Session Notes

The Dream Lover/Bullmoose Session

  • Date: Thursday, March 5, 1959
  • Location: Atlantic Studio, New York City
  • Songs recorded: Dream Lover (Darin), Bullmoose (Darin)
  • Producer: Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler
  • Engineer: Tom Dowd
  • Personnel: Bobby Darin, vocals; Neil Sedaka, piano; other details unknown

During the week of March 5, 1959, Bobby's then-current single, "Plain Jane" was at #38 in the Billboard charts (for the second week). It would be its peak position. Four weeks later, the record would drop off the charts. "Mack the Knife" (as well as the eleven other songs for the "That's All" album) had already been recorded, but not yet released. (Al DiOrio gives March 23, 1959, as the release date of the LP.)

Only two songs were recorded during this three-hour session, but they are among the best recordings of Bobby's career. The arrangement of "Dream Lover" was more sophisticated than on his previous records and this, allied to more elaborate production, accounted for the 32 takes it allegedly took to complete the recording. For this particular session, Bobby was happy to have someone else take care of the piano playing so that he could concentrate on singing. The pianist in question was none other than Neil Sedaka, who had only scored one hit until then, "The Diary" (still at #47 in that particular week), but his second RCA single, "I Go Ape" was about to enter the Hot 100, in mid-March. On "Dream Lover", Sedaka's piano is barely audible, but he surely makes his presence felt on "Bullmoose".

Jeff Bleiel writes:
"Dream Lover" was built on a Latin dance rhythm, a shuffle beat called cha-lypso. The song was a subtle move from simplistic rock and roll structure to songs designed to appeal to an older audience. "Dream Lover" was his third million seller. Of all the songs Darin ever wrote, "Dream Lover" is the one that has stood the test of time and become a true pop standard. It has been recorded by Rick Nelson, Glen Campbell, Dion, Tony Orlando, Johnny Nash, Don McLean, Ben E. King and the Paris Sisters, among others. "Dream Lover," which reached #2 in June 1959, was an important transitional record for Darin. It still had something of a rock 'n' roll feel, and it was still the teenage audience which made it a hit. But it also gave Darin the opportunity to croon, to show off the more traditional singing style he was using in his nightclub act. More and more, adults started to take notice of Bobby Darin. When he performed "Dream Lover" on the "Ed Sullivan Show" in May 1959, the audience saw a suave entertainer snapping his fingers, twirling, and shrugging his shoulders with the beat of the song. He came across with the confidence and polish of a showman twice his age. Darin explained the songwriting process behind his most often-covered and commercial songwriting effort: "I had just discovered the C-Am-F-G7 progression on the piano," he said. "I stretched them out and I like the space I felt in there, and the words just flowed." The arrangement of "Dream Lover" differed from Darin's earlier rock productions in that strings and background vocalists were used rather than a saxophone section.

And Bleiel goes on to comment on "Bullmoose":
Although it did not become a hit, "Bullmoose" is perhaps the greatest rock 'n' roll record Darin ever made. It features a loud, Holly-like electric guitar and absolutely wild piano playing that is very uncharacteristic of Sedaka. (Apparently Bleiel never heard "I Go Ape" and "Ring A Rockin'" - Dik) Exuberant vocals from Darin are the icing on the rocking cake. "Bullmoose" could actually qualify as a great lost fifties rock 'n' roll gem, and those who doubt Darin's credentials as a rock 'n' roller should give this side a listen.

(Quotes from: Jeff Bleiel, That's All : Bobby Darin On Record, Stage & Screen. New York : Popular Culture Ink, 1994, page 21, 23. With thanks to Marilyn Brown.)

"Dream Lover"/"Bullmoose" was released as Atco 6140 on April 6, 1959. Billboard made it a "Spotlight winner of the week" : "Darin has two potent sides that should keep him on the charts.' Dream Lover' is a medium rhythm side that is chanted strongly over fine ork support. 'Bullmoose' is a rocker, and Darin presents it with drive." "Dream Lover" entered the Billboard charts in the week of April 20 (at #90), peaked at #2, and stayed on the Hot 100 for 17 weeks. In the United Kingdom it was #1 for four weeks.

Dream Lover

I agree that "Bullmoose" is Bobby's best rocker. In fact, when I joined the list in February 2000, I made no secret of the fact that "Bullmoose" is my favorite Darin record, period. Perhaps some of you remember that (long) post. The song also came out on top when we did a Darin poll on the Shakin' All Over list, which concentrates on rock 'n' roll from the 1955-1962 period. The guitar sound on "Bullmoose" is certainly more aggressive than on any previous Atco recording. It's a pity that no information is available about the identity of this guitarist.** It's probably a well-known NYC session man, but I don't believe it's someone who had played guitar on Bobby's earlier Atco tracks.

-- Dik de Heer

**Peter L. Neff wrote the website and graciously furnished the name, of the guitarist on the Dream Lover/Bullmoose session, Fred Neil.
That's The Bag I'm In - The Life, Music and Mystery of Fred Neil by Peter L. Neff

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