123) Bobby Vinton – “Mr. Lonely”

Bobby Vinton was a solitary figure in early ’60s pop.  He was born too late to be one of the classic crooners, but he was a little too old to fit in with his fellow teen idols.  He wanted to be a bandleader more than a singer, and his music bears few traces of contemporary influences – but his best record is a rock ballad.  His taste in material regularly see-sawed between the sublime (“Blue Velvet”) and the soporific (“Roses Are Red [My Love],” “There! I’ve Said It Again”). “Mr. Lonely,” one of Vinton’s rare writing credits, is one of the better ones, even if it doesn’t quite scale the heights of “Blue Velvet.”  Unlike “Roses” and “There,” the material doesn’t carry the bulk of the blame.  Instead, it’s Vinton’s singing that’s the problem.  He overemotes, particularly through the second half of the song, choking up during the verses as if staying alive long enough to sing the next line is some sort of unbearable burden.  Like Paul Anka’s “Lonely Boy,” the record comes off at best as insincere, at worst as parody.  It’s as if fame led Vinton and Anka to forget what loneliness really feels like, so they overcompensated with quivering sobs and self-pitying lyrics.  (Compare with Roy Orbison, whose perpetual melancholy always seemed sincere – perhaps because it also seemed like he was always trying to fight it.)

Even though it was released as a single in 1964, “Mr. Lonely” actually appeared on the same album as “Roses Are Red (My Love)” way back in 1962 – a lifetime in terms of the early ’60s pop discography. (For reference, Vinton put out five more studio LPs and a greatest hits compilation between the album Roses Are Red and the single release of “Mr. Lonely.”)  Appropriately enough for the backwards-looking pop star, his final number-one was a leftover from a time before the British Invasion, when easy listening and American pop ruled the charts.  Unlike most of his peers, Vinton continued to have a steady stream of mid-chart hits through the rest of the ’60s, sometimes scoring the occasional Top 10 single.  He wasn’t a teen idol any longer – the definition had changed and, besides, it’s not a good look past 30.  But of all the wholesome, smiling Bobbys, he was the last man standing. 5

Hit #1 on December 12, 1964; total of 1 week at #1
123 out of 995 #1’s reviewed; 12.36% through the Hot 100

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1 Comment

Filed under 05, 1964

One response to “123) Bobby Vinton – “Mr. Lonely”

  1. GeorgeL

    Poor Bobby! He sounds like he is ready to break down & cry any moment now. He was a very talented singer but recorded a lot of dreck. Aack!

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