Wednesday, July 20, 2016

"Save the Last Dance for Me" by Dolly Parton

Song#:  1724
Date:  12/10/1983
Debut:  78
Peak:  45
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Pop, Country Crossover, Synthpop

Pop Bits:  After breaking wide to a massive crossover audience with her album 9 to 5 and Odd Jobs and its #1 Pop/Country/AC single "9 to 5," Parton veered back towards country territory with her album Heartbreak Express. It resulted in two Country Top 10 hits, but no action on the Pop or AC charts. For her next album, Burlap & Satin, shades of pop began to leech back in, but the only single to get any action was the #20 Country entry "Potential New Boyfriend." With the album disappearing quickly, Parton was in need of a new sound and direction. What she chose to do was an album of cover songs from the 50s and 60s done with a modern synthpop flare titled The Great Pretender. With production by Val Garay (Kim Carnes, The Motels), Parton tackled chestnuts like "Turn! Turn! Turn!," "I Walk the Line," the title track, and this first single. Despite its decidedly pop production, the song was a hit at Country getting to #3. AC responded well and it got to #12. However, at Pop (the main audience this was geared toward) the response was tepid and the single stalled before it could get into the Top 40.

ReduxReview:  I think any artist who has released a lot of albums over a long period of time will have one or two head scratchers in their discography. The Great Pretender has to be one for Parton. I'm not sure who had the idea of Dolly doing an album of oldies with producer Garay, known for dark synthpop ("Bette Davis Eyes," "Suddenly Last Summer"), but the results were just...weird. This was a definite stab at the pop market and it just didn't work. Parton is an awesome vocalist, but she doesn't necessarily have the right tone and delivery for slick synthpop. The final product wasn't necessarily bad, just strange. A lot of the backing tracks, like this one, might have sounded interesting back in the day but now they sound like the pre-recorded tracks that a one-person band will use when playing in the bars. This one isn't even the oddest track. Her rendition of "I Walk the Line" is so strange that I can't make up my mind whether it is genius or horrific. "Turn! Turn! Turn!" is practically a mini-Steinman epic by the time it ends. It's Parton vs. Simmons drums! Several of the songs have this weird coda ending where Parton just riffs over the driving synths. It is really odd. Parton would do her share of covers over the years that were very successful ("Stairway to Heaven" from her 2002 LP Halos & Horns is awesome and her 2005 all-covers album Those Were the Days is excellent), but this particular album stands out as one very bizarre experiment in her recording career.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a remake of a song originally done by The Drifters in 1960. That recording was initially pegged as a b-side, but Dick Clark heard the song and deemed it the better song. With the tune now gracing the a-side, the single would hit #1 at both Pop and R&B. The song has been covered by many artist with two others reaching the Pop chart with their versions.  The DeFranco Family got to #18 with their take and crooner Michael BublĂ©'s version was a blip at #99 in 2006.  2) The background vocals on this song were supplied by The Jordanaires. Originally a gospel vocal group, they became famous when they began backing Elvis Presley on his recordings and tours. They would end up releasing their own albums over the years and have continued to perform 50+ years later (with some member changes, of course).



  1. While it didn't get anywhere near the Hot 100, I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the cheese-tastic "Potential New Boyfriend."

    1. I loved that song and was shocked to find out it didn't make the Pop chart. What a bummer. It should have been a Pop hit.

  2. I vaguely remember this song from the 70's, so it must be The DeFranco Family's version. It's one of those where I just remember how the song title was sung and very little bout the rest. Definitely one I haven't thought about in a long, long time. I probably never heard Dolly's version.

    1. I remember The Drifters' original. It would play on the radio station my parents listened to. It was never a fave of mine. I liked their other hits far better.