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‘Your Groovy Self’: Watch Nancy Sinatra do something really amazing (with very little effort)
11:50 am


Elvis Presley
Nancy Sinatra
Lee Hazlewood

Speedway is a typical lightweight Elvis romp from the ‘60s co-starring Nancy Sinatra who plays a sexy IRS agent who comes to audit racecar driver Elvis, whose business manager (Bill Bixby) is an idiot addicted to gambling. She succumbs to the King’s charms, natch. There are songs and even a plucky homeless family living in their car. That’s Speedway‘s plot in a nutshell.

Carl Ballantine from McHale’s Navy and Gale Gordon, best known as Mr. Mooney from The Lucy Show are also part of the cast. One production number, for a song called “He’s Your Uncle, Not Your Dad,” takes place in an IRS office! It’s perfectly dreadful, if entertaining, drivel, but it does have two great numbers in it. Elvis does a rocker called “Let Yourself Go” that was released as a single, but flopped, which is a shame, because it’s one of my own personal very top favorite Elvis tracks. (Glenn Danzig must feel the same way, he recorded a credible cover version in 2007.)

And then Nancy Sinatra performs a swingin’ little number called “Your Groovy Self,” complete with decidedly minimalist mod choreography. It’s also one of her best songs: written and produced by Lee Hazlewood, she’s backed by a brassy configuration of the Wrecking Crew. It’s most certainly one of her best performances on film and the sole track by anyone other than Elvis himself to appear on the soundtrack album to one of his movies.

Two fun facts: First, Speedway was originally written for Sonny and Cher!

Second, take a look at the nightclub: Quentin Tarantino’s set design for Jack Rabbit Slims in Pulp Fiction was inspired by the campy racecar decor of the Hangout, where Speedway’s in-crowd mix.

The plot device that gets Nancy to sing is when Carl Ballantine, the maitre’d of the Hangout shines a spotlight on her, and for some arbitrary Elvis-movie logic, she has to “get up and do something.”

See what she did, after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Cowboy in Sweden’: Watch Lee Hazlewood’s insane Swedish TV special, 1970
08:42 am


Lee Hazlewood

Cowboy in Sweden, the album
Shortly after Lee Hazlewood moved to Sweden at the end of the ‘60s, he collaborated with his friend, director Torbjörn Axelman, on the TV special Cowboy in Sweden; Light in the Attic, the label responsible for the latest round of Lee Hazlewood reissues, says this is one of seven Swedish TV movies the singer and Axelman made together. As on the companion album of the same name, singers Nina Lizell and Suzi Jane Hokom played supporting roles in Lee’s weird fantasies.

Presented as a series of dreams, the movie alternates between absurdist skits and songs given totally incongruous visual settings. While much of Cowboy in Sweden is exactly what you’d picture—Hazlewood on horseback, cigarette dangling from his lips, alone with his doleful thoughts—there’s a whole lot in here you’d be unlikely to imagine on your own. I don’t want to spoil it, so I’ll limit myself to a single example. Punning on the song’s title, Hazlewood sings his lonesome prisoner ballad “Pray Them Bars Away” to a group of polar bears swimming in the blinding Scandinavian sun.

Cowboy in Sweden is also a showcase for a few European bands of the time, whose tunes contrast just as jarringly with the scenery: Rumpelstiltskin mime their upbeat “Knock on My Door” in a junk yard, surrounded by flaming auto wrecks, and Steve Rowland and The Family Dogg lip-sync their miserable “Sympathy” in a very pleasant sculpture garden on a beautiful afternoon. At 36:41, there is a promo film for the George Baker Selection’s “Little Green Bag” (the get-up-out-your-seat song Quentin Tarantino later used for the opening credits of Reservoir Dogs) in which the Dutch soul combo lounges around a table, smoking cigarettes and drinking red wine.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
‘Movin’ with Nancy’: Go-go boots, miniskirts, eyeliner and Nancy Sinatra

Although it certainly can’t hurt when your father owns the record company, Nancy Sinatra wouldn’t have sold millions of records in the 1960s if she wasn’t putting out great pop music. In fact, had Sinatra not met songwriter/producer Lee Hazlewood, she might’ve been dropped, even by Reprise. Nepotism only goes so far (just ask her brother) and Sinatra’s early attempts at the pop charts went nowhere. Hazlewood had her sing in a lower key and tailored her material for a straight-talkin’ sassy “hip” image that was closely associated with go-go boots, eyeliner and miniskirts. Together they had a long string of chart-topping hit records, most sung by Nancy, but still some were duets they recorded together.

1967’s NBC TV special Movin’ With Nancy was produced at the height of Sinatra’s career and featured guest appearances from her father, his pals Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr., as well as an onscreen appearance by Hazlewood. Written by Tom Mankiewicz (who’d go on to the James Bond films and the Superman franchise of the 70s) and directed by Jack Haley Jr. (son of the “Tin Man” actor, one-time husband to Liza Minnelli and future producer of That’s Entertainment!), as far as variety specials went, Movin’ With Nancy was considered quite “different” for its time. For one thing, it’s not shot in a studio, but mostly outdoors, on various locations like a travelogue. The set pieces simply drift from one to the next and each is like a music video. Haley won an Emmy for his directing.

