Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day 10/28/2019

Bette Midler was born in Hawaii and lived there until 1965. She majored in drama in college without even coming close to completing a degree and fled to the bright lights of the stages in New York City.

She appeared in several plays over the next few years. Her last feature role was in the Broadway production of Fiddler On The Roof.

In the Summer of 1970, Bette began singing at a gay bathhouse in the Ansonia Hotel. Bette saw Barry Manilow performing and immediately talked him into playing piano for her. Barry had already produced albums for a few artists, and in 1972 he produced Bette’s first album, The Divine Miss M.

A quick trip in the Wayback machine will take us to 1958 so we can spy on Bobby Freeman. Bobby had been in a few groups that fell apart and was faced with embarking on a solo career. A local disk jockey convinced Bobby to record a few songs he had written, and one of the demos was Do You Want To Dance. Jubilee Records signed Bobby to a recording contract at the age of only 17. The record company dubbed a few more instruments over the top of Bobby’s demo and released a single that catapulted to number five on the pop charts and number two on the R&B charts. He managed another number five-hit, but that was six years later.

In 1961, Del Shannon’s career got jump-started with Runaway and Hats Off To Larry. Although Del had a string of top ten hits in the UK, he had difficulty connecting to the US audience again. In 1964 he recorded his version of Do You Want To Dance. The single missed the UK charts completely, and just barely reached the top forty in the US where it peaked at #43. His next single, Keep Searching, reached the top ten just about everywhere.

The Beach Boys recorded hits that were primarily written by Brian Wilson. In 1964 they fired their father from managing the group and Brian changed his focus from surf music to more mainstream pop. He also began using marijuana. The first song on The Beach Boys Today was a cover of the Bobby Freeman single, now listed as Do You Wanna Dance. The record reached #12, making it their highest-charting single that featured Dennis Wilson singing lead.

The Mamas and Papas had drama that makes the later romantic challenges of Fleetwood Mac look tame by comparison. After their fourth album came out and it appeared that Mama Cass was leaving the group for a solo career, their record company went back to their very first album and released Do You Wanna To Dance as a single. Everybody already had copies of that album, so maybe that kept the single from getting any higher than #76 in 1968.

And that brings us back to Bette. The first single from her first album was her properly titled version of Do You Want To Dance. The single peaked at #17 in 1973. The second single from the album was her top ten version of Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy and she continued to chart singles into the nineties.

Many other artists covered Bobby’s hit, but there was one last version of the song that reached the Hot 100: The Ramones. Their last visit to the Hot 100 came in 1978 when their version of Do You Wanna Dance spent five whole weeks rumbling around before it reached number 86 for a week in May 1978. Their version sounded a lot like Del’s single played at 78 rpm.

You can now get the audiobook for my latest book, Lost or Forgotten Oldies Volume 1.


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