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Feb 06

FRANK AND NANCY SINATRA – “Something Stupid”

Popular31 comments • 9,583 views

#231, 15th April 1967

The sort of song “Something Stupid” is depends very much on who’s singing it. Sung as a solo it’s a more bitter than sweet dispatch from that relationship relegation zone known as the ‘long game’, the limbos between friendship and more, or between casual and serious. Sung as a duet – each partner trading lines – it’s a light comedy of misunderstanding, an are-we-aren’t-we pas de deux.

And this? This is neither. It’s a duet in the most unequal sense, a Frank Sinatra song with his daughter treading gingerly and exactly in his footprints, a ghost on the fringes of the record. Frank takes the lead in the phrasing (and sounds professional, if not heartfelt) and what, exactly, is Nancy doing here? It’s especially odd given what a charismatic presence she could be on her own singles. The first time I play the song her dutiful background lilt sounded strange, on repeated listens it’s actively irritating: a distraction to a song which could have been charming.

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Comments

  1. 1
    Tom on 28 Feb 2006 #

    I’m totally ignoring the father/daughter thing, even though it was why the record sold a grillian copies, because I couldn’t think of anything very insightful to say about it, and because it didn’t really impact on my reaction to the song – other than to think that probably two such mismatched voices wouldn’t have been squashed together otherwise.

  2. 2
    p^nk s on 28 Feb 2006 #

    or if they were there wd have been some kind of “chemistry” going on — cf er aqua (except i’m sure there are better examples)

    (but the “mismatch” in aqua is like an ultra-pervy sexualised cartoon)

  3. 3
    Anonymous on 28 Feb 2006 #

    (derived from nancy and lee)

  4. 4
    p^nk s on 28 Feb 2006 #

    hazlewood? yes good call

    (tho to be honest i wd be surprised if there were novelty cylinders right back to the 1890s playing on the sexual mismatch idea)

  5. 5
    Anonymous on 28 Feb 2006 #

    So if Lennon had finished Strawberry Fields Forever in time for Xmas ’66, and it had gone to number one instead of Green, Green Grass Of Home, does that mean that Some Velvet Morning would now have been number one instead of Something Stupid?

  6. 6
    Tom on 28 Feb 2006 #

    Given that Green Green Grass sold well over a million records, I think it would have kept PL/SFF off the top – it might have meant that Engelbert got to duet with the Art of Noise and her from Catatonia though.

  7. 7
    Anonymous on 28 Feb 2006 #

    Wasn’t “Lesbian Seagull” punishment enough?

  8. 8
    Joe Williams on 28 Feb 2006 #

    I never understood this song as a duet. It doesn’t make any sense that way, right from the first line, no matter who the pair are. It is quite clearly, for me, a song for a solo male singer. But I’ve never heard it done that way – there are dozens of versions so I guess it’s been done solo many times, but I’ve only ever heard the duets.

  9. 9
    Joe Williams on 28 Feb 2006 #

    By the way, on a small point of accuracy, the title is usually written “Somethin’ Stupid”.

  10. 10
    p^nk s on 28 Feb 2006 #

    LESBIAN SEAGULL IS AWESOME d00d

  11. 11
    Anonymous on 28 Feb 2006 #

    you and your pesky gleeful pluralism sinker!

  12. 12
    Steve Mannion on 28 Feb 2006 #

    embarassingly, until now, i had always assumed Nancy was his wife (having never really seen her or anything).

  13. 13
    Pete Baran on 28 Feb 2006 #

    I just like the idea that Steve though he had just one wife.

    At the time of Something Stupid he was with Mia Farrow yes? Pre Rosemary’s Baby. Which you can consider a meditation on giving birth to a “Boots Are Made For Walking Nancy” (Lee Hazlewood as very badly made up devil).

  14. 14
    Anonymous on 28 Feb 2006 #

    I suppose we ought to be grateful that Mia Farrow and Woody Allen never did a cover version…

  15. 15
    p^nk s on 28 Feb 2006 #

    a trad jazz version! *pluralist glee achieves actively dangerous levels*

  16. 16
    Anonymous on 28 Feb 2006 #

    well frank’s diction on the song is so poor that for many years i thought “and then i go and spoil it all” was “and then i go on Spotty Dog” which really would be “Somethin’ Stupid”!

