Nancy Sinatra

TrackAlbum and/or Single
These Boots Are Made For Walkin'Boots / Reprise R20432
SandHow Does That Grab You?
Summer WineNancy In London / Reprise R20527
Sugar TownSugar / Reprise R20527
Somethin' StupidReprise RS23166
JacksonCountry, My Way / Reprise 20595
Some Velvet MorningNancy & Lee / Reprise RS 23215
Arkansas Coal (Suite)Nancy & Lee Again
Did You Ever?Nancy & Lee Again / Reprise K14093
Burnin' Down The SparkNancy Sinatra (2004)
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Life's A Trippy ThingReprise USA 1011

Nancy Sinatra photo 2

 

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Nancy Sinatra playlist

 

 

 

Contributor: Peter Viney

Nancy Sinatra’s critical reputation suffers from a strong streak of rock snob. She was music aristocracy, and her elaborate arrangements indicated her silver spoon beginning. All these years later, her quality as a singer is apparent. I can’t think of any ‘second generation artists’ who were more successful, or more accomplished.

 

EARLY YEARS

Was Lee Hazlewood her Svengali? His career started in 1956 when he co-wrote and produced Sanford Clark’s The Fool, then discovered and produced Duane Eddy. Duane’s Because They’re Young has the full strings behind the twangy guitar for Lee’s cinematic sound.

When Lee met Nancy she was twenty-five and had been trying to get a singing career under way for several years. Her first release was Cuff Links And A Tie Clip, on Dad’s own label Reprise in September 1961. The early songs are available as Bubblegum Girl Volumes 1 & 2. Like I Do was a major Italian hit (#2 in 1962). In the UK Maureen Evans covered it and got a #3 hit, skipping Nancy’s spoken bits. Reprise UK didn’t issue Nancy’s version.

She covered well-known songs: The Cruel War, Tammy, True Love, but by 1965, none of it was going anywhere.

Lee Hazlewood had been producing Dean Martin and Desi Arnez’s’s kids as Dino, Desi & Billy when in 1965 he was invited to meet her. He complained that he wasn’t doing any more ‘second generation’ artists.

LEE: We were getting along alright, cause Nancy and I, we never had any problems. Halfway through the evening her dad comes through the door and meets me. They go in the kitchen and they’re talking. He comes out, shakes my hand and says I’m glad you kids are going to be working together, and then walks out the door. I had only said that I’d come over and meet her!

Hazlewood played her These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ from his stage act. Nancy thought it sounded aggressive and macho from a man, but realized how sexy it might be with a female singer. Her dad had said “The song about boots is the best.” When they recorded it, they needed a third verse. Lee composed it in the seven minute car ride from his house to hers.

Lee told her to sing in a deeper voice, six notes below her preferred register.

She’d been singing up here like this,” he says, approximating Nancy’s erstwhile high-pitched, girly keening, “but I wanted her down here where I could hear her right. We lowered her singing about two keys. I made her sound like a tough little broad. I wanted her to sing like a 16-year-old girl who screwed truck drivers.
“She said, ‘I can do that
.'”

The third part of the equation was Billy Strange, as arranger, orchestra conductor and guitarist. Strange had arranged for Duane Eddy, played guitar for Phil Spector’s recordings, then on Beach Boys sessions. He worked with Nancy Sinatra both on record and conducting her live shows for decades.

 

BOOTS

So Long Babe was the initial single in October 1965, and has her new voice and that bass guitar / acoustic bass sound. It inhabits a Byrds/Searchers vibe. It was good enough to chart (US #86) but they needed to stir up interest before launching the big one.

These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ was her second song with Lee. Nancy insisted Boots should be the A-side.

NANCY: Not to follow up ‘So Long, Babe’ with another entry that made the charts would have been suicidal in such a highly competitive business. I’d probably not get another shot as good. We recorded ‘The City Never Sleeps At Night.’ And the B-side was the song my dad liked.

Hazlewood expressed surprise that These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ never got banned, as in Oklahoma, “Messin’” meant unequivocally “screwing.” (You been messin’ where you shouldn’t’ve been messin’). Hazlewood used twinned basses: Carol Kaye on bass guitar playing in unison with Chuck Berghofer on double bass. The same effect was used on the Beach Boys Pet Sounds also with Carole Kaye and Chuck Berghofer, but Boots was recorded in 1965, while Pet Sounds sessions were early 1966. The Wrecking Crew and Billy Strange were on both.

The LP sleeve introduced her “look” and she was stuck with one type of boots or another ever after. It was #1 in the UK and USA.

NANCY: With Lee’s backing, Nancy Nicelady (Lee’s nickname for her) did the first white girl version of what the black girls had been doing: a rebel kind of music. People like Ruth Brown and LaVern Baker singing stuff like ‘Don’t give me any shit, man. Get lost! … I grew up listening to all of that.

The album was stuffed with recent covers … As Tears Go By, Day Tripper, It Ain’t Me Babe, Run For Your Life, Lies, Flowers On The Wall. Given that Boots was a #1 US LP the songwriters must have been delighted to be covered.

I Move Around has Nancy’s tough chick swagger. In My Room is not the Brian Wilson song, but an English version of ‘El Amor’. Verdelle Smith and Connie Stevens released versions in January 1966. Nancy did it in February, followed by the Walker Brothers.

Lies had been a #20 hit for the Knickerbockers, who did a Beatlesque version. Nancy stayed deep and added a girl group backing. Both Beatles covers had strong arrangements and few bass players would add a long bass run to a Paul McCartney part in the brass-heavy Day Tripper.

