A to Z Theme 2016

For my 2016 A to Z theme I used a meme that I ran across on the blog of Bridget Straub who first saw it on the blog of Paula Acton. This meme is a natural for me to use on my memoir blog. It's an A to Z concept and it's about me. No research and nothing complicated. I'm given twenty six questions or topics to discuss that are about me.

In April I kept my posts short and uncomplicated. In the midst of it all you might learn a few things about me that you didn't previously know.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Watertown: Sinatra's Forgotten Album


         My middle school years were spent at Merrillville Junior High in the northwest corner of Indiana.   We moved there in October of 1963 right before John F. Kennedy was assassinated and the Beatles hit the American shores to make modern music history.   I was a socially awkward kid in the transition between my much beloved childhood years and the intimidation of growing into my teen years.   Music was one of the many refuges I had to escape the insecurities brought by growing older.

         Since my earliest childhood I enjoyed listening to the music from my parents' record collection.  They had eclectic tastes that ran from pop, easy listening, classical, early rock, and odd selections such as compilations of bullfight and circus music.   The variety of styles they listened to shaped my own musical tastes so that I had a broad appreciation of all styles of music.

          Having spent her late childhood and early adolescent years during the Bobby Soxer Era of the 1940's when Frank Sinatra was the idol of many young girls, my mother was a Sinatra fan.  There were always some of his records in my parents' collection.   I too became a Sinatra fan and he became one of my favorite artists.

          During my junior high years I don't know how many of the other guys were listening to Sinatra, but I frequently listened to his music on the portable stereo in our family room.   My feelings would turn to romance as I'd listen to his songs about love.   I'd listen carefully to the lyrics of great songs like "Moonlight in Vermont", "I Can't Get Started", or "If I Had You" and occasionally try my hand at writing similar types of lyrics.  For a while I dreamed up a running James Bond type spy story in my head that was inspired by Sinatra songs.  The music of Sinatra fueled my imagination.

          Eventually the rock music of the 1960's won me over and that became my passion. Sinatra songs like "It Was a Very Good Year", "Summer Wind", and "Something Stupid" would continue to show up on the hit charts and I was happy to hear them played on the radio.   My mother continued to buy new Sinatra albums that I would listen to and enjoy.  Then, after I had started college, my mother received an 8-Track of the latest Sinatra album offered by the record club to which she belonged.   The album was Watertown.

          As soon as I began listening to the album I was hooked.   Sinatra's familiar style and phrasing was all there, but there was something striking about the songs.  For one thing the series of songs told a story, not in the way that a musical would, but it was more like reading a book or watching a movie.  They were excellent songs and I liked every one of them.    Watertown became a favorite tape that I listened to often.

           I tried to get some of my friends interested in the music, but none of them were Sinatra fans and the music didn't strike them as much as it did me.   It didn't matter though.  I continued to listen often to the tape until eventually it must have stopped working like 8-Tracks were notorious for doing or maybe it just disappeared.   The music was now etched in my mind and I often replayed the songs as I remembered them in my head.

           Years later I tried to find the album on cassette tape, but it was nowhere to be found.  Watertown never did go over much with the public so it was not in general release.  What was to me one of Sinatra's best albums was among his least popular and faded into obscurity.  It had attained critical acclaim when it was released, but it didn't get many sales so apparently the record company saw little reason to re-release it on newer recording formats.

          While researching my Battle of the Bands post at Tossing It Out I ran across some additional reasons that I liked the Watertown album so much.   This album was Sinatra's experimental foray into a more modern rock influenced sound.  Indeed, he had already recorded some albums that dabbled in rock sounds and popular hits like the Cycles album of 1968.   Besides Watertown being a concept album in the song cycle tradition, the songs were produced and co-written by Bob Gaudio who was one of the main creative forces behind one of my favorite groups in my junior high years--The Four Seasons.  Also on board with song lyric credits was Jake Holmes who wrote the song "Dazed and Confused" which was popularized by Led Zeppelin.

           Though the Watertown album has the fine backing of an orchestra, there is also a greater emphasis on a more rock-sounding ensemble of drums, bass, and guitar, giving the songs a bit more punch than preceding Sinatra albums had.   Later covers of songs from Watertown as recorded by groups like Cake and Bomb Dawg show how adaptable to rock the songs are.  Though not truly rock, Watertown put Sinatra on the cusp of an edgier sound while keeping him in the comfort zone of what he did best.

