The Wanderer (Dion song)
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US single cover
|Single by Dion|
|from the album Runaround Sue|
|Dion singles chronology|
"The Wanderer" is a song written by Ernie Maresca and originally recorded by Dion. The song, with a 12-bar blues-base verse and an eight-bar bridge, tells the story of a travelling man and his many loves. The song is ranked number 243 on the Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Maresca had co-written Dion's previous number-one hit, "Runaround Sue", but originally intended "The Wanderer" to be recorded by another group, Nino and the Ebb Tides. They passed on it in favor of another Maresca song, so Dion was given it as the B-side of his follow-up single, "The Majestic", a song which his record company had chosen for him. The record was turned over by radio DJs who preferred "The Wanderer", which duly entered the US charts in December 1961 and rose to number 2 in early 1962 (behind "Duke of Earl" by Gene Chandler). It also reached number 10 in the UK and number one in Australia.
The song was recorded with an uncredited background vocal group, the Del-Satins, in a rockier style than Dion's earlier hits with the Belmonts. The Del-Satins were an established doo-wop group led by Stan Ziska (later known as Stan Sommers), who at the time were also contracted to Laurie Records, and who later formed the core of Johnny Maestro & the Brooklyn Bridge. Musicians on the original recording included Bucky Pizarelli and Johnny Falbo on guitars, Jerome Richardson on alto sax, Buddy Lucas on tenor sax, Milt Hinton on bass, and Panama Francis on drums.
Dion said of "The Wanderer":
At its roots, it's more than meets the eye. "The Wanderer" is black music filtered through an Italian neighborhood that comes out with an attitude. It's my perception of a lot of songs like "I'm A Man" by Bo Diddley or "Hoochie Coochie Man" by Muddy Waters. But you know, "The Wanderer" is really a sad song. A lot of guys don't understand that. Bruce Springsteen was the only guy who accurately expressed what that song was about. It's "I roam from town to town and go through life without a care, I'm as happy as a clown with my two fists of iron, but I'm going nowhere." In the Fifties, you didn't get that dark. It sounds like a lot of fun but it's about going nowhere.
However, on Maresca's original demo of the song, the lyrics were "with my two fists of iron and my bottle of beer", and the change to "with my two fists of iron but I'm going nowhere" in fact seems to have been at the record company's insistence.
|Single by Eddie Rabbitt|
|from the album I Wanna Dance with You|
|Eddie Rabbitt singles chronology|
|Single by Status Quo|
|B-side||"Can't Be Done"|
|Status Quo singles chronology|
"The Wanderer" has been covered by many other popular singers and bands, including Bad Company, Status Quo, Dee Snider, Gary Glitter, The Beach Boys, Leif Garrett (US number 49 in 1978), Alvin and the Chipmunks, Arthur Alexander, Bruce Springsteen, Delbert McClinton, Ted Chippington, Dave Edmunds, The Alley Cats, Avenue D, by My Morning Jacket at Madison Square Garden on 31 December 2008 and more recently by Laurence Collyer/The Diamond Family Archive. Status Quo covered the song twice, once as a complete version, and once again as part of their Anniversary Waltz, Pt. 1. Status Quo's version was a number seven hit in the UK and a number three hit in Ireland in 1984; it was later included on the 2006 reissue of Back to Back. Eddie Rabbitt's version was a number one hit on Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart in mid-1988. Mel Gibson sings a version in the animated movie Chicken Run.
The Portuguese version by Renato e Seus Blue Caps & Erasmo Carlos was a huge hit in Brazil in the 1960s, changing the title to "O Lobo Mau" (which translates as "The Big Bad Wolf"). The "Big Bad Wolf" in the Portuguese lyrics is somewhat like the wanderer, riding in his car and getting all the girls. Another cover version can be found on Kidsongs video and DVD, "A Day with the Animals".
The French version "Le Vagabond" (which tells the same story as the original) was a hit in French-speaking countries by Richard Anthony.
In popular culture
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"The Wanderer" is sung by Rocky the rooster in Chicken Run.
"The Wanderer," sung by Dion, appears in the 1961 film Twist Around the Clock.
Featured prominently in the 1979 film The Wanderers.
NYC Rockabilly band The Stray Cats have used "The Wanderer" as their live intro music since their initial run in the early 1980s. It is the song usually played loudly over the house PA as the lights dim just before the band appears onstage and begins to play.
The song was used in a 1995 ad for Black & Decker's "Snake Light".
In the Canadian Showcase series Lost Girl, the song is featured prominently and repeatedly in seasons 3 and 4 as a callout to a character referred to by the same name, including an arrangement performed by Merry-Go-Round Instrumentation.
The TV show The West Wing uses the song in Season 4, Episode 2 "20 Hours in America: Part 2".
In the movie Behind Enemy Lines the song was also used.
The song is featured very prominently in the 2015 Bethesda video game Fallout 4. It is used in the revelatory trailer and is included in the game as part of the Diamond City Radio station, accessed through the Pip-Boy. The trailer is the subject of a federal lawsuit filed by DiMucci.
Status Quo version
Eddie Rabbitt version
- "Dion, 'The Wanderer'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved September 26, 2015.
- "Dion DiMucci", The Pop History Dig. Retrieved 13 July 2015
- "The Original Wanderer: Ernie Maresca", Ace Records. Retrieved 13 July 2015
- Unterberger, Richie. Dion - The Wanderer at AllMusic. Retrieved September 26, 2015.
- David Hatch; Stephen Millward (1 January 1987). From Blues to Rock: An Analytical History of Pop Music. Manchester University Press. p. 94. ISBN 978-0-7190-1489-5.
- Helander, Brock (1999). Rocking Sixties. Schirmer Books. p. 103. ISBN 978-0-02-864873-6.
- "Leif Garrett, "The Wanderer" Chart Position". Retrieved December 10, 2016.
- "Fallout 4 - The Wanderer Trailer". YouTube. Retrieved 2017-03-24.
- "'Fallout 4' Makers Sued for $1 Million Over Use of 'The Wanderer' in 'Repugnant' Ads". The Wrap. Retrieved 2017-07-07.
- "Dion Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
- "Ultratop.be – Status Quo – The Wanderer" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 26 March 2018.
- "The Irish Charts – Search Results – The Wanderer". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 26 March 2018.
- "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 50, 1984" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40 Retrieved 26 March 2018.
- "Dutchcharts.nl – Status Quo – The Wanderer" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 26 March 2018.
- "Swisscharts.com – Status Quo – The Wanderer". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 26 March 2018.
- "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 26 March 2018.
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 279.