Flowers On The Wall is another with a gorgeous bass run, their signature on three tracks. It had been a #4 hit for the Statler Brothers almost as they were recording.

It Ain’t Me Babe has stabbing horns, and cooing backing vocals compared to the sparse original, but her warm voiced delivery is captivating.

 

HOW DOES THAT GRAB YOU?

How Does That Grab You sees her in brown boots and a chunky short sweater dress on the cover. It opens softly with just acoustic bass on Not The Loving Kind. Then a touch of gentle guitar. It was a Hazlewood song that he’d cut with Dino, Desi & Billy in 1965, all chiming Rickenbacker and a US #25 hit. It couldn’t have been done more differently than the rethink with Nancy. It’s like changing a Herman’s Hermits’ hit into a Peggy Lee torch song.

The album was padded out with covers … Call Me (Petula Clark), The Shadow Of Your Smile (The Sandpiper), Let It Be Me (Everly Brothers), Crying Time (Buck Owens). The covers show versatility, from Latin Shadow Of Your Smile, to country & western on Cryin’ Time, to blues with massed trombones on My Baby Cried All Night. Let It Be Me has bowed basses and guitar. The CD adds Lightnin’s Girl, and The Last Of The Secret Agents, B-side of the title track.

The hit was How Does That Grab You Darlin’? (US #7, UK #19) in April 1966. It continued that tough girl image. She sings to her ‘Tom Cat’ boyfriend:

I’m gonna go out and prowl
Don’t come lookin’ for your pussy cat …

As she addresses the boyfriend as Tom Cat, I wondered if Hazlewood had intended a comma between ‘pussy’ and ‘cat.’ She finishes with a long Grrrr.

Sorry ‘Bout That sounds even more like These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ with semi-spoken additions, and was written by Baker Knight rather than Lee. Knight had recorded it himself in late 1966. I suspect it was composed as a deliberate attempt to flog it to Nancy as a follow-up. Pye issued it as the title track of an EP in Britain.

In retrospect, the best known song is Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) a cover of the Cher hit, with Billy Strange’s solo work on guitar. Nancy’s sparse version was reused by Quentin Tarantino in Kill Bill in 2003. If I only wanted one version I’d probably go for Cher, but Nancy’s stripped down version is intoxicating. Following on from Bang Bang, she always did one song in live concerts with just Billy Strange’s guitar.

My choice is Sand. We now have Lee joining Nancy to duet, creating their future template. Sand wasn’t released as a single until later in 1967, and then as a B-side. The jangling acoustic guitar introduces a Western movie theme. The lyrics are full of thee and thy and the ‘young woman’ addresses the ‘wandering man’ as sir, as if it were the 18th century.

Oh sir, my fire is very small
It will not warm thy heart at all
But thee may not take me by the hand
Hold me, and I’ll call thee Sand

Line 3 should be but thou may not … but whatever her fire starts to burn hotter and hotter. The sexpot image was maintained.

 

NANCY IN LONDON

They were off to Britain in 1966 for Nancy In London at Pye Studios at Marble Arch. She’s pictured on a London red bus with her booted foot prominent.

So why were they in London? The 1995 sleeve notes suggest they were there to record the James Bond theme You Only Live Twice with John Barry conducting the 80 piece London Philharmonic

NANCY: When you walked into the studio in London there were guys with grey beards and white hair and it was a little scary, a little intimidating to be recording in London with these wonderful, experienced London Philharmonic-type musicians. And me with my little bitty voice.

Again we have covers … On Broadway, Wishin’ And Hopin’, The More I See You. The End is a cover of the 1958 Earl Grant song, not the Doors psychotic Oedipal drama. That would have been a fascinating combination. Nancy’s version had a later life in adverts. Step Aside sounds proto-Eurovision, which is not a compliment.

The first single was Hazlewood’s Friday’s Child (US #36), the title track of his solo LP in 1965. There’s a 30 piece orchestra, but the memorable thing is the blues lead guitar running through the song. So who’s the lead guitarist? Blues obsession guitar sounds British so I’d like to think it was a pimply British ace, but Billy Strange was there so it’s probably him.

 

SUGAR

Sugar was the February 1967 album, so four albums in a year and it shows. Anyone for Sweet Georgia Brown? Oh, You Beautiful Doll, Let’s Fall In Love? Hard Hearted Hannah? On the cover she’s back to California in a pink bikini. The back sleeve added “sings Sugar Town and sweet soulful serenades from the old timey years.” Mostly it sounds 1930s to 1950s.

In January 1967, they released the advance single, Sugar Town, coupled with her and Lee on Summer Wine. I’m choosing both sides.

Lee had just founded his own label, LHI, and signed the International Submarine Band with Gram Parsons. Their Safe At Home pre-dates Sweetheart Of The Rodeo’s claim as the first country rock album.

Sugar Town sounds unusually pop for Hazlewood, both in tune and lyrics. It’s jaunty, laid back and cheerful. It was a hit (US #5, UK #8). Lee claimed it was full of double entendre which “the kids” would get. OK, but I didn’t.

NANCY: It was hard to put any other songs with Sugar Town. It was basically LSD, but it was not publicized as such. It was Lee’s Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds. It went against my image, which made it tough to choose the other songs for the same collection.

So the whoozy gentle feel refers to sugar lumps with LSD, in the sense of Smoke’s My Friend Jack Eats Sugar Lumps.