  17. 17
    Anonymous on 28 Feb 2006 #

    Doctor Mod says:

    I’ve always thought the title said it all. If only they’d figured out how to sing in harmony with each other (they’ve always sounded slightly drunk to me), it would have sounded most incestuous.

    (and, to continue the off-topic stream of consciousness here, I’ve actually been to Anacapa Island, home of the Lesbian Seagulls!)

  18. 18
    Mark Gamon on 1 Mar 2006 #

    I always liked the fact that Frank sang the high harmony and Nancy the low. As I remember – it’s a long time since I actually bothered to listen to it…

  19. 19
    Chris Brown on 1 Mar 2006 #

    I suppose the idea of the duet thing is meant to be some sort of irony – about both parties feeling that they’re the one who messed it up. Or not.

    You know, I don’t really like this record but you have to say it looks like a work of true genius compared to any other version I’ve heard. Presumably everyone who’s recorded it since has done it as a duet in the hope of emulating the success of this one. I don’t want to “spoil” future content here, but one very bad version I’d like to single out is the one by Ali & Kibibi Campbell – not only was it another daddy/daughter duet but Kibibi was an actual child at the time, for maximum creepiness. What were they thinking?

    By the way, Frank’s first wife was called Nancy, but the famous Nancy is of course her daughter.

  20. 20
    Anthony on 7 Mar 2006 #

    i think this is another in the long list of american culture that states male-female, heterosexual paedophilia is to be encouraged, while male-male homosexual paedophillia is the biggest taboo available.

  21. 21
    Tom on 7 Mar 2006 #

    Was Nancy underage at this point? Surely not.

  22. 22
    Anthony on 8 Mar 2006 #

    she might not have been underage, but there is a sort of creepy implication of it

  23. 23
    Anonymous on 14 Apr 2006 #

    personally i think that the worst cover of this song was Nicole Kidman and Robbie Williams’s version, however i think that the child protection services should look into the twisted mind of Ali Campbell for recording a song like this with a six year old, incest?

  24. 24
    hannah campbell on 19 Jul 2006 #

    Or they just liked the song, and as they are father and daughter and have a purely familial bond, they never considered these incestual implications.

  25. 25
    richard thompson on 20 Jun 2008 #

    Frank recorded it on his own at first and Nancys voice was added later, presumably he couldn’t get another female vocalist to do the duet.

  26. 26
    wichita lineman on 20 Jun 2008 #

    Which means that Joe’s instincts, way back at no. 8, were correct. Works much better as a song of niggling self-doubt rather than a boozy, woozy duet. Is Frank’s solo version available anywhere?

  27. 27
    Mark M on 27 Feb 2009 #

    OK folks: is Connie a nut? A would-be satirist? Or simply somebody who can’t manage to read a basic biography?

  28. 28
    vildechaye on 11 Sep 2009 #

    I think it’s sweet, and I’d like to sing it with my own daughter one day. this reminds me of everybody finding pervie meaning to Gilbert O’Sullivan’s Claire, which was totally sweet and innocent.

  29. 29
    crag on 14 Apr 2011 #

    DESERT ISLAND DISCS WATCH:

    Hugh Grant,actor (1995).

  30. 30
    wichitalineman on 24 Feb 2015 #

    A 60s Sinatra piece in the new Record Collector has this down as Lee Hazlewood’s idea, suggesting it was a duet from the start. Which answers no one’s questions upthread about incest or drunkenness but might partly explain why it’s only been done as a duet since.

  31. 31
    lonepilgrim on 18 Apr 2016 #

    the use of two singers make little sense – is it meant to be ironic that both of them harbour romantic feelings and fail to realise that the other feels the same way? Or is the father/daughter pairing meant to suggest a sense of recurring misreading of romantic relationships from one generation to the next? The lyrics and delivery offer no clear answer

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