The Drifters

Under the Boardwalk

Composed by Arthur Resnick / Kenny Young

Song Review by

"Under the Boardwalk" was the Drifters' last major hit, reaching #4 in mid-1964. That was right around the time the Drifters' heavily orchestrated New York pop-soul was started to pass out of fashion. But there are few better orchestrated New York pop-soul records than "Under the Boardwalk," a record where a great song, vocal, and production contributed about equally to the creation of a classic. Like many other 1960s Drifters songs, "Under the Boardwalk" adheres to a Latin American rhythm, one that puts more emphasis on the later beats of a measure than the earlier ones. The inventive instrumental introduction puts a perky, ascending bass against a scraping percussion noise and a triangle. That sets an upbeat mood for a pleasant tune that could almost be a calypso, or a Mexican ballad, with a cantina-like guitar trilling away in back of Johnny Moore's lead vocal. It's not the Caribbean or Mexico, however. It's America, and "Under the Boardwalk" has vivid images of coastal American beaches, with the boardwalk, hot sun, hot dogs, French fries, and carousels. These verses might have been enough alone to sell the song to radio and listeners. But they're outshone by the devastating chorus, in which the song suddenly goes into a vaguely ominous minor key. The way the backing Drifters sing-chant the title phrase is ominous too, almost threatening, as though something dangerous and momentous is going to happen under the boardwalk. Moore keeps serenading away about falling in love under the boardwalk as the backup singers counterpoint him in a moodier fashion. When Moore reaches the line about falling in love under the boardwalk, though, the backup vocal suddenly becomes a cappella and briefly changes rhythm, ending with an emphatic minor-keyed "boardwalk," as if a point of no return has suddenly been reached. In the best Drifters fashion, the orchestration becomes more elaborate as the song goes on, adding sumptuous strings, particularly in the instrumental break, punctuating the backup chants of the title with dramatic staccato strokes on the last chorus. The end of the song is most creative, too, ending cold on a final "under the boardwalk." It's an ending that takes listeners by total surprise the first couple of times they hear it, as they expect the song to go back into the verse, but it doesn't. Too, that lends an air of finality to the song's mini-operetta, and also implies that whatever's gone on under the boardwalk might be a little sinister, in addition to being romantic. And what exactly does go on, under the boardwalk, other than the couple falling in love? It's not spelled out, but you don't go under the boardwalk to soak up the sun, and they're probably enjoying a romantic interlude, whether it's kissing or going quite a bit further than that. The story behind the recording of "Under the Boardwalk," incidentally, was about as dramatic as the story in "Under the Boardwalk" itself. The song was written for Rudy Lewis to sing lead on, but Lewis died of a heroin overdose the night before the session. The session went ahead anyway, and the lead was handed to Johnny Moore, who did a magnificent job. "Under the Boardwalk" has been covered by several artists, the most famous of them being the Rolling Stones, who did it in 1964 for their second album, not long after the Drifters hit had come out. The Rolling Stones' version is a little disappointing; the arrangement, faithful to the original but lacking any orchestration, sounds underrehearsed and a little ragged, while Mick Jagger's lead vocal strains to the point of breaking when he tries to hit the high notes at the end of the verses.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Under the Boardwalk 1964 Dara
No Image 1975 Atlantic
