Wednesday, 9 September 2015

American music - Dion

In commercial terms, the 1970s weren't good years for the great Dion DiMucci, who'd already relaunched his career several times and would do so again. He released some great records in the decade, but even the magnificent Phil Spector-produced album Born to Be With You (1975) failed to sell many copies. Nor did The Return of the Wanderer (1978), from which this track comes.

The song will be familiar. '(Looking for) The Heart of Saturday Night' was one of Tom Waits's early classics, an atmospheric tale of riding downtown at the end of the working week, though - as ever with Waits - it's suffused with a tinge of sadness: the 'magic of the melancholy tear in your eye'.

Dion transforms the piece entirely, turning it into his own anthem so that it sounds like an effortless updating of his early 1960s work. He speeds it up and changes the lyrics from third-person to first-person. Most significantly, where Waits sounds like the loner, the outsider, trying to find romance in neon-lit loneliness, Dion is cruising in the company of his own gang. He may have his 'arm around my baby', but the backing vocals suggest that they're not alone: they own Saturday night.

This is celebratory rather than melancholy, and it's fantastic. I like Tom Waits, but I love Dion.

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