The Song from ‘The Moulin Rouge’, by Mantovani and His Orchestra (his 1st of two #1s)
1 week, from 14th to 21st August 1953
Ooh la la.
But ‘not terrible’ isn’t really selling it either… So, let’s try again. It’s nice enough. Its pretty mellow. It’s cute. A bit heavy on the accordion, but yeah. Oh, and its an instrumental. The first ever instrumental to top the UK charts, back when instrumentals were much more of a thing than they are now.
I should probably stop getting excited about a record being the ‘FIRST EVER _____!’ to top the charts, because we’re only eleven songs in and pretty much every one of them is the first ever something. But still. This is the first ever film score to hit the top too, The Moulin Rouge being a film about Pigalle’s famously raunchy red-windmilled nightclub, starring Zsa-Zsa Gabor. And it’s the first ever #1 by a non American or Brit, Mantovani being Italian.
To the song. Well. If you’re writing a song about Paris, or France, what’s the first instrument that springs to mind? Mais oui. L’accordion. Trop cliché, non? Maybe it wasn’t a cliché in 1953. Maybe this song made it a cliché to soundtrack Paris with an accordion-led air.
There’s not much to it, really. It’s the same couple of refrains played over and over again, first by said accordion, then by violins. And as I was taking notes for this post, while listening to the track for the first time, I jotted down all that stuff about the movie, the soundtrack, the accordion, and ended it with the words ‘a bit dull.’
But now I’m on the 4th or 5th listen, I’m not so sure. It’s seeping into my brain through its repetitiveness, and actually its quite nice. Pleasant. I think the best word for it might be melancholic. It has a sense of longing for the past, of long-lost summer days beneath a sun-dappled beech tree. And I’m not just being facetious here – it really does conjure up that image in my mind. The song has a name, as you can perhaps see from the picture of the disc above: ‘Where Is Your Heart’, and there was a version with words doing the rounds. But that doesn’t really interest us here.
The song ends very sedately. Unlike the songs that have gone before it doesn’t build to a big, over the top finale. It simply melts away, and I respect that. I’m not sure what role the song played in a film about the world’s most famous strip club, though. It’s about as far removed from the can-can as you can get.
While I had never heard this song before, I had heard of Mantovani. And for a while I couldn’t quite remember how or why. But then it came to me. See, where I come from, Mantovani is rhyming slang for… well… fanny. Example sentence: “I’ve got some Tesco’s Finest aftershave on, I’ll definitely get some manto tonight!”
And what a legacy that is.