Cream of The Crate: Album Review # 192 – Dion and the Belmonts: Everything You Always Wanted To Hear

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cream of the crate: album review # 192 – dion and the belmonts: everything you always wanted to hear

cream of the crate: album review # 192 – dion and the belmonts: everything you always wanted to hear

 

  This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site where publications ceased on that site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site.

 

"Dion was the original punk." - (RollingStone - March 1973) .. .. .. "Dion and the Belmonts were perhaps the suavest of New York Cities late-fifties white teen idols." - (The History of Rock and Roll) .. .. .. "Dion DiMucci for a relatively short period of time was at the top of what he did, his "white style" of Doo Wop." - (This review)

This is album retro-review number 192 in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl and Cd albums in my collection.

The series is called
“Cream of The Crate” and each review represents an album that I believe is of significant musical value, either because of it’s rarity, because it represents the best of a style or styles of music or because there is something unique about the group or the music.

Links to the previous 150 reviews can be found at the bottom of this review.

The 1950’s were without any doubt that halcyon days of Rock ‘n’ Roll. There were rock artists of every genre imaginable.

One group that provided an amazing variety of high quality material, never actually played an instrument, even though there were four of them. That group is being featured this week.

I am talking of Dion and the Belmonts and the vinyl album I have chosen is titled – Everything You Always Wanted To Hear (but couldn’t get).

cream of the crate: album review # 192 – dion and the belmonts: everything you always wanted to hear
Album label – [CLICK to enlarge]
It was released on the Interfusion label in Australia in 1977 and has the identifying code of L-36.148.

The album was originally released on the Laurie label in the USA in 1976.

Yes it is a compilation album but it has all his best known and most loved tracks all on the one album, which in turn has 20 tracks on it covering the period 1958 to 1963.

As we will learn later, is somewhat of a misnomer to credit all tracks to Dion and the Belmonts.

The story of Dion and the Belmonts really starts with the birth of Dion.

Born Dion DiMucci on July 18, 1939, in the Bronx, he was the eldest of the three children of Pasquale and Frances DiMucci. He also had two sisters Joanie and Donna.

His father was a professional puppeteer who spent his summers performing in the Borscht Belt, a collection of lounges, theatres and hotel showrooms from Boston to Philadelphia.

Dion began singing at the age of five and it was only a couple of years later that his Uncle Lou, would buy him a guitar and teach him a few chords.

His father because of moving from theatre to theatre met and became friends with a range of industry businessmen, and musicians.

In fact he introduced the young Dion to Paul Whitman, a 1920s bandleader who by the 1950s was best known for discovering and promoting young talent.

At about twelve years of age Dion began appearing with Whitman on radio and television programs along the East Coast, including Whitman’s own program – Teen Club.

Like many young men in the Bronx, Dion had a love for girls, and, gangs!

When he wasn’t in school one of his major ways of occupying his time was hanging with his local gang known as Fordham Daggers. Any other spare time was taken up, particularly in the evenings, singing on street corners.

Early in 1957, Dion booked some studio time and recorded four rock and roll songs as a Valentines Day present for his mother.

History is a little unclear on what happened next, but somehow that demo record found its way into the hands of the producers of a popular show, the Teen Club TV which was broadcast out of Philadelphia.

This is where Dion DiMucci, and at the age of 15 he made his performing debut.

The year was 1954

cream of the crate: album review # 192 – dion and the belmonts: everything you always wanted to hear
Dion – circa 1954

 

Dion’s reputation eventually spread far enough to reach Irv Spicer who owned Mohawk Records, which became well known for their Doo Wop recordings.

Using unknown studio musicians and backing vocalist, Dion recorded “The Chosen Few” and “Out Of Colorado.”

Just a few copies were sold locally and after some deals were done, the rights for distribution were taken over by Jubilee, a larger New York record company. However, the music was still unable to find an audience.

When approached by Spicer to record a second single Dion made a very smart demand when he said he’d only do it with his own backing group, which ironically he didn’t actually have.

Spicer somewhat reluctantly agreed and Dion found the three best street singers he knew. The first two were Carlo Mastrangelo and Freddy Milano, amazingly members of rival gang, the Imperial Hoods.

 

cream of the crate: album review # 192 – dion and the belmonts: everything you always wanted to hear
Carlo Mastrangelo – [CLICK to enlarge]
cream of the crate: album review # 192 – dion and the belmonts: everything you always wanted to hear
Freddy Milano – [CLICK to enlarge]


The third member, who was a friend of Dion’s, was Angelo D’ Aleo. These three made up the Belmonts named after Belmont Avenue a popular hangout in the Bronx.

cream of the crate: album review # 192 – dion and the belmonts: everything you always wanted to hear
Angelo D’Aleo – [CLICK to enlarge]



Dion began listening to street doo wop and writing/composing in this style.

In early 1958, Mohawk issued “Tag Along” b/w “We Went Away.”

With a sound that was raw and crude it’s no wonder that few records were sold. However, they served another purpose. The opened the door for them to join another record company.

In 1958 Bob and Gene Schwartz, Elliott Greenberg and Allen Sussel began Laurie Records.

Gene Schwartz had written “Tag Along”, so when looking for an opening act for Laurie Records, Schwartz looked no further than Dion and the Belmonts.

Laurie Record’s first single I Wonder Why was recorded on afternoon at New York’s Bell Sound Studios.

Dion’s vocal was slightly flat with slight nasal overtones – a style that would become his trademark, but the Belmonts were right on the money. I Wonder Why wasn’t really what Dion and the Belmonts were all about, but it made people sit up and listen and, little did they realise it would fire up.

cream of the crate: album review # 192 – dion and the belmonts: everything you always wanted to hear
Dion and the Belmonts – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

Released the first week of May of 1958, it was on the national charts within two weeks.

Within four weeks they were on Dick Clark’s Saturday night CBS-TV show. For Dion, there would be no turning back.

Immediately he and the Belmonts were booked on a one-nighter tour that crisscrossed the country. He was at this point he started dabbling in drugs and by the age of 16 had gained a heroin habit, and, it was a habit that he didn’t kick until 1968.

The Belmonts single “I Wonder Why” was a solid minor hit, almost making the Top Twenty. No One Knows and “Don’t Pity Me” followed, but the Dion and the Belmonts big break out hit came in the spring of 1959 with A Teenager in Love (#5) and the following year Where or When made it to #3.

In February 1959, Dion made a life changing decision when passed up a plane ride on the chartered plane. It was the plane that later crashed, killing Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper.

By late 1960 Dion and the Belmonts broke up.

The main reason was Dion’s heroin habit which had taken its toll on him. At first those around him tried to cover it up but in October 1959, while When and Where was nearing the top of the charts, Dion was hospitalised in an attempt to help him kick the habit.

Variety magazine quietly noted that he had been ordered by his doctor to “take a leave of absence.”

The outward impression was that Dion was overworked.

In fact in 1960 the Belmonts broke away from Dion when the cohesiveness of the group was gone, and they feared that to stay with him would be a disaster.

The Belmonts went on to record through to 1964, only having very moderate success.

Dion, in an attempt to distance himself from the fact that the Belmonts had dumped him, took a drastic change in musical direction hiring a female backing group. This was a total disaster and went away very quickly.

Not long after this aborted attempt to change his music style, Dion worked with the unaccredited Del-Satins brought in to sing background vocals in the style of the Belmonts.

Ironically returning to the “Dion & the Belmonts” style, brought with it amazing success.

He had Top Ten hits with Runaround Sue (number 1 in 1960), TheWanderer (number 2 in 1961), Lovers Who Wander (number 3 in 1962), and Little Diane (number 8) in 1962 .

cream of the crate: album review # 192 – dion and the belmonts: everything you always wanted to hear
The Del-Satins – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

With his contract up with Laurie in June,1962, he jumped to Columbia Records.

He brought along the Del-Satins, who for all intents and purposes were often referred to (unofficially) as the “Belmonts” and to the audiences were allowed to make that conclusion.

He went on to have hits with “Ruby Baby” (number 2) “Drip Drop” (number 6), and “Donna the Prima Donna” (number 6) all in 1963. Dion also appeared in the film Teenage Millionaire in 1961.

DiMucci amazingly dropped The Del Satins in late 1963.

In 1964 he released a string of unsuccessful covers and then began recording blues material around 1965 with little commercial success. However that was something he would come back to with great success in later years.

Relegated to singing in coffee houses he struggled with his addiction, which he eventually beat. But the 70’s and early 80’s were substantially “nowhere years”.

However he very successfully returned to the music scene in June 1987 with a series of sold out concerts at RadioCity Music Hall.

His autobiography The Wanderer was published in 1988.

He had found peace with himself and Dion was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.

He continues to perform right up until this moment.

This album has been assembled with some of his biggest hits but falls into the trap most compilations fall into, that is NOT listing the tracks in order of date recorded.

This simple thing of providing the tracks in sequentially by year would mean the listener, you, could listen to the evolution, or sometime devolution, of the artist and the music.

