The records division of the 20th Century Fox Corporation was one of the weirdest I know of. Weird in a good way, that is. The label seemed to take anything and everything that was thrown at it, from the debut of The Alan Parsons Project and John Williams’ soundtrack to Star Wars (as well as an audio storybook version narrated by Roscoe Lee Browne), to Carl Douglas’ “Kung Fu Fighting” and Carl Carlton’s “She’s A Bad Mama Jama,” to…eew…the DeFranco Family’s “Heartbeat, It’s A Lovebeat.”
“SOMEONE CONTACT DYFS!!”
Far less on the Ick Spectrum, but still kind of icky, is quite possibly one of the label’s biggest hits. Chances are, you don’t know the name of the person who sang it, but you sure know the song. By now it has been inducted into the Hall(s) of Fame(s) where songs become punchlines. This one signifies a love so strong — OH SO STRONG — that it shakes your insides so hard — OH SO HARD — like trying to get the last tablespoon of ketchup out of the bottle.
Or is it catsup?
So possessed was I by hearing the song again as I was buying toothpaste at the local Walgreens, I was immediately inspired to write about it. Then I remembered that Popdose Alumnus Jason Hare probably covered it in his Mellow Gold series many years back. I looked into the archive (we have an archive?) and did not find a write-up that matched the description, which is not to say he didn’t write it prior to his Popdose days at his own branded blog. I simply feel there’s only so much energy one should devote to Dan Hill’s “Sometimes When We Touch” and scouring JasonHare.com for remnants is going too far above and beyond. And I’m lazy. Probably more the latter. Where was I?
“Oh no, the passion’s flaring again!”
“Sometimes When We Touch” is one of those Mellow Gold songs that is SO gold that it verges on becoming another metal entirely, equally rare, precious might be pushing it. Not pewter, but pewter is fun to say, isn’t it? But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself.
Heh heh. “Pewter.”
Cast your mind back to 1977. It was the year of Darth Vader, Farrah Fawcett’s feathered hair and red one-piece bathing suit, and sensitivity. You would not think about the sensitivity part immediately, I’m guessing, but the ’70s was Ground Zero for men to emote about how much love is choking the machismo out of them; how, like a sponge filled with liquid love being wrung out by body builders high on ‘Roid Rage, they are becoming better, gentler, men. The AM radio dial was littered with them, the poor, wimpy saps. Into this came Dan Hill’s “Sometimes When We Touch,” a song so overwrought with feeling and overblown with melodrama, it makes Jim Steinman’s testicles reascend while listening.
“I wanna hold you ’til I die…” Can I say outright that there’s nothing all that romantic about a statement like this? “‘Til we both break down and cry…” because, you know, holding a corpse is really…yuck. “I wanna hold ya ’til the fear in me subsides.” In this one portion of the chorus you have all you need to know about the music of the era, and why in only ten years’ time, hair metal would become a lucrative and successful genre. The kind of misogynistic asides hair metal presented acted like an over-corrective, or overcompensation, for the quivering, touchy-feely, “love me until I rot in your arms” effluence dripping out of popular music a decade prior.
“Now with more honesty and holding ’til I die.”
This could all be forgotten if Dan Hill didn’t sing the hell out of the song and, like it or not, it pulls every awful manipulative string it was conceived to pull. Hill is insanely talented. Were he not, it would be easy to relegate this track to the slop pile in the woods where Morris Albert and his “Feelings” traps small animals and makes them feel guilty for no good reason.
And the song was huge. So huge, in fact, that in the late ’80s Hill recorded another mushy ballad with then-unknown singer Vonda Shepard. (Be honest. Unless you watched a lot of the show Ally McBeal in the ’90s, she’s still-unknown singer Vonda Shepard.) “Can’t We Try” is as close to a sequel as a song can get without actually remaking the song. By the way, Dan Hill has remade “Sometimes When We Touch” a couple of times.
“Can’t we try not to stain each others’ clothes this time?”
You know what? Good for him. I heard that repressing one’s emotions is bad for them, and judging from these two hits from Hill’s long career, he has repressed nothing. I’m sure he’s as healthy as a horse, even though he’d like to break you and drive you to your knees.