Deep magic from the dawn of pop. Except it’s not really magical, and it wasn’t exactly the dawn, and nowadays this doesn’t even sound like pop. But you have to start somewhere, and the British singles charts started here: a device to sell newspapers that ended up conquering my world. I had never heard Al Martino’s record before I downloaded it on a whim yesterday. It was easy enough to find, easier than it was to listen to twice.
What I’ve often liked about the charts though is their seeming arbitrariness. You can make a good guess at what will be Number One each week but you can rarely get it entirely right – I was surprised (and delighted) that the Black Eyed Peas hit the top this week; I was resigned and appalled when Gareth Gates and the Kumars clung clammily on this spring. So it’s fitting that the first No.1 sounds so overdone and undistinguished – it crashes into life well enough on a surge of strings but Martino’s cornball opera style is baffling to me: this was pop? Um, OK, if you say so.
But the question always has to be – what’s the appeal? Someone (who? why? we can’t really guess) was buying it – what did they like? Martino’s voice is damn versatile – it slides from bellow to purr so slickly over the space of one line, but it never lets the orchestra outshine it. Maybe that was the hook. Maybe what I hear as too-much a 1952 me would have heard as just right. I expect though I’d have thought what I more or less think now – that ‘Here In My Heart’ is OK, just a curio today; just a hit yesterday. And OK seems an OK place to start.