Tag Archives: frank sinatra

“Classic” Scratchbomb: Variety Chronicles Frank Sinatra’s Failed Biker Movie

A few years ago, I put together a series of posts on Frank Sinatra’s failed attempt to make a biker movie, as chronicled by Variety magazine. You see, Ol’ Blue Eyes had seen his daughter Nancy in The Wild Angels and decided to give the biker movie genre a try with all his Rat Pack buddies. The results were not good. You may not remember this because it was a long time ago, and because I completely made it up to amuse myself.

For some reason, these posts recently crawled out from the deep recesses of my mind. It occurred to me that I’d done them so long ago, virtually no one had seen them the first time, and I thought they shouldn’t lay dormant and unseen. They deserved to be seen by barely anybody, at least! So now I present to you this post that collects all the Frank/Hells Angels stuff together in one place. If you missed them the first time around, here’s your chance to miss them all over again!

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Christmas Carol Commentary Tracks: I’ll Be Home For Christmas

Did you know you know that record labels used to release special commentary tracks to play along with 45s, much like the ones available on your modern DVDs? It’s true! This holiday season, Scratchbomb has transcribed some Yuletide examples of this bygone format and presents them to you now for your reading pleasure. Today, the commentary track for “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”

KIM GANNON, LYRICIST: I wrote this song in 1943, from the point of a view of a soldier who is overseas for the holidays and can only be home “in his dreams.” So he imagines snow and mistletoe and other comforting features of a traditional Christmas, while he awaits orders to march straight into the mouth of hell itself. I wrote a lot of songs for our enlisted men back during those years, because I felt trying to cheer them up was the least I could do for them while they were fighting so bravely for all of us. Unfortunately, nobody showed any interest in songs like “The Bullet With Your Name On It,” “Your 4F Best Friend Is Taking Out Your Best Girl,” and “That Next Bomber Mission Will Surely Be Your Last.” That all changed when Bing Crosby took a pass at “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”

BING CROSBY: I couldn’t resist. It had such a beautiful melody, and contained a shocking amount of ironic hopelessness. What can I say? It hit me like a belt whip across the heart.

KIM GANNON, LYRICIST: Needless to say, this changed my life. With my foot in the door, I was finally able to get some of my other compositions recorded. Rosemary Clooney did a fantastic version of “Everyone You Know Will Be Dead Some Day,” and Frank Sinatra did a whole album of my songs called Ol’ Blue Eyes Sings Songs for a Swingin’ Party.

Christmas Carol Commentary Tracks: Let It Snow

Did you know you know that record labels used to release special commentary tracks to play along with 45s, much like the ones available on your modern DVDs? It’s true! This holiday season, Scratchbomb has transcribed some Yuletide examples of this bygone format and presents them to you now for your reading pleasure. Today, the commentary track for “Let It Snow.”

SAMMY CAHN, LYRICIST: One year right around the holidays, I felt like getting away by myself for a while. So I rented a cabin up in the Catskills, far away from everything, the nearest town 12 miles down the road. I planned to relax, commune with nature, and reflect.

A few days into my trip, the area got hit by an historic storm, almost three feet of snow overnight. The drifts piled against the front door and all the windows, to the point where all sunlight was blotted out. With temperatures hovering near zero, there was no chance of the stuff melting any time soon. I was, for all intents and purposes, trapped.

I had enough food to last me for a few weeks, but with no natural light coming in and no hope of leaving, I began to receive these strange visions. They were simple, primitive, like cave drawings. I felt like they came from some deep, primal part of my brain that I’d never been able to tap into before.

After five days, the visions grew more persistent, and terrifying. I decided I had to get out somehow, or else risk losing my sanity. I found an old rusty garden trowel and managed to slowly dig a tunnel through the snow piled against one of the windows. I emerged to find a world enveloped in whiteness, devoid of any signs of humanity, as if all traces of us had been erased.

Finally free, and not knowing when I’d be able to get home, I took off for the forest to gather up some firewood and see if I could find any other people. The sun was setting, and before I knew it, I was deep in a dark forest, enveloped in eerie quiet, with only the light of the moon glinting through the branches.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, I heard a bone-chilling snarl. I barely had time to react and wonder what it was before I found myself face to face with a ravenous wolf. It pounced from the darkness and bared its fearsome fangs, intent on ripping out my throat. I could feel deeply buried instincts kick in, a strength I never knew I had, and I grappled with that wolf with all my might, knowing that to lose would mean my life.

We struggled for what seemed like hours. At times, I wanted to give up, but something within in me would not allow it. Finally, the wolf let go of me and collapsed to the snowy forest floor, completely exhausted. I did the same, and the world went black.

I was rescued two days later. When I awoke in the hospital, I did not recognize the man who stared back at me in the mirror. Bearded, grizzled, witness to a mighty struggle, I was forever changed. I asked the doctor what became of the wolf I fought with. “Wolf?” he replied, giving me an odd look. “There was no wolf. There haven’t been wolves in those mountains since, oh, caveman times, I’d say.”

I poured the whole experience into a set of lyrics, leaving my very soul upon the page, in a song I was sure would change the world as much as the writings of Jack London, or Ernest Hemingway. I captured the struggle between the modern and the primeval, how in each one of us there is a warrior waiting to burst forth and frighten us with its savagery.

Then Frank Sinatra wanted to record it and paid me a couple C-notes to “cute up that balloon juice.” Asshole.

Holiday Horrors: Marshmallow World

Continuing the fabled tradition begun all the way back in 2009, Scratchbomb presents Holiday Horrors and Holiday Triumphs: an advent calendar of some of the more hideous aspects of this most stressful time of year–with a few bits of awesomeness sprinkled in.

“Marshmallow World” is one of those marginal Christmas-y tunes that inexplicably remains at the fringes of the Yuletide canon. It is not among the top ten most popular holiday tunes, or even the top 100. But you are guaranteed to hear it at least once a year over a PA system if you dare go shopping in an actual brick-and-mortar store. It survives for the same reason that shows like According to Jim remain on the air for so long: nobody loves it, but nobody hates it, either.

They say you shouldn’t go food shopping when you’re hungry. You probably shouldn’t write lyrics when you’re hungry, either. That’s the only explanation I have for verses like this:

It’s a marshmallow world in the winter,
When the snow comes to cover the ground.
It’s the time for play, it’s a whipped cream day,
I wait for it the whole year round!

Those are marshmallow clouds being friendly,
In the arms of the evergreen trees;
And the sun is red like a pumpkin head,
It’s shining so your nose won’t freeze!

It should be a songwriter rule that if you start to write lyrics like this, just get up from the piano, take a stroll, and go get a sandwich. If you don’t, you might start composing love songs about pot roast.

These words weren’t written by a hack, either. They’re the work of Carl Sigman, a lyricist who worked with composers like Duke Ellington and wrote tons of songs. He wrote the lyrics to “Ebb Tide,” which are simple yet gorgeous. (It’s most famous as done by the Righteous Brothers, but I’m partial to Frank Sinatra’s version.) But even a skilled craftsman can have an off day. Or a gotta-bang-this-out-before-I-get-lunch day.

But if nothing else, “Marshmallow World” is partially responsible for this hilarious clip from a Dean Martin special from the 1960s. Dino and his buddy Frank stomp down a flight of plastic stairs, almost run each other over in the process, then sing the song with all the care it deserves. Which is to say, they yell-sing it and flit around in mock-balletic moves, clearly annoyed that they have to perform this dumb song about marshmallows.

Oh, and did I mention they’re very obviously smashed? Enjoy!