In the late 60s, after becoming disillusioned with the business of being “Bobby Darin” and seeing his friend Robert Kennedy gunned down, the man born Walden Robert Cassotto moved into a trailer out near Big Sur, stopped wearing his hairpiece, dropped “Bobby” for “Bob,” and began making the best music of his career. One of those albums, Commitment, got a lot of play in the van when my band went out to California recently, and our addiction to it has spread around our circle of friends.
The music on Commitment is about as far from “Mack the Knife” as you could get in 1969 and still be considered pop music. It sounds, in fact, like just the type of record that someone living alone in a trailer near Big Sur would write–a hazy, stoney take on the country-inflected folk music that California hippies were into at the time. Darin had already started moving in a folk direction, but this was a huge leap: The opening track, “Me and Mr. Hohner,” is a loping, Grateful Dead-sounding jam about smoking weed and getting hassled by cops, punctuated with bubbly organ licks and solos on the titular harmonica, both played by Darin (as was every instrument on the record). “Distractions (Part 1)” is a wry laundry list of things that keep him from focusing on songwriting, like the Vietnam war and being famous.
As anyone with a working knowledge of irony could’ve predicted, Commitment and its predecessor, the similar Born Walden Robert Cassotto, completely tanked. Darin left the trailer and “Bob Darin” behind and returned to the mainstream, where he lived out the rest of his life.
Both albums came out on Darin’s own Direction Records label in small runs and are now hard to come by, but a British label reissued Commitment last year.