The other Hazlewood composition on the album is Coastin’. She cites My Buddy as the personally important track, which she sang after returning from a concert tour to US troops in Vietnam

Summer Wine is a duet, and Lee’s Western Movie scenario:

I walked in town on silver spurs that jingled too
A song that I had only sung to just a few
She saw my silver spurs and said lets pass some time
And I will give to you summer wine

This is leaning towards Some Velvet Morning stoned aspect:

My eyes grew heavy and my lips they could not speak
I tried to get up but I couldn’t find my feet
She reassured me with an unfamiliar line
And then she gave to me more summer wine

When he wakes, his silver spurs have gone, along with a dollar and a dime. The orchestration sits on a simple drum tap and a repetitive bass line. The urgent strings soar higher and stronger above her siren voice. The horns are James Bond movie. If you listen to her phrasing, the tiny pauses, or stretched words, you can see that she inherited magic vocal timing from her dad. Why was such a strong song a B-side? Lee had contractual arguments over recording with Nancy in 1967. The original LP says Lee Hazlewood sings on Summer Wine courtesy of MGM Records.

 

ELVIS & FRANK

1967 was a busy year. She was Elvis Presley’s co-star in Speedway. She got equal billing on the poster. She danced with Elvis and sang in There Ain’t Nothing Like A Song. On his 17th film soundtrack, she became the first co-star to get a full solo song: Your Groovy Self, written by Lee naturally.

It was recorded separately to Elvis’s songs, with her usual backing musicians, not the ones who had backed Elvis. The choreography is clichéd, but she sings in a laconic, almost sleazy way, and the band sounds burlesque, as if about to break into a striptease. We won’t investigate how Lee Hazlewood came to rhyme ‘bus’ with ‘dangerous’.

Somethin’ Stupid was a duet between Nancy and her dad.

LEE: Frank played it for me, and says “You’ve been wanting me to do something with the kid.” He wanted me to produce it but I said I can’t. Jimmy Bowen produces you, so we’ll both have to do it. I didn’t pay attention to Jimmy and he didn’t pay attention to me. We brought in our rhythm section … and got rid of Frank’s. Nobody mentioned a follow-up.

NANCY: (Frank said) “Let’s tack it onto the end of the Antonio Carlos Jobim date”’ So, the A-team stepped aside and I came in with my little B-team and we recorded it with my father. Mo Ostin, President of Reprise, bet him $2 that the song would fail. During the playback in the booth. FS said, ‘That’s going to be Number One’. It became number one, sold several million – and it still sells. Disc jockeys loved to call it ‘the incest song.’”

 

YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE

You Only Live Twice was a John Barry composition. It’s a bonus track on Nancy In London. She was terrified singing in front of the huge orchestra and said ‘Are you sure you don’t want to call Shirley Bassey?’ John Barry calmed her by saying they would track the vocal separately.

The single was followed into the US charts by Lightning’s Girl, written by Lee. Lightning was a fellow given to violence who would “put you down … about six feet” if you even looked at his girl. The sort of ex-boyfriend you found lingering in the shadows at bus stops when you saw a girl home from a dance in the 60s.

 

COUNTRY, MY WAY

Country, My Way was recorded in Nashville in April 1967 with a new crew: Wayne Moss on guitar, Charlie McCoy on harmonica and vibes, Buddy Emmons on steel guitar, David Briggs on piano. She’s wearing blue leather trousers and blue boots; her sleeve photos are important! It includes classics; Oh, Lonesome Me and End Of The World. Eight songs were recent country hits. The point was that she was re-doing them her way. She says that Hank Cochran’s When It’s Over was her favourite song. It was a very recent country hit for Jeannie Seely and still selling.

LEE: Since I didn’t write much for this album, I brought Nancy what I considered to be songs by the best country writers, probably about one hundred songs. She picked out as many as I did. She cared. So did I, and it worked. We did ‘Jackson’ live, in three takes. It took about fifteen minutes altogether. Then we jumped in her dad’s Lear jet, and went to Miami to see him perform. It wasn’t until about three or four weeks later that we listened to it, and we both thought it was good enough to release as a single.

Jackson was the B-side of You Only Live Twice, but a double A-side in the UK in July 1967 (UK #11). It sounds pure Hazlewood. Not so. The song was written in 1963 by Billy Ed Wheeler and Jerry Leiber. The Johnny Cash & June Carter version came out in February 1967 and was a #2 country hit. Nancy and Lee were taking the song out of the country music ghetto into the mainstream. The married couple are going to Jackson, to indulge in tit for tat “messing around”. The speculation is which Jackson? The writer just liked the sound of the word, and there are twenty-one cities called Jackson in the USA. Anywhere that’s livelier than the place you live fits the bill. Johnny Cash was sure it was Jackson, Tennessee because that’s where Carl Perkins lived. Johnny could imagine a night on the town with Carl.

In 2011, the Cash/Carter version opened the film The Help set in Jackson, Mississippi. An artist’s back catalogue is like a bunch of lottery tickets, and they hope that one might be chosen for a major movie. Cash & Carter’s ticket won in 2011, but Nancy’s ticket had come up earlier with Bang Bang. I’d have chosen Nancy’s version of Jackson in 2011 too. Nancy sounds tougher with her interspersed comments, ‘Yeah?’ and you have the backing vocals, a continuous Ooh … Ooh … until they break into a chanted frantic hissy ‘Jackson … Jackson.’ Listening to Nancy’s semi-spoken lines, I’m struck by how she acts the lines and adds vocal interpolation.

