When Sinatra was more sin than art

One unceasingly fascinating thing, for me, about Frank Sinatra is how often he avoided turning inappropriate or lightweight material into gold by dint of either his vocal skills (“Cycles” is worth listening through all it’s trite platitudes for the way Frank sings the line “last Thursday I got fired”) or the weight of his personality (Drunk as a skunk on “Winchester Cathedral” he has great fun, or “Mrs Robinson” where he ring-a-ding-dings it to death). But whenever I put on my Reprise era boxed set and hear “Life’s a Trippy Thing” or especially “Downtown” they just rank as up with the worst things any major artist ever recorded, any time.

I nominate “Downtown” as the worst recording Frank Sinatra ever made and released. What are the Dope’s most unloved Sinatra cuts?


I never heard his cover of “Downtown”, which might be why I think his cover of “Something” wears the crown for most unloved.

Pretty much everything on Duets II. It feels like he was just phoning it in at that point.

I second Something. “You stick around, Jack, it might show” just doesn’t do it for me.

On the other hand, one of my favorite Sinatra songs, and his first million-seller IIRC, was Strangers In The Night, which he despised as lightweight with a silly sing-song melody, which he made fun of at the end with the “doobie-doobie-doo” line that was surprising left in the final release. He generally refused to sing it in concert, though he did perform it upon some heavyweight special request at his famous Concert of the Americas. After singing it, he turned and walked back toward the orchestra and could be heard exclaiming, even though he’d dropped the mic to his side: “I hate that fucking song!”

Good ol’ Frank! :smiley:

P.S.: Just a nitpick (and by way of a bump :wink: ), Frank got fired on a Friday in Cycles.

Fair point, but you know what I am sayin’ about that line…

Apropos of your “Strangers in The Night” story, there’s the old chestnut about how, during the session for it, Glen Campbell was so in awe of Sinatra that he busy kept staring at him. Sinatra got so weirded out by it he had to ask the other musicians who that “fag guitar player” was.


What about all the hack material and novelty songs that Mitch Miller made Sinatra sing for Columbia during the time his career was sagging? I would have to think those would have to rank among his most unloved cuts.

I nominate the Bread tune “If” from Song Nice Things I’ve Missed, which a former roomate of mine really loved, and which contains a passel of other 70s covers he probably hated. I can’t recall hearing his version of “Something,” though. I also remember “Bang Bang (She Shot Me Down)” as being pretty awful. He didn’t really cover up his contempt for these latter-day pop tunes, did he?

Is this supposed to be a pun?

Something Stupid with his fatlipped daughter

what would the pun be?

Well, IIRC, most (maybe all?) of the Duets recordings were not recorded with the performers in the same studio. They were recorded remotely, by phone lines. It was all very cool and high tech at the time.

Yes, I know exactly what you mean about that line. He manages to convey about five different emotions with just those four words.

No one but Sinatra ever seemed to me to be really living what he was singing, and no one but Sinatra could transport me emotionally into another reality the way he could.

And thanks for reminding me of the Glen Campbell story. I had heard it before but hadn’t thought about it in a long time. (I imagine Frank changed his mind once Campbell hit it big and had more women after him than Frank did. ;))

Au contraire! She wasn’t fatlipped back in the day.

oh. :slight_smile:

Gee, I take a break for five minutes and you named my songs – Strangers in the Night and Something Stupid.

But even on the bad ones, notice that you can understand every word of the lyrics. Fantastic enunciation. And on his good stuff, he could make you believe that he felt what he was saying all the way to his toes.

When he died, I found out about it late at night. I stayed up all night so that I could tell my husband. I didn’t want him to hear about if from some cold news reporter.

It was Frank’s world. He just let us live in it for a bit.


Not so much pun as double meaning. Yes, he did phone his parts in and the duets were done electronically. No synergy at all with the other artist. And, yes, he did phone it in, meaning that he was putting forth minimal effort and the music didn’t have his heart and soul behind it.

Duets was all right, not his best, but passable. Duets II, just a paychech for Frank. The best thing about Duets II was the Leroy Nieman album art.

[After The Sunset]
Bartender: Did Frank take an umbrella?
Pierce Brosnan: Not even when it was raining.