Start Walkin’ 1965-1976
Light In The Attic
Nancy Sinatra had it easy – she was Frank’s daughter, born into a world of privilege and instant adoration. But Nancy Sinatra also had it tough – very tough. You see she was Frank’s daughter. Born into a world of expectation and impossible standards, always the kid, never the main attraction, how could her star rise as high? Painted, also, as dependent on men – in an industry that still works (mostly) that way, but back then seemed to be about the pairing of Nancy with songwriters (Lee Hazlewood, Mac Davis) and other men that were – apparently – the real brains…
She’s been anthologized before – but never as well as right here. The excellent curatorial/reissue label Light In The Attic generally delight with their finds, obscure gems, totally forgotten periods, compilations of sub-genres you’ve never heard of but instantly love by sound and perfectly compiled hits collections that tell stories. With Start Walkin’ we get Nancy’s story – we get the story of her in the decade where she mattered most, across the mid-60s and until the mid-70s.
So, fuck the cutesy duets with dad and also never mind the co-signing of Nancy & Lee, this is all about Nancy. Which means we still get most of the great Hazlewood productions and songs – but we get to hear them through the prism of this being part of Nancy’s overall oeuvre. That’s important legacy stuff; my favourite Nancy Sinatra compilation prior to this was a Nancy & Lee one, the songs were brilliant – of course – but the story it told was that Lee Hazlewood was a genius and Nancy had the right name and was in the right place at the right time. The story this compilation here tells is that Nancy was a great singer, a brilliant performer, a sublime song-interpreter, there are single line-readings (“You keep lying, when you ought to be truthing”) that she maybe never got the credit for, certainly not the credit she deserves.
There are also monster hits. Strange songs that are brilliant forever – Bang Bang and These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ is the opening one-two punch. The former a template for bruised torch-balladry, blueprint for Lana Del Rey, the softer side of Sonic Youth and so many others. The latter just a killer bassline and hook with the aforementioned perfect line-reading and the very perfect version of sass that drives it; a hipster song for that exact moment in time that now hangs on, transcendent arguably.
Then the real run of “Nancy & Lee” – Some Velvet Morning being another template, the Cave and Kylie Murder Ballad is the retread, this is the path carved first. Sugar Town and So Long Babe, brilliant balladry, the yearning in Friday’s Child, the Bond theme You Only Live Twice, resplendent, again transcendent, one of the very few Bond themes to stand up and go out and be its own song.
Things got super country when they needed to (Jackson) and super pop too (Happy) and the constant thread was a singer that believed ever word she sang; it matters not who writes the song – it’s about who believes it. You only believe it if the singer instills that faith.
I’ve loved Nancy Sinatra’s voice – and her songs – since my mum first played me those duets with Frank and of course These Boots Are Made For Walkin. I remember, my first question, “So is she a bigger star than her dad?” I’m not saying she should be – but this compilation is the first to remind us that she really was. And for all that she was she maybe should have been an even bigger star. A late-career return to music (a, um, ‘re-boot’) saw her release quality music once again. But the real magic is in this decade, the real story is right here.
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