Above and ‘beyond’ for Bobby Darin

With today’s blog entry, we are 1/333rd of the way to chronicling the Top 1,000 Hits of the 1960s.

As I explained in an earlier post, points were applied to every Billboard Hot 100 chart during the 1960-1969 years, plus those that were appropriate from 1959 and 1970. If a song was #1 in a given week, it received 100 points; if it was #2, it earned 99; all the way down the chart until the #100 song earned 1 point. Thus, each hit’s weekly point total was added up.  This system is weighted toward longevity – a slow-breaking hit that didn’t quite get as high as a fast-breaking one had a definite advantage.  So, to give some weight to higher chart positions, I gave 100 extra points to songs that hit #1; 50 extra points for a position between 2 and 5; and 25 extra points for a position between 6 and 10. And then I used a tie-breaking system, which I’ll explain in the future.

Meanwhile, here’s today’s member of the Top 1,000 Hits of the 1960s:

# 539
Beyond the Sea / Bobby Darin /
Atco 45-6158
(Total points: 1,158 / Chart debut: 1/18/1960 / Chart peak: 6 / Weeks on chart: 14)

The fourth of five Bobby Darin hits to appear among the Top 1,000 Hits of the 1960s was the immediate follow-up to his massive 1959 smash, “Mack the Knife.” If anything, Darin made this pre-rock song even more his own than the tale of Macheath.

“Beyond the Sea” originated as a French song called “La Mer” (English: “The Sea”), composed by Charles Trenet in 1943 and first recorded by Roland Gerbeau in 1945. Trenet himself made his own version in 1946, after which his song crossed international borders and received new words in several languages. Jack Lawrence, who also wrote such standards as “If I Didn’t Care” and “All or Nothing at All,” wrote the English lyrics, adding the word “beyond” to the literal title and making it into a song about longing for a lost love rather than the ode to the sea that the original was.

In early 1948, versions of “Beyond the Sea” were waxed by Harry James and His Orchestra for Columbia (vocal by Marion Morgan, arranged by Ray Conniff); Benny Goodman and His Orchestra for Capitol; Tex Beneke and His Orchesta for RCA Victor (vocal by Garry Stevens); Jack Owens for the independent Tower label; Macklin Marrow for MGM; and Carmen Cavallaro for Decca. Others may have been recorded at the same time – but not a single version made the Billboard best-seller charts. The song itself appeared on “most played over the air” lists for several months in 1948, so the song gained some popularity, but none of the specific versions were breakout hits.

Various other artists recorded it over the years. Bing Crosby did the original French lyrics for a 1953 album. Pianist Roger Williams had the first charted version, a #37 instrumental version in 1956. Then Darin recorded “Beyond the Sea” during his sessions for his change-of-pace album That’s All. Recorded during a four-song session on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1958, it was placed as the second song on side 1 of the LP, which was released in March 1959. If anything, his version was brassier and bolder than any prior rendition, featuring the almost manic drumming of Don Lamond during the instrumental breaks.

Because “Mack the Knife” was such a huge hit, “Beyond the Sea” wasn’t released as a single until around Christmas of 1959 – approximately a year after it had been recorded and nine months after the LP was issued. The delay didn’t matter, as it rocketed up the Hot 100 to its eventual #6 peak.

Over the years, Darin’s recording of “Beyond the Sea” has been used in countless films, including Apollo 13 and the Martin Scorsese-directed GoodFellas, which has helped to keep it in the public eye.

Collector’s notes: The 45 was issued with a picture sleeve. The record itself was made at three different pressing plants with only minor variations in type style.

Fast fact: Among the session musicians on “Beyond the Sea” was trumpeter Doc Severinsen, who became the leader of the Tonight Show Orchestra.

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