Kategorisert | Jazz | Musikk | Pop | Song Story | Swing

I’ve Got You Under My Skin – Frank Sinatra

“He moved into a lyric like it was his house!”

I’ve Got You Under My Skin – Frank Sinatra

Capitol (USA/UK) Not released as a single / Island CID 578* (UK)

Recorded at Capitol Studios, Los Angeles

Album Songs For Swingin’ Lovers! released May 1956

Writer Cole Porter

Producer Voyle Gilmore    Arranged & Conducted by Nelson Riddle

Album reached #12 on UK singles chart 7/56

*Updated version from Duets album with Bono of U2 reached UK #4  12/93

Born in Hoboken, New Jersey, on 12th December 1915, Francis Albert Sinatra was probably the finest popular vocalist, and certainly the best vocal interpreter of 20th century popular song. Signed by bandleader Harry James in June 1939 he made his first gramophone recording with James’ band while earning $65 per week. James apparently wanted Sinatra to change his name to “Frankie Satin” but Sinatra’s mother told her son in no uncertain terms just what Harry James could do with that idea! Later that year Tommy Dorsey upped the ante, offering Sinatra $100 a week to sing with his band, and James agreed to release Sinatra from his contract. (There have always been rumours that James was “persuaded” to release Sinatra from this 2-year contract by the singer’s alleged mafia associates.) It was with Tommy Dorsey that Frank Sinatra found fame and fortune, and one of his first recordings with the band, ‘I’ll Never Smile Again’, became a huge hit rising to #1 on the very first Billboard Top 10 published on the 20th of July 1940. He soon became a teen idol, enjoying the adulation of the so called “bobbysoxers” – screaming girl fans (at first paid for their exertions), later generations of whom would scream for Elvis in the 1950s and the Beatles in the 1960s. (Sinatra didn’t have a good word to say about rock’n’roll when it arrived in the mid-1950s and never recorded any material of the genre, though he did record a cash-in ‘Twist’ number, ‘Everybody’s Twistin’ in 1962 – it wasn’t a hit)

Signing with Columbia Records in 1943, Sinatra stayed with the label until 1953, by which time it seemed his star had fallen. Sales were so poor he left the label owing them money, good film parts were no longer forthcoming, and his booking agent had dropped him. Though many of Sinatra’s problems were due to difficulties in his private life, particularly his intense relationship with actress Ava Gardner, he fought one of his hardest career battles in 1953 winning the part as Maggio in the movie From Here To Eternity. This achievement was later fictionalised in the famous “horses-head” sequence in the Godfather movie, though all involved have always rigorously denied that Sinatra got the part due to any outside “pressure”. Having won the role, Sinatra delivered the performance of a lifetime which won him an Oscar® and effectively resurrected his career. At the same time, he managed to get a new contract with Capitol Records, though most of the company’s executives were so anti-Sinatra that he was at first forced to agree to pay his own recording and arrangement expenses.

Frank Sinatra’s years with Capitol were undoubtedly the most productive and successful of his career. Under the supervision of superb arrangers such as Nelson Riddle and Billy May, Sinatra recorded a series of classic concept albums, combining Broadway and Hollywood standards from writers such as Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin and Rodgers and Hart with custom-written material by the top writers of the 1950s, Sammy Cahn, Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Mercer. This was the first imaginative use of the new long-playing ‘album’ format, albums having previously been a collection of 78 rpm recordings. Nelson Riddle swiftly became the most in demand arranger of the period, and of Sinatra’s vocal interpretations Sammy Cahn said, “He moved into a lyric like it was his house!” Of the 19 albums he made for Capitol between 1954 and 1962 nearly all made the top 10 of Billboard’s album chart. In 1961 Sinatra set up his own record label, Reprise, and enjoyed continuing chart success throughout the 1960s.

Particular mention should be made of Sammy Cahn, one of the greatest all-time lyricists (or “lyrist” as he preferred to call himself) of the 20th Century. Writing with Saul Chaplin, Jules Stine and ultimately Jimmy Van Heusen, he wrote countless standards, was particular never to use a title that had already been registered and could find a rhyme for just about anything. The quality of his work is apparent by the fact that Sinatra recorded no less than 87 of his lyrics and Cahn and Van Heusen were virtually on permanent standby during Sinatra’s golden Capitol years. In Paul Zollo’s excellent book Songwriters On Songwriting (Da Capo Press, 1997) Cahn spoke of the duo’s relationship with Sinatra. “If we finish a song in the morning, he gets it in the afternoon – seriously.” Cahn had a stock answer to the standard interviewer’s question, “Which comes first, the words or the music?” As a professional songwriter who wrote to order his answer was, “The ‘phone call.”

Though latter-day Sinatra fans often cite ‘My Way’ (a song he hated) and ‘New York, New York’ as their favourites, there’s no doubt that Ol’ Blue Eyes’ voice had lost some of its qualitative timbre by the late 1960s, and the Capitol recordings from 1954 to 1962 feature him in his vocal prime. Sinatra experts rate ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’ as his finest performance. Recorded under the guiding baton of Nelson Riddle on the 12th of January 1956 (just 2 days after Elvis had recorded ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ in Nashville), the song was included on the album Songs For Swingin’ Lovers! a collection many still consider to be Sinatra’s very best. In a period when album sales were considerably smaller than they are today, the album sold so well in Britain that it reached #12 on the singles chart and was also the first Number 1 album on the first British album chart published in July 1956 by Record Mirror. A Cole Porter standard written for the 1936 MGM musical Born To Dance, Sinatra only decided to record the song a day before the recording session, and the diligent Riddle was forced to spend most of the night writing his arrangement for orchestra. Following the recording session the next day, the entire orchestra rose in spontaneous applause, acknowledging the creation of a masterpiece. Perhaps the finest accolade of Frank Sinatra’s talent came from his own idol, Bing Crosby, who remarked: “Frank Sinatra is the kind of singer who comes along once in a lifetime. But why did it have to be in my lifetime?”


Copyright © 2017 SongStories/Tony Burton

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