Graham Reid | | 1 min read
As Nick Tosche revealed in his remarkable biography Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams, Dean Martin didn't have to try hard at anything: he was good looking, could sing whatever was put in front of him, was a natural straight man and comedian, and he'd just turn up on a movie set and do his lines with charm, ease and utter indifference.
No, Dean didn't have to try -- so increasingly he didn't. He just began to sleepwalk through his life, eating at the same restaurant, shutting out the bad things like the split with his wife and the death of his son. He'd just detach himself that little bit more, play more golf, retreat that little bit further into a fug of pills and booze.
Dean just didn't care. He didn't care about his friend Sinatra and the gangsters who inhabited their world, about acting which he never considered real work, about the songs he was asked to sing. He'd walk in and record an album and walk out. Didn't care about if and when it came out, what they put on the cover or said in the liner notes.
And that is why Dean Martin's extensive back-catalogue contains more disposable nonsense than even that of Elvis. The titles of Martin songs tell their own story: Mambo Italiano, Cha Cha Cha D'Amour, Tik-A-Tee Tik-A-Day, Not Enough Indians . . .
There were a lot of Christmas albums too.
Of course when he got worthy material he sounded exceptional, that lazy and romantic style fitting perfectly with songs like You Belong To Me where you can almost imagine he's actually trying.
Then there is this song from the movie Rio Bravo where he starred alongside John Wayne, which might have been his silver screen high point. (We put his James Bond parody flicks as Matt Helm in a category of their own).
My Rifle, My Pony and Me is an unusual one. Although it is a song about comin' home to his sweetheart darlin' you get the sense from his phrasing and where he puts the emphasis that he's more at home alone in the canyon with his three good companions, his rifle and pony "and me".
At one level it is throwaway filler (like Elvis' Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce in Girl Happy) and yet it is also emblematic of Dino's loner persona, the man who not only needed very little but couldn't have cared less about the rest. Or even that.
For more one-off great or unusual songs see From the Vaults.