Elvis writes about Frank Sinatra

Pretty self-explanatory
johnfoyle
Posts: 14072
Joined: Wed Jun 04, 2003 4:37 pm
Location: Dublin , Ireland

Elvis writes about Frank Sinatra

Postby johnfoyle » Mon Sep 12, 2005 2:37 pm

Presumably this is a reprint of the article Elvis wrote ( for the Guardian , with a longer version subsequently in Mojo) after Frank Sinatra's death in May 1998.

http://www.funnyvalentinepress.com/nostalgiadigest.html

Image

In the Autumn 2005 issue of Nostalgia Digest Magazine:
• FRANK SINATRA: The Voice — a tribute by ELVIS COSTELLO!

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Scanned from Mojo , July 1998


MY MAM TELLS ME THAT one of my first words was “skin”. I was not an especially precocious child; I couldn’t say whole sentences but I knew how to request I’ve Got You Under My Skin on the family
record player. I was probably listening to that song ever since I was born, as both my parents were (and are) great admirers of Sinatra. When you’re exposed to something so young it obviously goes in deep.

Although as I grew up it was only natural to be caught up and distracted by all the great music of the moment, Sinatra never seemed square or old-fashioned. As it says on the lapel badge that I once found in a junk shop: “It’s Sinatra’s world. We just live in it.” Granted, he wanted little to do with beat music or rock’n’roll, but remember this: Sinatra may have occasionally enjoyed clams but, unlike Elvis Presley, he was never persuaded to sing their praises. When I started earning some money I invested in some familiar old Sinatra albums and found that they spoke very clearly about the adult things I was just beginning to understand.

In the last few days I’ve been thinking about those special recorded moments, the finesse that lies beyond the popular landmarks of New York, New York or My Way. Top of any list would have to be that famous vocal bridge after the solo in I’ve Got You Under Mv Skin, when Sinatra hits the most beautiftil long blue wail on the first word in the line: “Don’t you know little fool?” For me, this is the greatest single moment in recorded music.

I think the best tribute one can pay to Sinatra is to remember some of these special moments. Ask 10 people to pick 10 favourite Sinatra songs and they are likely to come up with scores of different titles. Some fantastic recordings have ended up as outtakes because Frank’s standards were high. Recently, I was looking for a really good version of My One And Only Love, and the catalogue surprisingly listed a Sinatra recording. It turned out to be the most beautiful reading of the song, which had been added to the CD edition of Nice ‘N’Easy. This track had been in the vaults for over 40 years, probably because it didn’t really fit into Sinatra’s meticulously programmed ‘theme’ albums. The performance is a glimpse of a singer in transition from the sweet-voiced 1940s crooner to the more world-weary singer of later years.

Sinatra endured a short but dramatic period without success and in vocal crisis during the early ‘50s. When his Capitol recordings returned him to the top, people said that his voice was changed by experience. However, I wonder whether there wasn’t also a shrewd agreement between the singer and his inspired arrangers for him to sing in this lower, richer register. At times the lowest note of a melody becomes almost spoken, giving him a much greater sense of intimacy.

In his most anguished performances, such as I’m A Fool To Want You, the words are plainly spoken and raw . Whether the lyrics were magical or hackneyed, most songwriting teams obeyed the romantic conventions of the time: the door closes before things really get sticky. In Frank’s versions, the music expresses the unspoken details.

Even when recording the finest compositions, the singer makes minute but crucial decisions that place his mark on the song. Take Rodgers & Hart’s Dancing On The Ceiling. I imagine it was written as a whimsical fantasy number, with a clipped 1930s dance rhythm. Sinatra adds one crucial word to the lyric — the “all” in “all through the night” — and drags out the thought to give it a real sense of longing. The concentrated meaning he brings to certain lines transforms a polite and charming song into something visual and erotic.

The Johnny Mercer song PS I Love You is basically a catalogue of mundane domestic failings and weather reports to an absent spouse. He’s not done the dishes and he’s a bit of a ciown for not being able to look after himself in a men-are-hopeless kind of way. However, all this is reported with some of the most tender and beautiful singing of Sinatra’s career, almost teasing until the real postscript: “Nothing more to tell you, dear, except each day seems like a year...” The feeling that he pours into just two words: “dear” and “seems” is indescribable. You have to hear it for yourself.

