Liner Notes: Pamela Des Barres on Dion’s “Love Came to Me”

Liner Notes: Pamela Des Barres on Dion’s “Love Came to Me”

A few years after my pure devotion to Elvis at the tender age of nine, I began to branch out as a not-quite-teenager into radio rock and American Bandstand, discovering various and sundry pop idols, delighting to Bobby Darin’s “Splish Splash,” Ral Donner’s “She’s Everything” and Bobby Rydell’s “Wild One.”

Even though I had enjoyed Dion and the Belmonts, it wasn’t until Dion Di Mucci went solo with “Lonely Teenager” that I began to swoon and obsess. He was sooooo handsome in his sharkskin suits, so smoooooooth, so finger-poppin’, so Italian, so darn sexy to Pam Miller from Reseda, California, salivating in front of the TV set on Jamieson Avenue. His devil-may-carelessness captivated my imagination and I was dizzy with a new kind of bubbling desire. He lived far away in the exotic BRONX, and I tried to traverse those 3,000 miles over and over in my mind.

My very first album bought with my own money was Alone with Dion (clever, eh?) purchased at the Reseda Record Rack on Sherman Way. On the walk back home, I stared hard at the image of Dion gazing back at me seductively, a pair of pink satin-gloved arms embracing him from behind. Sigh. I played it on my kiddie record player until my mom went mad, beseeching me to “read a book or something, please.”

But it was the follow-up single, released just in time for my thirteenth birthday in September ’61 that sent me over the rock & roll edge, where I still maintain a residence: “Runaround Sue.” A perfect song in every way. Listen to it and you’ll suddenly be in a convertible, top down, head thrown back, carefree and ageless, no matter how old you are or what era you’re from. “Here’s the moral and the story from a guy who knows/I fell in love and my love still grows…” Even though it’s about heartbreak, the sound emanating from the speakers is pure, unadulterated, rockin’ joy.

I didn’t know it at the time, but my burgeoning musical taste was impeccable, because unlike most of his peers, Dion wrote his own songs, including one of my favorite tunes of all time, released in April ’62, the dreamy “Love Came to Me.” “Oooohhh it feels so good. Mmmmmm-hmmmmm. I’m in a whirl,” he croons, rapturously, “I just love that little girl…” All the doo-woppy interludes, the sho-do-ya-dos swirl and embrace, taking you straight to Love Town where nothing can harm you for almost three entire minutes. I’d lie on my twin bed, replacing the needle of my 45, needing to hear it again, again, again, like I needed to take my next breath. Dion, Dion, DION. The following year, despite becoming a maniacal Beatlemaniac, my devotion for Dion didn’t stop.

I still have all of his singles and albums, and when “Runaround Sue” plays on Sirius XM as I drive through SoCal, I light up like a ‘50s Christmas tree full of shimmering tinsel. If “Love Came to Me” happens to come on, I have to pull over to the side of the road to get the full throttle experience, cares dropping far, far away, creating actual bliss. Dion’s songs are good luck for me. They make me feel happy to be alive.

“Love Came to Me” created one of my favorite memories. When I was spending time with Led Zeppelin, Robert Plant and I discovered our mutual adoration of Dion, which enhanced our friendship. Our favorite song was, of course, “Love Came to Me.” When Robert was playing a show in Las Vegas a few years back, it turned out Dion was also playing that night. Luckily, we were able to see part of Dion’s show before Robert had to rush back for his, and Dion’s second song was “Love Came to Me.” We both got swoony and teary-eyed, and right after the song, Dion’s roadie approached Robert and asked if he’d like to meet up with Dion after the show. “I have a gig myself,” he replied, wiping his cheek, then touching the roadie’s hand with his tears, “But give this to Dion.”

My other musical heroes also understand the timeless significance of Dion; he’s opened for Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan, and his latest single, “New York is My Home,” an ode to his exotic Bronx roots, is a duet with Paul Simon.

Dion Di Mucci will be 79 this year, and when he plays live, which is rarely, no matter where the gig is, I get my ticket and head out on the road. On August 6, I’ll be at a theater in New Jersey, fourth row center, thrilling to his still flawless voice, the delightful positive energy pouring from the stage, and waiting for time to stop when he steps to the mic, “I, I live in dreams/strange as it seems/Love came to me…only this time for real.”

It feels so good.

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