Wednesday, November 10, 2010

#225: Fly Me To The Moon

Francis Albert Sinatra, or Mr Sinatra to you, you ignorant peasant, toured this country numerous times in the 20th century. According to Rockin’ Robin, who knows more about Sinatra than you ever will, Mr S hit our shores in 1955 and 1959, 1974 and then another three times in the 1980s/1990s, including the great show that he did for an obscene amount of Christopher Skases’ (stockholders) money. The insanity surrounding that one show that was perfectly captured by Clive James in both a great article and a television special.

All that anyone seems to remember is the ill-fated 1974 tour where Sinatra decided to abuse the paparazzi that were waiting for him when he touched down. It’s a common ploy for many Lunchtime O’Boozes to bail up people as soon as they get off the planes and ask them how they’re enjoying the country (the standard reply, “I dunno, I just got here.”) or by merely insulting them. Of all people, Barry Manilow nearly cancelled an Adelaide date in the 1990s after one peanut with a microphone asked him if he knew any big nose jokes. No “Hello Barry,” just “Hey, big nose!” And the media wonders why people throw phones at their heads.

By all accounts Sinatra was genuinely pleased to be touring in the 1950s, and loved the country. He formed a relationship with Lee Gordon that was strong enough for Sinatra to act as Gordon’s best man when he got married in 1961 (what a swinging bachelor party that’d have been – ring-a-ding-ding!) and he recorded an album here in 1959, titled Frank Sinatra with the Red Norvo Quintet: Live in Australia, 1959, it was finally released in April, 1997 on the Blue Note label. Go and track it down, it’s Sinatra at his best, and most relaxed. He let loose and turned in a performance that still stands the test of time.

Sadly Sinatra returned 15 years later in 1974 and that’s when things went tits up. As Sinatra said on stage in New York later, “A funny thing happened in Australia; I made a mistake and got off the plane.” What went wrong? Well, Sinatra was right; he made a mistake and got off the plane. The tour wasn’t promoted well in the first place, Lee Gordon was long dead. Someone stuffed up when the plane landed and, in an unforgivable error, nobody was waiting to pick him up. Sinatra had one of his men borrow a car off they went – however the media knew when he was coming and were waiting. As such they hounded him until he took off and published the angry reaction shots in the afternoon papers.

It got worse. It rained when he arrived at the venue and, with the Lunchtime O’Boozes in hot pursuit, he had to run across the road only to find the venue locked and nobody handy with a key. Now tell me, do you blame him for telling people to fuck off? I certainly don’t. When he finally got on stage that evening he let loose. The stage was always sacrosanct for Sinatra, it was his own personal domain and he could do anything, or say anything, he wanted to. The trouble was that once Frank was suitable ‘relaxed’, usually with the aid of copious amounts of Jack Daniels, he said whatever came to mind. That night the journo’s chasing him were all bums and the women reporters, including one who deliberately disguised herself as Sinatra’s wife to be Barbara, were all hookers worth a buck and a half.

Then next day the shit well and truly hit the fan. In a typical move the countries newspapers were mortally wounded by the attack on their integrity. Naturally they ignored the fact that they might have had something to do with Sinatra’s mood or comments, so the unions kicked in. Led by Bloody Hell Bob Hawke they refused to refuel his plane, serve him food and also cut off the electricity to his room. A deal was hammered out whereby Sinatra would be forgiven and had to spend the evening listening to a drunken Hawke talking shit (a punishment worse than death). Sinatra emerged to say this his earlier comments, “did not intend any general reflection upon the moral character of working members of the Australian media,” and Hawke allowed the tour to continue, whereby Sinatra promptly pissed off back to the USA. It took around another fifteen years before he’d return, and from then onwards he’d refuse to speak to anyone who even remotely smelled like a journalist.  There's a great documentary to be had in that tour, but the delightfully inaccurate movie, The Night We Called It A Day just isn't it.

Still, for a while Sinatra loved the country and we still have that brilliant record to remember him by.  Now, for your viewing pleasure, here's the complete 1955 tour program, the first time Sinatra toured the country.

Now, sing with me, “Don’t piss on the moon!”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Night We Called It A Day wasn't just disappointing -- how do you miss with such material? And this: "Sadly Sinatra returned 15 years later in 1974..." Don't finish, funny enough as it is. Why is "journalism" such a closed shop? It's not as if there's some innate standard ...