Save the Last Dance for Me [Collection] 1982 Avid 2:37
Live at Harvard University 1986 New Rose 2:41
Kuschel Rock, Vol. 2 1987
Various Artists
CBS Records 2:40
All-Time Greatest Hits & More: 1959-1965 1988 Atlantic
Billboard Top Rock & Roll Hits: 1964 1989
Various Artists
Rhino 2:42
No Image 1991 Pair 2:33
No Image 1991 A*Vision Entertainment / Atlantic
No Image 1992
Various Artists
Richmond 2:46
The Very Best of the Drifters [Rhino] 1993 Rhino 2:45
Up on the Roof, On Broadway & Under the Boardwalk 1993 JDC Records / Rhino 2:30
Remember 1994 BCI Music (Brentwood Communication) 2:36
20 Original Hits, 1964, Vol. 2: Original Hits 1994
Various Artists
Deluxe 2:38
Preppy Deluxe [1991 26 Tracks] 1994
Various Artists
Ripete Records 3:21
They Sin They Swing 1994
Various Artists
Lir
Ocean Drive, Vol. 1 1994
Various Artists
Ripete Records 2:40
All About Soul [Rhino] 1994
Various Artists
Rhino
Sixties: Groovy Hits 1995
Various Artists
St. Clair / Prime Cuts 2:42
Super Box of Rock, Vol. 3 1995
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:41
Cruisin' with Rat Fink: Music of the 50's and 60's 1995
Various Artists
Nesak International 2:38
Happy Days: 100 Rock 'N' Roll Hits 1995
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:37
Party Rock: Gold for the Road 1996
Various Artists
Compose Records / Peter Pan (ISP) 2:38
Tossin' & Turnin' 1996
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:41
Songs of Summer [Deuce] 1996
Various Artists
Prime Cuts 2:42
The Hit Box 1 1996
Various Artists
United Multi Consign 2:36
Double Gold Hits, Vol. 4 1996
Various Artists
Public Music
The Drifters Collection 1996 Prism Leisure Corporation (UK) / Prism Platinum 2:37
Great Hits 1997 Public Music
Sixties Generation: 1964 1997
Various Artists
St. Clair / Sixties Generation 2:39
20th Century Rocks, Vol. 6: '60s Rock N Roll - Tossin' and Turnin' 1997
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:40
No Image 1997 Kingfisher Records
Sun Jammin' 1997
Various Artists
Madacy 2:41
Under the Boardwalk & Other Hits [Rhino] 1997 Rhino Flashback 2:44
Rock n' Roll Reunion: Class of 64 1997
Various Artists
Madacy 2:41
Party Dance Mix [Riviere] 1997
Various Artists
Riviere International Records 1:46
This Is Soul: Classic 60's Soul 1997
Various Artists
Pegasus (Pinnacle) 2:44
Cigar Aficionado: Music Moods: This Magic Moment 1998
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:45
Chart Toppers: R&B Hits of the 60s 1998
Various Artists
Priority Records / Priority 2:42
Back 2 Back 1998 Intercontinental Records 2:37
Up on the Roof/Under the Boardwalk 1998 Collectables 2:41
Heart Beats [3 Pack] 1998
Various Artists
Rhino
Soul Ballads, Vol. 1 [Retro] 1998
Various Artists
Soul Disciples 2:38
Twin Best: Oldies Best Collection 1998
Various Artists
Jvc Victor
No Image 1998
Various Artists
SME US Latin LLC
No Image 1998
Original Soundtrack
Warner Special Products 2:39
Soundtracks of Love: Hooked on a Feeling 1999
Various Artists
Unison 2:39
Sound & Sensation: Rock'n'Roll Beach Party 1999
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:44
Forever Gold 1999 St. Clair 2:37
The Millennium's Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 1999
Various Artists
Collectables 2:41
Millennium Party Madness 1999
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:43
No Image 1999
Various Artists
GMG Entertainment
The Sixties Collection 1999
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:38
The Drifters: Magic Collection 2000 The Magic Collection 2:37
The Millennium's Greatest Hits, Vols. 1-2 2000
Various Artists
Collectables 2:41
The Legendary Group at Their Best 2000 Collectables 2:41
Murray the K's Hits 2000
Various Artists
Columbia River Entertainment Group 2:51
Soul Collection: Great 2000
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:42
Soul Ballads [Boxsets] 2000
Various Artists
Boxsets 2:38
Soul Connections [Boxsets] 2000
Various Artists
