that at his age, it really didn't fit his image. Although he liked the song, he joked that he was afraid that he might be sent to jail for even having such thoughts!

In an interview that Bobby Darin did with David Frost in 1972, he tells the story of John Sebastian's publishers bringing some of his songs into Trinity Music looking for Bobby to record them, growing more and more confident as each tune Bobby rejected became a bigger and bigger hit for The Lovin' Spoonful. (This bit became a key part of the comedy portion of Darin's stage show in the later years...and it IS a pretty funny story!)

A pretty crude audio recording of this interview is attached ... meanwhile, here is the jist of what Bobby had to say:

BOBBY DARIN: Well, what actually happened was some fellas came to me with some songs. They were very fresh in the music publishing business and it was in 1966, and I was kinda looking for a hit ... they brought me a song, which went a little like this (singing) "Do you believe in magic ... in a young girls heart?" and I said "Fellas, that's a lovely song, it really is, but it'll never be a hit." I know what it feels to be an idiot. (Laughter from audience) It was a smash, as you all know, a million and a half seller, maybe a two million seller. A couple or three months went by and they were very solicitous, by the way. The first time they came into the office, they were all kinda dressed up to here, and they were trying to make a impression. So they had said to me "Mr. Darin, may we see you?" and once you call me "Mister", you know, I go crackers, I like that. "OK, great," I said, "Yeah," and then they played me that song ... I turned it down. Couple of months later, after having that success already, they walked back into my office and said "Hey Bobby!" ... (Laughter from audience) ... "We don't wanna bug you but we have a new song." They played me a song that went something like (singing) "Younger girl came rolling across my mind" and I said "Fellas, at my age I cannot be singing about no younger girl or they'll throw me in jail!" That's not exactly the way I said it, because we're not in a nightclub, I can't tell you the way I exactly said it ... in any event, that sold two and half million records. It was a big smash. They came back to me a third time and this time they said, "Hey Baby, wanna get behind this number before you catch yourself in slumber ... we came back to your shack, Jack, this time in a Cadillac ... so we hate to trouble you, because we know you can't make the payments on the VW, but if you do this song before long it'll be a smash, bigger cash than you made with 'Splash'," so I said, "Well play it, don't say it, play it", so they put it on the machine and it went like this ... "Summer in the City and the back of my neck gets tired and gritty" and I turned that one down too. (Laughter from the audience) 3 million copies, number one for 28 weeks, it was an incredible record ... the next time they came into the office I was laying and waiting for 'em ... I said, "I don't care what you got, I'm gonna record it" and they whipped out the sheet music ... I thought it was ... it wasn't, it was an eviction notice. It was a piece of paper that said "We have just bought this building with the royalties we made from you turnin' down our records!" (Laughter from the audience)
-- David Frost Interview with Bobby Darin

In our never-ending commitment to finding "the most accurate truth", it seems pretty unlikely, in hindsight, that ALL of these John Sebastian tunes were first offered to Bobby Darin to record. In fact, in Jeff Bleiel's interview with Koppelman and Rubin for his book "That's All: Bobby Darin On Record, Stage And Screen", the publishers confirm that "Do You Believe In Magic" was NOT offered to Bobby to record. It was, after all, The Lovin' Spoonful's first hit record and they were not about to give that song away ... in reality, it is most likely that BECAUSE of that song's success, they felt that they could approach Darin about recording some of John Sebastian's other material. Likewise, "Summer In The City", one of the biggest hit records of 1966, was never offered ... but this all made for a great little comedy routine that became a big part of Darin's nightclub act.

The REAL kicker in the deal was that had these guys not been persistent in pushing John Sebastian's work, Bobby may never have had the chance to hear Tim Hardin's song "If I Were A Carpenter" ... and THAT'S the song that turned his whole career around. The biggest plus that day was that publishers Koppelman and Rubin also brought Bobby "If I Were A Carpenter" ... and Bobby KNEW that this was a hit record the moment he heard it. In fact, it would go on to become his last Top Ten Hit.