Sunday, May 04, 2008


Those of you who are loyal to Exit 55 (Hi, Mom!) know I fancy myself as a bit of a music person. I've talked about so many things - various lists of best albums and so on.

Tonight, I'm going retro on ya.

The night started with the radiant Audrey Hepburn on TV, in the mesmerizing "Sabrina." As I told Sean, his mom looked a lot like Ms. Hepburn on our wedding day; a day that now seems lifetimes ago.

Then, as now, I couldn't take my eyes off Audrey Hepburn. Few could ever be as beautiful or stylish, and even fewer could melt your heart by simply talking. Her accent - which seemed like it came out of her native Belgium and proceeded through Paris (the city that I most associate her with) with touches of New York and ultimately, Switzerland, where she remains for eternity, having been buried there in 1993, just added to her grace.

So the night was off to a nice start, and we could have ended there, with me off to watch Cubs-Cardinals or something else. But no, Turner Classic Movies had something else in mind.

The Chairman of the Board (no...not Whitey Ford...but close).

Mr. Sinatra.

TCM ran a wonderful TV special called "A Man and His Music", and though I'm not sure what network it ran on, I found that it debuted on November 24, 1965. It features Frank, sometimes with an orchestra in the shot, sometimes without. The show won an Emmy and a Peabody, and presents many of Sinatra's most famous songs. There's the sound of an audience, but you never see them. Instead it's just that - the man and his music.

Mr. Sinatra wows us with some of his classic quips, but mostly, he belts the songs out like no vocalist has before or since (no offense to Bing Crosby). He comes out of the box with the song that I often think is the most incredible of the Sinatra catalog, "I've Got You Under My Skin."

Oh, and for the record, while there are several great versions of the song recorded by Sinatra, I think the peak is when he performed it with the Count Basie Orchestra on 1966's "Sinatra at the Sands." Frankly (pardon the pun) I don't have enough volume for that version when I play it. It's that utterly brilliant.

One last thing - "Sinatra at the Sands" sits right at or near the top of my favorite live concert albums. Many will tell you that Frank had lost a step by the time of this recording, just past his 50th birthday. True, the crooner might have stepped back slightly, but the kitschy too-cool Rat Packer was alive and well. Lose your PC ways and enjoy the humor on display during the monologue.

I know, this all makes me seem very old, but to me it highlights the house I was raised in. My siblings brought me up right - with The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, early Aerosmith, and whatever we were listening to on WABC in the car, and the early FM stations in the house. My mom influenced me with the pop of her early adulthood, primarily from the 50's and 60's. She gave me some of the foundation of the Sinatra influence. Yet ultimately credit for my love of big band, jazz, and standards belongs to my father.

There's no shame in finding all kinds of music, and you'd be smart to do the same!

If you've never tried any Sinatra, I advise you to suspend whatever preconceptions you have and give it a shot. You won't go wrong if you try the Capitol concept albums of the mid to late-50's, like "Songs for Swingin' Lovers" or "In The Wee Small Hours." Then there's the amazingly depressing "Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely", the saddest record I've ever listened to.


Trust me, I haven't listened to that CD lately. Nor will I.

He had style, grace, charm, and was quite a rogue. Nobody could interpret a song like he could. He wrote very little music, but knew how to arrange, and was smart to have the best conductors and musicians around him.

He was controversial and was a comeback kid (his career was supposedly over before his Oscar-winning turn in "From Here to Eternity").

He was Sinatra. That's all you need to know.

1 comment:

Fred said...

The network was NBC...