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
No Image 1982 Audio Fidelity
All-Time Greatest Hits & More: 1959-1965 1988 Atlantic 2:40
Billboard Top Rock & Roll Hits: 1964 1989
Various Artists
Rhino 2:42
Rhythm & Blues: 1964 1991
Various Artists
Time / Life Music
70 Ounces of Gold: Pure Gold 1992
Various Artists
Compose Records 2:38
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 Eclipse Records 2:33
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
Ocean Drive, Vol. 1 1994
Various Artists
Ripete Records 2:40
The Best of Ben E. King & the Drifters [K-Tel] 1994 Dominion 2:41
No Image 1995
Various Artists
Sterling Gold
Sixties: Groovy Hits 1995
Various Artists
St. Clair / Prime Cuts 2:42
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
Don't Worry, Be Happy 1996
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 2:40
Tossin' & Turnin' 1996
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:41
Sixties Groovy Hits [1996] 1996
Various Artists
St. Clair / Boxsets 2:42
Double Gold Hits, Vol. 4 1996
Various Artists
Public Music
Rockin' & Driftin': The Drifters Box 1996 Rhino 2:44
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
3 for 3: The Platters, The Drifters & The Coasters 1997 St. Clair / 3 for 3 2:37
1960's Rock N Roll 1997
Various Artists
Madacy 2:42
Love Songs of the 60's [Madacy] 1997
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:44
Golden Classics 1997 Essex 2:43
This Is Soul: Classic 60's Soul 1997
Various Artists
Pegasus (Pinnacle) 2:44
Greatest Hits of the 60's: 1964 1998
Various Artists
CMM Music 2:43
100 Jukebox Hits: 50's & 60's 1998
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:41
Chart Toppers: R&B Hits of the 60s 1998
Various Artists
Priority Records 2:42
Back 2 Back 1998 Intercontinental Records 2:37
Up on the Roof/Under the Boardwalk 1998 Collectables 2:41
Frat Rock! 3 Pac 1998
Various Artists
Rhino 0:00
Soul Ballads, Vol. 1 [Retro] 1998
Various Artists
Soul Disciples 2:38
No Image 1998
Original Soundtrack
Warner Music 2:39
Kuschelrock, Vol. 1 1999 Sony Music Distribution 2:39
Soul Classics: Golden Greats 1999
Various Artists
Fine Tune 2:36
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
Sweet Soul Music [Dressed to Kill] 1999
Various Artists
Dressed To Kill 2:37
Forever Gold 1999 St. Clair 2:37
The Millennium's Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 1999
Various Artists
Collectables 2:41
4 Legendary Soul Groups 1999
Various Artists
Double Play Records 2:37
Millennium Party Madness 1999
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:43
No Image 1999
Various Artists
Excelsior Recordings
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
Beach Music Anthology, Vol. 3 2000
Various Artists
Ripete Records 2:11
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
1964 Classic Rock 2000
Various Artists
Direct Source 2:36
Golden Legends [Direct Source] 2000 Direct Source 2:36
High Profile 2000 Direct Source 2:39
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: Soul Ballads [2 Disc] 2000
Various Artists
St. Clair 2:38
Greatest R&R Love Songs 2000
Various Artists
EMI 2:40
Collection [Mastersound] 2000 Mastersound 2:36
Back to Black: 1900-1999 2001
Various Artists
Universal International 2:43
Forever Gold: Doo Wop 2001
Various Artists
St. Clair 0:00
Teenagers in Love [Golden Stars] 2001
Various Artists
Golden Stars 2:14
Star Power: The Drifters 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
The Drifters, Vol. 1 & 2 2001 Platinum Disc 2:42
20th Century Rocks: '60s Rock 'n Roll - Tossin' and Turnin' 2001
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:41
I Love Beach Music, Vol. 2 2001
Various Artists
Ripete Records 2:40
Rock 'N' Roll Teenagers Collection, Vol. 1 2001
Various Artists
Dressed To Kill 2:35
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 / Madacy 2:40
Rock N' Roll Hits: Golden 1964 2002
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:40
Magic Moments 2002 Brentwood Records 2:38
Blues & Soul Masters 2002
Various Artists
WEA International 2:41
The Legends Collection: Rock 'n' Roll Teenagers 2002
Various Artists
Dressed To Kill / Legends Collection 2:35
The Essentials 2002 Rhino / Warner Music 2:42
Back to Back: The Drifters & The Coasters 2002 K-Tel Distribution 2:43
Hot Summer Nights [K-Tel] 2003
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:44
The Drifters and Ben E. King Meet the Coasters 2003 Goldies 2:34
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 Music 2:42
All the 60's 2003
Various Artists
Warner Music 2:45
The Incredible Soul Collection 2003
Various Artists
Rhino 2:43
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
Shadows of Soul 2003
Various Artists
St. Clair 2:36
Simply the Best Platinum Soul 2003
Various Artists
WEA International 2:41
The Best of the Drifters 2003 K-Tel Distribution 2:43
1960's Happy Days [2004] 2004
Various Artists
Madacy 2:30
Up on the Roof & Other Favorites [Collectables] 2004 Collectables 2:43
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
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
Ocean Boulevard, Vol. 1: The Warner-Atlantic-Atco Masters 2005
Various Artists
Ripete Records 2:39
16 Greatest Hits [Passport Audio] 2005 Passport Audio 2:38
Atlantic Rhythm & Blues 1947-1974, Vol. 5: 1961-1965 2006
Various Artists
WEA International 2:41
Express Yourself: Soul In The 20th Century 2006
Various Artists
Universal / Um3 2:41
The Definitive Soul Collection 2006 Rhino 2:45
Atlantic R&B Box Set 2006
Various Artists
WEA International 2:41
Rhino Hi-Five: The Drifters, Vol. 2 2006 Atlantic / Rhino 2:44
Spirit of Soul [Spirit Of] 2007
Various Artists
Spirit Of (UK) 2:37
Drift and Dream 2007 Atlantic / Rhino 2:44
Sweet Soul Music: 1964 2008
Various Artists
Bear Family Records 2:40
Only in America: Atlantic Soul Classics 2009
Various Artists
Atlantic / Rhino / Rhino Atlantic 2:43
Dreamboats and Petticoats: Summer Holidays 2010
Various Artists
Universal Music / Universal Music TV 2:41
Atlantic Soul Legends : 20 Original Albums From the Iconic Atlantic Label 2012
Various Artists
Rhino / Warner Bros. 2:42
Soul: The Collection 2012
Various Artists
Rhino 2:45
The Best Ever Sixties 2015
Various Artists
Rhino
Stand by Me: The Very Best of the Drifters 2015 Rhino 2:38
'60s: The Collection
Various Artists
Rhino / Warner Music 2:44
American Classics [Rhino]
Various Artists
Rhino
Black Magic [Wisepack]
Various Artists
Wisepack
Car-aoke: The Collection
Various Artists
Rhino / Warner Music 2:44
Party Dance Mix, Vol. 2
Various Artists
Euro Trend 1:46
Radio Air Play, Vol. 2
Various Artists
Warner Music 2:44
Sixties [Rhino]
Various Artists
Rhino 2:44
Soul of the '60s
Various Artists
Time Life 2:41
No Image
Various Artists
Sony Music 2:42
Sweet Soul Music [Rhino]
Various Artists
Rhino / Warner Music 2:38
The Drifters' Golden Hits Atlantic 2:42
The Drifters: Essentials Rhino / Rhino Atlantic 2:44
Top Hits/Ballads & Love Songs 60's & 70's
Various Artists
Warner Bros. / Warner Music 2:44