The albums In The Wee Small Hours, Only The Lonely and No One Cares form a mighty trilogy. Only The Lonely is my personal favourite. It contains a wonderful revival of What’s New?, an old Bing Crosby number. Crosby might have been the first singer to treat the microphone as a friend and not bellow at it, and his influence on Sinatra’s early records is obvious. As Sinatra developed his adult style he went back and recorded songs like What’s New?, having respect for the past but also the confidence to give the song a new and deeper identity.

Another song from this album shows Sinatra’s unrivalled ability to sustain a mood over a long piece and still reserve the knock-out blow for the final eight to 16 bars. In Gordon Jenkins’s Goodbye, pathos and fatalism are wrung out to an extraordinary degree. Nelson Riddle’s arrangement breaks over the voice from time to time, only to ebb away and create the illusion that this is really a soliloquy By the time you reach the lines, “It’s time that we parted, it’s much better so,” the melancholy has become dream-like. All this is achieved with singing that is passionate hut never over-wrought. The album is not for the faint-hearted.

Many fans will prefer the swinging records, or the brashness of Reprise singles like That’s Life, the prouder man singing Come Fly With Me. Sure, I prefer Glad To Be Unhappy but you can’t help falling for the charm and panache as Sinatra tosses the words and the slang around. He’s chasing shadows away, chasing the bad stuff of life away

Even on a recording like the recently issued Live In Paris, a small group recording from the mid-’60s, where the artistry is gradually overwhelmed by the audience’s desire to share some time with their buddy “Frank” — and I am almost paraphrasing the sleevenotes —you can hear some of the most astounding vocal control as Sinatra shrinks the room with a barely uttered meditation. He makes just a few lines of Vincent Youmans’s rather arcane Without A Song seem like something that shouldn’t be happening in anything as profane as a nightclub.

On the last occasion I saw Sinatra perform, at the Royal Albert Hall in 1983, he was being slated for the quality of his voice. But then again, you could go back to When Your Lover Is Gone, from the 1957 Live In Seattle recording, and hear how he could turn his then-rare vocal frailty into an asset. He had obviously learned that lesson well. At the Albert Hall, with even less voice, he more or less talked his way through a sequence of stoic, I’ll-carry-on songs like Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me and, possibly, Here’s That Rainy Day. He lingered on the line, “Children, when you shoot at bad men, shoot at me,” but just when the audience were about to give him their last breath he unleashed a knockout The Lady Is A Tramp with all the vocal power and energy that he had reserved.

A couple of years earlier I was fortunate enough to hear Sinatra in excellent voice at the Royal Festival Hall. Midconcert he typically acknowledged the composers of his next song. As he announced “words by Ira Gershwin and. . .“ I drew my breath; then he added, “music by Van Duke”. Suddenly, the wonderful introductory verse of I Can’t Get Started was underway “I’m a glum one. It’s explainable/I met someone unattainable/Life’s a bore/ The world is my oyster no more...”

Silly maybe, but beautiful. You always hope your favourite singers will sing your favourite obscure songs, but you resign yourself to only hearing the most popular. Given Sinatra’s repertoire, this was unbelievable luck. At the back of the souvenir programme there was a long list of every song that he had performed in England, going back to the concert my Mam saw in Liverpool in the late ‘40s. He had never sung the song here before. That’s when you go peculiar and begin to feel that weird sense of connection. Sinatra had that ability to make it seem as if every song was just for you, when in reality most of the audience were feeling exactly the same way.

I Can’t Get Started is one of those songs where the singer is simply worn out by his own success, the way people used to be in romantic comedies. He flies around the world in a plane, “settles revolutions in Spain”, has a great golf handicap, has tea with “Franklin D.” and is asked to star in MGM movies. Sinatra’s real life story was only slightly more fantastic. Speaking of which, I’d like to recommend Bill Zehme’s book The Way You Wear Your Hat — Frank Sinatra And The Lost Art Of Livin’. It’s not really a biography, but it’s funny and illuminating without being either lurid or sentimental.

If you cherish any of these performances then you already know what I’m talking about. But if you don’t know Sinatra’s catalogue, then you may wonder what all the fuss is about. To some, he is just the legend in the hat, that occasional actor and ladies’ man with the sinister friends, who sang tunes beloved by drunken bores and karaoke singers. That’s just the easy take on a great and complex artist. Before you fall for that line, I would say skip the compilations and go straight for one of those great Capitol albums. At times they’ve been the only records worth playing.

