115) Dean Martin – “Everybody Loves Somebody”

The Hot 100 encompasses two contradictory attitudes toward pop music. The first is the unending quest for the newest sound, one fresh enough to render last week’s model obsolete and fascinating enough to invite repeated listens.  The other is the need for musical comfort food, something familiar that requires only a minimal investment in attention and thought.  This perpetual tug-of-war between novelty and nostalgia was never more obvious than in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, when rock and roll was transitioning from a fading fad to the most important genre in pop. Every time an innovative, interesting record hit #1, it was inevitably replaced by a backward-looking schmaltz-o-gram. “Stagger Lee” fell to “Venus,” “Telstar” to “Go Away Little Girl,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand”/“She Loves You”/“Can’t Buy Me Love” to “Hello, Dolly!” No one designed it that way – after all, few of the people who bought easy listening records were invested enough in pop music to care about the charts.  It was simply the Hot 100 regaining its natural equilibrium.

Naturally, the same fate befell “A Hard Day’s Night.”  With “Everybody Loves Somebody,” Dean Martin polished off a Frank Sinatra B-side from 1948, loaded up on the strings, and scored the biggest hit of his career.  The song is corny in the way most of those old-timey pop songs are (barring classics by Porter, Berlin, Gershwin et al), but without the goofy charm of Martin’s earlier hit, “That’s Amore.” “Everybody loves somebody sometimes,” the chorus informs us. “Everybody falls in love somehow.” It’s a nicely bland platitude tailored for people who don’t listen too closely to lyrics.  Which is just as well, as Martin’s boozy croon is all but drowned out by the requisite 35-person choir and sopping violins swirling around the chorus.

As with Louis Armstrong, it’s hard to fault an old pro taking a victory lap, especially since their respective styles were teetering on the edge of cultural irrelevance. There’s even a mild concession to ‘50s prom-rock in the accompaniment’s shuffling triplets. But like “Deep Purple” and “It’s All in the Game,” the ostensibly contemporary remake is still likely only to appeal to those who remember the original. Nevertheless, the song served its purpose.  It acted as rebuttal to “A Hard Day’s Night,” thus restoring order to the pop universe.  Then, after a week, it quietly stepped aside and made way for the next new thing. 4

Hit #1 on August 15, 1964; total of 1 week at #1
115 of 985 #1’s reviewed; 11.68% through the Hot 100


Filed under 04, 1964

4 responses to “115) Dean Martin – “Everybody Loves Somebody”

  1. I’m generally not well-versed enough in the history of rock to add anything useful. Just wanted to say that I love your insights and writing. I’m always psyched when I see that you have a new post up.

  2. Thanks! I’ve learned a lot myself about rock history from writing this blog.

  3. michael boyko

    You’re far too dismissive of Dean Martin’s contributions to pop music.Far from being ” an old pro taking a victory lap” whose style was “teetering on the edge of cultural irrelevance”, Everybody Loves Somebody in fact heralded an amazingly successful musical resurgence for Dino, who posted no fewer than 20 Hot 100 placings between 1964-69.
    While no others equalled that #1 success, he did place 2 others in the top 10, including his finest Reprise recording, I Will, in 1965.
    Although it’s fashionable to mock his Rat Pack persona, as you did with your ” boozy croon” comment, the fact is that he took his singing very seriously and was never, throughout his long career, anything other than cold sober in the recording studio.
    Congratulations on your impressive Jeopardy performance and success.I’ve tried without success to be a contestant myself.

  4. GeorgeL

    You need to hear Dinah Washington’s version of this song. It is great!

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