For all of Peter Pan’s fantastical, magical skills (flight, expert swordsmanship, voice mimicry, flute proficiency) the one power above all others that captures the imagination of children is his ability to never grow up. Gone is the foreboding future of jobs, bills, and responsibility. All that remains is playing, singing, dancing, and a magical land where you have friends with names like Nibs and Tootles.
For Bobby Driscoll, the child star who portrayed Peter Pan in the 1953 Disney feature, the reality of growing old in a world without Neverland hit hard. Once Disney’s golden boy of cinema, Driscoll was fired from Disney after the making of Peter Pan for the unforgivable crime of hitting puberty and developing a bad case of acne. No longer cute and profitable, he struggled to find work and fell into a life-long battle with drugs until ultimately dying homeless and broke in a Manhattan tenement in 1968 at the age of 31. With police unable to identify his body, the one-time Academy Award winner ended up in an unmarked mass grave on New York’s Hart Island.
Come Back To The Five And Dime, Bobby Dee Bobby Dee, the second full-length album from D.C. musician Benjy Ferree, gives Bobby Driscoll a recognition that is long overdue: a musical eulogy to a forgotten child star who was chewed up and spit out by the unforgiving Hollywood meat market. Driscoll was a natural subject for Ferree as Peter Pan wasn’t just an entertaining fictional character during Ferree’s youth – he was an obsession. As a child, Ferree spent countless hours imitating the mischievous, magical child adventurer. His eventual discovery of Driscoll’s sad fate led to this album – an ode not just to his childhood hero, but to anyone who’s gotten the short end of the stick in life – with Driscoll renewing his role as the leader of life’s ignored Lost Boys.
Musically, Ferree lets his distinctive blend of rock and roll and Americana cross new borders and genres, even as he maintains a firm base in the roots of American music. Drawing as much from the country meandering of Jimmie Rodgers and the passionate blues pounding of Son House as he does from the vocal hysterics of Freddie Mercury and the balladry of Nick Cave, Ferree crafts a sound that is difficult to fit into any one category, but upon listening is as gratifying as it is unique. Produced by Ferree himself, engineered by Mark Nevers, and mixed by Brendan Canty, Come Back To The Five And Dime, Bobby Dee Bobby Dee displays Ferree’s evolution as not only a masterful songwriter and arranger, but more importantly, as one of today’s most intriguing and imaginative voices.
“Fear” – the album’s first single – showcases how Ferree’s sharp, melodic tenor can hold together a great song. Synthesizers, pianos, and background vocals drop in and out throughout, springing up to complement his crooning when necessary, but knowing when to let his voice take its appropriate spot on center stage. The result is a sweeping, harmonious ballad that showcases the leap Ferree’s music has taken, while still staying true to its roots. “Come To Me, Coming To Me” and “Blown Out (Gold Doubloons And Pieces Of 8 )” prove that Ferree can rock when he wants to, channeling Marc Bolan better than other artists that actually try to, and “When You’re 16” allows him to tap into the traditional country music vein of Loretta Lynn and Johnny Cash that remains one of his greatest influences.
The spirit of Bobby Driscoll seeps its way into each song of the album. References to his fame, film work and ultimate demise are littered throughout, but it’s up to the listener to discover Driscoll’s influence for themselves. “Heavy weighs the burden of Brother Dee,” Ferree sings on the album’s opening track, “Tired Of Being Good,” a pulsating, infectious tune that incorporates elements of roots music, classic rock and roll, and even samba. Bobby Driscoll may not be alive, but people who are getting a shit hand dealt to them by life certainly still are, carrying their burdens in an indifferent and unforgiving world. Maybe they can take some comfort in knowing that such a strong, talented, and original artist has produced an irresistibly exceptional album that takes up their cause, finally giving them their long-past due.
Bobby Driscoll’s Wikipedia page, for more info. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bobby_Driscoll
09/03 Washington DC The Kennedy Center Milennium (6pm)
09/04 Hoboken, NJ Maxwell’s *
09/05 New York, NY Mercury Lounge *
09/06 Philadelphia, PA Johnny Brenda’s *
09/08 Pittsburgh, PA Howler’s
09/09 Cleveland, OH Beachland Tavern *
09/10 Detroit, MI Majestic Cafe *
09/11 Chicago, IL Reggie’s Rock Club *
09/12 Des Moines, IA Vaudeville Mews *
09/13 St. Louis, MO Firebird *
09/15 Athens, GA Caledonia Lounge *
09/16 Atlanta, GA Drunken Unicorn *
09/17 Charlotte, NC The Milestone *
09/18 Norfolk, VA The Boot *
09/19 Arlington, VA IOTA *
* = w/ The Black Hollies
Come Back To The Five and Dime, Bobby Dee Bobby Dee
Street date: Feb. 03, 2009
1. TIRED OF BEING GOOD
3. BIG BUSINESS
4. WHAT WOULD PECOS DO?
5. BLOWN OUT (GOLD DOUBLOONS AND PCS OF 8 )
6. THE GRIPS
7. IRIS FLOWERS
8. I GET NO LOVE
9. COME TO ME, COMING TO ME
10. WHIRLPOOL OF LOVE
11. PISSTOPHER CHRISSTOPHER
12. WHEN YOU’RE 16
13. GREAT SCOTT!
14. ZIPPERFACE BLUES
BENJY FERREE LINKS: