Monday, 28 December 2015

SINATRA: WE DID IT OUR WAY

FRANK SINATRA at 100, CHANNEL 5, TONIGHT, 9pm
followed by a live recording of Sinatra in concert in New York in 1974.

Frank Sinatra strode out onto the stage at the Royal Albert Hall in September 1980, ambled across to the orchestra stalls where my father Ken Jones and I were seated in the front row, and sang the opening verse of 'Fly Me to the Moon' right into my face. Old Blue Eyes locked with Young Green Eyes, and that was that. It had long been a habit of his, I would discover later, to zoom in on a female in the audience to sing the first song to. I'd grown up on his music, thanks to Dad, and I knew the songs by heart. But everything crystallised in that moment. I've been hooked ever since.
This has been a year of Sinatra tributes, it being the centenary. What could Simon Napier-Bell's new documentary add to praise already heaped? I did wonder myself, when I was invited to take part. But I can't ever say no to Simon.
The cleverest man I know has sleeves heaving with tricks. He never disappoints. Taking the long view back over the crooner's career from a uniquely British viewpoint was a stroke of creative genius. Although Francis Albert was flogged to America through his live performances, movies, recordings, and via relentless press and publicity, whipping up hysteria among the bobbysoxers and guaranteeing him a place in the pantheon, information about him over here during the Fifties and early Sixties was bewilderingly scant. Imagine that today. No way. The result was a British music-loving public intrigued by and hungry for a singer they couldn't get their hands on. Sinatra fan clubs began mushrooming all over the UK long before his records were ever released here. Every import became an instant collectible. 
Those fans stayed loyal for life, tidal-waving to catch him in his acclaimed Royal Albert Hall and Festival Hall concerts. His nod to them? The only Sinatra album ever made outside the US was recorded here. 'Sinatra Sings Great Songs from Great Britain' featured gems by the British composers he most admired, including Noel Coward's 'I'll Follow My Secret Heart', Ivor Novello's 'We'll Gather Lilacs in the Spring', and Ross Parker's and Hughie Charles's most enduring war-time rouser for Vera Lynn, 'We'll Meet Again'. The recordings were made in 1962 at CTS Studios in London W2. Only a few days before Sinatra began taping in Bayswater, the Beatles were convening a couple of miles away at Abbey Road, and the world was about to change irrevocably.
Simon's quirky, irreverent, unique documentary, which of course Channel 5 cannot broadcast in its Technicolor entirety, because, well, you know, focuses on the opinions and reminiscences of celebrity fans. Thus, Sir Tim Rice, Alice Cooper, Louis Walsh, boxing promoter Frank Warren, Mark Ellen, Paul Gambaccini et al, et al. We'll find out tonight which of us were left on the cutting-room floor. One for my baby, and one more for the road.

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