The show was sponsored in its entirety by the Royal Crown Cola company (“It’s the mad, mad, mad, mad cola!” as you will be reminded over and over and over again) and their commercials are in the video below, so we get to see Movin’ With Nancy exactly the way it aired on December 11, 1967. Of special note is the premiere of that classic oddball psych number “Some Velvet Morning,” which made about as much sense then as it does today. If that doesn’t send a special thrill up your leg, I don’t know what would. Also, at the very end of her bit with Sammy? That innocent peck on the cheek was apparently the very first (non-scripted) interracial kiss on network television. This proved to be controversial, but was done spontaneously as Davis was actually saying goodbye to Sinatra in that shot and leaving the set for another job. There wasn’t a second take.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Honey Ltd.: Incredible Lee Hazlewood-produced 60s girl group re-emerges from obscurity
08:20 pm


Lee Hazlewood
Honey Ltd.

In the mid-1980s I went on a real Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood kick and I amassed a pretty good collection of Nancy and Lee-related stuff. (I even acquired a 6 sq ft reproduction of the Nancy in London album cover, which I still own and was, until quite recently, hanging in our kitchen).

Something that I knew about, but was never able to actually lay my hands on in any of my ruthlessly efficient record store haunts back then was the LHI Records (LHI stood for “Lee Hazlewood Industries”) release by Honey Ltd., a quartet of gorgeous Michigan-based co-eds who met at Wayne State University and headed west to Los Angeles seeking fame and fortune. The group’s original name was The Mama Cats, and in my imagination, they sounded like the Mamas sans the Papas, especially considering the likelihood of the same studio musicians, the infamous Wrecking Crew, backing Hazlewood’s girl group as well.

I can’t say that snagging a copy of the rare Honey Ltd. album on LHI Records was some kind of holy grail for me—I’d never heard it, I just knew what they looked like—but at one time I kept an active eye out for it. I had long forgotten about them until I was looking up Lee Hazlewood-related videos the other day on YouTube and lo and behold, there were some Honey Ltd. videos. Not only that, but one of the more recent comments mentioned that the fine people at the mighty Light in the Attic record label had put out a lovingly curated Honey Ltd. package, The Complete LHI Recordings.

Yes, please!

L-R Alexandra Sliwin, Joan Sliwin, Marsha Jo Temmer and Laura Polkinghorne

If the idea of a Lee Hazlewood-produced girl group sounds like it might be a good thing to you, may I suggest acquiring this divinely luminous album of candy-colored sun-drenched Southern California pop vocal harmonies posthaste. It won’t disappoint, but you will feel disappointed that this is all there is. With all of their talent, looks and the PR machinery behind them, Honey Ltd. never made it, and soon found themselves demoted to a Vegas opening act. Their sadly stunted legacy included just eleven completed tracks, a few TV appearances and a 1968 Bob Hope USO tour.

When member Alexandra Sliwin left the group in 1969 to marry singer-songwriter J.D. Souther, Honey Ltd. dissolved and the other three carried on as the country-rock group, Eve.

Sample the sweet-sounding delights of Honey Ltd.

The dark anti-war number “The Warrior” has lyrics like “We must kill more people; strong men are what we need!” and “It’s good.” Something tells me that they probably didn’t sing this particular song during their USO tours with Bob Hope!

“Silk N’ Honey”

“For Your Mind”

A positively astounding version of Laura Nyro’s “Eli’s Coming”

This cover of “Louie, Louie,” with horns arranged by Jack Nitzsche, should be absurd, but it’s fucking brilliant.

“Come Down” on The Jerry Lewis Show in 1968. This is really outstanding. What a pity they broke up after one album.
After the jump, more Honey Ltd.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Lee Hazlewood’s ‘Requiem For An Almost Lady’: The movie
04:17 pm


Lee Hazlewood
Requiem For An Almost Lady

One of several colloborations between Lee Hazlewood and director Torbjörn Axelman, this concept film features all of the songs that appeared on Hazlewood’s album Requiem For An Almost Lady plus some additional tunes. It was made in 1971 for Swedish television.

I’m Glad I Never
If It’s Monday Morning
Won’t You Tell Your Dreams
I’ll Live Yesterdays
Little Miss Sunshine (Little Miss Rain)
Stone Lost Child
Come On Home To Me
Must Have Been Something I Loved
I’d Rather Be Your Enemy

With The Hazlewood Kids: “(Let’s take a walk) Down Valhallavägen.” Sven-Bertil Taube sings the Lee Hazlewood composition “Why do they bother.”

Requiem For An Almost Lady is some kind of melancholic masterpiece, a love letter drenched in Lithium-laced tears. The film’s wintry setting adds to the overall sense of rock bottom heartbreak.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Fascinating 1973 documentary: Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood in Las Vegas
04:09 pm

Pop Culture

Nancy Sinatra
Lee Hazlewood

The 1973 film Nancy & Lee in Las Vegas takes an almost cinéma vérité approach to its subject as it documents the less-than-glamorous grind of playing to casino audiences in Sin City.

It’s showtime and Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood do their damnedest to entertain a distracted Vegas audience, most of whom have likely lost or are about to lose next month’s rent. Despite delivering some fine performances, with terrific backing from the Wrecking Crew (Hal Blaine, Billy Strange and Don Randi), Nancy and Lee just can’t get a rise out of the crowd at the once grand Riviera Hotel and Casino. The vibe is flatter than a glass of day-old champagne.

Having lived in Vegas for a couple of years, I’ve seen shows where two-thirds of the audience are clearly just cooling their heels between long bouts at the slot machines or they’ve gambled away all their cash and are doing their best to get through the night without slitting their wrists - the very definition of a “tough crowd.”
Scenes of Sinatra and her mother venting back stage are remarkably candid and unvarnished, giving us a glimpse into celebrity-hood’s bleaker dimensions. And the vintage footage of the Strip is way cool.

Songs performed include “Did You Ever,” “Arkansas Coal,” “Friendship Train,” “Summer Wine,” “Jackson” and “She’s Funny That Way.”

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment