Those lists of tips for writing a good blog invariably stress the importance of provocative titles. I had half a mind to entitle this post “If you’re not bisexual now, you will be once you’ve seen this video clip” but that would have been silly. The clip in question, though, does feature two breathtakingly attractive creatures. Frank Sinatra here shows that insouciance, that devilish masculinity with just a hint of vulnerability that blew the socks off the bobbysoxers. His duet partner is the beautiful Dinah Shore, all grace and feminine dignity but relaxed enough to laugh delightedly at her partner’s impromptu gags. Forgive my gender stereotyping: this clip was of its time. I offer it here because it is, quite simple, joyous. It makes me happy, not least because both singers are technically unimpeachable. Sinatra, in particular, in between his clowning, is in marvellous voice. He and Shore rattle through a medley of standards and the only criticism I can offer is that one could wish that it went on longer.
They round off the medley with Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer’s You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby, which is a wonderfully catchy number. One of my favourite renditions of this song is from 1961. Bobby Darin’s is an appealingly louche performance.
The arrangement is a delight: those grunting horns and the twangy electric guitar. Darin’s producers on this occasion were Jerry Wexler and Ahmet Ertegun, who worked closely with Darin for a number of years.
To many people these days, Frank Zappa is remembered primarily for giving strenuously peculiar names to his children. This is a shame, for Zappa was one of the most challenging musicians of the latter part of the twentieth century. One of Zappa’s sons was given the name Ahmet (which at the time might well have been thought peculiar, though these days the name is far more common in the West) after the very Ahmet Ertegun who produced Darin, and, indeed, championed Zappa.
In some of Zappa’s early records there are reminiscences of that Ertegun-produced sound world that can be heard in some of Darin’s records, and others of the period: the twangy guitar in particular. The similarities are fairly superficial, to be sure: Zappa was too much his own man for it to be otherwise. But it is there, nonetheless, particularly in the first album Freak Out and the later Ruben and the Jets.
I’ve picked this track as an example. It’s not the best illustration for the point I’ve been making (away to youtube with you) but this song makes me laugh. All together now: I wanna hear Caravan with a drum solo.