This is a point to consider how Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra are categorized. They were mainstream chart, not country chart. Nowadays, I’d put Hazlewood as Americana or Alt. country. Their secret was the combination of Lee’s gruff, tough Americana songs, combined with the resources of a full orchestra, which was Nancy’s family background, plus the innovative arrangements of Billy Strange.

Lady Bird was the next British hit in November 1967. It was the track from Nancy & Lee chosen for Califia, in the Ace Songwriter Series on Lee Hazlewood. Sand was the B-side. I prefer Sand.

 

TV SPECIAL

In December 1967 they did a TV special, Movin’ With Nancy, and filmed videos on location for some songs. There were two duets with Lee: Jackson and Some Velvet Morning. Sugar Town and Friday’s Child are both included.

The Rat Pack were out in force. She sang Bobby Darin’s 1962 hit Things with Dean Martin, then What’d I Say with Sammy Davis Junior. She kissed Sammy which was still controversial in the USA. Things was released as a single, but has too much kidding around so does not replace Darin’s original.

Some Velvet Morning has gained steadily in reputation. It was coupled on a single with Tony Rome, the title song from Frank Sinatra’s 1967 film noir homage, also written by Lee. It’s surprising that a current film theme ended on the B-side. The genre for Some Velvet Morning has been described as ‘cowboy psychedelia’. The single did nothing in the UK, but reached #26 in America in January 1968. In 2003, critics at the Daily Telegraph placed it #1 in a list of the 50 Best Duets Ever.

The film shows Lee on a horse riding through the surf on a gloomy beach, while Nancy wafts about in white picking flowers. Lee sings:

Some velvet morning when I’m straight
I’m gonna open up your gate

Velvet collocations: the Velvet Underground, Velvet Fogg, Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera. Then ‘opening up your gate’ – the Doors of Perception perhaps? Then we have Nancy sweetly singing about flowers growing on a hill … be sure to wear flowers in your hair?

LEE: I thought (Greek myths) were a lot better than all those fairy tales that came from Germany that had killings and knifings. There was only about seven lines about Phaedra. She had a sad middle, a sad end and by the time she was 17, she was gone. She was a sad-assed broad, the saddest of all Greek goddesses. So bless her heart, she deserves some notoriety, so I’ll put her in a song.

NATHAN RABIN: Hazlewood and Sinatra sound like they don’t inhabit the same universe, let alone the same song. Over loping spaghetti-Western guitar, Hazlewood sings of Greek mythology and “some velvet morning when I’m straight,” while Sinatra coos about flowers and daffodils in a stoned haze against a backdrop of bubblegum psychedelia. “Some Velvet Morning” sounds like two songs spliced together by a madman, or an avant-garde short film in song form.

It wasn’t two songs spliced together, but the male part is in 4:4 time, while the female part is in 3:4 time. Hazlewood says he told the studio musicians that they’d record them separately because of the tempo shifts, and the musicians were outraged at the suggestion that they couldn’t handle the tempo changes, so did it in one. Lee was fed up with people asking him to write songs they could dance to, and commented ‘Dance to this, sons-of-bitches!’

LEE: I never was much of a doper. We made hit records, and she went home and I went home. She’d say, ‘Barton writes ’em, I sing ’em. I don’t know what I’m singing about, nor do I want to know!'”

 

A TRIPPY THING?

Nor do I want to know … so in contrast, we have Life’s A Trippy Thing, a duet between Frank Sinatra and Nancy, written by Linda Laurie and Howard Greenfield. The single was released in 1971. Nancy In London CD places it as a bonus track. They were accurate on the date of Tony Rome and You Only Live Twice. The anti-hippy theme was old hat by 1971, so I believe a 1967 recording date. Maybe they never talked to Lee about a follow-up to Somethin’ Stupid, but that doesn’t mean they never contemplated it. It was an unfortunate stab at the Summer of Love:

Nancy: Getting stoned on sunshine, getting high on air
Frank: Getting to it naturally, really getting there
Nancy: Getting such a high on, loving what I do
Frank: And I’m so full of happiness, I’m hooked on something new

Frank Sinatra. Swinging away. Cigarette in one hand, whisky in the other preaching about substance abuse. It gets worse:

Nancy: My pot is filled with flowers, my grass is bright and green
Frank: My tea is brewing in my cup, and still I make the scene

The Sinatras had always explored lyrics for interpretation, so had Nancy never realised Lee’s subtexts? She knew what Sugar Town was about. Life’s A Trippy Thing has forced giggling and singing about ‘I’m glad to be a ding a ling’ … ‘a ding a ling. You’re silly!’ Chuck Berry sang about his ding-a-ling. That sort of ding-a-ling works here. I think of it as #11, labelled “The Bottom-most” but it’s one you should hear.

 

NANCY & LEE

Nancy & Lee was a hit … US #13, UK #17. Because of the five previously issued songs, it was her best album so far. 1968 was an outstanding year for music, especially Americana, and this should appear in the lists of the significant albums of that year.

It reprised previous duets … Summer Wine, Jackson, Sand, Some Velvet Morning and Lady Bird. They added covers … You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’, Billy Vera’s Storybook Children, and Tom T. Hall’s Greenwich Village Folk Song Salesman. It takes courage to do You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’, and no one will ever do it better than the Righteous Brothers. However, the interchange between male and female voices makes more sense of the lyric.

Sundown Sundown was another spaghetti-Western sounding theme. He’s the loner, her voice is his dream.

Elusive Dreams was a cover of a David Houston/Tammy Wynette #1 country duet from late 1967. The drifters storyline fits Nancy and Lee’s perceived duo personas perfectly.

