So he announced he'd signed Sinatra at the national sales convention in Colorado - and the entire room groaned. What would stop them groaning? Sinatra's longtime arranger Axel Stordahl had been signed to Capitol shortly before Frank was, and, as he had done for the singer's entire solo career, he was at the podium for that first session at Capitol's Melrose Avenue studio in Los Angeles on April 2nd. But the records didn't sell, so for the second session Sinatra was prevailed upon to try something new, and plumped for a brighter, brasher arranger called Billy May.
As we heard a few weeks agoMay was unavailable, so producer Voyle Gilmore found someone to "ghost" the arrangements in the Billy May style. And, when Frank walked in and saw not the luxuriously upholstered Billy May but a rather trimmer conductor, he figured he was getting screwed over yet again.
But the replacement conductor had seen his opportunity. And then, having done his Billy May ghosting, he wrote the two remaining charts Got TheWorld On A String - Billy Daniels - Roaring 20s (Vinyl his own style.
Both were by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler. Merry month of may, sunny skies of blue Clouds have rolled away and the sun peeps through May express Happiness Joy you may define in a thousand ways But a case like mine needs a special phrase To reveal How I feel:. Frank Sinatra was a shrewd judge of verses and, in all the decades he sang the song, he never once felt the urge to sing that introductory set-up.
It's a very delicate verse, tippytoeing around under all that "merry month of May" stuff, so the chorus is a real surprise, a big rangey jolt covering an octave and a fourth in its opening phrase. With distinctive Arlen leaps of a fifth and a sixth throughout the number, it can trip up an inexperienced singer, and indeed can sound as if it were written to be an instrumental. Patrick Williams, LP), Sinatra's conductor on his Nineties Duets project, did a magnificent instrumental version on his album Sinatraland.
You'd almost think it was never intended to have words at all, but, in fact, Ted Koehler was lying on the couch staring at the ceiling while Harold Arlen came up with the tune. Then as was his wont Koehler went away and returned some time later with a complete and very singable lyric. Did he invent that "special phrase" - about having the world on a string? He seems to have done, although Koehler himself suggested these things just fall into your lap: "When they stop dropping out of the skies," he said, "I'm a dead pigeon.
I'm in love It isn't a rhyme Ira Gershwin would have contemplated, but Ted Koehler didn't over-think these things, not in when rainbows and rain-goes were dropping from the skies in abundance for him and Arlen. Even so, this is the pair's greatest rhythm song. The middle is one of those great swingin' releases in which Arlen's tune is basically centered on just one note and nobody cares.
And in any case the accompanimental fills are as much a part of the number as the vocal line:. On the radio, however, Calloway's record of "String" was the first hit version, followed a few months later by Bing Crosby.
It was a breezy optimistic diversion from the depths of the Depression, when many of those who enjoyed the number were simply trying to survive the world, on a shoestring. But like the song says:. Frank Sinatra liked "World On A String" and had been singing it on stage for a year or so, including using it as an opener for his run at the Chez Paree in Chicago.
But it had never sounded like it did in the Melrose Avenue Got TheWorld On A String - Billy Daniels - Roaring 20s (Vinyl on April 30th At the end of the first run-through, Sinatra seemed puzzled. Alan Dell came in from the booth to adjust a microphone or replace a cable or whatever and, as Alan told it to me many years ago, Frank buttonholed him and said, "Hey, who wrote that thing?
Nelson Smock Riddle Jr was half-a-decade younger than Sinatra. He'd taken lessons from the brilliant Bill Finegan, then signed on as trombonist and staff arranger for Charlie Spivak and Tommy Dorsey, and put in some highbrow study with classical guitarist, composer and a Hollywood refugee from Fascist Europe, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. Les Baxter hired him to ghost some charts for him at Capitol, including Nat Cole's "Mona Lisa", and Cole liked it so much Riddle suddenly had a career as a vocal arranger.
Some of the musicians, until that April 30th session, weren't so sure. There wasn't any reason to believe he could really handle the jazz phrasing correctly, because most of what he'd been doing was so square.
Frankie was a pretty little ballad boy, and he could sound aggressive and faintly menacing on rowdy novelties like "Bim Bam Baby", but who's to say this square could swing? When did Bernhart figure Mister Squaresville could groove with the cats after all? Maybe 30 seconds in:. The little spin he puts on "make" lets you know this is the sound he's been waiting for, the sound he was born to sing.
It was hard on Axel Stordahl, who had been by Sinatra's side since the Tommy Dorsey days and had, more than anyone, provided the musical bedrock on which the young singer built his style.
But by Sinatra the man and Sinatra the singer were no longer in sync. Those gorgeous Stordahl string arrangements were for the earnest, tender bow-tie boy who made the bobbysoxers swoon, the shy skinny charmer in the MGM movies who got chased around by the man-eating Betty Garrett while Gene Kelly pursued the glamor dolls. In the Forties, guys didn't really relate to "Swoonatra": He was someone they endured while their LP) squealed.
The bobbysoxers stopped squealing, but Stordahl went on writing charts for that pure, translucent voice, even as it hardened and graveled. Nelson Riddle found a sound for who Sinatra was in finger-snappy, swingin', swaggerin', a little cocksure There were admired records by Lee Wiley and Duke Ellington and so on. Sometimes, even when an arrangement wasn't broke, Frank would fix it, ordering up a new chart for "Lady Is A Tramp" or perking up the intro to "My Kind Of Town" - not so much to keep the song fresh, but to make sure he was.
Yet "World On A String" he never touched and, when Sinatra came to remake it in the Nineties as a duet with a largely superfluous Liza Minnelli, Pat Williams conducted the very same arrangement with which Nelson Riddle had inaugurated the new Sinatra on April 30th Making every place we get to our home, and using the world as our personal playground.
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