When I was 9 years old I bought this catchy single probably after hearing it on the radio, no picture sleeve, no video. I was completely unaware of the Johnny Cash/June Carter version. I was also completely unaware that Nancy Sinatra was the spitting image of Lady Penelope! (See the video below). Of course the real classic from Nancy and Lee was Some Velvet Morning, I wrote about it in 2014 (see the link below). A series of duets throughout the sixties produced or written by the unique baritone hipster cowboy Lee Hazlewood included Summer Wine and Sand. Did You Ever was written by Bobby Braddock. Hazlewood also wrote These Boots Are Made For Walkin’.
It seems that often duets come across as novelty songs and Jackson is no exception but you might be surprised to know that it was inspired by reading Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf, Edward Albee’s 1962 study of a marriage breaking down. The song also comes with an odd fact about the writing credit. It is credited to Billy Ed Wheeler and Gaby Rodgers. Wheeler is an American songwriter (Coward Of The County and many others), he is also a playwright, poet and novelist. The song first appeared as a duet with Joan Summer on his album A New Bag Of Songs released in 1963. I can’t find a link but it is on Spotify.
Gaby Rogers was the wife of Jerry Lieber, one half of the legendary songwriting team Lieber & Stoller, writers of Hound Dog, Jailhouse Rock, On Broadway, Stand By Me (with Ben E. King) and many others. Lieber was the lyricist and Stoller the composer. It was actually Jerry Lieber, not Gaby Rodgers, that was the co-writer of the song. Jackson was a song Wheeler was working on and Lieber came along, re-arranged it, told him the first verses were no good and made him make the last verse start and finish the song. Perhaps this was the reason that Lieber used his wife Gaby’s name as a pseudonym, he was more of an arranger for the song then anything else but for his input as an experienced lyricist he took 25%.
There have been many covers of the song through the years, INXS and Jenny Morris, but also Florence And The Machine with Josh Homme – doesn’t seem like it would work does it? The song reached No.14 by Nancy and Lee on the US chart in 1967 and No.2 on the Country chart by Johnny and June in the same year. There is of course the Pansy Division/Calvin Johnson version from 1994 and some others in English. But what of foreign language versions? Thanks to Staffan Björkman for drawing my attention to Towa Carson And Mats Olsson’s – Laxå from 1967. Last but not least if you haven’t heard the Finnish version Mä Lähden Stadiin by Carola Standertskjöld and Lasse Mårtenson, you simply haven’t lived.