Improbable as it might seem at first, Dylan has recorded Shadows In The Night, an album of songs associated with Frank Sinatra – and it’s damn good.
By Michael Goldberg.
I hated Frank Sinatra. As a teenager, Sinatra, who was my mother’s favorite singer, represented my parents’ middle class world, a world I was desperate to escape. I wrote Sinatra off as one of those puppets, a Hollywood-invented pop star who sang Tin Pan Alley love songs, the kind that rhymed moon and June.
Silly love songs. That was what Frank Sinatra was all about. Trivial.
And worse still, I read that he hated rock ‘n’ roll.
In 1957, in the Paris magazine Western World, Sinatra called rock ‘n’ roll “the most brutal, ugly, degenerate, vicious form of expression it has been my displeasure to hear … It fosters almost totally negative and destructive reactions in young people. It smells phony and false. It is sung, played and written for the most part by cretinous goons and by means of its almost imbecilic reiterations and sly, lewd—in plain fact dirty—lyrics, and as I said before, it manages to be the martial music of every sideburned delinquent on the face of the earth. This rancid smelling aphrodisiac I deplore.”
So yeah, for me Sinatra was Public Enemy #1.
Sinatra was, in my opinion, the polar opposite of my idol, Bob Dylan, the brainy rock ‘n’ roll star who had in rapid succession released three of the greatest albums ever: Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde On Blonde.
Dylan wrote his own songs, sang with a voice like no other, was a poet, brought the art of songwriting to a level it had never previously reached and was the hippest of the hip.
In 1965, while Sinatra was singing retro pop like “The September Of My Years” and “Last Night When We Were Young,” Dylan was spitting out such modern cubist masterpieces as “Ballad Of A Thin Man,” “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and “Like A Rolling Stone.”
Sinatra was ancient history, the pop singer my mother’s heart beat fast for during her teenage years as a bobby soxer.
I had no interest and no time for Frank Sinatra.
But 23 years later, in 1988, thanks to Beach Boy Brian Wilson, my attitude towards Sinatra changed. I was on assignment for Rolling Stone, writing a feature story about Wilson, who had a debut solo album about to be released. I was hanging out with Wilson at his townhouse in Malibu, and I was checking out some of his favorite CDs, which included recordings by Randy Newman and Phil Spector. There was one by Frank Sinatra, possibly In the Wee Hours or it might have been September Of My Years. Whichever it was, I listened to it there at Wilson’s place, and I opened up to Sinatra. I heard him for the first time.
I came to appreciate Sinatra, and the songs he sang, and I came to dig the often sentimental arrangements provided by Nelson Riddle and others.
Still, when I learned that Bob Dylan, BOB DYLAN, had recorded Shadows In The Night, a full album of songs previously recorded by Sinatra, my initial reaction was that of my 15-year-old self: horror.
Dylan singing those songs? Those corny Tin Pan Alley songs? How could he?
Read the rest of this column at Addicted To Noise.
[Last August I published my rock ‘n’ roll novel, True Love Scars.” Rolling Stone has a great review of the book. Read it here. There’s info about True Love Scars here.]