Last weekend, I got my daughter (and two minivan loads of her most prized possessions) to the new college apartment that she will be sharing with three friends. My, life is so much more complicated than when I could load all of my worldly possessions into a ’68 Mustang. One thing, something that I had not really expected, made the cut.
When I started college in the fall of 1978, there was no more crucial thing for a dorm room or apartment than a stereo. A cassette player might have been good to have, but the turntable and speakers were essentials. As for those speakers, the bigger the better. Well, Maribeth’s friend scored a turntable from her father, so there will be some records played this year.
In case some of you did not know, vinyl is back among this age group. For those of us who were big consumers of vinyl records the first time around and who still have a load of albums stored away somewhere, this is interesting news that makes us think: Hmmm, maybe I should play a record sometime. Of course, we all know what happens next – nothing. But for these kids, the vinyl gets played the way it was meant to be played – frequently. So, good for them, because there is no substitute for watching the label on that black disc turn around and around and around while you listen to your favorite music.
What was even more interesting was the album that was atop my daughter’s small collection of maybe a half dozen discs. The cover was unmistakable to some of us: Frank Sinatra’s classic 1950s Come Fly With Me, one of his all-around best. I am not sure where she picked it up, but I remember her asking if I wanted to listen to it. I smiled and told her that I have a copy myself and have listened to it many, many times. I am kind of sorry though that I did not take her up on the chance to listen to it together.
I bought my copy in college, although mine was a new copy, a discounted cut-out that I found in one of the mall record stores. I did not “discover” Sinatra until about that time of my life. OK, I had known who he was – the guy who sang Strangers in the Night and a bunch of other songs that people of my parents’ generation listened to. Also, his 1957 Christmas Album was a holiday staple around our house. But I had no idea of how great Sinatra’s mainstream albums from the 1950s sounded, the decade that might have been where his artistic peak and his vocal peak intersected.
I was probably a sophomore when my roommate’s brother brought over the Sinatra album he had just bought and left it with us for a day or so. It was Ring-A-Ding-Ding from 1961, Sinatra’s debut album on his own Reprise record label. Wow, Frank could really punch out a song, and the band that was backing him played some first-rate jazz. Some interesting trivia is that the guy leading the band on that album was Johnnie Mandel, who is credited with the theme from the M*A*S*H* TV show in the 1970s. This may be my vote for “Peak Sinatra”, although I’m not sure this is a majority opinion.
One thing I have done right with each of my children is that I have tried to expose them to a broad range of good music. Most of us get stuck in a rut of what is popular from the time we are in maybe 7th grade until we are out of college and get too busy to keep up with the music scene. There is nothing wrong with liking music of that period of life, but there is so much more, and I have done my best to place my kids in a position to have sampled some of it. So, I am pleased to say, Maribeth is a fan of the Beatles and Michael Jackson, as well as the recent stuff. And Ol’ Blue Eyes, of course.
Anyhow, Maribeth found a good one to dive into. Most people these days do not appreciate Sinatra’s influence on record albums. The themed album was not such a common thing in the early LP days, but Sinatra made it common. Come Fly With Me is a perfect example, in that each of the songs is about travel or some distant place, finishing off with an appreciation for home that we all feel at the end of a long trip.
It is a shame that she is still a year away from her 21st birthday, because a good Sinatra album is best enjoyed with a well-made martini. Maybe we can work on that in another year. Then we can listen to her album together, and do it right.