A 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.