Graham Reid | | 1 min read
Frank Sinatra hated Strangers in the Night which he took to the top of the charts, shoving out the Beatles' Paperback Writer in the US.
"He thought it was about two fags in a bar," said Warner-Reprise Records man Joe Smith . . . and sometimes Sinatra would change the lyrcs, as he did at a concert in Jerusalem in '75.
When he introduced it he said, "Here's a song I cannot stand . . . but what the hell" and changed the lyrics to "love was just a glance away, a lonesome pair of pants away".
He'd been in consistent in his dislike of it, right from the moment he saw the sheet music.
As James Kaplan notes in the second part of his exceptional biography of SInatra, "he hated it the minute he heard it".
"I don't want to sing this," Sinatra said to his pal Sarge Weiss who had brought it to him. "It's a piece of shit."
So why would he choose to sing this song with a melody by Bert Kaempfert?
Simple. He needed a hit.
His last number one had been in 1946 and although he sold albums steadly, by the mid Sixties singles were where it was at. And his old pal Dean Martin had cracked the charts -- then cluttered up by British Invasion acts and American pop-rock bands -- with Everybody Loves Somebody.
Strangers in the Night had all the hallmarks of a hit, but Sinatra was actually beaten to it by singer Jack Jones (whom Sinatra liked and whom he said had real potential).
Jones had recorded it -- slightly differently -- and Sinatra's response on hearing about it was, "I don't give a damn if God recorded it, we're gonna do it!"
And he did, adding his scat of "dooby dooby doo" to the ending . . . and then he called Mo Ostin of Reprise to insist the record be released immediately and that acetates be shipped out to the label's promo men around the country.
Jack Jones' version never had a chance.
As Kaplan notes, "It was good to be the king . . ."