Sometimes When We Touch

Album: Longer Fuse (1977)
Charted: 13 3
  • In a video to promote his 2010 album Intimate, Dan Hill told the story of this Adult Contemporary classic. Said Hill: "I grew up in a really suburban area, the model suburb of which all suburbs were based in Canada. And it was a beautiful place to grow up in terms of there were so many talented kids that I learned from, music, writing, books. But it was also very, very conservative. By that I mean I had no experience at all with girls.

    So suddenly I was like 18, 19, living on my own. And I was running into a whole different kind of girl that I didn't even know existed. I didn't know females could think the way some of these girls were thinking, and I'm talking the early '70s. And at the time the world was changing. Fear of Flying had just come out by the writer Erica Jong, you know, the great writer Germaine Greer had read written 'The Female Eunuch.' And women were kind of wearing their sexuality almost on their chest, as though it was a political statement, as though they were saying, This is my body and I can do what I want with it. They were almost like embracing the 'slut' word, in terms of turning it into a term of empowerment.

    I didn't really understand that at the time. All I knew was there was this woman that I was falling desperately in love with, and I just thought everybody was naturally monogamous. My parents have always stayed together. Well, this woman didn't want anything to do with monogamy. She wanted to get close to me, so to speak, but she wanted to be close with a lot of other guys at the same time, and I found this to be terribly distressful. She also liked to tell me about how all the other guys were so much more rich than I was, older, more established, she was going out with athletes, Argonauts (players from the Toronto football team), famous photographers. So I felt very inadequate.

    And I thought the only thing that I could do to make her take me seriously as more than just her occasional fling was to write a song that would absolutely galvanize her. I knew that all these guys might have more money, might be older, maybe more sophisticated. But they sure as hell couldn't write songs and sing like I could.

    So I set out to write the most powerful song ever written that was just going to absolutely flatten her, so that she would reconsider me, so that she would take me as her only lover. I was very proud of that song. I thought that I had really, really broken into new territory. I'll always remember, I was working for the civil service for $1.89 an hour. I was so proud of that lyric. And I taped it right over where I sorted all the mail. So I saw it on the wall, just looked at that lyric, because I was so proud of it. And then, of course, I got a little too proud of it and a little too cocky, went home from work, phoned up my erstwhile girlfriend, and played her the song, 'Sometimes When We Touch' in its earlier incarnation, expecting her to swoon. Well, there was this sort of martyr silence on the other end of the phone after she had heard that song, and a long, drawn out sigh. And she said, 'Did anyone ever tell you for a 19 year old you're way too goddamn intense. I'm leaving town with a CFL football player, he just got cut. We're moving to North Carolina.' Bam, she was gone.

    That was the first of many unintended consequences of 'Sometimes When We Touch.' You think you're going to do one thing with a song, it does something else. You know, I was a very intense guy. 'Sometimes When We Touch' was a very intense song."
  • "Sometimes When We Touch" is Dan Hill's highest-charting song as far as the Billboard Hot 100 goes, with lyrics by Dan Hill and music by Barry Mann (yes, the Brill Building Barry Mann). It was also one of Hill's two visits to the US Top-40, the other time being a decade later with "Can't We Try" co-starring Vonda Shepard.

    The song still gets played on every easy-listening radio station in the world today and perhaps forever. In 2010, Dan Hill lamented that this song has topped five million spins on radio and TV broadcasts, where the average hit is lucky to make it to a million. It doesn't help that in the '70s, #1 hits were in very tight rotation, making people get really sick of them in a hurry. The song also frequently makes "worst song" lists; for example, Pop Culture Madness puts it in the Top 10 worst. It's usually ranked somewhere around "Afternoon Delight" and "Seasons In The Sun." For all its detractors, the song also has some very passionate fans. Hill told this story: "One time, a 300-pound woman in a leather miniskirt sat on my lap at a bowling alley and refused to move until I sang the entire song."
  • After the 19-year-old Dan Hill failed to win the heart of the 22-year-old object of his affection with this song, he took it to his music publisher, who had him work with the songwriting legend Barry Mann. Says Hill: "We tried to write together, but I wasn't used to collaborating. I'd always written by myself. Barry, who'd written songs like 'You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin',' 'On Broadway,' 'Kicks,' 'We Gotta Get Out Of This Place,' was way out of my league. He was coming out with melodies here, there, and everywhere, expecting me to write lyrics right off the spot. And I'd come from this world where I thought that songs had to come from this deep place of soulful inspiration. I believed that sexual torment was the only way to write really great songs. So I was striking out big time.

