Friday, July 20, 2007

Sinatra's Watertown Finally Gets Some Due


The newest Mojo (issue 165 with The Police on the cover) has a huge article detailing Frank Sinatra's massively underrated period on Reprise records in the Sixties. While I haven't had a chance to read the article I was interested in their listing of his key tracks from that often overlooked period.
I suspected the list would have the usual suspects like IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR and SUMMER WIND but I was surprised and happy to see that Fred Dellar and Andrew Male had been savvy enough to include such treasures as THIS TOWN and A MAN ALONE'S lovely LONESOME CITIES. I was extremely happy though to see them paying tribute to the astonishing FOR A WHILE from my favorite Sinatra album, WATERTOWN.
The first album that I ever wrote about on this blog was WATERTOWN and this small mention in Mojo, where they call it "a brave, contemporary concept LP", is one of the first times that a mainstream publication has gone out of their way to praise this much maligned and misunderstood album.
I went back and re-read the piece I wrote on the album and was struck by how different it was to anything else I have written here so I thought I would reprint it for any that might be interested. I will be doing a proper look at the album eventually as I think it is one of the most overlooked in popular music. As Lou Reed is touring his very similar BERLIN record right now, the time for WATERTOWN to resurface seems right.

Here is my slightly re-edited original look at WATERTOWN for anyone interested.
...
Dust Off Those Grooves (Chapter One)

It's 1970 and Frank Sinatra has had enough. He's spent the last few years attempting to deal with the youth culture that has overtaken him and he is exhausted. The albums that he gave his all to like A MAN ALONE and the Jobim collaboration were relative commercial failures and he's watched some of the worst shit he's ever recorded find acceptance. Within a few short years he's gone from being the coolest man on the planet to appearing with The Fifth Dimension wearing love beads. He's had it and the world's had him. Retiring seems the only logical thing to do, step back and let all of this just pass him by until the world catches up again.
He has one final statement though, one final glance through that wall of isolation that he had visited time and time again. He had created the concept album when The Beatles and Pete Townshend were still getting their chins wiped by their parents. One more album pallie and let them all burn, their pinball wizards and lovely meter maids never meant anything to him. His was a world of pain, isolation and separation. He'll make an album about the new modern obsession, divorce, and if it fails then all the more fitting as he stopped caring long before.
He gets Gaudio and Holmes to write it, hell he might even make a TV show out of it and really stick it too them. He'll play a father and husband abandoned by his wife and left to take care of his sons alone. The album will trace this dissolve and it'll be a broken man he'll leave for us to find. No Ring a Ding, no Rat Pack, No more Chairman, that's all behind him and he knows it.
He steps into Columbia Studios with a sore throat from a cold and a weary heart from a cold world, and lays down 11 of the most gut wrenching powerful performances of his career, of any ones career. Take that he thinks as he leaves, the lights dimming behind him as the master tapes continue rolling.
The record fails, it fails big time, and he slips away into his memories and ours. He will make more records later, some good, some not, but he'll never make another statement like WATERTOWN. He'll never chronicle pain and what it is to be alone, really alone, again.
He closes out his career pissed and pissing it away surrounded by whatever trendy 'artist' he's grouped with but always in a separate booth, in a separate town because he never forgot that it was separation that he truly knew. It was separation that he embraced and WATERTOWN was his true last statement, his Waterloo and the last time he would raise his middle finger to a world that had forgotten just how much they needed him.
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8 comments:

Rogue Spy 007 said...

This is an album I've always wanted to own, but don't have a copy of it. My grandmother had this record when I was growing up. She always listened to it when she felt down and depressed. You really felt Sinatra's pain, anguish, etc. in these songs. This was a time of turmoil for Frank. He sang his guts out on this record. It's some powerful music. It's a shame it wasn't more well received. There's not many that can belt a song like Frank can. Great review!

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks Keith,
I really love this album and wish more people knew about it...hopefully one day it will get a good reissue and get the credit it deserves...thanks for commenting

Richard Gibson said...

Interesting, Testify recommended this to me, he's also a huge fan of this album. Take a look at his blog:

http://testifyse15.blogspot.com/

I get Mojo but what on earth were they thinking of; The Police and Genesis...

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks Richard for the comment and link..I love seeing the album has other fans, I will be sure to check it out...

Paul 'Fuzz' Lowman said...

I'm a pretty crazed Watertown fan, and really enjoyed reading your post. I've just posted a stupidly long analysis of the album at http://www.electricroulette.com/2008/09/frank-sinatra-w.html, which you might fancy taking a glance at. Always nice to meet a fellow enthusiast.

Andrew said...

Thanks (from Fred and myself) for the kind words. Watertown truly is a weary masterpiece. Do you also know (of course you do) his last truly great album and another classic of defeat, 1981's She Shot Me Down? Chris ingham wrote a great piece on it in MOJO 179.

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks Andrew for the comments. It was so great to find I wasn't the only fan of this magnificent album.
Yes, She Shot Me Down is another favorite and I greatly enjoyed Mojo's welcome piece on it...thanks again.

johnrbrown said...

For more information on the Watertown album, go to www.watertownology.com