Boxsets 2:36
Rock 'N Roll 2000
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:38
Golden Legends [Direct Source] 2000 Direct Source 2:36
Groovy Hits of the Sixties 2000
Various Artists
Direct Source 2:37
Rock N' Roll 60's Flashback 2000
Various Artists
Direct Source 2:48
Forever Gold: The 60's Groovy Hits 2000
Various Artists
St. Clair 2:42
Greatest R&R Love Songs 2000
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 2:40
Rock N' Roll Reunion: 1960 to 1969 2000
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution 2:45
Back to Black: 1900-1999 2001
Various Artists
Universal International 2:43
Forever Gold: Doo Wop 2001
Various Artists
St. Clair 2:41
Teenagers in Love [Golden Stars] 2001
Various Artists
Golden Stars 2:14
The Drifters [Direct Source] 2001 Direct Source 2:37
Mega 60's 2001
Various Artists
Wagram Records 2:34
Martha Stewart Living: Summer Entertaining 2001
Various Artists
Rhino 2:41
Instant Party: Summer Sizzle 2001
Various Artists
Rhino 2:41
Drifters, Vol. 2 2001 Platinum Disc 2:42
Down Memory Lane, Vol. 8 [Warner] 2001
Various Artists
Warner Music
I Love Beach Music, Vol. 2 2001
Various Artists
Ripete Records 2:40
This Is Soul [Pegasus] 2001
Various Artists
Pegasus (Pinnacle) 2:44
The Best of Soul [Boxsets 2002] 2002
Various Artists
St. Clair 2:36
A Tribute to the Rolling Stones [Big Eye] 2002
Various Artists
Big Eye Music 2:36
Jukebox Hits 1964 [Madacy] 2002
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution 2:40
Rock N' Roll Hits: Golden 1964 2002
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:40
On the Sentimental Side 2002 Performax
Magic Moments 2002 Brentwood Records 2:38
Blues & Soul Masters 2002
Various Artists
WSM
Soul Men [2002] 2002
Various Artists
Time Music 2:37
The Legends Collection: Rock 'n' Roll Teenagers 2002
Various Artists
Dressed To Kill / Legends Collection 2:35
Greatest Hits [Prestige] 2002 Prestige Elite Records / Prestige Elite Records (Japan) 2:41
The Essentials 2002 Rhino / Warner Strategic Marketing 2:42
Platinum Soul Legends 2002
Various Artists
Warner Strategic Marketing
Sommarklassiker 2002
Various Artists
Scranta Grammofon 2:38
Hot Summer Nights [K-Tel] 2003
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:44
Rock and Roll Generation, Vol. 1 2003
Various Artists
Compendia Music Group 2:34
Rock N Roll Reunion 1964 2003
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:30
The Definitive Drifters [2006] 2003 Warner Strategic Marketing 2:42
Jukebox Hits, Vol. 1 2003
Various Artists
United Audio Entertainment 2:36
All the 60's 2003
Various Artists
Warner Strategic Marketing 2:45
The Incredible Soul Collection 2003
Various Artists
Rhino 2:43
Best Singles of All Time, Vol. 2 2003
Various Artists
Rajon Entertainment Pty Ltd.
Under the Boardwalk [Dynamic] 2003 Dynamic 2:35
All-Time Greatest Hits [Rhino Flashback] 2003 Flashback Records / Rhino Flashback 2:43
Memories 2003
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:41
Some Kind of Wonderful [Fabulous] 2003 Fabulous 2:39
Shadows of Soul 2003
Various Artists
St. Clair 2:36
Triple Value: Soul 2003
Various Artists
Rajon Entertainment Pty Ltd.
Simply the Best 60's 2003
Various Artists
Warner Music
The Best of the Drifters 2003 K-Tel Distribution 2:43
20 Rockin' Hits of the 60's [Disc 2] 2003
Various Artists
Madacy 2:29
The Sixties [Goldies Box Set] 2004
Various Artists
Goldies 2:34
1960's Happy Days [2004] 2004
Various Artists
Madacy 2:30
Capitol Gold Legends, Vol. 2 2004
Various Artists
Virgin
Up on the Roof & Other Favorites [Collectables] 2004 Collectables 2:43
No Image 2004
Various Artists
Edel Records 2:42
Ocean Boulevard 2004
Various Artists
Ripete Records 2:39
Tiki Lounge 2004
Various Artists
Madacy 2:42
They Got Soul 2004
Various Artists
Dynamic 2:36
The Platinum Collection 2004 Direct Source 2:36
Rock & Roll's Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 2004
