A tantalizing glimpse into a project that could have become a late 1970s Nancy album…
“LOS ANGELES – At the Record Plant …
Lee Hazlewood producing Nancy Sinatra
with Deni King engineering
and Peter Lewis assisting.”
– Billboard: October 14, 1978
One year after her final release, “It’s For My Dad,” on the Private Stock label and more than a year before signing with Elektra, Nancy recorded several demos at the iconic Record Plant studio in L.A. in September 1978 with producer Lee Hazlewood. Not including any Hazlewood originals, the selections consisted of familiar country, blues and pop material from the 1960s and ’70s. Only one of the tracks would see the light of day, thirty years later. Between August 1977 and June 1980, there were no new releases from Nancy.
“I had sold millions of records worldwide.
I’d had gold records,
and then had stopped in midgallop,
to have and raise my children.
“Now AJ and Amanda
were old enough to understand
that people have to work for a living,
so I had a nice talk with them
and tried to break back into the recording industry.
I had great trouble getting a label to sign me,
because Bette Midler’s famous line
from one of the Grammy Award shows
honoring recording artists is true:
‘The music business…
in which you are only as good as
your last two minutes and forty-two seconds.’ ”
Nancy would continue in the demos’ country vein when old friend Jimmy Bowen, then vice president of Elektra/Asylum Nashville, produced her Elektra debut, “Let’s Keep It That Way,” and paired her with Mel Tillis for a very successful series of duets in the early 1980s. As the “bridge” between Private Stock and Elektra, the Record Plant demos represent one of the least known chapters in Nancy’s career, yet the songs are associated with many aspects of her extensive catalog.
“I Just Can’t Help Believin’ ”
“I just can’t help believin’
When she smiles up soft and gentle
With a trace of misty mornin’
And the promise of tomorrow in her eyes”
A #1 Easy Listening / #9 Hot 100 hit on Billboard’s charts in 1970 by Scepter recording artist B.J. Thomas, “I Just Can’t Help Believin’ ” was covered by Nancy’s Speedway co-star Elvis Presley at the International Hotel in Las Vegas for his That’s The Way It Is big screen documentary film.
According to the liner notes for the soundtrack album’s 30th anniversary special edition:
“As he stood in the wings,
Elvis worried about forgetting the words
to ‘I Just Can’t Help Believin’,’
and told his sidekick Charlie Hodge
to bring the lyric sheet on stage.
‘If the songs don’t go over,
we can do a medley
of the costumes,’ he joked,
just seconds before striding centerstage.”
Nancy & Lee’s duet of “I Just Can’t Help Believin’,” along with the unreleased “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off,” may be included in the duo’s highly anticipated trilogy collection.
“Nancy & Lee For The Record
is a planned project
that has not been released,
but we hope it will be eventually.
It will have one or two unreleased tracks.”
More classics by the prolific songwriting team of Mann & Weil appear elsewhere in Nancy’s body of work. The Nancy In London album opens with her superb interpretation of The Drifters’ “On Broadway.” Nancy & Lee reinvented The Righteous Brothers‘ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ ” for their first album of duets. In the 1990s, Nancy revived Paul Revere & The Raiders‘ “Kicks” as a cool collaboration with The Ventures (“A great bunch of guys”). The track would be part of Nancy’s Kid Stuff compilation in 2008. And Nancy’s unreleased version of The Crystals’ “Uptown,” produced by Bones Howe during the Private Stock era, survives in her vault.
Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann