Outside of Heaven, by Eddie Fisher (his 1st of two #1s)
1 week, from 30th January to 6th February 1953
We wanted heartbreak, and boy do we get it here…
Eddie Fisher passes by the house where his sweetheart lives, and stands outside the church where she is getting married. He is ‘outside of heaven’ – literally, if you count a church as the place where God resides, and metaphorically, as his version of heaven would be at the dining room table eating his wife’s stew. Kinda clever, when you think about it.
This is what I imagined the pre-rock number ones to sound like. And I don’t like it very much. The sultry Jo Stafford and the saucy Kay Starr give way, for a week, to some very over the top moping. I pass your house, with misty eyes, there stands the gate to paradise, but you don’t hear the heart that cries, outside of heaven… Or if that’s not melodramatic enough for you: On your wedding day, I stood in the crowd, I could hardly keep, from crying out loud… It’s comparable to ‘Here in My Heart’, as it’s operatic and dramatic, like it could be the closing song in the first act of a Rogers & Hammerstein. But whereas Al Martino sang with enough power to carry the day, Fisher doesn’t have the voice. The ending especially – why was I meant, to walk alone, outside of heaven…? makes your hairs stand on end, and not in a good way. In the song’s favour, as far as I’m concerned, is that it does feature a guitar solo – the first #1 to do so. However, it’s possibly one of the least dynamic solos ever recorded – it sounds like the guitarist is scared to get his instrument too worked up, as if it might bite.
So, a pause, to take stock… If the first four chart toppers are anything to go by, female artists in early 1953 were allowed to be fun, playful, even a little bit sexy. But the record buying public wanted stoically heartbroken men: sad and lonely and not afraid to sing about it. Very loudly.
Perhaps this song is even more of a disappointment as I had heard of Eddie Fisher, and his reputation as something of a shagger. He was married five times – to Debbie Reynolds (with whom he fathered Carrie Fisher) and Elizabeth Taylor (he was husband number four of eight for her) amongst others. Taylor was Reynold’s close friend, and he married her not long after her previous husband had died in an air crash. Juicy stuff… So maybe I had hoped he’d be singing something a little funkier, a little more rousing, than this. But – and this is a big but that should be applied to many of the acts in this list – BUT, songs that are most successful in the charts are not always the most representative of an artist’s entire oeuvre (cf. Chuck Berry, 1972). Perhaps I’m being unfair on Eddie. He has one further number one coming up soon – let’s hope it’s a balls-to-the-wall rocker.
A couple more observations: Eddie Fisher was, again, an American. We still await our first ever British #1. And he lived to the ripe old age of eighty-two, passing away just seven years ago. Who will be the first chart topper to die tragically young…?