Various Artists
Collectables 2:41
Rock Around the Clock [Columbia River] 2004
Various Artists
Columbia River Entertainment Group 2:35
The Drifters [Platinum Disc] 2004 Platinum Disc 2:42
No Image 2004
Various Artists
St. Clair 2:35
100 Rockin' Hits of the 60's 2005
Various Artists
Madacy 2:29
Ocean Boulevard, Vol. 1: The Warner-Atlantic-Atco Masters 2005
Various Artists
Ripete Records 2:39
60's Groovy Hits 2005
Various Artists
St. Clair 2:35
Groovy Hits of the 60s 2005
Various Artists
St. Clair 2:35
16 Greatest Hits [Passport Audio] 2005 Passport Audio 2:38
Doo Wop Era 2005
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:35
The Best of Soul Ballads [St. Clair 2005] 2005
Various Artists
St. Clair / St. Clair/RNB 2:35
R&B Classics: Show & Tell 2005
Various Artists
BCI Music (Brentwood Communication) 2:38
Beach Fun 2005
Various Artists
Disky 2:35
Ultimate 16: Retro Rock Let the Good Times Roll 2005
Various Artists
Madacy 2:41
Pottery Barn: Backyard Party 2005
Various Artists
Rock River Records
Dancin' on Sunshine: All Time Greatest Summertime Hits 2006
Various Artists
American Beat Records 2:41
Golden Legends: The Drifters [Madacy] 2006 Golden Legends 2:35
The Essential Collection [West End] 2006 West End Records
The Great 2006 Goldies
The Definitive Soul Collection 2006 Rhino 2:45
Casey Kasem: Driving in the 60s 2006
Various Artists
Top Sail Productions 2:43
The Drifters [Direct Source] 2006 Direct Source 2:36
The Best of R&B [Madacy] 2006
Various Artists
Madacy 2:35
The Very Best of the Drifters [WEA] 2006 MSI Music Distribution / WEA 2:41
Atlantic R&B Box Set 2006
Various Artists
WEA International 2:41
100 Golden Oldies of the 50s, 60s & 70s 2006
Various Artists
Deja Vu 2:36
Absolute Soul [Crimson] 2006
Various Artists
Crimson Productions 2:43
Greatest R&B Hits/Soul Explosion 2006
Various Artists
Direct Source Special 2:36
The Greatest Soul Music Hits of All Time 2006
Various Artists
Rhino 2:43
Hits of the 60's [Madacy] 2007
Various Artists
Madacy 2:35
Body + Soul: Battle of the Groups - Male 2007
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:42
R&B #1 Hits: 18 Greatest 2007
Various Artists
Direct Source 2:36
Spirit of Soul [Spirit Of] 2007
Various Artists
Spirit Of (UK) 2:37
Under the Boardwalk [KRB] 2007 KRB 2:37
Chasing the Sun: The Greatest Songs of Summer 2007
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:42
No Image 2007
Various Artists
Sbm Records / Sony BMG 2:38
Greatest Hits [MVD] 2007 MVD Audio 2:43
Sweet Soul Innovators 2007 American Legends 2:38
Heart and Soul [Signature] 2007
Various Artists
TGG Direct 2:41
The Drifters [Madacy] 2007 Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:36
Greatest Soul Groups 2007
Various Artists
Direct Source 2:36
Dick Clark's American Bandstand 50th Anniversary 2007
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:43
Drift and Dream 2007 Atlantic / Rhino 2:44
Atlantic Soul Classics [1987] 2008
Various Artists
Atlantic 2:43
Best of Hits 2008 St. Clair 2:35
No Image 2008
Various Artists
Euro Trend / MCP 2:35
No Image 2008
Various Artists
Cheap O Lata / WG Productions
Summer Party: The Essential Collection 2008
Various Artists
Demon Records / Red Box 2:43
R&B Soul Legends [Madacy] 2008
Various Artists
Madacy 2:35
Sweet Soul Music: 1964 2008
Various Artists
Bear Family Records 2:40
Rock and Roll: 50's and 60's 2008
Various Artists
Madacy 2:35
No Image 2008
Various Artists
Ba-Ba 2:35
R&B Love [Madacy] 2009
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:35
15 Greatest Hits EGBR
No Image
Various Artists
LM
Party Dance Mix, Vol. 2
Various Artists
Euro Trend 1:46
Rock 'N' Roll Hall Of Fame, Vol. 4: Sixteen Candles
Various Artists
No Image
Various Artists
Audio Fidelity
The Drifters' Golden Hits Atlantic 2:42
Triple Value Rock & Roll
Various Artists
Rajon Entertainment Pty Ltd.
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