          Please be sure to visit Tossing It Out to vote for your favorite version of the song "What's Now Is Now" from the great Watertown album.

          What is your favorite Frank Sinatra album?   Do you think Sinatra's music will continue to be appreciated by many in the future?    What were some of your musical faves when you were a kid or teen that most of your peers would have been unlikely to listen to?



  1. I like Summer Wind a lot, but overall not a Sinatra fan. My mom hated him b/c he was a jerk in real life and my dad leaned more towards Dean Martin's music. I got teased a little b/c my fave 80s band was Kajagoogoo of 'Too Shy' fame. I loved their 3 records, both with and w/o Limahl. Still do.

  2. LEE ~

    >>... For a while I dreamed up a running James Bond type spy story in my head that was inspired by Sinatra songs.

    That's interesting because a little known bit of trivia is that Brian Wilson's instrumental title track for the famous Beach Boys album 'PET SOUNDS' was originally conceived by Brian with James Bond in mind. In fact, he originally had 'Pet Sounds' titled 'RUN, JAMES, RUN'.

    >>... What is your favorite Frank Sinatra album? Do you think Sinatra's music will continue to be appreciated by many in the future? What were some of your musical faves when you were a kid or teen that most of your peers would have been unlikely to listen to?

    I'm not a big Sinatra fan but the songs I do like, I like quite a bit. "It Was a Very Good Year", "Summer Wind", and 'Winchester Cathedral' are some of my very favorite Sinatra songs. Favorite album though would have to be 'SONGS FOR SWINGIN' LOVERS!', arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle.

    Yeah, Sinatra's music will always be around and will always have fans in the future.

    Probably the two artists I liked a lot when I was really young, which friends would likely think were really strange and bad were Roger Miller and Louis Prima. My Pa played their albums more than any others, so I literally grew up hearing and enjoying them.

    I'm sure you've read this before, but my Pa used to sometimes wake me up for school by blasting Roger Miller's 'YOU CAN'T ROLLER SKATE IN A BUFFALO HERD' first thing in the morning. That probably played a part in my lifelong weirdness and (often) peculiar sense of humor.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

  3. I had several thoughts running through my head as I read this bit. Did you read LC's post about Taylor Swift and Spotify? Sites like Spotify and Rhapsody and the like are changing how music is being distributed and heard. Reading this, I wondered... Is Watertown available on one of those venues? I don't know the answer, but it might be. It sounds like an album that a person needs to listen to in its entirety to truly appreciate its genius.

  4. JoJo-- I guess if we judged artists by their lives there would be a lot that we would dislike.

    STMcC-- Probably back in the 60's a lot of guys fantasized Bond stories cause that's where the action was. My parents had Prima/Smith albums as well when I was growing up. Miller caught on with me when he came on the scene in about 1964 or so.

    Robin -- I'm not sure about other music sites, but the Watertown album is available by song title or complete album on YouTube. If you like Sinatra and never heard the album I'd suggest going to listen to the album from start to finish since it is like a play with a complete story and dialog. A Google search will turn up a number of interesting links regarding the album including one site solely devoted to the album Watertown. Investigate more about this album as I think you might enjoy it.


  5. I never appreciated Sinatra until I was older. I was a 60's popular music fan-- The Four Seasons, Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, Peter, Paul and Mary, Simon and Garfunkel. It was the groups (of course the Beatles!) that caught my attention. I recently saw the film Jersey Boys. Have you seen it? Amazing!

  6. It's wonderful that you learned such a " broad appreciation of music" from your parents. The fact that Tony Bennett's still going strong after all these years, and even doing duets with Lady Gaga shows that style never goes out of...You get the picture.


  7. I really loved all kinds of music. Grew up with the old country music but of course rock won me over, too!

    And why don't we ever remember Dean Martin?

  8. Karen JG-- Have not yet seen Jersey Boys, but hope to eventually since I was since a fan of the Four Seasons.

    Julie -- Even Sinatra released some "duet" recordings with more recent pop stars in his latter days.

    Teresa- I haven't forgotten Dean Martin--he was among my favorites. I used to watch his TV show almost every week.



Tell your story. Express your thoughts. We want to hear from you. This blog no longer accepts comments from "Anonymous"--That guy is really starting to bug this blog. If you want to leave me a comment then please register if you aren't already--it's easy to do and I really want to hear from you.

Arlee Bird