perhaps the most momentous summit meeting in pop music
history, Frank and Elvis sing each other's hits.
big stars showed up on Frank's Timex Show.
Crosby and Dean Martin
performances from Sinatra's 1957-1960 TV shows were
collected in a 2002 PBS special (featuring commentary
by Nancy, Frank Jr., and Tina Sinatra) that's now available
on both DVD
(left) and CD
(right). Another PBS special, called Vintage Sinatra,
airing in 2003 and featuring the singer's solo performances,
has yet to be released.
Sinatra's 1957-58 series was cancelled, he still had two years
to go on his exclusive contract with ABC. He sat out the next
season but came back the following year with a more leisurely
series of four almost bi-monthly specials, this time sponsored
by Timex. Many of the guests - Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Sammy
Davis Jr., Joey Bishop, Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Sinatra - had
appeared on his previous show. And the ever-present Nelson Riddle
was back again as musical director. There were a few new and
notable guests - Lena Horne, Mitzi Gaynor, Peter Lawford, Hermione
Gingold, and Frank's then-girlfriend Juliet Prowse (in two separate
appearances). Even Eleanor Roosevelt showed up. But The Frank
Sinatra Timex Show will always be remembered as the vehicle
for the triumphant return of one of show business's brightest
stars - Mr. Elvis Presley himself.
so-called King of Rock 'n' Roll had just returned from a stint
in the Army, and Sinatra agreed to host a televised homecoming
party for him. Of course, Frank was no fan of Elvis's brand
of music and had had a few choice words to say about it in the
past (see sidebar). But whatever the reason - ratings ploy or
simply to placate his teenage daughter - Sinatra was feeling
gracious enough to invite Presley to join him on his show.
too bad the result wasn't more satisfying. Frank and Elvis both
shine when performing individually. But when they team up for
a duet at show's end, it's a bit of a dud. Someone had come
up with the bright idea that they should sing each other's hits,
but neither is comfortable in the other's genre.
to Nancy Sinatra, who appeared on the same bill, both show biz
legends were nervous. It's obvious from the very beginning,
when Elvis comes out, still dressed in his Army uniform, snapping
his fingers on the first and third beat of each bar - a remarkably
unhip mannerism, even for a rock 'n' roller unfamiliar with
Sinatra's music. (He corrects himself when he returns at the
end of the show.)
whatever the program's musical merits, it was an important event
in pop music history, the only public pairing of two different
generations' biggest teen idols. The other specials have their
highlights - duets with Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Bing Crosby,
and Dean Martin, and Frank soloing on some of his greatest 1950s
hits, to name only a few. The Timex shows still hold up today
as solid entertainment.
vs. Rock 'n' Roll
an oft-quoted remark to a Paris magazine in 1957, Frank
Sinatra declared, "Rock 'n' roll smells phony and
false. It is sung, played and written for the most part
by cretinous goons and by means of its almost imbecilic
reiteration, and sly, lewd, in plain fact, dirty lyrics...it
manages to be the martial music of every sideburned delinquent
on the face of the earth."
there's no reason to doubt that the statement reflected
Sinatra's true feelings, one wonders if, as a show biz
professional, he meant to be so blunt. (Knowing Sinatra,
he probably did.)
was statements like this that forever branded Sinatra
an old fart in the eyes of many rock fans. And it didn't
help his stock with them when he declared Pat
Boone the best of the new generation of singers.
'n' roll deejay and promoter Alan Freed expressed shock
when he heard Sinatra's comments. "He has no business
knocking show business," he said. "It's been
good to him."
the polite southern boy, Elvis Presley was remarkably
forgiving. "I admire the man," he said. "He's
a great success and a fine actor, but I think he shouldn't
have said it. He's mistaken about this. This is a trend,
just the same as he faced when he started years ago. I
consider it the greatest in music."
to Sinatra valet George Jacobs, "Mr. S hated Elvis
so much that he'd sit in the den all by himself at the
music console and listen to every new track over and over,
'Don't Be Cruel,' 'All Shook Up,' 'Teddy Bear.' He was
trying to figure out just what this new stuff was, both
artistically (though he'd never concede it was art) and
culturally (though he'd never concede it was culture).
Why was the public digging this stuff? What did it have?
What was the hook?"
never did figure it out and never came to love the new
music. Rock, on the other hand, came to love him
- or at least respect him.
Bono understood that "Frank never did like rock 'n'
roll. And he's not crazy about guys wearing earrings either,
but hey, he doesn't hold it against me and anyway, the
feeling's not mutual."
Springsteen found in Sinatra "a voice filled with
bad attitude, life, beauty, excitement, a nasty sense
of freedom, (love making) and a sad knowledge of the ways
of the world."
never apologized for his remarks. But in following the
old "My Way" and refusing to compromise, Frank
managed, through the sheer quality of his work, to make
peace with rock by making rock come to him.