“I Take A Lot of Pride In What I Am”, The Dean Martin Show, 1981
IchLugeBullets is very unlikely to ever get the 33 1/3 call-up, almost certainly on account of the fact that the only albums we could really see ourselves being motivated to write 60,000 words on are by either Ballboy or Big Pun, neither of whom we can see selling that hard to the Barnes and Noble crowd. There is a third option, though. Dino Crocetti mid-60s drops “Country Style” and “Dean ‘Tex’ Martin Rides Again”. “I Take A Lot of Pride In What I Am” wasn’t on either of those. Probably should have been.
What it comes down to is this: while hip-hop is now entering its fifteenth year of full-scale Italophile Mafia obsession, Italy has been paying tribute to, word to Gordon Gano, American music for at least five decades now. America was always the promised land for Italians, especially the Southerners: the number of streets in districts and suburbs of Palermo, Crotone and Naples called Via Kennedy (he was American AND Catholic) is innumerable. Italian rock ‘n’ roll stars of the 50s and 60s utterly eschewed any sense of native folk balladry in order to bring home a bizarre take on Americana, all short leather jackets and those stupid fucking combs that double-up as a knife.
The longest-running strand of pro-American sentiment, though, was never for the suburban or city life of the US, but rather the Wild West, the country, the great plains. My father learned to speak English through watching John Wayne movies; Bud Spencer still turns up on Italian television and gets treated as James Dean had just risen from the grave to pop back; see that scene in Amarcord where the dude talks about women wanting to fuck Gary Cooper for a bit. Dean Martin was born in Ohio, but you have to presume his parents instilled some of that fetishisation of the great wilderness to him. How else do you explain those albums, this song?
Martin’s take on country music was always odd: never bothering to put the martini glass down for a shot of rotgut, he still twinkled, bluffed, slurred and dandied his way around the tracks as if he was singing for a Vegas audience. Fact: no musician is as fascinating as Dean Martin, a staggering drunk who made millions off of property investments (some claim he was, for a while, the richest man in South Carolina), a man who gassed Rat Pack comeback shows by just staring into the audience and going “What am I doing?”; a man who reacted to the death of his son by retreating into hermitude and fucking a different whore every night until he died. I think those characteristics make him more than worthy of access to the world of country music. It is, after all, the broken man’s CNN.
On the other hand, I have no idea what’s going on in this video. It’s a song about the joys of hobodom, but he appears to be wandering around Sea World, a place where, I assume, most homeless people are tasered. I originally thought it was a golf course, and admittedly you can usually find the occasional tramp having a brief kip there at night, but more often you find teenager skaters losing their virginity to each other in the sandbunker. I doubt Dino would have approved.
Here’s the Merle Haggard version of the song, in case you needed proof that Dino is the musical equivalent of hold-up stockings on a girl: straight-up turning a 7.2 into a 9.5: