Saturday, November 3, 2007
In last week's (sorry, I've been out of town) New York Times Book Review, whilst reviewing Pattie Boyd's memoir, Wonderful Tonight, Stephanie Zacharek brings up the old chestnut of how Frank Sinatra called George Harrison's "Something" the greatest love song of all time. (That's what Zacharek says; the way I heard it is that Frank called it the greatest love song of the past 50 years.) The only way I can rationally deal with this assertion is to assume that Frank was having a bit of a laugh on us. I certainly wouldn't include "Something" as one of the fifty greatest love songs of the last 50 years, and I love the Beatles, whereas Sinatra always considered rock & roll at best a mild irritant.
"Something"? The tune is lovely, and the opening line is pretty striking, but Harrison stole that from James Taylor's "Something in the Way She Moves." And after a while, the lyrics go straight downhill: "You're asking me will my love grow/I don't know, I don't know/You stick around now, it may show/I don't know, I don't know." Is this supposed to be the declaration of a great romance? If it is, could the singer at least act like he hopes maybe his love will grow?
When Sinatra performed this number, he didn't exactly treat it with the reverence one would accord to the greatest love song of whatever period we want it to be from. For one, he would attribute it to Lennon and McCartney, which some people would probably just ascribe to Frank being Frank, but Sinatra had tremendous respect and solid working relationships with many great writers, and not just writers from the past. (He recorded a whole album's full of songs by Rod McKuen, and his hit "There Used to Be a Ballpark" was written by "Sesame Street" scribe Joe Raposo.) If Sinatra really did admire "Something," he would have bothered to find out who wrote it.
Singing it, he would Sinatra-ize the lyrics: I've heard him sing "You stick around, Jack, it may show," coming down hard on the "Jack" like he was Jon Lovitz. That has got to be a put-on.
And finally, come on. Sinatra sang a lot of great love songs: "Night and Day," "I've Got You Under My Skin," "Someone to Watch Over Me," "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square," "I've Got a Crush on You," "Anything Goes"... OK, "Anything Goes" isn't a love song, but it's wonderfully kicky, isn't it? I'm barely scracthing the surface here; I suspect that Frank Sinatra recorded a hundred songs that were better love songs than "Something."
And that Frank knew it.