Digging Deeper

Digging Deeper: Bobby Freeman – “Do You Want To Dance?”

February 12, 2015

At the tender age of 17, Bobby Freeman penned a hit more massive than he could probably have ever expected way back in 1958. “Do You Want To Dance?” reached #5 on the pop charts and and #2 on the R&B charts, all while claiming to be a soul singer (Thanks, 1958!). I love everything about the live performance of the song above. He missed the prom to dance in those pants with that elephant while random girls oddly clapped along. I wish I could have been there myself.

That was just the beginning for young Bobby’s little tune that could. Here a fraction of the since recorded covers, circling all the way back to Philadelphia in the present.

1962: Cliff Richard and The Shadows took a swingin’, rock n’ roll crack at the number with impeccable swaying power and a whole lot of ride cymbal.


1964: Sweetening the song with a barbershop backing and a cheery horn section, Frankie Valli & The 4 Seasons give the song a flashy (for the 1960’s), high-register flair.


1964: Tinges of country in the gritty voice of early rock and roller Del Shannon make for a lively version of the hit song that helped him reach the charts. Watching the video below makes me think The Beach Boys definitely copied their video directly from his, maybe even exactly.


1965: The Beach Boys prove they really want to dance, adding their signature harmonized chorus, instrumental interludes, and a heap of falsetto. And how about those tight, white pants and coordinating, lady dancers in the background. I’m guessing the dad-dancing king on the right-hand side is playing the piano on the recording but did not have the luxury of doing so in the video.


1965: Sonny & Cher sneakily released their sunny version under the name “Caesar & Cleo.” Imagine if that name would have stuck.


1966: Bringing in some bongos and their sleepy, 60’s folk, The Mamas & The Papas lay down a gentle version with lots of strings.


1966: Made for slow dances and sanguine mixtapes, Johnny Rivers’ version has gotten over 3 million views/listens for it’s “traditional” appeal. Gotta love that stock photo background!


1974: We’ve clearly made it to the 70’s as we reach this rendition from Hurriganes. They really pick up the tempo and splice in a ripping, little guitar solo.


1974: Amidst a mess of recording scandals during his sixth studio album, Rock ‘n’ Roll, John Lennon really strayed from the original arrangement on his rhythmic cover with hints of reggae and psychedelic rock.


1975: T. Rex nails the sexy Brit rock version. Look at him, Ma. He’s dancin (and probably banging a gong).


1977: You know it, you love it. It’s the super fast, super punk version from The Ramones. Used in movies and playlists until the end of time, I chose this particular live rendition because it sounds like what might happen to you the song if you played it too many times.


1987: Barbie, is that you? Yep! Apparently, dolls used to put out cassettes. You can almost hear the big hair.


1990: Crossing into the 90’s, the song found its way into Doogie Howser in sensual piano ballad form sung by Belinda Montgomery. I see you, tiny Neil Patrick Harris.


1996: What goes better with a classic 90’s movie party scene than a blistering version from LA punk rockers Wax. It’s at the end of the clip so keep watching!


1998: Of course, it would be a sin to leave out this sexy, sax ballad cover. Thanks for this, Walter Beasley.


2006: Frenchman Laurent Voulzy keeps it soft with a hint of accent, weaving in bongos, a small choir of people, and an organ.


2007: A slow and steady jazz cover from Lucy Lawless sounds like it was taken directly from a romantic comedy soundtrack from the early 2000s, really milking it for all its worth.


2012: With all the blasting sound of the early 2010’s, ASH‘s version highlights the production advances of modern times while sticking to a more original arrangement.


2014: I was supposed to be at this concert but missed it due to unforeseen circumstances. Playing to a sold out crowd on New Year’s Eve at Johnny Brenda’s, Philadelphia’s own Hop Along rage through a short but powerful cover, invigorated by the piercing screams of Frances Quinlan. Wish I could have been there to dance along… or hop.

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