During a career that spanned seven decades, Frank Sinatra performed before standing-room-only audiences across the globe.
Now Standing Room Only invites fans to a return engagement.
The new collection captures three complete, previously unreleased Sinatra concerts from 1966, 1974 and 1987, resurrecting the stage magic of not just the best-known singer of the 20th century but arguably the best, period.
The world’s first genuine pop idol, Sinatra remains unrivaled as an interpreter of standards. His smooth baritone, impeccable phrasing, jazz-inspired improvisation and heartfelt embrace of lyrics seduced millions and inspired uncountable imitators.
The spell he cast in casinos and arenas is rekindled on the 57-track Capitol/UMe release, available now in digital form or as a three-CD set with a 30-page booklet.
A heart attack silenced the legendary crooner in 1998, but acolytes young and old continue to clamor for his music. Ol’ Blue Eyes performed on more than 1,400 recordings before he died at age 82, and scores of compilations have been issued since his death. Why the sustained interest?
“Because he was so good,” says producer-actress Tina Sinatra, 69, youngest of Sinatra’s three children. “His interpretation, his emotionality, his entire personality. Men found him as appealing as women did.
“Whenever we can give followers unreleased music, it’s always a good thing,” she says. “They want this. They are constantly conveying that to us. They want what they haven’t had before. In these three independent appearances, there are only five or six songs that overlap, which is pretty amazing. He was really diversified.
“Growing up, I watched him pick through his sheet music, and his songbook was always thick. He was always working on it, in Palm Springs, in Los Angeles. I’ve seen him do it on airplanes. He and his conductor would talk on and on about it. He really did piece the puzzle together quite uniquely for each show. And the second show of the night would always be different. And a tad bluer.”
A snapshot of the three concerts on Standing Room Only:
The Sands in Las Vegas on Jan. 28, 1966. The hotel was Sinatra’s exclusive venue for 14 years starting in 1953. Owner Jack Entratter paired him with Count Basie in November 1964 in the storied Copa Room, and they were such a success that a longer run was booked from Jan. 5 to Feb. 1 in 1966.
Starting on Jan. 26, the shows were recorded, resulting in the assembly of the celebrated live album, Sinatra at the Sands With Count Basie & the Orchestra, with Quincy Jones conducting. Sinatra later said, “Working with Basie and Quincy … was probably the most exciting engagement I have ever done in my life!”
Standing Room Only unveils the complete second show from Jan. 28, with 16 songs including Come Fly With Me, The September of My Years, Luck Be a Lady, It Was a Very Good Year, I’ve Got You Under My Skin and My Kind of Town.
The Spectrum in Philadelphia on Oct. 7, 1974. In 1974, Sinatra teamed with promoter and agent Jerry Weintraub for a tour that peaked at Madison Square Garden with The Main Event, a live ABC special on Oct. 13. Barely a week earlier, during a swing along the East Coast, he performed to a packed house of more than 19,000 at the Spectrum, with Bill Miller conducting the Woody Herman Orchestra. Among the 17 tunes he sang were The Lady Is a Tramp, I Get a Kick Out of You, Ol’ Man River, Send in the Clowns, If and What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?
The Reunion Arena in Dallas on Oct. 24, 1987. Sinatra had planned to record a radio special near the end of his eight-night engagement at Carnegie Hall in New York during September 1987. Remote recording trucks were in place outside the venue on Sept. 17, but the singer came down with acute laryngitis and scrapped his final two sold-out concerts. Recording shifted to Reunion Arena, and the radio special, Come Swing With Me: Frank Sinatra in Concert, was broadcast in April 1988. Several songs from the show didn’t make the cut. The full performance, with Bill Miller conducting, before a sellout crowd, is the third concert on SRO, and the set list’s 24 songs include You Are the Sunshine of My Life, Mack the Knife, Angel Eyes, Bewitched, Moonlight in Vermont, Lonely Town and Theme From “New York, New York.”
Tina, the family member most active in Frank Sinatra Enterprises (founded in 2007 to manage all Sinatra matters from licensing to recordings), says her role as keeper of the flame is “something he directed me toward maybe 25 years before he left us.”
Unlike her siblings, singer Nancy Sinatra and singer-conductor Frank Sinatra Jr., Tina chose a life behind the scenes in entertainment, first as a theatrical agent and later as a film and TV producer.
“The idea of performing didn’t grab me,” she says. “I can sing but I didn’t train to sing.”
She did have a front-row seat, literally and figuratively, for The Voice.
“When I was 7, I got to go to Las Vegas for the first time,” Tina says. “I looked up at him singing in the Copa Room at the Sands. I was nose to his toes. I could not get over the way the people responded to him. The adulation. It was a different world. He struck me as a sequoia. It was glamorous and fun. As soon as I saw it, I was never surprised by it again."
In addition to Standing Room Only, Tina is promoting a new album of Sinatra songs for children. She curated the compilation to reveal not a lonely saloon singer in the wee small hours, but the warm and joyous mood of a father.
The title, Baby Blue Eyes … May the First Voice You Hear Be Mine is a twist on Sinatra’s famous toast: “May you live to be 100 and the last voice you hear be mine.”
Young at Heart, How Cute Can You Be?, It’s Only a Paper Moon, Ain’t She Sweet and Hush-a-Bye Island are among the 20 tracks, available digitally, on CD or double-disc vinyl. The cover features a photo of Sinatra as a baby.
She had to persuade Capitol to issue physical formats. “Grandparents still buy CDs,” she says. “They aren’t going to download.”
Sifting through Sinatra’s Reprise, Capitol and Sony catalogs, Tina needed only one day to find 75 tunes that would appeal to kids and express a father’s love and hopes for children.
Sinatra “loved babies and they loved him,” Tina says. “Songs like Jeepers Creepers, High Hopes and Pennies From Heaven work perfectly. It’s just so organic. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before.”
With 55 tunes on hold, she hopes to put out more volumes.
“It’s very close to my heart,” she says. Perhaps it fills a void. Her father, she says, “never sang a lullaby to me.”