In a career spanning an astounding seven decades, Dion DiMucci has transitioned from doo wop to rock and roll to pop to folk to blues to contemporary Christian and back again, always bringing his stamp of originality and attitude to each endeavor. In August 1971, The King of the New York Streets took to one street in particular – Bleecker – to perform at the legendary Bitter End, today New York’s oldest rock club. Omnivore Recordings in the U.S. (and Ace Records in the U.K.) has captured Dion at the 230-seat Bitter End for Dion: Recorded Live at the Bitter End – August 1971, a wide-ranging, 17-track set recorded a little less than one year before he would reunite with his old pals The Belmonts for a much-hyped Madison Square Garden show.
Dion DiMucci greeted the 1960s on his own, just 20 years old but already a chart veteran with soon-to-be-classics like “I Wonder Why” and “A Teenager in Love” under his belt. Those songs were recorded with his friends The Belmonts, but when Carlo Mastrangelo, Angelo D’Aleo and Fred Milano wanted to emphasize doo-wop harmonies and Dion wanted to rock and roll, Dion and the Belmonts split. How would the Italian kid from the Bronx follow that amazing first act? “Here’s my story, it’s sad but true…It’s about a girl that I once knew…” DiMucci’s first No. 1 hit started like any of the other maudlin ballads that he had recorded in his first year as a solo artist at Laurie Records, with a chorus backing him sympathetically. “She took my love then ran around…” He stretched the word, dramatically, “…with every single guy in town!” And then the Del-Satins launched into their wordless backing vocals, snapping and stomping like on the street corner, while Dion wailed the warning to “keep away from Runaround Sue!” Dion’s own composition with Ernie Maresca, “Runaround Sue” introduced a near-mythological character to the rock and roll pantheon and established its singer as a bona fide solo superstar.
More hits followed at Laurie including “Lonely Teenager” and another all-time classic, “The Wanderer.” His hitmaking ways continued at Columbia with “Ruby Baby” and “Donna the Prima Donna,” but it wasn’t long before Dion struggled with addiction and a changing pop music landscape. After a one-off reunion in the mid-sixties with The Belmonts, he re-signed to Laurie and captured the zeitgeist in 1968 with his moving rendition of “Abraham, Martin and John.” A tribute to fallen heroes, “Abraham, Martin and John” made No. 4 on the U.S. pop chart and earned Dion a gold record. He moved to the Warner Bros. label in 1969, with whom he was still affiliated at the time he took the stage at the Bitter End.
Dion: Recorded Live at the Bitter End – August 1971 features material spanning Dion’s career to that point, including selections from his then-recent Warner LP You’re Not Alone (“Sunniland,” a cover of The Beatles’ “Blackbird”) and the soon-to-be-released Sanctuary (the title track, “Sunshine Lady,” “Harmony Sound,” “Willigo”). You’ll also hear renditions of Chuck Berry’s “Too Much Monkey Business” and Bob Dylan’s “One Too Many Mornings,” and of course, his vintage hits “The Wanderer,” “Abraham, Martin and John” and “Ruby Baby” adapted to the evening’s acoustic style. (The latter two tracks from this intimate performance were reworked for Sanctuary, but all other tracks on this release are wholly previously unreleased.)
This release has been made possible with the assistance of Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Dion himself, who has participated in a new interview for Dean Rudland’s liner notes. You can relive Dion’s 1971 evening at New York City’s Bitter End on March 30 in the U.K. from Ace Records and on April 7 in the U.S. from Omnivore Recordings!
- Mama, You’ve Been on My Mind
- Brand New Morning
- Too Much Monkey Business
- Abraham, Martin and John
- One Too Many Mornings
- Sisters of Mercy
- In Your Own Back Yard
- You Better Watch Yourself (Drinkin’ That Wine)
- Don’t Start Me Talking
- Sunshine Lady
- The Wanderer
- Ruby Baby
- Harmony Sound
All tracks previously unreleased except Tracks 4 & 16 appear in different form on Sanctuary, Warner Bros., 1971