Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Drifters on Stage in Philadelphia

»Under The Boardwalk« (live 1964)

One of the great summer hits of '64 in the U.S. was »Under The Boardwalk« by The Drifters. While the British invasion was at its peak the song (on Atlantic 2237) reached # 1 r&b and # 4 pop in June.

It was recorded in New York on May 21, 1964. Lead-singer is Johnny Moore, who returned to be part of the Drifters only that spring. As is well-known, the Drifters had, in their long history, several lead-singers some of whom went solo after their stint with the group. Between 1953 and 1971, there were 11 of them in all, among them Clyde McPhatter (1953-55), Bobby Hendricks (1955-56, 58-59), Johnny Moore (1956-58), Ben E. King (1959-61) and Rudy Lewis (1961-63). And in 1963 the group was already marketed as a classic and their '50s recordings were sold as »Golden Oldies«. It was a sign of the times: In May '63, Roulette Records had started a new Oldies-series called »Golden Goodies« (and that included some of the old Drifters' tunes as well).

Ad from Billboard (May 25, 1963)

But with »Under The Boardwalk« the Drifters still had contemporary success. The song was penned by Artie Resnick & Kenny Young after Leiber & Stoller had, for the time being, stopped to deliver material for the Drifters. Most see the song as »pop-soul«, and indeed it is more »pop« than »soul«. However, you will hear the song in a different way after having listened to the live version of it, and without the Latino-Soul gimmicks that characterize its studio version. In fact, there is a nice live-recording of that song, taped in the Uptown Theatre of Philadelphia on July 24, 1964.

This live-version was released on the Atlantic LP # 8101 (Saturday Night At The Uptown) in late 1964. It contains several songs by The Drifters, The Vibrations and Wilson Pickett and one each by The Carltons, Patti La Belle & Her Bluebells, Patty & The Emblems and Barbara Lynn. Quite obviously, the LP was part of the new craze for live albums which was fired by James Brown's »Live At The Apollo«. Soon after that, Sam Cooke, Gene Chandler, Ike & Tina Turner and Etta James appeared »live« on records, and most Motown stars (The Marvelettes, The Miracles, Mary Wells, Marvin Gaye) as well. A number of the earlier live-LPs were technically less than satisfying, and many of the Motown albums in particular were poorly produced. Not so Atlantic 8101. It may not be perfect judged by today's standards, but in the year 1964 it must have appeared well recorded and finely cut.

The intros are spoken by Georgie Woods and Jimmy Bishop, popular DJs from Philadelphia, and the guitar player who is addressed in the middle of »Under The Boardwalk« was Billy Davis. On the back cover of the LP we read:
The audience called for Under The Boardwalk: The Drifters sang their infectious summertime hit ... and the audience quickly joined in and sang with them.
And here we, too, join in ...

The Drifters: »Under The Boardwalk« from the Atlantic LP Saturday Night At The Uptown (1964)

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