Theme from A Summer Place

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"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 as an instrumental by Hugo Winterhalter. Originally known as the "Molly and Johnny Theme", the piece is not the main title theme of the film, but a secondary love theme for the characters played by Dee and Donahue.

Following its initial film appearance, the theme has been recorded by many artists in both instrumental and vocal versions, and has also appeared in a number of subsequent films and television programs. The best-known cover version of the theme is an instrumental version by Percy Faith and his orchestra that was a Number One hit for nine weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1960.[1]

Percy Faith version[edit]

"Theme from A Summer Place"
Single by Percy Faith
from the album A Summer Place
B-side Love theme from "Romeo and Juliet
Released 1959
Genre Easy Listening
Length 2:25
Certification Gold (U.S.)

Percy Faith recorded the most popular version of the theme, an instrumental orchestral arrangement, at the Columbia 30th Street Studio in New York City,[2] It was released in September 1959 as a single on Columbia Records, credited to "Percy Faith and his Orchestra", prior to the November 1959 release of the film A Summer Place.[1]

The single was not an immediate hit and did not enter the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart until mid-January 1960, finally reaching #1 six weeks later on February 22, 1960.[1] It went on to set an at-the-time record of nine consecutive weeks at #1,[1] a record which would not be broken until 1977, when "You Light Up My Life" spent ten weeks at #1. (Elvis Presley's double-sided hit "Don't Be Cruel/ Hound Dog" remained at #1 for 11 weeks in 1956 prior to the 1958 creation of the Hot 100 chart; The Beatles' "Hey Jude" tied, but did not break, the nine-week record in 1968.)[3] It remains the longest-running #1 instrumental in the history of the chart. Billboard ranked Faith's version as the Number One song for 1960.[4]

The Faith version reached #2 in the UK. It was also a #1 hit 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[3] titled "Summer Place '76".

In 2008, Faith's original version was ranked at #18 on Billboard's top 100 songs during the first 50 years of the Hot 100 chart.[5] The Billboard Book of Number One Hits called it "the most successful instrumental single of the rock era."

Other cover versions[edit]

"Theme from A Summer Place" has been covered by a number of artists in addition to Percy Faith, in both non-vocal instrumental versions, and with one or more vocalists either singing the Discant lyrics or a wordless melody line. The theme has also been referenced, sampled, or otherwise adapted into several other songs.

Instrumental versions[edit]

  • In 1960, Billy Vaughn included an instrumental orchestral arrangement of the theme as the title cut to his album Theme From A Summer Place released on Dot Records, which peaked at #2 on the Billboard LP chart.
  • In 1961, Mantovani recorded an orchestral rendition of the theme for his album Mantovani Plays Music From 'Exodus' and Other Great Themes; the album reached the Top Ten on the UK charts.
  • In 1961, Mexican rock band Los Nómadas recorded an instrumental version of the theme with a "teen pop" arrangement by Bill Aken (credited as Zane Ashton). The record made the top 40 charts in Mexico.[citation needed]
  • In 1962, American rock and roll duo Santo & Johnny recorded a guitar-based arrangement of the theme for their album Come On In.
  • In 1962, the British instrumental band The Tornados included a guitar-based version on their British EP release More Sounds of the Tornados and on their U.S. LP The Original Telstar: The Sounds of the Tornadoes.
  • In 1968, the Jamaican group The Crystalites recorded a rocksteady instrumental version featuring organist Ike Bennett. The song was released as a single under the artist name of "Ike B and the Crystalites", with the song entitled "Illya Kuryakin", although it has no connection whatsoever with the spy character Illya Kuryakin from the 1960s TV series The Man from U.N.C.L.E..
  • In 1969, the American instrumental rock band The Ventures included a cover of the theme on their album Hawaii Five-O, which reached #11 on the Billboard LP chart and was later certified gold.

Vocal versions[edit]

Most vocal versions of the theme have featured the Discant lyrics. However, some featured wordless vocals by singers who voiced the melody line.