    So I said to Barry, 'Look, I really can't write like this. I'm not an experienced collaborator. But I have a lyric I brought in my guitar case. What do you think? Here it is. If you like it, write music to it. If you don't, don't worry about it.' I didn't want to tell him I'd actually written an entire song, because I was afraid that he would think that I was giving him my castoffs. So I left the little Sony ATV piano room to call for a cab to pick me up. When I finished reaching the cab, calling the cab, hung up the phone, Barry's standing in front of me, smiling shyly like a little boy. He says to me, 'Dan, I think I've got something for your chorus.' Takes me back into the piano room, sings (singing), 'And sometimes when we touch, the honesty's too much.' And I wasn't sure. You know, I was so used to my own music that I didn't really know what to think. So I said something kind of diplomatic and then left.

    And then he tracked me down a couple of days later. I was breakfasting at the Polo Lounge Hotel. Tracked me down right at the hotel. They gave me this little pink phone, and he played me the entire song over the phone. And then I knew, when he played it to me over the phone in its entirety, I knew that there was something special to do with that song. Of course, no one ever knows when you've stumbled onto a classic song. Now I feel the song is bigger than me. It's really not mine anymore. You know, I'm proud of the song, and I feel really fortunate that it's opened up so many doors for me so that I could write with so many brilliant writers, work with so many great artists. Because it was my calling card, my key."
  • The week of March 4, 1978, this song was part of a Bee Gees sandwich on the US charts, when the four other songs in the Top 5 were all written by Gibbs. Here's how it looked:

    #1) "(Love Is) Thicker Than Water" by Andy Gibb
    #2) "Stayin' Alive"
    #3) "Sometimes When We Touch"
    #4) "Emotion" by Samantha Sang, written by Barry and Robin Gibb
    #5) "Night Fever."
  • Some of the artists to cover this song include Barry Manilow, Rod Stewart, Tina Turner, Rodney Crowell and Rosanne Cash.
  • Dolly Parton has cited this as the song she wishes she had written. "That one moves me a great deal," she told Entertainment Weekly in 2014. Barry Mann also co-wrote Parton's song "Here You Come Again."
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Comments: 4

  • Jenny from HoustonI'm a Beijing native. I was still in Beijing the first time when I was listening to this song. It brought tears to my eye. Many years passed and now I'm a middle aged woman living in the US and this song still brings tears to my eye when I listen to it.

    Rarely a song can bring so much passion, depth and intensity to it and so thoroughly depicts how a human being feels when he or she truly, deeply falls in love with another human being. Rarely a song so vividly captures the thrills, pain and struggles that only love can bring on. That's why this song is such a classic, and a long-lasting one. It strikes a chord with different generations, as long as you had ever fallen in love with someone, and then you know what every word in this song means.
  • Jodi from Northampton, PaSometime When We Touch was one of my first 45's. I was 8, I played it over and over, not really knowing the meaning. Now that I read the meaning, it really brings a tear to my eye. When I got married in 2004, my wedding party danced to this song. Still one of my favorites.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn February 26th 1978, "Sometimes When We Touch" by Dan Hill peaked at #3 (for 2 weeks) on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; it had entered the chart on November 20th, 1977 at position #86 and spent a 22 weeks on the Top 100 (and for 8 of those 22 weeks is was on the Top 10)...
    And on March 18th, 1978 it reached #1 (for 1 week) on the Canadian RPM Top Singles chart...
    In 1996 UK singer Newton (born William Myers) covered it; his version peaked at #32 in the U.K. Singles chart...
    Mr. Hill, born Daniel Grafton Hill IV, will celebrate his 60th birthday in four months on June 3rd (2014).
  • Mjn Seifer from Not Listed For Personal Reason, United KingdomI honestly cannot believe how biased against this song this site is! I am a man, and I certantly do not feel the need to vomit when I hear it, this song is simply beautiful, and heart warming. The song is so soulful and romantic, I am in tears whenever I hear it - I have no idea who this girl was that Dan sung the song to, but if she couldn't see that, then Dan shouldn't have wasted his breath on her (even though that would mean we wouldn't have this song).

    And, I'm sure most of us, regardless of the specifics, have felt this way at some point,and if you haven't you soon will. Despite the revelation of this songs origin, I still view this as a beautiful romantic song, which will always move me, and deeply touch me, in my heart and soul. Whatever you think of this song now Dan (I'm guessing you hate it, after what that girl did) I will always love it.
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