Nancy & Lee added I’ve Been Down So Long (It Looks Like Up To Me). The title comes from Richard Farina’s novel in 1966. Was it a well-known phrase or saying? J.B. Lenoir did a different song with the title in 1968. The Doors did a further one on L.A. Woman.

 

THE LATE 60s and 70s SINGLES

Then comes a run of US hit singles which failed to make any impact on UK charts. Things, 100 Years, Happy, Good Time Girl, God Knows I Love You, Here We Go Again, Drummer Man, Hook And Ladder, It’s Such A Lonely Time Of Year, I Love Them All (Boys In The Band). A pattern emerged: bottom third of the US Top 100 for singles, some action in Canada, nothing in the UK.

From that run, check out Drummer Man with the late Hal Blaine dominating the entire song.

If there’s ever a Hal Blaine Toppermost, this one has to be on it. Hook And Ladder has Ry Cooder on guitar and mandolin, from 1971.

Happy features outrageous Hammond organ.

 

NANCY – TWELVE WAYS

1969 brought Nancy – Twelve Ways with no songs from Lee and more covers … Light My Fire (this time it is the Doors song), Son Of A Preacher Man, For Once In My Life, My Dad, My Mother’s Eyes, Big Boss Man.

Lee departed for Sweden without even saying goodbye (there’s a song idea there). Billy Strange took over as producer, and Mac Davis wrote seven songs for her over a couple of years. This album concept was based on her live shows at the time.

Hello L.A., Bye Bye Birmingham was written by Delaney Bramlett and Mac Davis. It inhabits that Bobbie Gentry/Lucinda Williams area, and might be improved by a touch of Southern accent. It was an American single, unreleased in the UK.

Her late 1969 UK chart entry was The Highway Song (UK #21). It’s a bonus track on Country, My Way, produced by Mickie Most. Burbling bass, excellent horns, but the tune has something jauntily Eurovision about it.

 

NANCY & LEE AGAIN

1971 saw the return of Lee for Nancy & Lee Again. The most ambitious song was Arkansas Coal (Suite). Nancy has two singing voices. She sings as ‘the mother’ and also does the 8 year old girl that echoes Come Away Melinda (Mama, why is the Earth shaking, Mama is the world coming to an end … my daddy’s in that mountain) …, while Lee seems to channel Big Bad John (My god the rocks are falling … so this is how it feels to be dead). It predates those Appalachian farmers who took cash to allow fracking under their land then found the water table was poisoned. It’s an epic.

The album provided her last UK hit, Did You Ever, which didn’t chart in America, but made UK #2. It’s back to their messin’ theme again:

Well, could you estimate how many?
Eight or nine.
Will you do it anymore?
As soon as you walk out the door …

The lines that were funniest were:

Does your father know? I’ll bet …
Mmm. I haven’t told him yet

Bobby Braddock wrote it, and it had been a single by Charlie Louvin and Melba Montgomery, just a few weeks earlier.

The other single was a cover of Dolly Parton’s Down From Dover. Dolly never conceived it as a duet, and the nervy guitar line and deep horns make the version. Lee has dropped his voice even lower and switching the male account from third to first person gives a new angle. It is an old favourite in the Dolly Parton version, and Marianne Faithfull topped it in 2008.

Paris Summer was the romantic B-side. Lee does the first verse, Nancy doesn’t come in until the second verse (removing the wedding ring from her finger), then they swop lines on the third.

Some tracks are contrastingly bright and cheerful … Back On The Road with its pedal steel backing, or sentimental about little girls keeping quiet on Sunday mornings so as not to disturb Mom and Dad on Tippy Toes. The flute winding through Friendship Train is memorable.

 

NANCY ON RCA

The 70s brought a label switch to RCA. Woman (1973) was produced by Jimmy Bowen and Duane Eddy. Four tracks are on the Sheet Music compilation from 1998 … Kind Of A Woman, We Can Make It, Fell In Love With A Poet and Flowers.

Kind Of A Woman sits on the bass line and congas and not much else. It extends the tough girl image:

I’m a hard-busted, long-lusted, maladjusted kind of a woman
looking for a good lookin’, slow cookin, powerful kind of a man
Said I’m a big eyed, soft eyed, qualified kind of a woman
looking for a hard riding, time binding, animal kind of a man

Flowers is a dramatic dark ballad, in Scott Walker territory, hardly pop, doesn’t fit with the chart hits, but a powerful singing performance. It was written by Bobby Cole, Judy Garland’s arranger.

 

PRIVATE STOCK

The Private Stock label released four singles starting with Annabell of Mobile in 1975 to It’s For My Dad in 1977.

Annabell Of Mobile was by Bobby Russell (Little Green Apples, Honey) who obviously admired Bobbie Gentry’s Fancy, and tells a similar dramatic tale with a twist: the daughter is telling the tale of her hooker mom.

Kinky Love might have done better, but the lyrics (take me inside and let the honey slide …) were too much for radio play. Patrick Macnee and Honor Blackman had released Kinky Boots in 1964 and got away with it. While Kinky Boots sound like a fun fashion accessory, whether made for walking or not, Kinky Love sounds simply deviant.

Indian Summer reunites her voice with Lee Hazlewood, with Lee taking a lead narrative voice while Nancy ‘na na na’ sings behind him then takes over. It’s a Joe Dassin song, L’Été Indien, and was a French #1, selling two million worldwide.

