On the Street Where You Live, by Vic Damone (his 1st and only #1)
2 weeks, from 27th June – 11th July 1958 (including 1 week joint with The Everly Brothers from 4th – 11th July)
Oh Lordy, that intro! Whipping us right back to 1952. The crescendo that kicks us off here is almost identical to that which announced the very first UK chart-topper, Al Martino’s ‘Here in My Heart’. Plus ca change…
Oooooh, the towering feeling! Just to know somehow you are near… Vic Damone howls the opening line as if on a mission to wake the dead. And then… we sit back down, chill out, and listen to a song about a man wandering down a street.
This is, of course, a song from ‘My Fair Lady’ – I know it well; without ever having heard this version. I’ve always thought of ‘My Fair Lady’ as the musical without any decent songs. Or without anywhere near as many decent songs as other musicals of similar stature. Apart from this song, and maybe ‘Wouldn’t It Be Lovely’ or ‘I Could Have Danced All Night, the others are short, semi-comic skits, while Professor Higgins’s numbers are almost early-form rap tracks.
Anyhoo… From ‘My Fair Lady’ it is, which makes sense in as much as the show debuted on Broadway in ’56 and in the West End two years later. Damone sings it well, with cut-glass, stage school diction, and goes from full-on belting it out – see above – to subtle, almost whispered lines like: People stop, and stare, They don’t bother me… On a technical level, this is ‘better’ singing than that of the young rock ‘n’ roll stars we’ve been hearing from recently, and my gran would certainly have preferred Viccy D to Buddy H. But it already sounds – and bear in mind it is only the summer of 1958 here – super old-fashioned. And again we have an easy-listening interlude after a couple of rock ‘n’ roll chart-toppers. This is definitely the ongoing theme of ’58.
One problem – and this is one that regularly arises when stage songs are recorded away from the context of the show for which they were written – is that lyrically this song sounds pretty weird. It is essentially about a man lurking outside the house of a woman with whom he is besotted. Does enchantment pour, Out of Ev’ry door? No, it’s just on the street where you live… I’m getting flashbacks to Eddie Fisher’s ‘I’m Walking Behind You’. At least, though, when heard towards the end of Act I of ‘My Fair Lady’, this song is quite cute. Fisher, on the other hand, was just being a creep.
Another problem with stage-show songs being recorded as pop records arises here too: namely the question of how to finish. On stage you can’t fade out. But the flourishes that signal the end of the song in a show sounds trite and cheesy on record. Here they’ve gone for the flourish, and I can’t help but think there must have been a better way to end this song than with a plop!
But it is a diverting little interlude in UK Chart history, if nothing else. Showtune #1s don’t come along every day, and Vic Damone won’t go on to have much further success in the UK. I would have bet a large sum of money, before doing any sort of research, that Vic Damone was some sort of Italian-American, Rat-Pack type singer. And… of course he was. He idolised Sinatra, had various mob connections, married five times, and died earlier this year, aged eighty-nine. A life well lived, it would seem.
And note – yet another tie for number one. The third time it’s happened, and it will happen one final time before the decade’s out. I covered the reasons for these anomalies a few posts back – if you care to read further – but it does raise an important issue. Do we record Vic Damone’s ‘On the Street Where You Live’ as having spent a single week at the top? Or two weeks? Or one and a half? Questions, questions, questions…