Dion Week No 7: Written on the Subway Wall / Little Star - Dion
Dion had worked with Paul Simon before, initially on his 1989 album, "Yo Frankie". The album is an elegy to New York. In this track, Dion reminisces about his youth in the Big Apple but, Dion being Dion, the song is steeped in detail that subliminally enriches the texture. In the previous Uncle Stylus entry, it's no accident that Paul Simon is chosen to accompany him on a song entitle "Here in America" referencing Simon and Garfunkel's 1968 classic "America". Here half the title and the refrain is lifted from the title of a track from S & G's 1966 album "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme", namely "A Poem on the Underground Wall" a definitely set in New York.
But what's "Little Star" to do with New York? I hear you ask. In 1958, the first doo-wop hit for a New York Italian group was "Little Star" by the Elegants, reaching number one in the Hot 100 and preceding Dion first hit with the Belmonts by a matter of months. Dion knew the Elegants even before this success and they subsequently toured as support for the Belmonts, although they never charted again. Another New Yorker, Bill Tuohy, cowrote many songs with Dion throughout his solo career, including "Written on the Subway Wall". Tuohy was a schoolteacher of English, and a writer and poet as the succession of sharp, evocative couplets show:
"Street corner bands, hot dog stands,
choosing sides for kick the can.....
Cuban heels and pinstriped cars,
takin' Suzy to the church bazaar....
basement lights and gangway fights,
hydrants flooding August nights....
pool halls in the afternoons
transistors playing Elvis tunes...."
Once again Dion in is in his metaphorical attic, pouring over the black and white snapshots of his youth. Although he knows "You can't go back", he can never escape it either as the muted "dum dum deddit" backing vocals and doo-wop harmonies remind us. Our past is what we are, and Dion has never forgotten it or been scared to embrace it. Luckily for us.
"It's just a frozen yesterday
To make it more would take away.
Remember the wonder of it all....
...makin' out at matinees,
we slowly went our separate ways...".