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Richard on Sinatra

Frank Sinatra could not sing on a stage without a microphone. He was one of the first, xlike Bing Crosby, to actually understand the microphone, and perhaps the first clever exponent of microphone technique. And as a crooner he was fabulous.

In the 40s he looked, so stunning, so rakishly thin and good looking. He was also vulnerable, and I think that was part of his bobbysocks appeal back then. Unusually, though, he kept that appeal right through his career. Johnny Ray, for instance, was chased down streets by screaming hoards of women but by the late 50s his career was over.

Sinatra's wasn't.

Sinatra kind of re-invented himself in the middle 50s. He had records like 'Come Fly with Me', 'Songs for Swinging Lovers', that kind of stuff, and was again the epitome of cool. He used to wear all those lovely straw hats with the wide brim, narrow lapelled suits, three button high, and he looked very elegant. I think most of the people my father's and mother's generation just saw him as Mr Cool.

Interestingly enough, he always sang beneath the note too, and that's fascinating because he's known as a great singer and everybody says his phrasing is fantastic, his timing's great, but if you listen to him it's just under the note, slightly flat. And I don't know if that's because he wasn't able to pitch or whether this was an intentional thing, just to make the note a little bluer.

He knew that less was more when it came to acting. I remember On the Town, where he was performing with Gene Kelly - you see Kelly, as always, completely mugging It was almost like saying "Look at me, look at me, look at me..."

But when they come out and they're singing "New York New York" and they take the big finish with the hands out - "....it's a wonderful town....!" - who are you looking at? You're looking at Sinatra, 'cos he's just doing so little.

He never seemed to get shaken by the other actors around him. A lot of recording artists, or artists that cross over, don't have an easy task acting, but Sinatra made it his own. I think he must have been a very clever man - he must have known what worked and how it worked, and made it work for him.

I think Bing Crosby might have got a little edgy when Sinatra came on the scene, because Bing had been around for a long time, established himself and here came a new kid on the block and this kid was doing pretty good. I think there was a bit of edginess about that you know?

People did actually make remarks about how skinny he was, and tried to put him down, but I think that that came from fear of the interloper coming in and perhaps taking business away from others. I would imagine that Sinatra probably got a bit worried about others that followed him along as well. Cos you never know, do you? It's a fickle kind of world, and you never know how long you've got that fanbase for. Or whether it's going to just fade away.

He appealed to men I think because of his macho kind of lifestyle, this kind of womanising, hard drinking kind of lifestyle. He always appeared to be living the life that others wanted to live, and he was in that sense the first rock star.

A little dangerous and therefore, you know, we'd quite like to be like that wouldn't we, you know? Because it's always more interesting to be the anti-hero. Bing was the kind of good, grown-up Catholic man, solid kind of citizen, and Sinatra had just that little bit of kind of hell's kitchen, a touch of New York about him.

 

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The Richard O'Brien Crusade est. 1996