Night Music: Dion & the Del Satins, “Runaround Sue,” J.D. McPherson, “North Side Gal”

I cannot even remember what I was looking for in YouTube when on the list of suggested items I saw a link to a version Dion’s Runaround Sue, just a fantastic song.

I am sure Peter and Gene, New Yorkers both, appreciate Dion, first with the Belmonts, then as a solo artist, who represented the doo wop bands, and the toughness of the New York streets of the 50’s better than anyone.

Dion’s pained voice and words reflected the unspoken angst of an era when angst was indeed not to be spoken about: but, at least we could live our pain vicariously through Mr. diMucci.

Dion, who had his struggles along with his hits, still lives and I believe still performs, but in the 1961, with Runaround Sue, he was dynamite.

What is funny is this clip, of the singer with the band The Del Satins, is just weird.

First, I don’t remember ever hearing-or at least knowing about–a song by them backing Dion.

Second, I could swear they are all just lip synching here, because Dion recorded the song under his name alone after splitting with the Belmonts. And, the song represented sure as hell sounds like the original recording.

But, even for lip synching, these guys have to be the most laconic band in the history of anything.

Even so, my man Dion is still at least trying to perform, but the rest of the band, especially the back up sax guy who largely snaps his fingers, and sings back-up with the two guitar players, is almost dead. And, when they go into their “awwwwwwwws” none of them moves even remotely close to the single mike. Not too mention their lips are way out of synch.

The piano guy is even worse, for though he is playing, or pretending anyway, he is largely looking at the camera in some kind of earlier wishful version of a photo bomb or selfie or something.

But, enough of the band, the audience is even worse. They seem to be in a nightclub, but no one has have a drink in front of him or her (well, ok, I saw one beverage, but it looks untouched). Otherwise, they are just fucking sitting there, while Dion is at least pretending to wail. And, even if the song is piped in from the original recording, that song rocks.

Yet not one person is so much as tapping their finger on the nice white table cloths, or even swaying just a little.

Which confirms my notion of how sadly repressed we were.

Whew. Glad we can all now have sex and drugs and rock’n’roll.

While we are at it, while thinking about this piece, I happened to hear J.D. McPherson on KTKE, in Truckee, performing a song new to me, but surely evocative of Dion and doo wop and rock’a’billy.

Check it out. Pretty cool tune, and though it seems the sax is overdubbed in this video, the sax player still showed more moxie than that guy in the Del Satins.

3 thoughts on “Night Music: Dion & the Del Satins, “Runaround Sue,” J.D. McPherson, “North Side Gal”

  1. The Del Satins backed Dion after he left the Belmonts, at least for a while, and got no record credit. But they did get this clip, which must be from a movie or TV show, clearly recorded before it occurred to directors/producers that you could affect the viewer response by making the audience (and the band) in the clip excited. Surprising this wasn’t known, but clearly it wasn’t.

    Runaround Sue is a great song because it is so swingy, but what the heck is the story? It feels like Dion’s kidding himself, loudly, about his ability to resist the charms of Sue. Which is fine. His passion has served him well through the years, despite ups and downs, mostly caused by his lack of ability to resist charms.

    The JD McPherson tune is a fine workout, but what interests me is they seem to have spent their entire effects budget on making the bass strings in the video look way looser than they must be. Is that a special effect? If so, it’s a good understated choice that really adds a lot to the video’s groove.

    As for hipster dudes playing blues shouters, these guys do it well on this song, but not as well as countless Joe Turner sides. But I would love to see them in a bar, if they bring the sax player.

  2. The Dion clip looks like it’s from a movie or a TV show. “For your punishment, Mr. DiMucci, you must lip sync a show in front of your audience’s parents.” I can’t believe that those are the real Del Satins – I had ’em pegged as Bronx hoods with hearts of gold or stone as the situation required. Anyway, we should remember that nothing was ever as TV presented it. I mean, Dion was doing heroin at this time as were many of the top jazz players. One thing that fascinates me, in the disgusted sense of the word, is how certain songs (from all eras) get played over and over while others disappear. Why is this? In this case I almost understand since Runaround Sue was Dion’s biggest hit with the possible exception of The Wanderer. But he did lots of great songs, which give the lie to the oft-expressed notion that nothing happened in rocknroll between the Great Plane Crash (and Elvis in the army, Chuck Berry in jail, etc.) and The Beatles. A lot happened. Here’s my boy JT covering another Dion classic:

  3. great clip, Gene…

    and, Dion had a bunch of great hits: Ruby Baby, Drip Drop, I Wonder Why, Teenager in Love, in addition to Runaround and The Wanderer (I omitted one of his biggest hits on purpose).

    I would have hope the Del Satins would have looked more like the Blue Caps, but, what is with the “del” in the names? Like the Del Vikings?

    Reminds me of the worst movie ever (check it out on the IMDB, and I have it, but as a Mystery Science Theatre 2000 DVD), “Manos, Hand of Fate.”

    Which is essentially, “Hand, Hand of Fate” after translation.

    So, the Del Satins becomes The The Satins.


    I hear you in a way though about the gap between ’59 and ’64. There was stuff.

    On the west coast we got the Beachboys in ’61

    And, Motown was rally starting to crank, as was Phillies.

    But,, that was also when Bobbys Rydell, Vinton, and Vee all dominated, along with the Four Seasons (who were good, but who never played or even pretended to until all the Brit bands did).

    It was largely a down time for music, just like the spell before punk hit.

    I think we are in one of those doldrums now, even.

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