Copyright of Elvis Costello

User avatar
lapinsjolis
Posts: 513
Joined: Thu Jun 05, 2003 1:23 am
Location: In the cloud of unknowing
Contact:

Postby lapinsjolis » Mon Sep 12, 2005 4:12 pm

This is a great find. Between this and the Piano Jazz it's easy to swoon for Elvis once again.

What would the board do without you Mr. Foyle?
"Be yourself; everyone else is already taken."

User avatar
mood swung
Posts: 6906
Joined: Thu Jun 05, 2003 3:59 pm
Location: out looking for my tribe
Contact:

Postby mood swung » Mon Sep 12, 2005 4:15 pm

I know we've been missing you, miss lj!
Like me, the "g" is silent.

User avatar
lapinsjolis
Posts: 513
Joined: Thu Jun 05, 2003 1:23 am
Location: In the cloud of unknowing
Contact:

Postby lapinsjolis » Mon Sep 12, 2005 4:18 pm

That's due to aim. :wink: Thank you-that's awfully kind.
"Be yourself; everyone else is already taken."

User avatar
anjabro
Posts: 121
Joined: Wed Dec 08, 2004 1:14 am
Contact:

Re: Elvis writes about Frank Sinatra

Postby anjabro » Tue Sep 13, 2005 12:22 am

johnfoyle wrote:You always hope your favourite singers will sing your favourite obscure songs, but you resign yourself to only hearing the most popular.


Sounds like pretty serious fandom...I can imagine the same withering looks towards the 'MY WAY!!!' shouters that a lot of people here might aim at the 'OLIVERS ARMY !!!' shouters...

johnfoyle
Posts: 14072
Joined: Wed Jun 04, 2003 4:37 pm
Location: Dublin , Ireland

Postby johnfoyle » Wed Sep 14, 2005 2:56 pm

Will Friedwald's 'Sinatra ! The Song Is You' ( 1995) has this great account ( Pp. 232- 235) of the recording of 'Skin' -

Lovers, however, has “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” which still resonates as Sinatra’s coup de grace of uptempo masterpieces. At the very last minute he decided to include “Skin” on the session of January 12, 1956, which meant, Riddle recalled, that “it was a work of pressure because I had to stay up quite late one night and finish it.”

Riddle wrote it, as usual, according to Frank’s specifications. “He said, ‘I want a long crescendo.’ Long crescendi, like other dynamics in music, whether they be long crescendi or long diminuendi, are another color, and without them music can become unpalatable, tasteless, and uninteresting.” The arranger added, “I don’t think he was aware of the way I was going to achieve that crescendo, but he wanted an instrumental interlude that would be exciting and carry the orchestra up and then come on down where he would finish out the arrangement vocally.”

One of the first things Riddle thought of was Ravel’s “Bolero,” which he described as having “the most calculatingly orchestrated crescendo” and an “absolutely tantalizing slow addition of instruments to this long, long crescendo, which is really the message of ‘Bolero,’ and it is excruciating in its deliberately slow addition of pressure. Now that’s sex in a piece of music.”

For the arranger, like Sinatra, sex and music were interchangeable. “I remember [once when] my mother and father were having a screaming match,” said Chris Riddle, “and she said to him, ‘All you ever think about is music and sex!’ I was about sixteen, and the next day I asked him about it. He looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and said, ‘After all, what else is there?’ Music and sex! I mean, he really saw things that way. That was like a window into his insides.”

However, Riddle was stuck for an idea for this particular patch of color. “I was sitting home one day when Nelson called me up and said, ‘Frank wants a long crescendo in the middle of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” recalled George Roberts. “Nelson said, ‘Do you know any Afro-Cuban rhythmical patterns and things like that?’ I said, ‘Well, why don’t you steal the pattern out of Kenton’s “23 Degrees North, 82 Degrees West” [from 1952]. He said, ‘How did it go?’ I gave him the beginning trombone lines for that Afro-Cuban thing, and he expanded that for the long crescendo that Frank wanted.” “I remembered a Stan Kenton record,” Riddle recollected, “and that trombone back-and-forth thing. I was always fascinated by it. I tried to find an equivalent to use behind singers, and that was my version.” Riddle swiped from Russo only con-ceptually; he does lay several Latin rhythm patterns over each other, but it’s hardly the same polyrhythm that Russo employed in designating the coordinates of Cuba.