The B-side, Dolly And Hawkeye is a twist on the murder ballad. An article called it “Faukneresque Gothic”. Listen and shiver. Nancy doesn’t remember recording it:

NANCY: I just can’t believe I slept through that session .I love the song so much but I must have been drinking or smoking something when we did it because I wasn’t there. I wish we had pictures of the sessions so I could check my eyes and see if they are stoned or not. This will always remain a mystery to me. Spooky to think I lost an entire song! I swear I didn’t do those kinds of drugs and I’m not, never have been a boozer, so WHAT HAPPENED?

 

MEL & NANCY

There’s a gap before Mel & Nancy in 1980 on Elektra. Mel Tillis has a cowboy hat on the sleeve, and two songs have ‘cowboy’ in the title (Texas Cowboy Night and Cowboy Carry Me Home). Mel Tillis was a massive 1970s country star in America though few British people have heard of him. Mel & Nancy produced two country chart hits, Texas Cowboy Night (US country #23, 1981) and Play Me Or Trade Me (country #43, 1982). The latter’s humorous. She’s wearing her see-through gown but he’s not interested because he’s watching the game on TV.

Let’s Keep It That Way and One Jump Ahead Of The Storm are 1980. On the latter she goes for stadium rock, does it well, but it’s not her thing.

 

ONE MORE TIME

One More Time (1995) was reviewed as country because of the image on the sleeve in cowboy boots. That’s not accurate.

NANCY: Don Randi introduced me to veteran producer Ray Ruff … Ray chose a dozen or so songs from various songwriters that were consistent with the kind of material I had recorded with Lee Hazlewood on my Sixties albums: tough and gentle, nasty and sweet, experienced yet innocent.

Ray Ruff may have selected the songs, but none of them grab me, darling. Nights In White Satin is like the original right down to the drums, and why cover something that well-known unless you change it? She covered Frank Sinatra’s One For My Baby quite differently. For Me It’s You takes the first verse with just bass recalling past times, then the band comes in. I’d have left it as just bass. Devil In Disguise is not the Elvis song, unfortunately. I Didn’t Wear White was in Down From Dover territory. Bone Dry was the single with banjo and mandolin.

She appeared on the cover of Playboy, regarded as a brave move in favour of 55 year old women. A tour followed, and to her surprise, people turning up were younger, into indie music. She had a following she had never realized existed.

 

SONGS FROM THE VAULT: SHEET MUSIC

Sheet Music compiled by Nancy Sinatra arrived in 1998, with tracks from post-1971 albums, plus nine unreleased items. We begin her ‘from the vaults’ era.

NANCY: What happened with a lot of the ‘Vault’ tracks is it was an extremely expensive session and we had to hurry so we could dismiss the musicians as soon as possible, all 46 of them. (We had no deal to release these at that time and we still don’t.) The charts had been written and the copyist had done his job so we had to lay down the tracks or lose all that money. There was no time for listening to playbacks and fixing clams so that’s what we’re doing now.
The sad part of doing this after the fact is it can be only one instrument in a section that hits a bad note but we have to delete the whole section. It’s a shame but it has to be done before we can release any of these amazing tracks.

Sheet Music has Kind Of A Woman, Kinky Love plus Flowers from Woman. The album includes her radical cover of the Kinks’ Tired Of Waiting For You, which is listed as ‘1965, produced by … no one can remember.’ True Love is a pre-Hazlewood single from 1964.

NANCY: All the composers herein obviously knew what it was like to turn the lights low and make love while listening to romantic music. I hope this album will inspire that kind of activity.

Does a succession of varied two and a half minute vocal tracks compete with an LP side of Ravi Shankar?

 

HOW DOES IT FEEL?

How Does It Feel? is 1999 with a couple of the best old singles … Drummer Man and Happy at the core, adding covers of Like A Rolling Stone, Walk On The Wild Side (1962 Bernstein, NOT Lou Reed), Flowers In The Rain, Sugar Me, Get Ready.

Flowers In The Rain was her final Reprise single. The album opens with her 1973 version of Sugar Me (Lynsey de Paul).

Like A Rolling Stone has that semi-reggae lurch of Dylan’s At Budokan era. It dates from the mid-70s and was produced by Bones Howe (5th Dimension, Association). Dylan’s Street Legal band tour started in 1978, culminating in the live album. I wonder who first gave Dylan that rhythmic feel?

Dylan released Shadows In The Night with Frank Sinatra covers, he said: I think Nancy is head and shoulders above most of these girl singers today. She’s so soulful also in a conversational way. And where’d she get that? Well, she’s Frank’s daughter, right? Just naturally.

Get Ready is taken at breakneck speed with female backing singers. The guitar part sounds 80s or 90s. Fancy Dan sounds the same period.

You Go Go Girl (1999) mixes hit singles with unreleased tracks. Zodiac Blues (1969) is an outstanding song with high speed recitation. Geronimo was from The Girl In The Invisible Bikini (1965 film).

 

CALIFORNIA GIRL

California Girl in 2002 is a concept covers album, released by Disney’s Buena Vista Records, for sale at Disneyland. Only two songs had been issued before … Hello LA, Bye Bye, Birmingham and How Are Things In California?. The concept dates from the late 60s, but was unfinished when she quit Reprise in 1971. Brian Wilson duetted on California Girls. Nancy’s vocal was 1969 or 1970, Brian’s vocal was 2001.

Some are later additions to the original concept … Hotel California wasn’t written until 1976. The Move’s California Man is prototype glam rock from 1971. Chicago’s song Saturday In The Park gets Chicago style horns too. I love her gently swinging Route 66, which harks back to its origins with Nat King Cole rather than Chuck Berry.

