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The teacher learns

Nancy Sinatra turns to a younger generation of fans -- including Morrissey -- for the ideas that fill her just-released album.

September 29, 2004|Geoff Boucher | Times Staff Writer

Backstage, Nancy Sinatra was all nerves. It was her concert debut in London and the singer not only had to face the crowd but also "you-know-who," as she called him, who would be watching from behind blue eyes up in the VIP box.

"I had told him I was nervous and all he said was, 'Will you stop worrying?' and of course he was right. The crowd was warm and vocal and generous. The fact that I knew he was sitting up there in that box -- well, that was just the icing on the cake."

A formative flashback from the go-go 1960s, back when young Sinatra was learning to walk as a pop star?

No, her U.K. debut was in summer 2002 and the man in the box was only someone who reminds her of her father, Frank: the brooding, British rock crooner Morrissey.

"Morrissey moves like my dad on stage sometimes and reminds me of him in certain ways. And he's so intelligent and witty and ironic.... He is intense. I adore him. He's really like my mentor, of all things, at this age."

Nancy Sinatra's age is 64, which no longer demands mandatory rock retirement, but she admits she's more comfortable in country-club mode than in nightclub strut. Last week, at her town-house office on Olympic Boulevard, she finished up a photo shoot with a German magazine and reached quickly for her zippers.

"I'm getting out of these boots. I'm wearing my sneakers. Let's talk about the new album."

The new album is "Nancy Sinatra," released Tuesday by Sanctuary Records. It's shaped by conversations the singer had with her eldest daughter, A.J. Azzarto, who implored her to make an album that tapped into the legacy of such '60s recordings as "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'," "You Only Live Twice" and "Bang, Bang."

"She said I should be doing the music of people who feel I influenced them. So I said fine but who and where are these people?"

The people were led by Morrissey, a fan who years ago pleasantly shocked her by showing up at her hotel with a sheaf of her old singles and an autograph pen.

On the new disc, the pair duet on "Let Me Kiss You," a song that appeared on his latest album. Azzarto and her producer-partner, husband Matt, secured other collaborators over the course of a year -- performances or songs were supplied by U2, Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, Pete Yorn, Steven Van Zandt, Jarvis Cocker of Pulp and others.

It's hardly novel to see veterans tap younger names to reframe their music. Santana, Ray Charles and even Nancy's famous father found success by duetting with younger generations, while Loretta Lynn and the late Johnny Cash sought edgy counsel from unexpected disciples.

More than those artists, though, Nancy Sinatra has a slippery legacy. Her success seemed to be as much about attitude and fashion (and that last name) as it was music. Like Quentin Tarantino's use of her music in "Kill Bill Vol. 1," her music is memorable but also ironic.

The premise of the album was for the collaborators to consider what Nancy Sinatra and her music means to them.

"It's scary what some people came back with," she said with a laugh.

Take the song "Momma's Boy," she said, of the song Thurston Moore wrote for the album. "I can't decide if it's about sex and S&M or the war. What do you think?"

The exception to the mirrored music approach is the song "Two Shots of Happy, One Shot of Sad," a tune that U2's Bono and Edge wrote for Frank Sinatra as a potential addition to his saloon songbook.

"I approached the song differently for that reason. And you know, in doing it, it occurred to me that Bono reminds me an awful lot of my father."

*

Nancy Sinatra

Where: Grove of Anaheim, 2200 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim

When: 8 p.m. Oct. 14

Price: $20 to $30

Contact: (714) 712-2700

Also

Where: Knitting Factory Hollywood, 7021 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood

When: 8 p.m. Oct. 15

Price: $25

Contact: (323) 463-0204

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