Like Russo, Riddle uses the passage to lead into a trombone solo, played by former Kentonite Milt Bernhart. Bernhart recalled that both Sinatra and Riddle seemed to know that this would be a special track and they were keen to keep doing take after take until they had it exactly right. Bernhart had conditioned himself to Sinatra’s more customary way of working: If you can’t get it in four or five takes, tops, drop it and possibly try again later. For that reason he put everything he had into the first few takes of the number and feels he was spent by the time they got to the take Sinatra wound up using.

“Toward the tenth take,” Bernhart recalled, “somebody said in the booth, ‘Could we get the trombone nearer to a microphone?’ I mean, what had they been doing? So they said, ‘There’s a mike there for the brass.’ It was on a very high riser. The engineer asked, ‘Can you get up to that one?’ And I said, ‘Well, no, I’m not that tall.’ Somebody said, ‘Why don’t we get a box?’ So they were looking for a box. I don’t know why there wasn’t a grip, but Frank Sinatra himself went and got a box and brought it over for me to stand on. It was funny.”

Bernhart felt silly standing on the box, and while he has claimed he ran “out of gas” at least a dozen takes before the one that got used, his solo has become one of the most widely heard trombone statements ever recorded. Bernhart regrets he didn’t realize at the time that Riddle had actually based the whole instrumental sequence, with his solo, on the bridge to “Skin.” But it’s the very atavistic, off-the-chord energy of the solo that burns it into your brain with such sizzling force. And yet as passionate as Bernhart gets in his twelve bars or so, he pales beside Sinatra, who returns to ram the lyric home with nothing short of orgiastic fury.

Said Riddle, “I remember bringing [the chart] to the recording, and everybody was very impressed.” It marked one of the few times the musicians on a Sinatra date actually stood up and applauded the principals: star, writer-director, and supporting player. “I know the evening that we did it,” Riddle recalled, “he expressed considerable enthusiasm for the arrangement, and I guess later on, when he took the tape home and played it , he was even mre enthusiastic. As it turned out , it was sort of a cornerstone recording for both him and me. "

Image

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/de ... ce&s=books

Sinatra! the Song Is You: A Singer's Art - Will Friedwald

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

http://www.guardian.co.uk/obituaries/st ... 63,00.html

Milton Bernhart, trombonist, born May 25 1926; died January 22 2004

User avatar
Extreme Honey
Posts: 622
Joined: Fri Jun 03, 2005 3:44 pm
Location: toronto, canada

Postby Extreme Honey » Wed Sep 14, 2005 3:06 pm

I'm suprised Elvis never released a Sinatra-style album considering his total love of him (even as a child!).

"Come Fly with Me" is fantastic.
Preacher was a talkin' there's a sermon he gave,
He said every man's conscience is vile and depraved,
You cannot depend on it to be your guide
When it's you who must keep it satisfied

selfmademug

Postby selfmademug » Wed Sep 14, 2005 3:21 pm

Extreme Honey wrote:I'm suprised Elvis never released a Sinatra-style album


Um, there's this record? Called North?

Seriously I think "Can You Be True", which charmed its way into my fave top 10 EC songs ever, has a lot in common with "Stardust." And I would love to hear Elvis cover even more standards than he has already, but we don't want him to have to be mentioned in the same breath as Rod Stewart all the time.

User avatar
Extreme Honey
Posts: 622
Joined: Fri Jun 03, 2005 3:44 pm
Location: toronto, canada

Postby Extreme Honey » Wed Sep 14, 2005 9:19 pm

I adore "You turned to Me" and "Fallen". Funny thing North, when it came out I just thought it was the works of a man who is tangled up in ever changing love and is completely confused about where he stands. But after a few times listening to it, I saw what it really is. A masterpiece. The works of a man who has surpasses so amny musicians in his time frame and who sings with precision, focus and providing a clear but very powerful message.

