Tag Archives: Frank Sinatra

Rocks In The Attic #796: Sammy Davis Jr. – ‘At The Cocoanut Grove’ (1963)

RITA#796Excuse me… are you reading “Yes I Can”? By Sammy Davis Jr.? You know what the title of that book should be? “Yes, I Can If Frank Sinatra Says It’s OK”. ‘Cause Frank calls the shots for all of those guys. Did you get to the part yet where uh… Sammy is coming out of the Copa… it’s about 3 o’clock in the morning and, uh, he sees Frank? Frank’s walking down Broadway by himself…

I finally got around to reading the book Tommy Pischedda spotted in 1982’s This Is Spinal Tap, an old beat-up copy I found in a second-hand bookstore. Tommy’s right: Sammy does owe a lot of his success to Frank’s guidance, but it’s clear from the start that he was supremely talented and worthy of breaking out from the Will Mastin Trio, the cabaret group he toured in with his father, Sammy Davis Sr. and the eponymous Mastin.

Listening to Live At The Cocoanut Grove, Sammy’s a natural mimic, adept at impersonating his favourite singers (even Elvis) as well as using his own voice. Between sings, he drops stand-up worthy one-liners, and you get the impression that the audience are there as much to laugh as they are to be crooned to.

RITA#796aYes I Can was a slog though. After a long, painfully detailed telling of his climb to fame, and the accident that led to him losing an eye – he crashed his car and hit a protuberance on the steering wheel (the accident led to car-makers redesigning dashboards and steering wheels to avoid such hazards) – the second half of the book dealt with his day-to-day activities as a household name in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. Co-writers (ghost-writers?) Burt and Jane Boyar appeared more and more frequently in the book in its last third, which dealt with Sammy’s inability to control his financial affairs, and I was just happy to finish it.

Maybe those limeys in Spinal Tap didn’t enjoy it either.

Hit: I’ve Got You Under My Skin

Hidden Gem: Hound Dog

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Rocks In The Attic #661: Dean Martin – ‘French Style’ (1962)

RITA#661It is 1962. In the conference room of Reprise Records, Hollywood, California, we find the label’s founder, Frank Sinatra, discussing Reprise’s release schedule with various members of the Rat Pack.

Frank Sinatra: Okay boys, what are we going to put out next for Deano? It’ll need to be something good.

Dean Martin: Let’s just do what we always do, Frank. I can record some numbers with the band. Joe Public will lap it up.

Sinatra: That ain’t gonna cut it, Deano. The kids need something new, something different.

Sammy Davis, Jr: What if he does a country record, Frank?

Martin: Yeah Frank, what about country? I love Country!

Sinatra: No, not classy enough. No record label of mine is going to release hillbilly music.

Peter Lawford: What about rock and roll, Frank? The kids go crazy for that stuff. Look what it did for Elvis!

Martin: Yeah Frank, what about rock and roll? I love rock and roll!

Sinatra: No, not classy enough. Presley’s a degenerate. All it got him was a stint in the army. What’s the point of making records if it’s just going to get you shot.

RITA#661aJoey Bishop: What about the blues, Frank? Joe Public’d freak out for a blues record.

Martin: Yeah Frank, what about the blues? I love the blues!

Sinatra: No, not classy enough. He’s Italian-American; he ain’t no half-blind ni…

Davis, Jr: [clears throat]

Sinatra: …er, I mean, he’s not right for that audience. C’mon, there must be something we’re missing…

The room falls into a hush, as they look to the ceiling for inspiration.

Sinatra: …something new…something different…something with a certain…je nes sais quoi…

Martin: [looks at Sinatra and raises an eyebrow]

Hit: Le Vie En Rose

Hidden Gem: C’est Magnifique

Rocks In The Attic #553: Al Martino – ‘Love Is Blue’ (1968)

RITA#553.jpgAl Martino is probably best known for his portrayal of Johnny Fontane in the Godfather films. He plays the Godson of Marlon Brando’s Vito Corleone, and appears at Connie’s wedding at the start of the film to rapturous screams from the girls present. Johnny’s career has gone onto bigger and better things since they last saw him, with more than a little help from his Godfather early on in his career.

