Some Velvet Morning, by Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra

One of the campiest songs ever, Some Velvet Morning could fit comfortably in any Quentin Tarantino movie. Maybe it will someday. Lee Hazlewood wrote the song for one scene in Nancy Sinatra’s 1967 TV special “Movin with Nancy” and never planned to release it as a single. Luckily he did, otherwise the song which was selected by the Daily Telegraph as the best duet ever would have been buried in obscurity in that TV special. In February of 1968 the song climbed up to no. 26 on Billboard’s Top 100 chart.

The collaboration between Sinatra and Hazlewood produced some of the most memorable hits of the 60s before that TV special. These Boots Were Made for Walkin became a staple of the troops in Vietnam, where Sinatra traveled to perform. Summer Wine was released shortly after, and Jackson, a cover of a country song, was the most successful of their duets. The unlikely match between a psychedelic cowboy and a pop queen, combined with the wonderful arrangements that Billy Strange worked out with the Wrecking Crew musicians, became part of the 60s soundtrack.

Nancy Sinatra in Vietnam

Airman in Saigon Greets a Sinatra

The recording session for Some Velvet Morning took place at Capitol Studio in Los Angeles in the fall of 1967. It was produced by Hazlewood, who took Nancy Sinatra’s career to new heights after daddy Frank asked him to help his daughter, who made floundering attempts at success. His duties included vocal coaching, taking a sharp turn to the lower register with the famously “Sing like a 14-year-old girl who fucks truck drivers”, song writing (the aforementioned These Boots Were Made for Walkin and Summer Wine) and production. Hazlewood was an experienced producer by that point. In the late 50s and early 60s he produced Duane Eddy’s hits with that twangy guitar sound. He had a knack for lush and attention-grabbing moods that were perfect for Sinatra’s new image.

The arranger on the session was Billy Strange who also wrote the magnificent string intro that sets the tone for the whole song, and conducted the orchestra. Unlike many sessions in those days that benefited from overdubs, in this session they recorded the entire song live with the band, the full orchestra and Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra singing all at the same time. The song includes some clever time signature shifts between 4/4 on Lee Hazlewood’s verses and 3/4 on Nancy Sinatra’s angelic parts.

Some Velvet Morning plays perfectly to the sexual mystique that Hazlewood and Sinatra established. Lee aware of this and later said: “We were accused of doing a lot more than just singing, so we decided well, hell, we might as well play it up.” The duet features Hazlewood’s low voice contrasted by Sinatra’s child-like role of Phaedra.

Hazlewood confessed that he does not know what the lyrics mean. “It’s not meant to mean so much. I’’m not a druggie, so it was never to do with that”.” He was inspired by Greek mythology: “I thought they were a lot better than all those fairy tales that came from Germany that had killings and knifings. There was only about seven lines about Phaedra. She had a sad middle, a sad end, and by the time she was 17 she was gone. She was a sad-assed broad, the saddest of all Greek goddesses. So bless her heart, she deserves some notoriety, so I’ll put her in a song.” When Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra toured later in their career she would say on stage: “I’’ve been singing this song for over 20 years and I still don’’t know what the damned thing means”.

Some velvet mornin’ when I’m straight

I’m gonna open up your gate

And maybe tell you ’bout Phaedra

And how she gave me life

And how she made it end

Some velvet mornin’ when I’m straight

 

Flowers growing on a hill, dragonflies and daffodils

Learn from us very much, look at us but do not touch

Phaedra is my name

 

Some velvet mornin’ when I’m straight

I’m gonna open up your gate

And maybe tell you ’bout Phaedra

And how she gave me life

And how she made it end

Some velvet mornin’ when I’m straight

 

Flowers are the things we know, secrets are the things we grow

Learn from us very much, look at us but do not touch

Phaedra is my name

 

Some velvet mornin’ when I’m straight

Flowers growing on a hill

I’m gonna open up your gate

dragonflies and daffodils

And maybe tell you ’bout Phaedra

Learn from us very much

And how she gave me life

look at us but do not touch

 

And how she made it end

Categories: Songs

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4 replies »

  1. Billy Strange is a whole story unto himself. Just found out via Wikipedia that he played pedal steel legend Speedy West in the film Coal Miner’s Daughter.

  2. Everyone who played in the wrecking crew is a story unto him/herself. The amount of sessions they played on, the artists they worked with and the hits they produced is mind blowing. That movie was great, saw it many years ago. Sissy Spacek was so Loretta Lynn, and Levon Helm had a nice part in it as well. Time to see it again.

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