It's a pitty I have troubles listening to this album, for it was in my playlist during the harsh times of my dog's death in May this year. Someday I will be able to fully enjoy it again. Now this question remains: Do you think North could be compared to Imperial Bedroom, Get Happy!!, Armed Forces and King of America?
Preacher was a talkin' there's a sermon he gave,

He said every man's conscience is vile and depraved,

You cannot depend on it to be your guide

When it's you who must keep it satisfied

User avatar
spooky girlfriend
Site Admin
Posts: 2994
Joined: Mon Jun 02, 2003 5:19 pm
Location: Huntsville, Alabama

Postby spooky girlfriend » Wed Sep 14, 2005 9:37 pm

North and King of America are so not comparable.

You haven't been around here long, so I'll clue you in on a little secret. I adore KOA. I adore it in the highest possible manner. It lifts me up when I am down and when I'm feeling great it makes life even better.

KOA was kind of a transition, like North, but North was more the same style music throughout. KOA is many different types of music. That album was a fuck-off message to people who didn't think he could do what he wanted to, which makes the album even more beloved to me.

But you're more right than you know about North. True, it could be considered a masterpiece, but it's most assured that he was honestly moving from one relationship to another with little space in between. It was goodbye and hello all wrapped up in one album.

It's still not among my favorites, but I don't begrudge Elvis doing North. He does whatever he does very well, at least I think so. I still listen to it occasionally, just not often. Not as often as KOA. :wink:

User avatar
verbal gymnastics
Posts: 10034
Joined: Wed Jun 11, 2003 6:44 am
Location: In a very fashionable hovel

Postby verbal gymnastics » Thu Sep 15, 2005 6:13 am

Extreme Honey wrote:I'm suprised Elvis never released a Sinatra-style album considering his total love of him (even as a child!).


Well given that Robbie Williams has done the definitive jazz cover versions album I don't think it will happen. :lol:

Extreme Honey wrote:Funny thing North, when it came out I just thought it was the works of a man who is tangled up in ever changing love and is completely confused about where he stands. But after a few times listening to it, I saw what it really is. A masterpiece. The works of a man who has surpasses so amny musicians in his time frame and who sings with precision, focus and providing a clear but very powerful message.


Well put.

Extreme Honey wrote:It's a pitty..."


But Thomasso Honey, please learn to spell "Pity" correctly. Haven't you already been told? :D
international laughing stock...

User avatar
Extreme Honey
Posts: 622
Joined: Fri Jun 03, 2005 3:44 pm
Location: toronto, canada

Postby Extreme Honey » Thu Sep 15, 2005 3:40 pm

Extreme Honey wrote:It's a pitty..."


But Thomasso Honey, please learn to spell "Pity" correctly. Haven't you already been told? :D[/quote]

...You want to know something funny? I took gifted english back in high school!
Preacher was a talkin' there's a sermon he gave,

He said every man's conscience is vile and depraved,

You cannot depend on it to be your guide

When it's you who must keep it satisfied

User avatar
mood swung
Posts: 6906
Joined: Thu Jun 05, 2003 3:59 pm
Location: out looking for my tribe
Contact:

Postby mood swung » Thu Sep 15, 2005 3:51 pm

well, maybe you should give it back! :lol:
Like me, the "g" is silent.

johnfoyle
Posts: 14072
Joined: Wed Jun 04, 2003 4:37 pm
Location: Dublin , Ireland

Postby johnfoyle » Mon Nov 14, 2005 1:38 pm

Bump, bump!

johnfoyle
Posts: 14072
Joined: Wed Jun 04, 2003 4:37 pm
Location: Dublin , Ireland

Postby johnfoyle » Fri Jan 13, 2006 6:54 pm

http://www.steynonline.com/index2.cfm?edit_id=25

SteynOnCulture

I'VE GOT YOU UNDER MY SKIN

For four decades, in Vegas, New York, Tokyo, Paris, London, you’d hear the little vamping intro figure, and over it something like:

Oh, here’s one we can’t leave out. Cole Porter’s shining hour and Nelson Riddle’s great work…

And then the first line:

I’ve Got You Under My Skin…

Fifty years ago – January 12th 1956 - Frank Sinatra walked into KHJ Studios in Los Angeles and recorded a Nelson Riddle arrangement of a Cole Porter song. Usually with Frank, he knew what he had to do and, as in his movies, he nailed it on the second take, or maybe the third or fourth. But that night “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” took 22 takes, and to that initial couple dozen he added thousands more over the years. Other songs came and went from the act (“Goody Goody”, “Without A Song”); others went from ballad tempo to hard and swinging (“Where Or When”, “The Song Is You”) or underwent less obvious modifications (“You Make Me Feel So Young”, “The Lady Is A Tramp”). But once he’d taken charge of that Riddle chart, he never changed it, from a January night in 1956 to the Duets version with Bono wailing “Don’t you know, ya ol’ fool, you never can win?” forty years later.

