Theme from A Summer Place
"Theme from A Summer Place" is a song with lyrics by Mack Discant and music by Max Steiner, written for the 1959 film A Summer Place, which starred Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue. It was recorded for the film by Hugo Winterhalter. Originally known as the "Molly and Johnny Theme", the piece is not the main title theme of the film, but a love theme for the characters played by Dee and Donahue.
Percy Faith version
Percy Faith recorded the most popular version of the tune in the Columbia 30th Street Studio in New York City, and it spent an at-the-time record of nine consecutive weeks at #1 on the still-young Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in early 1960 (which would not be broken until You Light Up My Life spent 10 weeks at #1 in 1977). It remains the longest-running #1 instrumental in the history of the chart. Billboard ranked Faith's version as the No. 1 song for 1960. It reached #2 in the UK. It hit #1 in Italy under the title "Scandalo Al Sole".
Faith won a Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 1961 for his recording. This was the first movie theme and the first instrumental to win a Record of the Year Grammy.
Faith re-recorded the song twice – first, in 1969, as a female choral version, then, in 1976, as a disco version titled "Summer Place '76".
Other cover versions
The song was the title cut to a chart-topping 1960 album by Billy Vaughn. The song was well-accepted by R&B audiences of the day, reaching number two on the Billboard R&B singles chart.
"Theme from A Summer Place" was also covered by Dick Roman, The Tornados (both in 1962), Andy Williams sang a rendition of the tune on his 1962 Gold-certified album Moon River and Other Great Movie Themes. A jazz version of the song was recorded by the legendary singer Julie London. It appeared on her album Our Fair Lady in 1965. The Lettermen in 1965 (a vocal version, placing at #16 on the Billboard Hot 100), Cliff Richard recorded it for his album Love is Forever in 1965, and The Ventures in 1969. In Jamaica, the tune was recorded in rocksteady style in 1968 by instrumental group The Crystalites, featuring organist Ike Bennett, and was released under the odd title 'Illya [sic] Kuryakin' although it has no connection whatever with the The Man from U.N.C.L.E. character of that name. Others who recorded a version with lyrics include The Chordettes, Joanie Sommers (in 1962 as the B-side to "Johnny Get Angry"), and Bobby Vinton. The American duo Santo & Johnny and the British Norrie Paramor & His Orchestra (in 1960) are other artists who recorded an instrumental version of the song.
Dusty Springfield's 1970 single "Silly, Silly Fool" contains a brief interpolation of "Theme From A Summer Place" toward the end of the song. The track features on her 1970 LP A Brand New Me as well as on several compilations. Popular new wave band Blondie used to perform it during their live shows in the late '70s as a prelude to their song "In The Sun".
American pop and hip hop singer Eamon sampled "Theme from A Summer Place" for his 2006 song "Elevator". The melody serves to illustrate the song's exploration of "elevator music" as an aphrodisiac. In 2010, former Pussycat Dolls member Ashley Roberts released a dance version of the song.
Use in popular culture
"Theme from A Summer Place" has become a ubiquitous representation of "peaceful music" and has been employed frequently in popular culture to suggest peacefulness or in situations where inoffensive music is common (e.g. as stereotypical "elevator music").
- "Claudelle Inglish" (1961) employed "Theme from A Summer Place" as well as actors Arthur Kennedy and Constance Ford.
- "Susan Slade" (1961) also directed by Delmer Daves, and scored by Max Steiner, re-uses the theme in its score
- The Percy Faith version is used in National Lampoon's Animal House (1978), although it does not appear on the soundtrack album.
- The original version of the song is used in Batman (1989) when The Joker attempts to seduce Vicki Vale in the museum.
- The tune can be heard in the 1989 video game Willow for the NES.
- In the 1993 episode "Homer's Barbershop Quartet" of The Simpsons, elderly Springfield citizen Jasper made an ironic cover by singing the title.
- The 1995 Freakazoid! episode "Relax-O-Vision" features the titular gag in which potentially frightening action sequences are replaced by peaceful stock footage accompanied by "Theme from A Summer Place."
- In the 1997 movie Con Air, when the body of Pinball falls out of the sky and onto a couple's Volvo.
- In the 2002 episode "Him" of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Season 7, Episode 6).
- The 2007 film Surf's Up uses "Theme from A Summer Place" in a brief cutaway scene depicting the domestic situation of two penguin boys and their mother.
- In the 2009 film An Education, set in 1962, "Theme from A Summer Place" is played during Jenny's (Carey Mulligan's) 17th birthday party.
- In the 2012 episode "Near Death" of CSI: NY
- In the episode The Bubble of 30 Rock (3rd season).
- The song's peaceful and relaxed theme has taken on a darker significance in more recent years as it has been used to convey an eerie sense of false security in the horror miniseries Rose Red (2002), and the movies Final Destination 3 (2006) Dark Shadows (2012) and Beautiful Creatures (2013).
- Simons, David (2004). Studio Stories - How the Great New York Records Were Made. San Francisco: Backbeat Books. Cf. especially, p.23-24 with an article on "The Church"
- CD notes: Billboard Top Pop Hits: 1960
- Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1960
- Billboard Hot 100 Chart 50th Anniversary – The Billboard Hot 100 All-Time Top Songs (20-11)