1959 was the first high summer of teen-pop ‘ a catwalk of heart-throbs at the top of the charts. Their songs weren’t quite interchangeable, but there was definitely a certain pop style that was selling and they worked it well. The key was to be pleasant; to sing with a kind of shy yearning, to have the drums brush and patter rather than rock or roll, to let the guitars pluck out the prettiest of melodies.
These were songs that wooed you more than they thrilled you: the topic, of course, was always love. Not love as it might be lived, and not even love the way the crooners had sung it, turning experience into theatre ‘ but love at a safe distance, in dreams or the past or the future. (Cliff Richard is actually going out with a girl ‘ oh no! ‘ so does the distance thing by metaphorising her into a marionette!).
Bobby Darin first: ‘Dream Lover’ has a slinky, sort-of-Latin beat that links with the cute pizzicatos for a sound-picture of teen coyness. Darin has a fine voice too, though he sounds a little bored on the verses and only gets properly puppy-dog on the chorus. The only problem is the backing vocals, plonked into the arrangement without much obvious thought: the girly ba-bas and the gum-chewing raow-raows sound like they belong in two different songs and neither of them do much for Darin’s come-ons.