In this case we start in 1960, flip flop between 1958 and 1963 and finish with a track from 1958!

Track Listing:

A1 Runaround Sue
A2 The Wanderer
A3 The Majestic
A4 Love Came To Me
A5 Little Diane
A6 Lonely World
A7 Lovers Who Wander
A8 Born To Cry
A9 I Got The Blues
A10 I Wonder Why
B1 A Teenager In Love
B2 Where Or When
B3 Runaway Girl
B4 Lonely Teenager
B5 When You Wish Upon A Star
B6 Teen Angel
B7 A Lover’s Prayer
B8 That’s My Desire
B9 Sandy
B10 No One Knows

 

cream of the crate: album review # 192 – dion and the belmonts: everything you always wanted to hear
Rear cover – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

So I’m moving away from my usual review process of starting with track 1 – which I usually consider as the albums “calling card”, but because it is a compilation that concept really doesn’t hold.

Besides, I think in the case of this album case I’ll work through the review chronologically.

So I start with side 1 and track number 10 which is I Wonder Why.

Released in May of 1958 and as indicated previously, it was the first hit for Dion and the group and it was not only their first release it was also the first single’s release by Laurie Records.

It really is a great example of Doo Wop singing and showed the great harmonies the Belmonts were able to produce.

It was a tune for the time. Uptempo, danceable and it didn’t offend parents. It tells the story of a boy telling his girl that he loves her, and that when they are apart, he is sure she remains true . . . of course it is hard to tell whether he believes it, or hopes for this.

Whatever, it was a great track for Dion to start his career.

I Wonder Why

Ten months after the release of I Wonder Why, in March of 1959 Dion hit it even bigger with the track that is track 1 on side 2. Teenager In Love.

This track reached number 5 on the Billboard Pop Charts and is surely one of the best songs ever written in this style. The Ooh,ooh,ahoo,ooh, intro is superb and Dion sings it like he really MEANS it.

cream of the crate: album review # 192 – dion and the belmonts: everything you always wanted to hear
Dion – 1959 – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

The song would win no prize for deep and meaning full lyrics. It’s a classic late ’50s song about exactly what the title suggests – teenage love involving a teenage boy with a delicate heart.

It is little wonder it struck a chord and was a hit. It was written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, who wrote in the offices of the famous “hit factory” of the Brill Building, where many Pop hits of the ’50s and ’60 originated.

The biggest consumers of pop music at the time were teenagers, and this song was clearly targeted to them.

You know times and music styles may have changed, but I think the song writers of this period still reflect the thoughts of many teens today!

Teenager In Love

1960 saw the beginning of the end of Dion and The Belmonts.

It is easy for me to understand when I listen to track 5 on side 2When you Wish Upon A Star.

Released in April of 1960, it can be argued quite successfully that anything would be better than the version used by Walt Disney in the movie Pinnochio.

But we are talking rock, or at least Doo Wop, and yes! teens love ballads. But really, I’m amazed this track even made number 30 on the pop charts.

So I have included it so you can get an idea of why things started slipping away fast.

It was not easy to even re-listen to this track as I recorded it to place in the review, honestly it is BAD, but as the word was originally meant to be used.

I mean Dion may have had a heroin habit that was hard for everyone to deal with, but if this was the direction he saw his musical career going in, it was a direction that led one way – downward!

By the time he released “In The Still Of The Night” in June of 1960, fortunately not on this album, the end was inevitable as it crawled to number 38.

When You Wish Upon A Star

Then in 1961 there was an amazing turnaround when he really bounced back tracks like The Wanderer.

cream of the crate: album review # 192 – dion and the belmonts: everything you always wanted to hear
[CLICK to enlarge]

 

In addition there were also The Majestic and, track 1 on side 1Runaround Sue.

What a track!

It charted everywhere. It was number 1 in the US and NZ, and high up in the charts in Australia and Canada as well.

Another fabulous Doo Wop style track featuring his new backing group the Del-Satins, who as I wrote earlier were rarely identified by name and were actually called the “Belmonts”.

cream of the crate: album review # 192 – dion and the belmonts: everything you always wanted to hear
Dion: promoting The Wanderer – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

The song ranked No. 342 on the Rolling Stone list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time

It was written by Ernie Maresca, who had a a few minor hits himself such as “Shout Shout Knock Yourself Out”. However the idea came from Dion, who told the story of it to a journalist from the Wall Street Journal. It was about a party he was at, “That night, I got everyone to lay down a beat on boxes and bottles and to clap hands rhythmically in time.

