Although he had no love for rock & roll, he recorded some of the modern songs, but all with that special Sinatra flair.
Of course, the crooners came from another era. It was the age of melody, when a team of songwriters wrote a song that two dozen singers and bands would record. Great songs were great because everyone hummed them or whistled them or danced to them or listened to them in the car or at the market. Sinatra delighted everyone with the soft luster of her voice, the essence of cool, still singing during those small hours.
Those hours, once small and small, turned noisy as bands began rocking around the clock. And the world was never quite the same. Sinatra and his fellow crooners were no longer relevant as they once were, when romance was still a slow dance in the moonlight. Sinatra was known to secretly hate rock & roll, but he kept it to himself. For long enough anyway, play it cool.
There was a point when he talked about rock and roll where he seemed to express serious doubts about the value of new music. Maybe people are being too sensitive or reading too much about it, but many are convinced that Sinatra, a champion songwriter for decades, is openly admitting here not only his genuine displeasure with the state of the popular American song, but his disappointment with the new songwriters of the day.
FRANK SINATRA: This music is the most brutal, ugly, degenerate and vicious form of expression that I have had the displeasure of hearing, and naturally I refer to the essence of rock ‘n’ roll…. It promotes almost totally negative and destructive reactions in young people. It smells fake and fake. It is sung, performed and written mostly by cretins and by means of its almost foolish repetitions and sly, obscene – in fact, dirty – lyrics and, as I said before, it manages to be the music martial of all. delinquent blushed on the face of the earth.
Apparently he didn’t like it very much.
According to his pals, he talked about walking away completely when the Beatles took over, but he didn’t. He tried his hand at it, and his voice, by recording a rock and roll song in the early 1951 rock era, “Castle Rock” by Ervin Drake, J. Shirl and Al Sears. It has a real rock and roll feel, but with lots of lush luster as played by Harry James and the Orchestra.
Imagine replacing all the horns with electric guitars, and replacing Harry James’ trumpet solo with an electric guitar solo. If you did that, it would sound a lot like real rock and roll. But with Sinatra singing. Let’s face it. Man does not swing, he swings.
Other songs from the era he cut included the Lennon & McCartney song which he said was his favorite, “Something”. What George Harrison wrote, of course. (Close enough – same band.)
Frank was famous for changing the lyrics, which would work with those Sammy Cahn words and make Sammy laugh at the time. With “Something”, except its addition of a fiery “Jack“He is quite restrained.
With “Mrs. Robinson”, however, by Paul Simon, he obviously felt that the lyrics were good, but that more was needed. Much more. Which I’m sure made Simon happy, as did the Sinatra’s hip disregard for the rhyme scheme or those old-fashioned preoccupations, he removed Dimaggio, whoever he was, from the song and added his own character.
In 1970, he made Waterville, a complete cycle of hip songs from the era, all written by Bob Gaudio & Jake Holmes, including the title track.
Also included is a record that seems to have answered all questions about this fusion of generations, Sonny Bono’s romantically deadly “Bang, Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down”). Frank wears this one like an old 30s suit. And he’s styling.