Hey, STELLA!!! I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it. Someday – and that day may never come – I’ll call upon you to do a service for me. But until that day, accept this justice as a gift on my daughter’s wedding day. Get the butter!
Al Martino is probably best known for his portrayal of Johnny Fontane in the Godfather films. He plays the Godson of Marlon Brando’s Vito Corleone, and appears at Connie’s wedding at the start of the film to rapturous screams from the girls present. Johnny’s career has gone onto bigger and better things since they last saw him, with more than a little help from his Godfather early on in his career.
I often wonder, with his character being based on unsavoury rumours concerning Frank Sinatra’s early career, what repercussions Martino felt in his day job as a singer. The horse head scene in the Godfather, designed to intimidate producer Jack Woltz into giving Fontane a part in a war film, is supposedly influenced by Sinatra’s casting in From Here To Eternity. It would have made for one interesting atmosphere if Martino ever ran into Sinatra backstage somewhere in Vegas. I fear that the Rat Pack would have driven him out of the business – his recording output slowed down considerably following the release of The Godfather in 1972.
Love Is Blue is a collection of quite syrupy ballads from 1968. Martino has a great voice, but the overblown orchestral instrumentation on the record stands him apart from the likes of Sinatra and his like. As a result the record strays too near to the likes of easy listening to be taken serious. It isn’t surprising then that Martino was chosen to sing such a syrupy ballad to Connie Corleone (If Have But One Heart) at her wedding…
I like to think that if I was in the first incarnation of Dexys – a Londoner drafted into the band due to my mean skills on the trombone or sax, and my love of Motown – and Kevin Rowland then sent the band into this direction for their second album – all fiddles, dungarees and ponytails – I’d probably want to leave the band. In fact, the second I saw somebody walk into the room with a fiddle, I’d punch Rowland in the face. Seeing Rowland dressed as a woman on a cover of a later solo album might lead me to believe I had very much made the right decision to leave.
That’s not to say that Too-Rye-Ay is a bad album. It’s not. The melodies are still there, and the homage to American music is very much still there in a cover of Van Morrison’s Jackie Wilson Said (I’m In Heaven When You Smile) – withthe band’s appearance on Top Of The Pops providing one of the best television bloopers ever, as the dance in front of a video screen featuring darts player Jocky Wilson – but their image had taken a turn for the worse. On Searching For The Young Soul Rebels, they had dressed as New York dockworkers in the style of On The Waterfront. Now they just looked like idiots.
Come On Eileen, even after its over-use at every party and wedding since 1982, is still a fantastic single – a trans-Atlantic number one, in fact. There’s hurt and emotion in there, in between the lyrics, hidden in a way I just can’t comprehend. I get the same feeling I do when I hear a Michael Jackson song, where a couple of seemingly throwaway lines in the bridge sound like the most important thing in the world.
I could still do without the fucking fiddle though.