From dream lovers to an unpleasant wake-up call: Darin snaps his fingers and Kurt Weill ushers the spooning teenagers offstage pronto – one lovestuck girl remains and so Bobby sings her this nasty little song. Everything about “Mack The Knife” is grown-up – the reeling return of swing and wit to the top of the charts; the bloody lyrics; the predatory glee; and Darin’s conversational tone, more patter than singing. “That cement is just – it’s there for the weight, dear” – a horrified thrill transmits from Darin’s fictional audience to his real audience and all the way to the present day. And then the horns slam in for the final verse and you’re part of Darin’s world, of Mack’s world; you’re complicit.
Darin was the first heart-throb to find the exit door: if you want to move on, get nasty. If you do it convincingly, you’ll take the best of your fans with you. If not, you’re an embarrassment. Bobby Darin convinced: “Mack The Knife” was his key and pop stars are still trying to fit it to that lock – step forward Robbie Williams and Gareth Gates. You only need look at Gates to know his version won’t work, and as for Robbie, his swing recordings are expressions of respect, the very thing he built his second chance by torching. Mack would make short work of them both, and do it with a smile.