Bobby Bloom was a struggling songwriter in the early 60s. He was trying his hand at everything, including doing some sound engineer work for Shuggie Otis and performing in the doo-wop group, The Imaginations. His path would soon get clearer when he met songwriter, Jeff Barry, who wrote hits with his former wife Ellie Greenwich, such as The Crystals’ Da Doo Ron Ron, Chapel of Love by the Dixie Cups, and Leader of The Pack by the Shangra-La’s, just to name a few. [And he wrote the theme to The Jeffersons, so he’s down in my book.]
Bobby had the fortune to get hooked up with Tommy James & the Shondells in 1968 and co-write the #3 hit, Mony Mony [which Billy Idol would take to #1 in 1987]. This got the attention of Jeff Barry, who had just started producing music for the Saturday morning cartoon, The Archie Show, when he met Bobby. Soon after a ‘group’ called the Archies was formed and hit #1 with Sugar Sugar in 1969 and Bobby & Jeff collaborated on a follow-up single called Sunshine. They started to write some additional songs that Bobby would demo at his friend’s recording studio. Somehow the tracks got out and a little record label called L&R decided to put out the single, Montego Bay, to see what would happen. It ended up being a Top 10 record in the US & the UK.
Bobby’s voice was unique in that he was very deep, round and full of soul, and many were surprised he was white. And Montego‘s mix of pop and calyspo along with the pleasurable images of laying on the beach during the day, drinking silver rum and driving your MG to all night party did more for Jamaican tourism than anything their consulate had dreamed up. Hell, it worked on my parents, although they chose the safer Barbados retreat instead. Still, the island images this song conjures up without explicitly mentioning them, make this a 3 minute trip to paradise.
There’s also a few specific details in the song that you may miss, cause you’re too busy doing the limbo. Like the fact the he has to adjust to the right side, meaning he has to sit on the right side of the car, because everyone drives on the right. Or the subtle reference to those jumbo Jamaican joints, saying you ain’t been til you’ve been high in Montego Bay. How did he get that one by the censors? This was considered almost bubblegum when it came out.
This ended up being the only hit for Bobby as a solo performer. 4 years later, he died from a gunshot wound. It’s hard to know what exactly happened. Stories of it being self-inflicted because he was depressed, an accident because he was cleaning his gun or murder, because he was breaking up a fight have clouded the truth. And I’m not sure what that is.
But I will say this. When you hear Bobby break into Oh What A Beautiful Morning at the end of the song and he gets to the line Everything’s going my way, tell me that you don’t get chills.