I then came up with background vocal harmony parts and had everyone sing them over and over. It went like this [Dion sings]: “Hape-hape, bum-da hey-di hey-di hape-hape.” With this going on, I made up a melody and lyrics about Ellen. People were dancing, drinking beer and having fun.

When I left the party that night, I couldn’t let go of that riff and melody. They were firmly ingrained in my head. I didn’t know how to write lyrics too well then. None of us did. But I knew that the melody and rhythmic line everyone sang had something special going on.

Dion was friends with Maresca and contacted him the next day and told him his story. By the time he met Maresca a day later, the bones of the song were already written, and it also had “hit” written all over it!

Here’s my story, it’s sad but true
It’s about a girl that I once knew
She took my love then ran around
With every single guy in town

Yeah I should have known it from the very start
This girl will leave me with a broken heart
Now listen people what I’m telling you
A keep away from a Runaround Sue

I might miss her lips and the smile on her face
The touch of her hair and this girl’s warm embrace
So if you don’t want to cry like I do
A keep away from-a Runaround Sue

Ah, she likes to travel around
She’ll love you and she’ll put you down
Now people let me put you wise
Sue goes out with other guys
Here’s the moral and the story from the guy who knows
I fell in love and my love still grows
Ask any fool that she ever knew, they’ll say
Keep away from-a Runaround Sue

Yeah keep away from this girl
I don’t know what she’ll doe
Keep away from Sue

She likes to travel around
She’ll love you and she’ll put you down
Now people let me put you wise
She goes out with other guys

Here’s the moral and the story from the guy who knows
I fell in love and my love still grows
Ask any fool that she ever knew, they’ll say
Keep away from a Runaround Sue

Stay away from that girl
Don’t you know what she’ll do now

Runaround Sue

In 1962 he followed up his success of the previous year with several great tracks including the 1962 track, which is track 7 on side 1 – Lovers Who Wander.

Another track written by Ernie Maresca the track, which was released as a single, reached number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Calling upon the true and tried formula of ‘boy meets girl, kisses girl, falls in love with girl, is dumped by girl’ – the track does go one step further.

When she kissed me I was born and then she said goodbye
Then I knew right away I was born to cry
Now, I’m happy and the joke’s on her
Cause, I found that place for lovers who wander

In this song the ‘broken hearted boy’ actually finds his ‘happy place’ and is able to sing about it from the top of his voice. Yer, doubtful that a broken heart could be that easily mended, none the less it gave hope to all those shattered teenage boys hearts.

Now my story can be told with a smiling face
I’m the luckiest guy in the human race
All my lovin’ dreams have gone for her
Cause, I found that place for lovers who wander

Yeah, dum, dun, da, dum, da, dun, dum, da, didit
Dun, dum, dun, dum, didit, dum dun didit
Dun, da dum da, dum, da, dun, didit,
Dum, dun, da la, la, dun, la, la
Yeah, woo, ooh, ooh, woo, woo, ooo, ooh, woo, woo
Ooo, ooo, yeah, ooo

cream of the crate: album review # 192 – dion and the belmonts: everything you always wanted to hear
Dion, playing the Fender, and the Belmonts – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

Look, the formula both in lyric development and music style basically remains unchanged, and why shouldn’t it. It was a successful formula!

It spoke to the teens at a level they understood, and, as the saying goes – “It had a good beat and you could dance to it”! Oh, and if you think it sounds a bit like Runaround Sue – Sure!

Learn about Doo Wop and there is a similarity all along the line, but it’s in the dressing that counts!

Lovers Who Wander

As indicated earlier, by 1963 DiMucci had bizarrely broken away from his ersatz BelmontsThe Del Satins, and so began an extensive period crowned with what really was, a lack of success.

There is only one track from 1963 on this album and that is track 9 on side 2Sandy.

The track was an attempt to continue “the” formula. There is no mention of who the backing singers were, and in the end it makes no difference.

Teens are a fickle lot, and about the time this track was released there were the early stirrings of the British Beat music revolution and, Doo Wop Sandy just didn’t cut it.

The party was for all intents and purposes over!

Sandy

So here we have it, and album titled Everything You Ever Wanted To Hear By Dion and the Belmonts [20 All Time Hits].

OK let’s not kid ourselves. This is not an album of 20 hits!

It is, however, an album that despite the lack of chronological track placing, does track the development and successes and not so successful music of Dion DiMucci, and sometimes the Belmonts, sometimes the Del Satins and sometimes I just don’t know who!

