Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Nancy Sinatra
Saturday was Record Store Day – I hope you got what you were looking for. Part of the fun, of course, to get what you aren’t looking for … in my case, along with all the new and exclusive vinyl I snapped up a gently used copy of Sugar, the 1967 LP by Nancy Sinatra.
Nancy is, of course, the daughter of you-know-who and she exploded onto the music scene in 1966 with the smash hit “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’.” That tune was written and produced by Lee Hazlewood, who would be Nancy’s svengali throughout her peak period. In those days pop (or, more accurately, non-rock) singers put out records as though they came off an assembly line; often an album from a singer like this would consist of one or two hits and a bucketload of filler with little or nothing to tie the songs together.
Hazlewood, to his credit, produced not only hit singles but albums for Nancy Sinatra, so she had a little in common with the popular rock artists of the era. Of course, the “concept” behind Sugar was lame – the liner notes say the album contains “sweet, soulful serenades from the old timey years” and that meant a lot of old Depression-era tunes with Hollywood orchestration. Lame, right? Well, consider “When I’m 64” from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and “Honey Pie” from the Beatles’ White Album are cut from the same cloth – so there may have been a bit of a mini-nostalgia craze for that era during the mid-1960s.
“Hard Hearted Hannah,” “Sweet Georgia Brown” and “Let’s Fall In Love” are so familiar they’re corny. “My Buddy” slows it down with a cornet straight out of Little Rascals feature, and “Limehouse Blues” offers a bit of phony Orientalism. Things pick up considerably, though, with the two originals Hazlewood penned for this album: “Coastin'” is a lazy lope with a bit of a summer vibe, but the big payoff comes with “Sugar Town,” a song in same vein that was a big hit. Actually, “Sugar Town” pre-existed before the Sugar album – it was a Top Five smash in late 1966 (with the B-side “Summer Wine,” a duet with Hazlewood that was re-released to also become a hit).
True to the one-or-two-hits-and-the-rest-filler standard, Sugar had no other big hits. Not to say that Nancy didn’t reach the top of the charts again in 1967 – her second No. 1 hit came that year, in the form of “Somethin’ Stupid,” a duet with her father and the only father-daughter song to ever top the U.S. pop charts. Sugar was a hit album but Sinatra’s followup, an album of country songs, wouldn’t do as well.
Sugar was also notable for its risque (at the time) cover photo of Nancy Sinatra in a bikini, which caused the LP to be banned in some cities. Wow – the very next year John Lennon and Yoko Ono would show the world how to do a truly controversial album cover, with their fully nude photo on Two Virgins.
Nancy Sinatra continues to perform today, occasionally recording a new song. She currently appears on “To Ardent,” from Black Devil Disco Club (free download here). Her recordings continue to appear in movie soundtracks and TV commercials, all recalling that glittery late-1960s era.