Release Date: Feb 17, 2009
Record label: Domino
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
Come Back to the Five and Dime, Bobby Dee, Bobby Dee, the second full-length from Washington D.C. singer-songwriter Benjy Ferree, is, purportedly, a concept record about the life and times of Bobby Driscoll. Driscoll, as you may know, was an Academy Award-winning child actor who starred in some of Disney’s most popular live-action films in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
The words “concept album” conjure up a wide variety of images for music fans. For every classic like The Wall and Ziggy Stardust, there is an unfortunate prog-rock exploration of The Lord of the Rings or Kilroy Was Here. At its best, the concept album is a long form for artists to explore themes usually too complex for the format of the individual pop song.
The story of child actor Bobby Driscoll is a tragic one. The fall he took from starring in Disney's Treasure Island and providing the voice for Peter Pan to dying strung out and alone at age 31 was swift and helped along by Hollywood's (and Walt Disney's) cutthroat attitudes toward youth and beauty. There's probably a good movie that could be made from his story; Baltimore singer/songwriter Benjy Ferree thought it was good material for a concept album.
Bobby Dee is Bobby Driscoll, the Disney-affiliated child actor who turned to heroin when his career floundered in the mid-1950s, and died of heart failure when he was just 31. Not that Benjy Ferree knew of this miserable fate when he obsessively watched the 1953 animation of Peter Pan, modelled after and voiced by Driscoll, as a kid. His tribute to this childhood hero is accordingly shot with fury at the way people are chewed up by the world, and Ferree performs it "in the name of lost boys everywhere".
As part of DiS' Reviews Amnesty week we take a look back at some of the releases we missed out casting our critical eye over this year. First a little background: the "Bobby Dee" of the title is Bobby Driscoll, a child star for Disney in the 40s and 50s. In that period he was the star of live-action movies such as Song of the South and Treasure Island, as well as providing the voice of Peter Pan for the 1953 animated film.
Moving on from the “fairy tales that never come true” of his first LP, Leaving the Nest, Benjy Ferree has turned his attention to the tragic real-life story of a Hollywood star. (Why gifted songwriters keep doing this I’ll never know.) Come Back to the Five and Dime, Bobby Dee Bobby Dee imagines the inner monologue of Bobby Driscoll, the fresh-faced Disney actor whose good fortune bottomed out when he hit puberty and got bad acne, whereupon he was blackballed by showbiz, became a drug addict, and died in utter dissolution at 31. The bad news is that Driscoll’s story, rife as it is with never-grow-up pathos, doesn’t lend itself particularly well to this album.