She covers San Fernando Valley, a 1944 song recorded by Bing Crosby, Roy Rogers and Gene Autrey, long before LA’s urban sprawl incorporated the area. She rocks it up in a radical rethink. Hooray For Hollywood (1937) receives a more conventional treatment.

 

NANCY & LEE 3

In 2004, Nancy and Lee reunited for Nancy & Lee 3 with Billy Strange co-producing in Nashville.

LEE: Nancy suggested it. I said, ‘We’ll just do it like we did in the old days.’ So, she submitted a lot of things I didn’t like, and I submitted a whole lotta things she didn’t like. Then eventually we submitted some things we both liked. She calls it our love/hate relationship.”

Gypsies & Indians was from a 1993 album by Anna Hanski and Lee Hazlewood, which is also the source of Is Making A Little Love Out Of The Question. The 2004 album opens with Goin’ Down Rockin’, a Waylon Jennings/Tony Joe White song. Then there’s pure MoR material like the string-drenched After The Lovin’ and The Hungry Years. Don’t Let Go (an old R&B song by Jesse Stone) would have been a major hit if they had released it in the late 60s. The single was Barricades & Brickwalls by Kasey Chambers, a US country hit a couple of years earlier. The guitar hero playing throughout irritates me. In contrast, the guitar on She Won’t is Duane Eddy in classic twang style. Texas Blue Moon covers a recent country hit by Shelley King. Pack Saddle Saloon is Dr Hook territory (there ain’t no virgins in the Pack Saddle Saloon).

 

“NANCY SINATRA” (2004)

Nancy Sinatra exploits her fan base among indie bands and writers, with material from younger songwriters … Jarvis Cocker, Morrissey, Steve Van Zandt, Bono, Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth, Joey Burns from Calexico.

NANCY: I used to always complain that musicians hate me. I was talking about my peers. I would meet someone like Stevie Nicks, and she wouldn’t give me the cold shoulder, exactly, but she wasn’t friendly. With people like Stevie Nicks — the in crowd, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame crowd — I’m like Rodney Dangerfield: I got no respect from them. A. J. said, “Mom, you don’t get it. You’re talking to the wrong musicians.” And she pulled in Sonic Youth, Jon Spencer, Pete Yorn, Calexico. Morrissey I already knew.

It’s innovative and interesting stuff, not retreading past glories. About A Fire is like a weird Bowie backing track. Momma’s Boy is an odd take on life and music, Bono’s Two Shots of Happy, One Shot Of Sad evokes a bygone era.

Let Me Kiss You was released by Morrissey and by Nancy Sinatra simultaneously. Morrissey sang backing vocals on Nancy’s version. Morrissey went to UK #8, and Nancy was UK #46. She’d met him when he called at her London hotel, and asked her to autograph his collection of her records.

NANCY: A couple years later he sent me a rough version of ”Let Me Kiss You” with a note that said, ”If you do this song, you’ll be back on the charts for the first time since 1972.”

The lines are Morrissey, and listening to either version makes me think of those sleeves by the Smiths with male and female icons:

So, close your eyes
And think of someone you physically admire
And let me kiss you, oh
But then you open your eyes
And you see someone that you physically despise

She also recorded Jarvis Cocker’s Baby’s Coming Back To Me, plus Don’t Let Him Waste Your Time two years before Cocker recorded it himself in 2006.

The album opens with Burnin’ Down The Spark by Joey Burns of Calexico. It’s hard to choose between this with its punchy mariachi horns, and Don’t Let Him Waste Your Time. Burnin’ Down The Spark gets it. Joey Burns wrote it specifically with her in mind, and Calexico did the backing track.

 

KID STUFF

So many digital compilations, and each one includes something rare or obscure. I’d prefer a proper multi-CD box set with a fancy case, detailed notes and pictures.

In 2008 she released Kid Stuff including Hook And Ladder with Ry Cooder, and Happy with its wild organ part, as well as her first recording, Cuff Links And A Tie Clip, and Like I Do from 1962. The album title refers to stuff she did as a kid, not to a children’s record. White Tattoo has an explicit lyric:

If I was a black girl in this State
I’d turn my head, I’d learn how to hate

There’s an unexpected cover of Jim Croce’s Speedball Tucker. Then it has a cover of Kicks (Paul Revere and the Raiders), recorded with the Ventures backing her from a Paul Revere tribute. Nancy has been a consistent supporter of ‘Ride to The Wall’ for Vietnam War vets, and has ridden to it on Paul Revere’s Harley.

 

CHERRY SMILES

Cherry Smiles: The Rare Singles is 2009. The title comes from Southern Lady … ‘cherry smiles and fluttering eyes.’

It includes Annabell Of Mobile, and Let’s Keep It That Way, from the Elektra label in 1980. It has the B-side of Hooks And Ladders, Is Anybody Going To San Antone? which is quintessential Ry Cooder.

There are seven B-sides from vinyl singles. There’s a faithful cover of Bill Withers’ Ain’t No Sunshine from 1973. Both sides of the 1976 Private Stock single, Indian Summer and Dolly And Hawkeye are there. She Played Piano And He Beat The Drums was a B-side in 1975. It tells of the piano/drums duo who play …

At Holiday Inns for short two week runs

The production has loud piano, huge drum beats then a male/female chorus behind her. It’s the direct opposite experience of showbiz to her own, but she sings it with feeling.

NANCY: The singles were very eclectic. I put them together with an emphasis on the quality of the individual songs themselves rather than how they fit together as they came from different times, appeared on different labels, and had different players. One thing they share is that many tell a story … Many of the older songs had too much echo on them, which was the style back then, but doesn’t sound right now. We had to re-engineer some of them, like “Southern Lady,” to get rid of the layers and let the vocals breathe.