  • In 1960, British producer, bandleader and arranger Norrie Paramor released his arrangement of the theme as a single on Columbia Records, featuring wordless vocals by soprano Patricia Clarke and credited to "Norrie Paramor & His Orchestra". The single reached #36 on the UK charts.
  • In 1962, singer Dick Roman released his version of the theme as a single on Harmon Records, which reached #64 on the Billboard Hot 100. Roman also featured the song as the title track to his 1962 Harmon album Theme from A Summer Place.
  • In 1962, Andy Williams covered the theme for his gold-certified album Moon River and Other Great Movie Themes.
  • In 1962, the female vocal group The Chordettes included a vocal arrangement of the theme on their album of movie music entitled Never on Sunday.
  • In 1962, Joanie Sommers released a version of the theme as the B-side to her hit single, "Johnny Get Angry".
  • In 1965, the male vocal group The Lettermen had a hit with their harmony arrangement of the theme, released as a single on Capitol Records; it reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100, and was included on their album The Hit Sounds of the Lettermen.
  • In 1965, Julie London included her jazz vocal version of the theme on her album Our Fair Lady.
  • In 1965, Cliff Richard covered the theme on his album Love is Forever.
  • In 1965, Bobby Vinton included his version of the theme on his album of movie themes entitled Drive-In Movie Time.
  • In 1988, American bandleader Ray Conniff recorded an orchestral arrangement (subtitled "A Tribute to Percy Faith"), with a vocal chorale wordlessly singing the melody line, for his 1988 album Always In My Heart.


  • In 1966, vocal surf singer and producer Dean Torrence referenced a portion of the melody line of "Theme from A Summer Place" near the end of his song "Like a Summer Rain", which was self-released as a single credited to Jan and Dean.
  • In 2006, American R&B and hip hop singer Eamon sampled "Theme from A Summer Place" for his song "Elevator". The melody illustrates the song's description of "elevator music" as an aphrodisiac.
  • In 2006, Danish musician and producer Kenneth Bager created an electronic remake of the theme called "Fragment Four (Love Won't Leave Me Alone)" that was included on Bager's debut album Fragments from a Space Cadet. The remake combined a rhythmic dance version of the original "Theme from A Summer Place" melody with new lyrics consisting of repetitions of the words "Love won't leave me alone when you're gone", sung by vocalist Nikolaj Grandjean. The track also included electric violin solos by Jean-Luc Ponty.

Use in popular culture[edit]

"Theme from A Summer Place" is frequently used as period background or soundtrack music in films and television programs set between 1959 and the mid-1960s. The theme has also become a ubiquitous representation of "peaceful music" and has been employed frequently in films, television shows and other popular culture to suggest peacefulness or in situations where inoffensive music is common (e.g. as stereotypical "elevator music").

More recently, the song's peaceful and relaxed theme has taken on a darker significance as it has been used to convey an eerie sense of false security in horror productions, such as the TV miniseries Rose Red (2002), and the films Final Destination 3 (2006), Dark Shadows (2012) and Beautiful Creatures (2013).

In film[edit]

In television[edit]

  • The 1993 episode of The Simpsons entitled "Homer's Barbershop Quartet" (Season 5, Episode 1) contains an ironic cover of the theme sung by elderly Springfield citizen "Jasper".
  • The 1995 episode of Freakazoid! entitled "Relax-O-Vision" (Season 1, Episode 9) features a titular gag in which potentially frightening action sequences are replaced by peaceful stock footage accompanied by the theme.
  • The 2002 episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer entitled "Him" (Season 7, Episode 6) uses the theme.
  • The 2002 horror miniseries Rose Red uses the theme.
  • The 2009 episode of 30 Rock entitled "The Bubble" (Season 3, Episode 3) uses the theme.

In other media[edit]

  • The tune can be heard in the 1989 video game Willow for the NES.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Bronson, Fred (1 October 2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th ed.). New York: Billboard Books. p. 75. ISBN 978-0823076772. 
  2. ^ 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"
  3. ^ a b Bronson, p. 939.
  4. ^ Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1960
  5. ^ Billboard Hot 100 Chart 50th Anniversary – The Billboard Hot 100 All-Time Top Songs (20-11)