Thursday, 12 June 2014

The Drifters 'Under The Boardwalk'

Chart Peak: 45
This was the first Hit to feature Johnny Moore as lead singer although it only made No. 45 in September 1964. Incredibly the group had only one Top 10 single in Britain in the 'Sixties, yet made the Top 10 on eight occasions in the 'seventies.
A song that seems to have been around forever, and one that I can remember liking long before I had any idea of what a boardwalk was. Much later it made an impression on me through its appearance in one of my favourite films, Wim Wenders' Alice In The CitiesSo it's a bit of a surprise that it's never made the Top 40 in its original version. Maybe it was a little bit too saucy for British broadcast in the 1960s since in the original version they're "making love" under that boardwalk, although there is of course the more familiar edit which repeats the "falling in love" lyric instead.

In some ways, the song pioneers the formula of 'Saturday Night At The Movies' and 'At The Club', listing attractions of a particular location - but its rather mellower atmosphere makes it feel less like an advertisement and more contented. It's an unfortunate irony that part of the reason for this vibe was probably that incumbent lead singer Rudy Lewis had been found dead from an overdose the day before the recording. Obviously the business in those days wouldn't countenance cancelling a session at short notice so they dutifully trooped into the studio and taped the song with Moore (who'd previously been a member in the 1950s before being called up to military service) assuming frontman duties for the next few years. Despite its distinctly American sound, the song was actually co-written by our very own Kenny Young, whom viewers of Seventies Top Of The Pops might recall from such classics as 'S-s-single Bed' by Fox or 'One More Night' by the Yellow Dog. By that time of course the Drifters had based their recording operation in the UK, hence that impressive run of hits at a time that would generally be considered to be after their musical peak.

Maybe the greatest tribute to this track is how bad all the cover versions are. Obviously, you wouldn't expect Bruce Willis to do a good version, but even the Undertones couldn't get this one right and their attempt is surely the worst song on any of their albums. It shows how right the original is.

Available on: Up On The Roof - The Very Best Of

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