“Under My Skin” was recorded for Songs For Swingin’ Lovers, the defining album of the First LP Era. I was once in a restaurant with Frank’s pal Sammy Cahn and after singing me a chunk of “Swingin’ Down The Lane” he looked out at the room of thirtysomething diners and mused, “Have you ever thought about how many of these guys were conceived to Songs For Swingin’ Lovers?” But, even by the standards of the smash of the age, “Under My Skin” is special. Nelson Riddle’s work on the song may be the all-time great pop vocal arrangement, and certainly Milt Bernhart’s 16-bar contribution is the most-heard trombone solo in recorded music. When Riddle talked about scoring Sinatra in “the tempo of the heartbeat”, this is what he had in mind: “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” is a landmark of the Sinatra style, the song that defines the persona – swagger and obsession, breeziness and vulnerability.

It didn’t start out that way. Cole Porter wrote the song 20 years earlier, for a 1936 film called Born To Dance. Eleanor Powell and James Stewart starred, and Jimmy got to warble, very charmingly, the big ballad “Easy To Love”. But “Under My Skin” went to the dance duo Georges and Jalna for a nightclub scene, and then afterwards on the sprawling penthouse terrace Virginia Bruce turns to Jimmy Stewart and sings for the first time:

I’ve Got You Under My Skin
I’ve got you deep in the heart of me…


There was no verse, no second chorus. If you know the lyrics only from the Sinatra version, that’s all there is: there’s no little-known wittily rhymed additional Porter quatrains for the cognoscenti. And it doesn’t need them: the song’s fancy enough as it is. It’s a beguine, as in Porter’s “Begin The…”, as in Broadway exotica: instead of 32 bars, it’s 56. And, instead of the usual four eight-bar phrases – main theme, re-stated, middle section, back to main theme or AABA – if you try to break this song down into eight-bar phrases it comes in as A-B-A1-B1-C-D-A1½ – for whatever that’s worth. The point is it’s a complicated business, moving from its key of E flat into D minor, G dominant, C major, back to F minor, B-flat dominant, and home to E flat again. It’s the sort of thing that could easily be too overwrought and precious to be any good. The great American musicologist Alec Wilder described it as full of “things which I tend to shy away from”, including repeated notes, eight bars of triplets, and the kind of unnatural triple rhyme to which Porter was partial. In “Night And Day” it’s “under the hide of me” and the “hungry yearning burning inside of me”. In “Skin” it’s:

Use your mentality
Wake up to reality.


And yet the song is so great that, as Wilder conceded, “I must waive all my prejudices”. It was nominated for an Oscar but lost to “The Way You Look Tonight”. And over the next two decades discriminating singers – Lee Wiley - picked up the number, and ambitious jazzmen – Charlie Mingus – appreciated the tune, and it enjoyed a cachet in certain circles as a coded gay song. But I'd bet it would have wound up as one of those tunes a little too special for its own good had Sinatra and Riddle not taken it into KHJ on January 12th 1956.

He’d never sung it before, but he’d come close. On his radio show in 1944, he did a little “tribute” to Born To Dance, acknowledging that most listeners had likely forgotten the picture, and then he sang “Easy To Love” in a shimmering Axel Stordahl arrangement and, halfway through, the choir come in and waltz their way through “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”. Sixty years later, Columbia released it on CD as part of their Sinatra/Porter set: it’s not his performance of the song but the song is part of his performance.

Twelve years later, he had other plans for it. As always on his best work, he knew what he wanted, telling Nelson Riddle, “I want a long crescendo.” “I don’t think he was aware,” said Riddle, “of the way I was going to achieve that crescendo, but he wanted an instrumental interlude that would be exciting and carry the orchestra up and then come on down where he would finish out the arrangement vocally.”