 

SHIFTING GEARS

Shifting Gears (2013) is a set of ballads dating from the 1920s to the 1970s, which Nancy sequenced to tell the story of a love affair. On one hand you have film and musical: As Time Goes By (Casablanca), I’ll Build A Stairway To Paradise (An American In Paris), A Cockeyed Optimist (South Pacific), When I Look In Your Eyes (Dr Doolittle) and I Don’t Know How To Love Him (Jesus Christ Superstar). On the other you get I Can See Clearly Now, Something, MacArthur Park, Killing Me Softly With His Song and two by Neil Diamond, Holly Holy and Play Me.

 

SUMMARY

Six of my ten are duets with Lee Hazlewood. I could find a dozen more songs just by her … So Long Babe, How Does That Grab You Darlin’?, Friday’s Child, Bang Bang, Your Groovy Self, Hook And Ladder, Drummer Man, Annabell Of Mobile, Kind Of A Woman, Kinky Love, Dolly And Hawkeye, Flowers, Route 66, Don’t Let Him Waste Your Time.

 

A fuller account of Nancy Sinatra’s career is on Peter’s website

 

 

Nancy Sinatra official website

Nancy Sinatra Discography

Sinatra Family Forum

Nancy Sinatra biography (iTunes)

Peter Viney has been an educational author and video scriptwriter since 1980. He has written articles on The Band, Van Morrison and Bob Dylan. He also writes novels under the name Dart Travis and writes on popular music, theatre and film at his website.

Read the Toppermosts of some of the other artists mentioned in this post:
Cher, Sanford Clark, Ry Cooder, Bobby Darin, Duane Eddy, Bobbie Gentry, Morrissey, Dolly Parton, Frank Sinatra

TopperPost #798

9 Comments

  1. David Lewis
    Jun 23, 2019

    I’ve had a quick think about more successful 2nd generations. The only two who spring to mind (and I don’t think they surpass her) are Julian Lennon and Jakob Dylan. Both of course had a very large shadow of legendary fathers. Both have been productive. And the anomaly of Jakob selling more of an album than his father might count for something. But I think you’re right. Frank junior had a successful career but couldn’t get out of the shadow. Zac Starkey Or Jason Bonham? Both drummers.? But I think you’re right re Nancy. Stella McCartney as a designer? Does she count?

    • Peter Viney
      Jun 23, 2019

      I thought of Harper Simon, Louise Goffin as well, Julian Lennon had a very short career. Jakob Dylan was a major seller with Wallflowers, but stalled. Amy Helm is brilliant, but is still in a limited Americana field. I still can’t think of anyone 2nd generation more successful or accomplished than Nancy. Try the link above for my much longer article on Nancy. More quotes too.

  2. Alex Lifson
    Jun 23, 2019

    This is why I love Toppermost! Great essay about one of the most interesting yet most overlooked and forgotten artist. I remember Some Velvet Morning when it came out. I was too young to understand but the haunting melody never left. Of course I enjoyed the walk back through time , reading about hits as well as what transpired after. Thanks for a great read.

  3. Andrew Shields
    Jun 23, 2019

    Peter, thanks for this great Toppermost on an underrated artist. Will throw Justin Townes Earle into the second generation discussion. And will also mention the great versions of “Some Velvet Morning’ by Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan and (my favourite) Rowland S. Howard and Lydia Lunch – clip here.

  4. David Lewis
    Jun 24, 2019

    Again I’m not sure this stops Nancy but what about Rufus and Martha wainwright? Personally I’d rather listen to Nancy. (Not a denigration just a taste thing). None of my comments by the way are meant to denigrate Nancy or anyone mentioned in any way. It’s just an interesting intellectual exercise. Dweezil Zappa has basically spent most of his career playing his father’s music. So even though Zappa Plays Zappa has been going for a decade or more, I don’t think it counts.

  5. Keith Shackleton
    Jun 24, 2019

    Does Norah Jones count? 🙂

  6. Dave Stephens
    Jun 24, 2019

    Peter, you could well have given us a new definition of comprehensive here. Far too many songs to listen to but a fabulous read nevertheless. And it doesn’t matter because those key Hazlewood-powered tracks are here and they’re the ones that really matter. Great stuff.

  7. Peter Viney
    Jun 26, 2019

    On second generation … Norah Jones (and Anoushka Shankar), but I think Norah is in such a totally different field to Ravi. Rufus Wainwright eclipses Loudon III, and you need Dad or Mum to be major stars which Loudon wasn’t. So I guess Liza Minelli is the nearest I can think of.
    A Lee Hazlewood Toppermost must lie in the future, but it’s a really hard job, with three career strands: singer/songwriter then producer then just songwriter- there are some great cover versions of his songs.

  8. Colin Duncan
    Jul 2, 2019

    Really interesting article. I really knew little about Nancy Sinatra other than the British hits and nothing of Lee Hazelwood.
    I did notice the Scottish not-my-era bands of Jesus and Mary Chain and Primal Scream saying they were influenced by them in a past news article. Just finished playing Arkansas Coal and Barricades and Brickwalls and really enjoyed them. Perhaps Nancy suffered from not being taken as seriously as she deserved to be because of her famous father and also the image of women in the music industry at that time. I remember you suggesting in a previous article that Bobbie Gentry may have got fed up because of how she, a serious artist, was expected to look. Great piece of work andI learned much – never knew the information about Jackson until now. Great essay and much appreciated.

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