38) The Drifters – “Save the Last Dance for Me”

(Apologies for the video – it’s the only one I found on YouTube that used the original recording.)

The ascendance of “Save the Last Dance for Me” almost seems to be a bit of overcompensation on the part of the American listening public.  After “Mr. Custer,” anything would have been an improvement, but instead we get one of the best records of 1960 and an instant classic.  The proto-Wall of Sound arrangement (there’re rumors that Leiber and Stoller’s protegee Phil Spector may have had a hand in the recording) is the absolute summation of the bittersweet lyrics.  The brisk, dance beat shuffle of the percussion in the verses (“You can dance every dance with the guy who gives you the eye, let him hold you tight”) is offset by the stirring strings that sweep in during the chorus.  “But don’t forget who’s taking you home, and in whose arms you’re gonna be,” Ben E. King sings, his assertive rasp keeping things from getting too sappy.   It’s an eloquent statement of pure love, one that’s patient and understanding, never jealous or arrogant. 9

Liner Notes

  • Doc Pomus, the song’s lyricist, walked on crutches as a result of childhood polio.  He was allegedly inspired to write the song by his own wedding, having watched his wife dance with his brother in his place.

Hit #1 on October 17, 1960 for 1 week; repeaked on October 31, 1960 for 2 weeks; total of 3 weeks at #1
38 of 964 #1’s reviewed; 3.94% through the Hot 100

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2 Comments

Filed under 09, 1960

2 responses to “38) The Drifters – “Save the Last Dance for Me”

  1. Jim Ochs

    RE: “it’s the only one I found on YouTube that used the original recording.” This is hardly the ‘original’. Although I can’t say there is ANY true original of the song on YouTube. They all sound fast and re-mixed.

  2. GeorgeL

    Nice song, but my favorite of the Drifters from this period was “I Count The Tears”. These records were early examples of the symphonic soul sound which would explode later in the 60s. Also, very influential on Motown.

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