At that stage, Riddle wasn’t aware of how he was going to achieve that crescendo either. He thought of Ravel’s Bolero, which is the all-time great crescendo, all 15 minutes of it. “Now that’s sex in music,” Riddle liked to say. “Skin” was a last-minute addition to the January 12th session, and the arranger was running out of time. The Riddles recalled Mrs R driving to KHJ for the 8pm session with Nelson in the back still writing out the charts. That could be true. Billy May wrote his marvelous taxi-down-the-runway-and-take-off arrangement of “Come Fly With Me” an hour before the session and somewhat over-lubricated. But, whatever short shrift the other songs got, Riddle put a lot of thought into “Skin”. “I remembered a Stan Kenton record, and that trombone back-and-forth thing” – Kenton’s “23 Degrees North, 82 Degrees West”. And it gave him the layout he wanted: the overlaid rhythm patterns building like a more intense Bolero to Milt Bernhart’s trombone solo.

And so Sinatra arrived and did “It Happened In Monterey”, one of those South-of-the-border-for-a-little-hey-hey numbers, and “Swingin’ Down The Lane”, a lovely evocative spooning song from the Twenties by Isham Jones and Gus Kahn, and “Flowers Mean Forgiveness”, a filler for some single, and then they got to the main course. And, as it went to four and five and six takes, Sinatra began to see that he could hone and refine this thing without losing the spontaneity. He was the one who decided Milt Bernhart needed to be closer to the mike, so he could blow the roof off. But the mike was high on a riser and it was Frank himself who went out of the studio and found a box for Bernhart to stand on. By that 22nd take, they had what they wanted. Frank’s first chorus is intimate, reflective:

I tried so not to give in
I said to myself this affair
Never will go so well…

And then comes the controlled pressure-building burn of Riddle’s crescendo. If you saw Sinatra live over the years, you’ll know that, as it built, he liked to bark, “Run for cover! Run and hide!” And then Bernhart explodes with a solo of what Will Friedwald, the great analyst of Sinatra’s work, calls “atavistic off-the-chord energy”. And, as wild as that is, the singer comes back for the release and makes the obsession even more frenzied:

Don’t you know, little fool
You never can win?


But sometimes you can. Sinatra stuck with Riddle’s arrangement for Sinatra’s Sinatra in 1963 and Duets in 1993 and on all the concert albums – Live In Australia (1959), Live In Paris (1962), At The Sands (1966), The Main Event (1974) and the Eighties Vegas set released last year. Sinatra and Riddle had taken a piece of Broadway exotica and stripped it of its fripperies. And, in normalizing it, they enhanced it: reconstructed in four/four, it emerges as the apotheosis of the Cole Porter songbook, a glorious combination of passion and rhythm.

It was one of those arrangements that supplanted the song – Oscar Peterson’s piano instrumental is, in effect, the Sinatra record pared down; singers from Steve Lawrence to Michael Buble have recorded “Skin” in Frank’s arrangement; even Carly Simon’s recent bland trudge through the number is a reorchestration of the Riddle chart with all the life sapped out of it. I’m not a big fan of Diana Krall but at least when she did the song she slowed it down and found her own take on it.

Sinatra departed from the Riddle version only a couple of times over the next 40 years. In 1967, he took part in an inaugural discussion at the Cole Porter Library at the University of Southern California. Garson Kanin was the moderator and the participants included Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Alan Jay Lerner, Ethel Merman and Jimmy Stewart. Frank recalled his days singing at the Rustic Cabin, a New Jersey roadhouse, and being so stunned when Porter swung by one evening that he forgot all the words to “Let’s Do It”. In honor of Porter and the academic venue, Sinatra was being very respectful that evening and delivered a gorgeous version of “It’s Alright With Me” and then, accompanied only by pianist Roger Edens (from the old MGM music department), a slow, intimate, ravishing “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”.

Artie Shaw once asked me, rhetorically, how we know Mozart’s any good. Because he’s lasted. When a piece of classical music endures 200 years, we know it has value. As Shaw pointed out, his records still sound good after 60 years, which isn’t bad for something as ephemeral as pop music. The Sinatra-Riddle-Bernhart record of “Under My Skin” will still be heard in another half-century, and most every night between now and then at some joint somewhere or other some wannabe-Frank will be singing that arrangement, hoping to deflect just a little of its sheen his way. If you saw Frank Sinatra on stage, chances are, right at the end of the song, you heard him direct this question at some gal in the crowd:

Where does it hurt you, baby?


And then the answer:

Under my skin.

STEYNONLINE, January 12th 2006


Return to “Elvis Costello General Discussion”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Baidu [Spider], Bing [Bot] and 27 guests