And so, we begin. Going back, back, way back in time, through the smog, to the UK on 14 November, 1952. Winston Churchill’s Conservatives had been back in power a year, following Labour’s huge changes to the country after World War Two under Clement Atlee, and Elizabeth II ascended to the throne earlier that year (that’s right, she’s been Queen longer than the charts have existed). That March, Maurice Kinn and Percy Dickens bought the Musical Express and Accordion Weekly, transforming it into the New Musical Express (how I wish it still went under the original title). Dickins had been following what Billboard were doing with their chart system in the US, and decided to follow suit, with the charmingly antiquated and inaccurate system of ringing around twenty record stores around the country to find out what vinyl 78s were selling the most. He compiled a top 12 (Why 12? Who knows?) and thus US singer and actor Al Martino made history.
Al Martino was the singles chart’s original X Factor-style success story. Earlier that year he won first place on the TV show Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts, and the success gained him the recording contract to make this single. Here in My Heart remained at number 1 for nine weeks, so it’s the only number one of 1952. Only six other tracks have lasted longer – Bryan Adams’s (Everything I Do) I Do It For You, Wet Wet Wet’s cover of Love is All Around, One Dance by Drake, David Whitfield’s Cara Mia, Rihanna’s Umbrella and I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston.
It’s hard to see why it was so big. All the tracks above have their critics (me amongst them), but they’re catchy, to some extent. Martino’s track is a maudlin, melancholy piece of pop-opera (popera?) in which he shows off his vocal range to a doomy string-laden backing. The tune is forgotten as soon as the track ends, but to a country still suffering trauma from a terrible war, it clearly had some appeal.
Martino continued to have success into the 70s, and played Johnny Fontane in The Godfather (1972), he also sang the theme tune, Speak Softly Love. He was still performing in 2004 to packed concert halls. Al Martino died of a heart attack in 2009, aged 82.
Written by: Pat Genaro, Lou Levinson & Bill Borrelli
Producer: Voyle Gilmore
Weeks at number 1: 9 (14 November 1952-15 January 1953)
Comedian Mel Smith – 3 December
Presenter Clive Anderson – 10 December
Actress Jenny Agutter – 20 December