Memories are Made of This, by Dean Martin (his 1st and only #1)
4 weeks, from 17th February to 16th March 1956
Sweet sweet mem’ries you gave to me…
This is one of those #1s that fall into the ‘I can sing a line or two before listening to it’ category. See also ‘That Doggie in the Window’ and ‘This Ole House’. At first I thought I might have sung this in my days as a primary school choirboy. But then, after listening more closely, I realised that the lyrics are perhaps a bit rich for a group of eight year olds.
Take one fresh and tender kiss, add one stolen night of bliss…
So, yeah… Then I got to thinking that the intro sounds a lot like the intro to ‘King of the Road’ – that sliding da dum dum dum guitar – which I definitely did sing in my primary school choir. So maybe that’s what I was thinking of.
Anyway. I wrote in the last post that we were having a bit of a minimalist phase in terms of our chart topping records, after the bombast of ’53 and ’54, and this track follows suit. There’s a guitar, some backing singers, and Dean Martin. It’s nice.
Lyrically, the song describes the ‘recipe’ for a happy life. Lots of ‘taking’, ‘adding’ and ‘folding’. With His blessings from above, Serve it generously with love… Which is fine. It actually reminds me a bit of ‘Christmas Alphabet’, in a way – another pop song as step by step guide. It is, though, a metaphor which can only go so far. The lines: Then add the wedding bells, One house where lovers dwell, Three little kids for the flavour… Stir carefully through the days, See how the flavour stays… Are either a little too saccharine, or a little too cannibalistic, to really work.
These lines, however, come during the middle-eight in which – and I may be going out on a limb here but bear with me – we have a bit of a rock ‘n’ roll chord progression. I am completely incapable of describing it in words, having no musical ability on which to base my idea, so you’ll just have to take a listen below to see what I mean. The very fact that this is a Verse Chorus Verse Chorus Middle Eight Verse Chorus (Ok, the chorus is one line, but still) kind of song is interesting in itself. It’s by no means a ‘rock’ song; but there’s a whiff of something there.
And it’s another one of those occasions in which we tick off a musical legend’s sole moment at the top of the UK charts. Vera Lynn’s had her moment, Tony Bennett’s had his, now it’s Dean’s turn. It just seems right that he got there at least once. To be honest, I know very few concrete facts about about Dean Martin – I tend to get all the rat-pack type singers muddled up together – but I see that he sang songs that are probably more famous than he now is: ‘Volare’, ‘That’s Amore’, ‘Sway’… In fact, it seems safe to say that ‘Memories Are Made of This’ is Dean Martin’s most famous song in which he wasn’t hamming up his eye-talian side. It sounds like I imagine all Dean Martin records to sound like: laidback, slightly louche, very nonchalant… He sounds as if he’s phoning it in, to an extent, but that just adds to the appeal. ‘The King of Cool’, indeed.