Magic Moments, by Perry Como (his 2nd of two #1s)
8 weeks, from 28th February – 25th April 1958
I’ve grown so used to describing this period in popular music history as the ‘rock ‘n’ roll revolution’ that I’m growing, quite frankly, bored of typing it (‘rock ‘n’ roll’ is actually a difficult phrase to type quickly – those two commas round the n, you see – and I will be relieved when I can start typing phrases like ‘New Wave’ and ‘Disco’).
And if I were to stop calling this the ‘rock ‘n’ roll era’, I’d be very tempted to re-christen it ‘The Age of Whistling’. Because I make this the sixth UK #1 in a little over a year to be very heavy on the whistling: ‘Just Walkin’ in the Rain’, both versions of ‘Singing the Blues’, ‘Butterfly’, ‘The Story of My Life’ and now ‘Magic Moments’ (and I’m sure I’ve forgotten about a few stray whistles elsewhere…) I suppose it’s cheap and easy to do. And I suppose it’s better than humming. But to me it creates an air of fake jollity around a song, a feeling of enforced fun – a sense that some red-faced, chain smoking record executive was yelling ‘Sound relaxed, dammit!’ just before they pressed record.
But, hey. At least the whistling is fairly sporadic here – after the first few bars Perry Como comes in with some very famous lines: Magic… Moments… When two hearts are carin’, Magic… Moments… Mem’ries we’ve been sharing… While this standard may have receded somewhat into the mists of time, surely everyone still knows the chorus. I can pinpoint the first time I became aware of this song – an advert for (I think) ‘Quality Street’ back when I was a lad – and it is one of those songs, along with, say, ‘Que Sera Sera’ or ‘I Believe’, that make up the background music of one’s life. It’s also another Bacharach and David number, hot on the heels of ‘The Story of My Life’, and while it’s a bit more memorable than Michael Holliday’s record it is still pretty bland in comparison to their later hits.
The best you can say about ‘Magic Moments’ is that it’s a very safe song: super laid-back and super-inoffensive. Como sounds like he recorded it from his bed, or at least from a very comfy armchair. Which kind of makes sense, as the singer of this song is supposed to be an older gentleman contentedly reflecting on happy times. The backing singers, meanwhile, are working overtime – taking on at least a third of the lines.
Away from the chorus, the verses flesh out just what the ‘magic moments’ were. Moments such as: The time that the floor fell outta my car when I put the clutch down… The way that we cheered whenever our team was scoring a touchdown… They are sweet little vignettes; lyrically quite modern in the way that they eschew grandiose statements about love for real life scenarios. There’s also a link here between this and Pat Boone’s ‘I’ll Be Home’ from a couple of years earlier, in the way that the song invokes cute images of small-town, suburban (super white and WASPy, obviously) America.
I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating, how interesting it is to see the ebb and flow of the UK charts around this time; the old guard tussling with the new. You get a couple of very forward-looking, very cool, very new hits in ‘Great Balls of Fire’ and ‘Jailhouse Rock’ before the waves slowly recede and leave a saccharine blob like this beached at the top – for 8 (eight!) weeks. There are certain records that I can imagine having appealed to both young and old – ‘Diana’, for example – but I really struggle to imagine anyone under the age of forty buying this disc. Como himself was forty-five when this hit the top spot making him – and I’ve not checked this at all, but hey – the oldest chart-topper yet. Definitely one of the oldest. Probably.
Before we put the needle back into its holder for another post, let us bid farewell to the ‘King of Casual’. He has an impressive gap between his two #1s – ‘Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes’ (the 5th UK #1) and this (the 69th) – which is surely a sign of his enduring appeal. Though I do have to state that, personally, there is no contest as to which is the better song: the ever-so-jaunty ‘Don’t Let the Stars…’ all the way. Como will go on to have Top 10 hits as late as the mid-1970s – and would have had many more hits had the UK charts begun earlier than 1952 (his first US successes came in the early forties). A true titan of easy listening, he died, aged eighty-eight, in 2001.