Montego Bay by Bobby Bloom (L&R, 1970)

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.

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5 Comments

  1. J.A. Bartlett

     /  March 9, 2012

    I’ve never seen this video before. Somehow, despite my vast experience with the music of the 1970s, and despite the fact that “Montego Bay” was one of the first singles I ever owned, I’m not sure I ever knew Bobby Bloom was a white guy.

    Worth noting: the song as it’s heard in this video is the way it was heard back in the day. The “oh what a beautiful morning” bit you hear every time you hear it on the radio today is from the album version and wasn’t on the original 45—and as lovely as it is, the song doesn’t sound right when it ends that way.

    Reply
  2. porky

     /  March 11, 2012

    I too was jarred by the “oh what a beautiful morning” tag when our local (now defunct) oldies station played. Was also jarred because I heard it in nearly the same place, same time of day on different days on my commute home from work. The downside of automated radio…..

    I’ve got the LP and it contains the original version of “Heavy Makes You Happy” that the Staples Singers took into the top 20. The label says “Heaven Makes You Happy,” the record jacket says “Heavy Makes You Happy.”

    Reply
  3. "Pokey"

     /  April 17, 2012

    L&R, don’t forget was distributed the great lion, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer,. ROAR!! Richard Rogers, the surviving cowriter of “Morning”, wnated too much royalties [of coruse hip hop and rap artists for years have been doingf this, and not always with either credit or acklowedge–one of the better recent ones who did all this was Jennifer Lopez on 2002’s “That was then”.. where “Midnight Cowboy” and others are sampled, with permission and credit.] There is no credit on the single to Rogers and Oscar Hammersterin II, since it’s the singlew version as both porky and J.A.Bartlett have reported, and, both of you, I,too, get thrown hearing the slow ending. Wonder if the album verison even gives R&H credit for just that little sampling..

    Reply
  4. David Price

     /  January 22, 2016

    I bought the single ‘Montego Bay’ the day I witnessed a shotgun murder. I have just read that Bobby Bloom died from a gunshot wound 45 years later. What are the odds?

    Reply
  1. BOBBY BLOOM – The Bobby Bloom Album - (L&R Records) - 1970-Montego Bay, Jeff Barry, Bubblegum Pop, Rock, | WHAT FRANK IS LISTENING TO

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