Mar 04

BOBBY DARIN – ‘Dream Lover’

Popular9 comments • 2,145 views

#87, 3rd July 1959

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.



  1. 1
    Pete Baran on 4 Jun 2009 #

    This is a satchel song for me, one of the few vinyl seven inches left in a mouldy old satchel along with my parent old dansette that they let me and my sister “play” with. It was a lovely old machine, old stacker arm and I remember at a very young age loving the mechanical clunk click of the record arm and the automatic repeat.

    Dream Lover was a middling favourite in the satchel batch (the Beatles B-Sides seemed to win out) but I always loved the build of the chorus,
    I want – (yeah yeah yeah)
    A girl – (yeah yeah yeah)
    to call – (yeah yeah yeah)
    my own…

    Looking at it now, there is a slightly odd wet dream subtext in here as well.

  2. 2
    wichita lineman on 5 Jun 2009 #

    Could be slightly odd, more likely it’s intentional. I like the way Dream Lover takes the Italianite pizzicato percussive feel of Paul Anka’s Diana and Neil Sedaka’s Oh Carol – too slick and smarmy, Dino and Perry for teens – and grafts on a song about, well, just what Pete said it is, with Bobby hoping and praying every night, wishing he wasn’t dreaming alone.

    Ace have put a bunch of cds called Teenage Crush covering this post R&R teendream stuff. Too much can get pretty cloying, but things like I’ve Come Of Age by Billy Storm are astonishingly vivid, unreal, overblown, beautiful and hideous all at once, just like the most volcanic moments of teendom.

    I miss sexual subtexts in pop. Bloody Rolling Stones and their Cocksucker Blues.

  3. 3
    Pete on 6 Jun 2009 #

    To cap the oddness is the whole Kevin Spacey IS Bobby Darin thing, which is a very, very strag=nge idea, film, execution.

  4. 4
    wichita lineman on 6 Jun 2009 #

    Darin’s one of those characters who never seemed to know what he wanted to be, hence his two (consecutive) no.1s hardly sound like the work of the same man. He just wanted to be bigger than Sinatra before he pegged out, which he expected to at any moment (as did Billy Fury, but he threw himself into saving as many sick animals as possible before he died rather than trying to be The Best. A neat summary of the Anglo American split, I think). Quite how you try and become that fidgety, rootless person ENTIRELY, as K Spacey did, I’ve no idea. But I think I’ll pop along to the video shop and find out.

    There was a strike that stopped the publication of Record Mirror between June 27th (when DL climbed from 5 to 3) and August 8th 1959 (when it was at 2 and falling). The NME chart no.2 watch has two weeks of Marty Wilde’s Teenager In Love (with Dion’s original hovering in the 20s) and one of Lonnie Donegan’s Battle Of New Orleans.

  5. 5
    Billy Smart on 13 Jul 2009 #

    Light Entertainment Watch: Bobby Darin appeared at least twice on UK TV, but neither show survives;

    ENGELBERT WITH THE YOUNG GENERATION: with Bobby Darin, Nancy Wilson, Marlene Charell (1972)

    READY STEADY GO!: with Manfred Mann, Bobby Darin (1966)

  6. 6
    Dispela Pusi on 27 Dec 2010 #

    For all the similarity to (and interchangeability with) other records in the same vein, “Dream Lover” seems to have had more staying power than most. Take any movie set in the late 1950s that uses hits from the time to evoke the atmosphere and “feel” – and chances are overwhelmingly that this’ll be one of them. The David Essex/Ringo Starr vehicle “That’ll Be The Day” is the one I remember most vividly, and there’ve been several others since.

    (Btw, poor old Bobby’s become a permanent joke in our family, ever since my sister misread his name after glimpsing it upside-down in a music paper I was reading. “Bobby Drain” he’s been to us ever since.)

  7. 7
    hectorthebat on 20 Feb 2014 #

    Critic watch: This song appeared on the following “best-of” lists:

    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Dave Marsh & Kevin Stein (USA) – The 40 Best of the Top 40 Singles by Year (1981) 16
    Dave Marsh (USA) – The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made (1989) 700
    BBC (UK) – Pop on Trial, Top 50 Songs from the 1950s (2008)
    Peter Holmes, The Sun-Herald (Australia) – 100 Best Songs of All Time (2003) 61
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  8. 8

    Also the name of a great song by the Vaccines, though admitting to liking them in trendy 6 Music circles these days is on a par with saying “Donald Trump seems like a jolly good bloke.”

  9. 9
    Gareth Parker on 21 May 2021 #

    Great single for me. I would go with an 8/10 here. Seems to encapsulate this era of music perfectly in my opinion.

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