45 45s #35 Nancy Sinatra – These boots are made for walkin’ (Reprise, 1965)

Nancy SinatraA piece of vinyl passed down the family line, and – despite it also being something of a piece of kitsch – a song I never tire of hearing.  An enduring piece of kitsch, then, at the very least.  It brings back memories of my twenties in Bristol, when the two LPs made by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood ( ‘the crooner sporting the finest cookieduster in all of history’, as @craftho put it recently) were never far from a couple of friends’ turntables.  Their double act was all born out of this single, with Lee taking on the restoration of Nancy’s flagging career at father Frank’s behest.  I doubt either of them mentioned to the old crooner that Lee’s vocal coaching for ‘These boots are made for walkin’’ amounted to instructing Nancy to ‘sing like a 14-year-old girl who fucks truck-drivers.’

Penned and produced by Hazlewood, the song never lets up.  Nancy stomps into action with a cowgirl strut, while the bass marches in unrelenting spirals.  The brass is understated until the last, when Nancy tells her boots to start walking.  Vengeance is Nancy’s.  Or Lee’s, possibly.  His lyric is a little masterpiece of a short story; but it’s Nancy who gives the song character, who makes it convincing beyond the narrow remit Lee suggested with his vocal coaching.  And that’s why the song took off, and became such a huge hit.

2 responses

  1. I’ve been such a delinquent reader I’m almost sheepish about commenting. I’ve always loved that story about Lee’s instructions to Nancy & I keep it in the same dirty little mental folder where I’m hanging on to Henry Green’s explanation as to how he came up with the idea for ‘Loving’ (http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/4800/the-art-of-fiction-no-22-henry-green).

    I don’t have this on vinyl but that B-side is probably my favorite song of hers. The line “losers with their hands out” is a bit much but it’s very very Sinatra.

    1. You can be as delinquent as you like.

      I remember you mentioning the ‘buttered toast with cunty fingers’ over on your blog at some point. I wish we could see the interviewer’s face as he said it. Neither his inspiration nor Lee’s instruction once encountered are the kind anyone is likely to forget in a hurry.

      And yes, it’s a shame that ‘The city never sleeps…’ lost out to the all-conquering supremacy of ‘These boots…’

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