Dion DiMucci for a relatively short period of time was at the top of what he did, his “white style” of Doo Wop.

It was a style that didn’t last long and certainly shorter than the overall style as developed by black artists. But he brilliantly represents an era of music that was short, but when it worked it really worked.

Despite a brief reunion with the Belmonts in the 1970’s, his best years were the period of late 1950’s to early 1960’s.

While Dion was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989, strangely the Belmonts were not. But then again, as I have commented many times in Cream of The Crate reviews past, the decisions of whom too induct and who not too induct, often leaves many people scratching their heads in wonder.

Dion DiMucci was not a rock and roll artist and maybe because of that he is not as appreciated as many rock artists, some of whom had less music success but more recognition.

Yet a collection of music without a Dion and the Belmonts album is a collection with a hole in it.

Dion and the Belmonts only ever released four albums, two on the Laurie label – “Presenting Dion and the Belmonts” in 1958 and “Wish Upon a Star” with Dion and the Belmonts in 1961.

Then there was, “Together Again” on ABC Records in 1967 and finally “Live at Madison Square Garden” in 1972, released by Warner Brothers in 1973.

Dion as a solo artist is credited actually with 30 albums covering 1961 to 2016. Very interestingly, the last four he released (2006 to 2016) were all blues based albums, and were the only albums he ever released that were in the top 10 category.

Even his “solo” album titled Runaway Sue in 1961, only reached number 11.

He continues to still perform and records in his own studio.

cream of the crate: album review # 192 – dion and the belmonts: everything you always wanted to hear
Dion: 2015 – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

So the choice is wide, but if you are looking for the early “Doo Wop” Dion (and the Belmonts), then you really can’t go past this album.

The album seems to be unavailable on Ebay, but Discogs have a few copies going for quite affordable prices – just watch out for possible inflated freight costs.


Coming late August: A review of Dions latest release – “Blues With Friends

cream of the crate: album review # 192 – dion and the belmonts: everything you always wanted to hear

 


VIDEOS:

Here are some clips of live performances from Dion as found on Youtube.

 

The Wanderer

 

The Majestic

 

I Wonder Why


Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:

 

To view/listen the first 50 vinyl album reviews just click the image below –

cream of the crate cd review #2 : robert johnson – the complete recordings

 

To view/listen the first 50 Cd album reviews just click the image below –

 

To view/listen album reviews 101 – 150 just click the image below –

 

Click to open the following reviews covering #’s 151 onward.

#151.  The Shaggs – Philosophy of the World

#152.  The Animals – The Animals

#153. Omah Khorshid & His Group  – Live In Australia 1981

#154. Alan Parsons Project – Tales of Mystery and Imagination: Edgar Allan Poe

#155. Billy Thorpe – Tangier

#156. Aretha Franklin – The Best Of

#157. Big Bill Broonzy – Big Bill’s Blues

#158. The Supremes – Where Did Our Love Go 

#159. The Band – Stage Fright

#160. Ray Brown and the Whispers – Hits and More 1965 – 1968

#161. Guitar Junior – The Crawl

#162. Jimi Hendrix – Radio One

#163. Memphis Minnie – Queen of the Blues

#164. Eno – Taking Tiger Mountain (by Strategy)

#165. The Loved Ones – Magic Box

#166. Various Artists – On The Road Again [ An Anthology of Chicago Blues 1947 – 1954]

#167. Janis Joplin – Greatest Hits 

#168. David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust [The Motion Picture]

#169. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Californication

#170.  Chain – Two Of A Kind

#171. Bob Marley – Legend

#172. Koko Taylor – What It Takes

#173. Stevie Wonder – Original Musiquarium

#174. Various Artists – The Unissued 1963 Blues Festival

#175. Noeleen Batley – Little Treasure

#176. B.B. King – The Best Of

#177. Fleetwood Mac – Fleetwood Mac

#178 – Memphis Slim – I Feel So Good

#179. Manfred Mann’s Earth Band – Live at Budapest

#180. Flowers – Icehouse

#181. Joe Tex – The Best Of

#182. Chicago [Transit Authority] – Chicago Transit Authority

#183. Deep Purple – The Deep Purple Singles

#184. The Doobie Brothers – Best Of The Doobies

#185. Dig Richards – Jive After Five

#186. The Stereo MC’s – Connected

#187. Ricky Nelson – All My Best

#188. Frank Frost – Jelly Roll King

#189. Lonnie Mack – Memphis Wham

#190. Madder Lake – Stillpoint

#191. Carol Kaye and the Hitmen – Guitars 1965