The early days of the British singles chart were a somewhat unscientific affair. The first chart of November 1952, famously topped by Al Martino’s ‘Here In My Heart,’ was a top 12 that, amusingly, contained 15 songs, since there were several “tied” positions. But spin forward a little less than two years later to 1 October 1954, and you find Frank Sinatra topping the first UK top 20, with a song commemorating the Trevi Fountain in Rome.
Not-so-Old Blue Eyes – he was 38 at the time — had been No. 1 on the top 12 chart with his timeless ‘Three Coins In The Fountain’ for two weeks already. The song, written by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn as the theme for 20th Century Fox’s movie of the same name — took over from Kitty Kallen’s ‘Little Things Mean A Lot’ in mid-September. As the chart expanded, there was no shifting Frank, who remained at the summit for another week, before Don Cornell’s ‘Hold My Hand’ took over with a 5-1 climb.
The following March, Three Coins In The Fountain went on to win Best Original Song at the 27th Academy Awards, beating songs from ‘White Christmas,’ ‘The High and the Mighty,’ ‘Susan Slept Here’ and ‘A Star Is Born.’ The film itself won Best Picture. Sinatra was at the awards to present the Best Supporting Actress award to Eva Marie Saint for On The Waterfront, but oddly, didn’t perform ‘Three Coins,’ which was sung for the show by Dean Martin.
The song had topped the American chart a little earlier, in July 1954, in the version by Pennsylvania vocal stylists the Four Aces. Frank’s version had to be content with a No. 4 peak there. Another recording of it, by Julius LaRosa, reached No. 21, while a rendition by Dinah Shore missed the chart. The song was later covered by everyone from Jack Jones to Steve Martin.
‘Three Coins In The Fountain’ is on the album Days Of Wine And Roses, Moon River And Other Academy Award Winners, which can be bought here.
Follow the official Frank Sinatra Best Of playlist.