I often wonder, with his character being based on unsavoury rumours concerning Frank Sinatra’s early career, what repercussions Martino felt in his day job as a singer.  The horse head scene in the Godfather, designed to intimidate producer Jack Woltz into giving Fontane a part in a war film, is supposedly influenced by Sinatra’s casting in From Here To Eternity. It would have made for one interesting atmosphere if Martino ever ran into Sinatra backstage somewhere in Vegas. I fear that the Rat Pack would have driven him out of the business – his recording output slowed down considerably following the release of The Godfather in 1972.

Love Is Blue is a collection of quite syrupy ballads from 1968. Martino has a great voice, but the overblown orchestral instrumentation on the record stands him apart from the likes of Sinatra and his like. As a result the record strays too near to the likes of easy listening to be taken serious. It isn’t surprising then that Martino was chosen to sing such a syrupy ballad to Connie Corleone (If Have But One Heart) at her wedding…

Hit: Call Me

Hidden Gem: Goin’ Out Of My Head

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Rocks In The Attic #551: Frank Sinatra – ‘Songs For Young Lovers’ (1954)

RITA#551.jpg1954? That makes this recording over sixty years old. It still sounds crystal clear – it would, it’s the 2015 Record Store Day reissue – but regardless, it’s still magical sounding. In the next couple of decades we’re going to start approaching being able to listen to 100 year old recordings. Insane. Well, I guess we can listen to 100 year old recordings now, but considering that nobody put out anything worth a salt until the 1950s, it won’t be worth considering for a while yet.

In fact, that’s wrong. Glenn Miller’s a boss, and he was the best-selling recording artist from 1939 to 1943. So 1939 would mean twenty two years until the centennial celebrations for the likes of In The Mood and Chattanooga Choo Choo. But just imagine when we reach the 100 year anniversary of the first Frank Sinatra hit, or Elvis’ Heartbreak Hotel, or the first Beatles album. Good grief. Will we start referring to it as classical musical?

Running in under a sprightly twenty two minutes, this 10” album comes from a time before the 12” record won the war to become the primary record format. This happened a few years later around 1957, just in time for the rock and roll explosion. It’s a nice format, but obviously the shorter running time leaves you wanting more. We’d call it an EP these days, but back then they’d probably just refer to it as Frank’s latest record, regardless of the running length.

Hit: I Get A Kick Out Of You

Hidden Gem: The Girl Next Door

Rocks In The Attic #493: Various Artists – ‘Moonlighting (O.S.T.)’ (1987)

RITA#493A great bunch of songs, as long as you ignore the first stirrings of a singing career by that seminal 1980s soul singer, Bruce Willis. Listening to Bruce, it’s clear that Dean Martin has a lot to answer for – singers like Bruce have been slurring their vocals like Deano for the past 50 years, but thinking that they’ve been doing a Sinatra instead (if there’s anything that you can’t knock Sinatra for, it’s his diction).

I only saw a few episodes of Moonlighting when it originally aired. I always enjoyed it, but I was probably a bit too young at the time and so I didn’t watch it regularly enough for it to mean anything to me. But with the power of the internet, and with ‘her indoors’ being a huge Bruce Willis fan to keep happy, we’ve been slowly working our way through each season.

It’s a great, light-hearted show – albeit with both feet firmly stuck in the ‘80s. It’s always good to see Bruce with a full head of hair, and amusing to see the soft-focus employed whenever Cybill Shepherd has a close-up. More Vaseline on the lens, mister camera operator…

Hit: When A Man Loves A Woman – Percy Sledge

Hidden Gem: Limbo Rock – Chubby Checker