Just when you thought that the nepotistic Nancy was simply Frank’s daughter who might not expect anything more than a duet with Dad at some point in the future (Somethin’ Stupid’) or a novelty hit written by her producer (Boots) you realise that this mainstream, corporate, novelty, country sixties babe is not only a talented singer in her own right (You Only Live Twice) but as an interpreter of songs she takes the cake (Lee reference). And out of nowhere came one of the most enduring classics of the era, the Psychedelic Country song, Some Velvet Morning.
Hazlewood understood something that the hipsters of the time didn’t and that came from a mixture of experience gained in the fifties and early sixties as a producer with a string of instrumental hits with guitarist Duane Eddy mixed together with a wry outlook on life. Consequently his songwriting was mature and his production of a quality that captured atmosphere with ease and this song pulls off the trick of simultaneously capturing the era whilst being timeless.
A lot has been made of the alternating 4/4 and 3/4 verses and no chorus but it’s not just that, it’s not just the mysterious words that are both unclear and down to earth like they are sung by a cowboy from another dimension and a seductress from just across the field yet in another world. There’s also the bizarre intro that sounds like the beginning of an epic movie but then changes key three times and then speeds up – bizarre and brilliant. And then there’s Lee’s wonderful baritone voice and the contrasting ethereal Nancy and then how they alternate at the end, it’s truly inspired. The pair went onto to collaborate on many great songs Summer Wine, Did You Ever, Sand and Jackson and individually they made essential albums for any record collection. Sadly Lee Hazlewood died in 2007.
I was lucky enough to see them perform together in the nineties at the House Of Blues In Los Angeles and I saw Nancy at the Bottom Line in New York. At the table next to me was Debbie Harry, what a surprise.