Wednesday, February 13, 2008

5 shades of Dino - how Dean Martin made me feel happier.

Late last year I got hit with the melancholy. Probably because of the suckiness of work, family infecting me with their madness and a general loss of direction (I need to do stuff; like build cellars, publish magazines or learn something new otherwise I feel a bit pointless).

I started listening to Dean Martin. Compulsively.

Martin came to prominence as Jerry Lewis’ straight man. And I loved Jerry Lewis as a kid. I remember every Sunday afternoon they’d play a Lewis movie, but only if I behaved in church – such was the power of my parents; act up in church they’d make sure Jerry Lewis (or as I said it apparently – “jer-wee woo-wis”) wouldn’t be on. So I’d tune out for an hour and a bit while the chubby priest prattled on in Slovenian backed by a tone deaf choir whose age averaged medieval, in the end learning a great patience.

At first it was all about the Jerry, but as I got older i noticed it was Martin that really carried the films. Jerry by himself was way to hammy, throwing up every slapstick trick and seeing what would stick. Martin gave the flicks a certain cool, some structure. In Hollywood and Bust (which I may have seen more than Star Wars) Martin hated Lewis, but you can’t tell. That's kind of cool.

So in my funk I’d gravitate to certain songs, which slowly become less and less depressing.

You belong to me

Just remember when a dream appears
You belong to meI'
ll be so alone without you
Maybe you'll be lonesome too and blue

At the time, Em was flying around to Sydney, making work trips to Mt Gambier, Whyalla so the song did kind of strike a cord. What’s interesting is that originally it was a female torch song; you can imagine it being sung to boyfriends and husbands going off to fight the war. But with Martin singing it sometime in the late 50s it brings in a new resonance – women strengthened during the war, boarding planes and leaving their traditional roles of housewives to see the world while their partners mournfully miss them. In my mind I picture a curly haired Ava Gardner type journalist, camera slung over her shoulder searching for the next big scoop, visiting beautiful exotic locales and meeting interesting people, while Martin is stuck at home hoping his girl doesn’t forget him. It’s all rather hopeless and depressing.

(Of course I don’t feel really comfortable with “You belong to me” so i prefer to mumble “You’re the one for me” in tune, of course.)

Little ole Wine Drinker Me -

And when they ask who's the fool in the corner,

Travelling a little bit away from dumpsville but still within city limits, Martin is broken hearted, far from home, his only consolation is drinking wine, which I think is probably the saddest alcohol. Some will say bourbon, but nope; wine is cheap, easy to drink and no hungover is as bad as a one from 3 bottles of cheap red wine. But it is a nice way to suffer.
Except for wine and a working jukebox, Dino’s got nothing going for him; but when you consider the old adage of wine, women and song – two out of three ain’t too bad.


Nobody calls me freind,

Its sad the shape I'm in

Going back to Houston
I Got a girl waiting out for me
Well at least she said she'd be

Dean Martin loved Country music, apparently. He even played a cowboy in one of the best traditional Westerns ever. Though in this video he's bit more Roy Rogers than John Wayne. Houston is about a down on his luck guy just wanting to get to Houston. Its pretty depressing but there’s some life, a bit of hope that his girl might be waiting there for him, but in the least he's got a home and bed. Its got some clever lyrics and is kind of funny, especially when compared to the other ‘funny’ western song; Not Enough Indians which is archaic and misogynistic.

Open the door and let the good times in -

Don't let nothing stand in your way
Just open up the door and let the good times in
Tomorrow's gonna be better than today

What I appreciate about this song is the production, not so much in the video but in the Capitol Records (or Columbia) audio release. A lot of Dean Martin songs from the late 50s - early 60s have these awful back up singers that all sound like cloned fat bald men, or blonde stepford wives; their only job is to repeat the lyrics in unnerving perfect harmony. Its frustrating in something like Standing on the corner, to have this barber shop quartet echoing the lyrics; washing the tomcat out of the lyrics making it into something homogenous and safe. This song though has this great party mood, even though its about a poor, hungry smoker who’s girlfriend is fooling around on him and has discovered rodents have drunk all his alcohol – essentially a miserable existence there's this great unbridled hope and joy. You can't help but smile.

On an evening in Roma -

Down each avenue or via, street or strata
You can see 'em disappearing two by two
On an evening in Roma
Do they take 'em for espresso
Yeah, I guess so
On each lover's arm a girl
I wish I knew
On an evening in Roma

Finally, away from the blues; far from the sad drunk who’s woman has left him; the poor jobless stooge far from home – this is an ode to being with the one you love. Even cheekily wondering what those couples are getting up to as they slip away. I sway from being a francophile to an italophile (???) but I hear this song and I’m Marcello riding my vespa on cobbled streets on my way to meet my senorina, dodging hanging laundry hoping no one will notice the melted chocolate gelato on my suit.

Don't know what the country's coming to
But in Rome do as the Romans do

Makes decisions so much easier.


dino martin peters said...

Hey pallie Mark, I dig your Dinopost so very much...every tune our Dino sings is so special and spendin' time with our great man always makes me feel happier as well. Never was, never will be anyone as cool as the King of Cool..oh to return to the days when Dino walked the earth....btw, just got the Vol 1 and 2 collections of the Dino and the jer flicks..."Artists and Models" is fast becomin' my fav of the whole emsemble...keep diggin' our Dino pallie!

Rogue Spy 007 said...

Great post. I loved the videos. Dean Martin has a tune for every sort of mood we might be in. What a smooth voice. Dino is so cool and effortless in all he did. My first introduction was the Martin-Lewis comedies, plus my grandmother listening to his music. Happy Valentine's Day.

The Frase said...

Nice Post!
I'm a fan of Deano too. A friend of mine and I would always debate which Rat Packer we liked the best.
I'd always say Sammy was the most talented, Frank had The Voice but Dean was the funniest and coolest!
He'd be the one you'd really like to hang out with! I've got some live recordings where Deans comedy timing has driven me to tears of laughter!

Did you know he used to be a boxer?
Before he made it in show biz, he used to fight in illegal boxing matches in hotel rooms for money. Thats why he's hands are all busted up.

Owen Heitmann said...

You're not comfortable singing "You belong to me" so you substitute your own words? Oh, you're so PC.

Myself, I always say 'whigger' instead of the N word when I'm singing along to Arrested Development.

Yet we both make jokes about Retarded Ninja.

Mark Selan said...

dino martin peters - That's a wonderful compliment from a big fan as yourself, thanks for enjoying. Down here in OZ getting those flicks is quite hard. But the second half Artists and Models is a riot; and the walking/dancing/singing sequence Martin does down the street is especially well put together.

Rogue spy 007 - that is a good point. Martin was incredibly versatile; the only other singers i can think of that are that versatile is Johnny Cash, possibly David Bowie and even to a lesser degree Elvis Presely.

Frase! - Me and my friends spent out time debating who was actually MC SkatCat; Mc Hammer or Young MC.

I'm not really that versed with Davis but he seemed a little to vegasy-camp. Sinatara doesn't really do much for me; except for those 2 hard drinking albums he did for Columbia it just seems like a lot of novelty songs and gimmicky power ballads.

Its amazing that whole drunk persona was such a schtick. He apparently wasn't into the drinking all night thing like Sinatra. I did know he was a boxer but didn't know about fighting in hotel rooms for cash. That seems like a cool thing to set up.

Owen - I am so PC! When i sing along to Wutang Clan or Jay Z, I like saying "ninja" instead of the N word. "Shame on a ninja who tries to downplay on a ninja"

And Retarded Ninja is awesomely cool. Its like saying "hey there's flying blind dude!" the power outweighs the disability.

dino martin peters said...

Hey pallie, likes Mr. Mark just rediscovered your amazin' Dino-reflections and just posted 'em this very Dino-day at ilovedinomartin....keeps lovin' our Dino

dino martin peters said...

Hey pallie, likes Mr. Mark just rediscovered your amazin' Dino-reflections and just posted 'em this very Dino-day at ilovedinomartin....keeps lovin' our Dino