Last week, while on a visit to St. Augustine, Florida – I visited a tiny little collectible shop in a narrow street just off the main old town square. The owner had a small pile of Frank Sinatra long plays as well as a copy of “Legend – Frank Sinatra and the American Dream” by Ethlie Ann Vare.
I had never read a Sinatra biography previously and thought “what the heck!”. The book is a collection of formerly published remembrances by a diverse range of contributors – some from the very early days of Frank’s career, working up until the present time of the biography – 1995 – prior to Frank’s passing in 1998. My personal favorite contribution was from the late New York newspaper beat writer and novelist, Pete Hamill – who had a special and trusting relationship with Sinatra.
It would be ludicrous to attempt to say anything about Sinatra containing any originality – so I won’t. I have enjoyed Sinatra over the years. I was never a zealot fan, probably would have declined an opportunity to see him live (I might have buckled if I had been offered free tickets), and I never purchased a new copy of any Sinatra long play. I did however pick up an occasional 45 along the way. The guy recorded so many songs and released so many singles, I certainly had many to choose from.
I would say that for me “Cycles” stands out – a single released in late 1968 – I picked it up used in early 1970 just as I was about to depart for Phan Rang Viet Nam. The song is/was very sad and I was feeling very sad leaving my wonderful wife of one year and a newborn. I was/am fond of 1975’s “I Believe I’m Gonna Love You”. Frank liked that one – because I heard him say so on a TV show once. There is something special about “Chicago My Kind of Town” from the soundtrack of 1964’s “Robin and the Seven Hoods”. Always makes me sort of wish I was in Chicago.
Beyond that I would take “Come Fly With Me” (don’t ask me why), “Softly as I Leave You”, 1965’s “It Was A Very Good Year”, “Summer Wind” from the following year. “Something Stupid” was not a favorite but Frank liked working with daughter Nancy. Speaking of Nancy, she was one of the first acts signed to Frank’s Reprise record label. But she was a huge flop, missing on 16 straight releases. Then she came into contact with Lee Hazelwood who vowed to break the slump. One his compositions, “These Boots Are Made For Walkin'” captured her interest on first hearing a few lines. Lee didn’t want to pursue it saying it wasn’t finished and was meant for a male vocalist.
Frank was in the house reading a newspaper and heard the demo. He casually told Lee on Hazelwood’s way out that he really liked the record and that was that. The song reached number 1 in 1968 and was only the 2nd number 1 for Reprise – the first being Dean Martin’s “Everybody Loves Somebody”. Nancy had been begging for a song that was not so teeny bop/bubble gum oriented (she had been forced to record songs in a tiny little girl-like voice up until “Boots”. On first takes she stuck to a soft voice treatment until Hazelwood told her to get “nasty” – telling her ‘You’ve been married (Tommy Sands), get nasty – sing it for truckers’ or something along those lines.
Nancy, by the way, was very close to her famous father adoring him until the end, and defending his character throughout his life. After “Boots” Nancy would chart 19 additional times on Reprise often working with Lee Hazelwood. When she departed for RCA Victor, the hits came to an abrupt end but she was okay with it, turning her attention to raising her family.
Back to some other Sinatra tunes I enjoyed – going back to an earlier time on Capitol “Love and Marriage” (1955), “High Hopes” with a ‘bunch of kids’ including Eddie Hodges – and that is probably enough.
Sinatra charted nearly 200 times with singles, but his true strength in recording were his long plays – 83 charting up through 2005 with four number 1’s and with 51 of them entering the top 20!
Now for Robert…
I was in a local Goodwill store yesterday in Arvada where I had just picked up an unplayed copy of Rick Nelson’s long play “The Very Thought of You” when my eye caught hold of a big surprise (for me), a 2015 copy of AARP Magazine with a photo of Bob Dylan on the cover. It was an actual interview not only breaking a three year silence from interviews, but also occurring as a result of Frank contacting AARP and making the request. The interviewer – Robert Love – was pretty certain that Bob had made a big mistake – thinking Love was still reporting for “Rolling Stone Magazine”.
No, Dylan wanted to address AARP’s aging readership. He had just completed the release of a long play titled “Shadows in the Night” a record containing old standards – standards being something that earlier in his career, Columbia Records refused to promote. And ironically, nearly all of the tracks had been recorded at some point in time by Mr. Sinatra, a singer for whom Dylan reserves the highest accolades. I enjoyed the Love interview.
This on-line version is the “uncut interview” and contains lots of extras questions and responses – actually much more than appear in the magazine. Fun Reading!
I like the final response from Bob, whom I recall stating along the way back in an earlier interview when asked about leading a generation, that he ‘wasn’t leading anybody anywhere’ – My kind of Bob:
“Q: You’ve been generous to take up all of these questions.
A: I found the questions really interesting. The last time I did an interview, the guy wanted to know about everything except the music. Man, I’m just a musician, you know? People have been doing that to me since the ’60s — they ask questions like they would ask a medical doctor or a psychiatrist or a professor or a politician. Why? Why are you asking me these things?
Q: What do you ask a musician about?
A: Music! Exactly.”