"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.