Beyond the Sea
Bobby Darin was never really my cup of tea. I liked “Splish Splash,” and then he made the choice to leave rock ‘n roll to become what he’d always wanted to be: a nightclub singer. I associate him with Wildroot Creme Oil, glitzy tuxedos, and dry martinis. Back then, before rock came to dominate the world, it was a classy act, following in the steps of people like Sinatra. But he could never be Sinatra, he didn’t have the cool smoothness. There was always more of an edge to him, he was jazzier. I think it was the right decision for him, otherwise his career might have ended in the early sixties along with a lot of other boy rock singers. But eventually taste changed and passed him by.
I gotta give the man one thing, though. He had nerve. Who would have thought somebody could take a song about an assassin, from the old play The Threepenny Opera by Kurt Weill and Bertolt friggin’ Brecht, and make it into a mega-hit? And if you think that’s ballsy, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. I had forgotten about “Artificial Flowers.” I’d heard it, I’d snapped my fingers to it, but apparently I’d never really listened to it. It’s from a 1960 musical called Tenderloin, and was meant to be the most sickening possible example of the sort of relentlessly sentimental ballad so popular in the Victorian Era. It’s about a 9-year-old-girl freezing to death on a sidewalk, fer chrissake! And he jazzes it?
Alone in the world was poor little Anne (bop, bop!)
As sweet a young child as you’d find (ba-ree-bop!)
Her parents had gone to their final reward (oh, yeah!)
Leavin’ their baby behind …
She made artificial flowers, you know those artificial flowers
Fashioned from Annie’s despair! (let’s hear it, boys!)
They found little Annie all covered in ice (brrrrrrrrr!!!)
Still clutchin’ her poor frozen shears (ouch!)
Amidst all the blossoms she had fashioned by hand (snap, snap!)
And watered with all her young tears!
I mean, cats and kitties, this is way beyond bizarro, daddy-o!
Okay, what about the movie? The critics savaged it. I kinda liked it, but I’m a sucker for musicals. It deliberately mixes styles, at one time being a flat-out ‘50s An American in Paris fantasy where people start dancing in the street, then becoming a musical biopic like Ray, with Kevin Spacey (who is very, very, very good, both at acting and singing) doing Darin numbers at the Copa and Vegas, then trying to be more modern like De-Lovely, or All That Jazz: a dead man looking back on his life. The styles don’t always mix well, but it was good enough for lounge singing.