Dion : Born To Be With You/Streetheart
An inspiration for Spiritualized, Primal Scream and The Verve...
As a teen idol who went off the rails, Dion could be said to have provided the blueprint for Robbie Williams’ career. Unlike Robbie, though, Dion was also a heroin user,
a ferociously passionate singer and a man who littered his career with outstanding records, of which ‘Born To Be With You’ (hitherto unavailable on CD) was his crowning achievement.
Born in New York’s Bronx in 1939, Dion initially came to prominence with his clean-cut and extremely popular doo-wop group Dion And The Belmonts at the end of the ’50s. By 1960 he’d quit, and the story of the next decade is that of a battle between him and his record company Columbia. They were grooming him for the MOR market, while Dion, increasingly incapacitated by heroin, had decided to pursue an rather more uncommercial folk-rock agenda.
By the end of the ’60s, Dion
had been passed on to Warners and it was there – six years later
in 1975 – that a collaboration was suggested between him and the legendary producer Phil Spector (to whom Warners had recently given his own label).
Dion’s searching vocals coupled with his nakedly autobiographical lyrics and Spector’s suitably deranged production combined
to astonishing effect. The album’s title track is a masterpiece of cosmic country-soul – and was an inspiration for Spiritualized, Primal Scream and The Verve.
It’s matched in part by ‘Your Own Back Yard’ (a 1970 single
not produced by Spector), which conveys the joy of an ex-junkie who knows he’s kicked his habit.
The rest of the album (from the rolling surge of ‘Only You Know’ to the neo-glam bubblegum of ‘Baby Let’s Stick Together’) isn’t that far behind, and its re-appearance – coupled with the less engaging ‘Streetheart’ album – is long overdue. If nothing else, someone should mail a copy to Robbie.