My song today is ‘Under the Boardwalk’. This pop song was written by Kenny Young and Arthur Resnick. It was recorded by ‘The Drifters’ in 1964. It reached Number 4 on the ‘Billboard Hot 100’ chart on August 22, 1964. The song has since been covered by many other artists, with versions by Billy Joel: Bette Midler: The Rolling Stones: Bruce Willis among many others. The song ranked number 489 on Rolling Stone’s list of ‘The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time’.
The lyric describes a tryst between a man and his beloved in a seaside town, who plan to privately meet "out of the sun" and out of sight from everyone else under a boardwalk (a promenade along a beach or waterfront, typically made of wood).
The song was set to be recorded on May 21, 1964, but the band's lead singer, Rudy Lewis, died of a suspected heroin overdose the night before. Lewis had sung lead on most of their hits since the 1960 departure of Ben E. King , including ‘Up on the Roof’. Rather than reschedule the studio session, the lead on ‘Under the Boardwalk was given to the group's other lead vocalist Johnny Moore who had returned to the group in April 1963. The last-minute move was a success, as the single, released on ‘Atlantic Records’ went to Number 4 on the ‘Billboard Hot 100’ charts and was Number 1 for three non-consecutive weeks on Cashbox magazine's R&B chart.
There are two versions of the song. The mono 45 USA released version contains the line "We'll be falling in love". However, on the stereo album version, the line "We'll be making love" is sung. These are two entirely different recordings, not edits of one another, as the line "on a blanket with my baby is where I'll be" is sung differently in each version.
This song was released when I was 21 years of age. Eight months earlier I had crossed the Atlantic Ocean on the ‘S.S.Sylvania’ to land in Nova Scotia, Canada in the cold of winter. I had decided to emigrate to Canada several years earlier and to pursue a career as a singer as I travelled around Canada and the United States of America.
As I shook with the cold weather of Nova Scotia that January month in 1964, a friendly Canadian kindly placed a fur coat around me. While I had seven pairs of fashionable English shoes to wear, nobody had ever told me that Canadians wear shoes overshoes (called overshoes) in cold and snowy weather to prevent frostbite of the toes in artic-like temperatures. Imagine wearing a pair of rubber shoes over a smaller pair of leather shoes and you will get the picture.
As I waited for the train in Nova Scotia to take me on a lengthy journey to Quebec, the cold of the night air got through to the core of my bones. As I looked at a nearby pier, my mind went back to the warmth of the summer months in August of the previous year at a northern seaside resort.
I had gone to the seaside resort of Blackpool with a friend called Arthur. We had gone on the spur of the moment and had planned to have a weekend of wild romance with any young woman who took our fancy and was game for a weekend of fun. We planned to romance the girls in Blackpool on Friday and Saturday night before returning home on Sunday evening, ready to start work again the following Monday morning.
On Friday night, we had no luck in our search for women. I could have got one I think, but Arthur wasn’t having any luck, so we returned to our guest house alone, and under the influence of a good night’s partaking of alcohol.
The following day was largely spent acquainting ourselves with the pubs on the backstreets of Blackpool and visiting the Pleasure Beach, and on Saturday night we dressed up and went to hear a turn in a Working Men’s Club. It was almost 9:00 pm that Saturday night as we drank in a Blackpool Working Men’s Club. Just as we were starting to think we had ‘missed the boat’ again for picking up a couple of attractive girls to hang out with, we noticed three young women in their early twenties drinking at a nearby table and having a laugh at some story/joke one was telling the other two. So, after a quick comb of our hair, Arthur and I chanced it and introduced ourselves when we next went to the bar for a drink.
The upshot was that the one I fancied of the three appeared to be ‘up for it’ and seemed very happy with the unspoken looks of lust we silently exchanged. Arthur surprised me by making out with both the other two girls. We had initially planned to catch the train back home around mid-afternoon the next day (Sunday). After we left the Blackpool Club that night, we were all inebriated but very merry. Arthur suggested we try to take the three girls back to the guest house we were staying at, but when we tried to sneak in, we made that much noise attempting to unlock the front door around midnight that we woke up the landlady.
If you have ever locked horns with a Blackpool landlady, then you will know that there can only be one winner, and it won’t be you! It is an impossibility to break any one of her numerous house rules and escape unscathed, and bringing a woman back to share your bed in the early morning hours (especially when you’d only paid for a single room) was one seaside rule that never went unpunished.
1964 was still a time when a young single couple pretending to be ‘man and wife’ when booking a double room in a Blackpool Guest House would be most unlikely to succeed. It was simply impossible for a couple of ‘dirty weekend stop-outs’ slipping past the moral gaze of disapproval of a Blackpool Landlady’s beady eyes. Such a brazen attempt to deceive for an unmarried couple was offence enough to instantly persuade the landlady to boot you out of their premises for lowing the moral tone of the neighbourhood. As for trying to pull a fast one on the Blackpool landlady by attempting to get a non-paying bed partner into a single room, tell it to the fairies. Such an act represented nothing less than trying to take the donkey piss out of the Blackpool sands.
Having been turned out of the Blackpool guest house at midnight (without a refund), the five of us had no alternative but to spend our night beneath the Central Pier. As it happened, the weather wasn’t cold and being snuggled up with only one’s coats to cover you on the Blackpool sands wasn’t too bad, especially when the attractive young woman who was with you, had eyes and hands, only for you. Arthur and his two lady companions slept on top of the pier itself on wooden benches.
We woke up around 6:00 am the following morning to the squawking sound of hungry seagulls scavenging for their breakfast, and spent the rest of the morning together until around 1:00 pm. I was pleasantly surprised to discover (when I eventually got the sleep out of my eyes) that my Blackpool date looked just as beautiful in the light of day as she had appeared the night before. Later discussion revealed that the young woman I had spent the night with under the pier, lived in Cannock Chase; a district in Staffordshire. Her parents were publicans and ran an hotel in the town of Rugeley.
When we got back home, Arthur and I kept in touch by letter with two of the three young women from Cannock Chase, and during the month of October 1963, Arthur and I spent Friday and Saturday nights as ‘guests’ at the hotel which my young woman’s parents managed.
My board, bed, and breakfast for the weekend were provided free as a parental good-will gesture to the new ‘boyfriend’ of their only daughter. It was naturally a single room, in keeping with Cannock Chase morality.
Her father was a very large, muscular publican who thought the world of his daughter. In short, we kept the weekend clean and decent in all respects by maintaining a proper distance of 'social isolation' between us during the hours between midnight and 8:00 am the following morning. It goes without saying that I was more frightened of her father finding any fault with my behaviour that weekend than having to face the wrath of any Blackpool landlady who was determined to throw me onto the streets in the dark of night.
That was the last second and last occasion I was to meet the young woman in question (Corrie was her Christian name), and three months later, I was in Canada searching fresh female hunting grounds in the ancient city of Quebec. I did write to Corrie once from Canada, but that was as much from my initial loneliness of being in a strange country than male desire.
Whenever I hear the song ‘Under the Boardwalk’, I recall my night with Corrie under the Central Pier at Blackpool in the month of August, 1963. As for my friend Arthur, he sadly got a young woman from Windybank Estate pregnant and was married to her within the year. His chasing days down Cannock were consigned to memories only. Having had a ‘shotgun’ wedding, over the years ahead, Arthur was to find himself placing a great many engagement and wedding rings on the third finger of many an attractive woman he was servicing. During his late twenties, he became the most successful owner of a Jeweller’s shop in Cleckheaton.
Neither of us ever ventured down to Cannock Chase again, unless it was in our dreams.
Love and peace Bill xxx