Song of the Day #1,167: ‘What’s Now is Now’ – Frank Sinatra

On the eighth track of Frank Sinatra’s Watertown, we finally learn the cause of the broken marriage that’s been dissected over the rest of the album — an affair.

Of course, as we learned in When Harry Met Sally, infidelity is a symptom of something else in the marriage that’s wrong (to which Harry retorts, “Well, that symptom is fucking my wife”). In this case, those symptoms are left to our imagination, or hinted at in the margins of the songs preceding this one.

I’ve always wondered if the husband is learning about this affair for the first time after his wife has left, or if he knew about the affair prior to her leaving. The song builds, musically, with the force of revelation, but the question is whether that’s for our sake or his.

Clearly she kept this affair secret for awhile (“you should have told me when it all began”) but did she confess before leaving or after? And if it’s after, does that mean they’re still in touch? Have these songs — these letters — been part of a two-way correspondence? We’ll get the answer to that question before long.

‘What’s Now is Now’ suggests that Elizabeth wasn’t interested in being the Hester Prynne of Watertown. I get the feeling the “doubting faces” had more to do with her leaving than the affair itself.

That slow opening build is my favorite part of this song. The chorus, on the other hand, leaves me a bit flat. It’s a little too paint-by-numbers, musically. This is one of the only tracks on Watertown that doesn’t work for me as both advancement of the story and great music.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the other one.

You should have told me when it all began
You should have told me long ago
Someday I know you’re gonna find
Just one mistake is not enough
To change my mind

What’s now is now
And I’ll forget what happened then
I know it all
And we can still begin again

And if the doubting faces made you go
It’s only mine that matters now
Those looks will soon begin to fade
If you come back and show them all
You’re not afraid

What’s now is now
And I’ll forget what happened then
I know it all
And we can still begin again

Now that you know how much I understand
You have no reason to be gone
And if you feel at all like me
Just let me know
I’ll make it like it used to be

What’s now is now
And I’ll forget what happened then
I know it all
And we can still begin again…

5 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,167: ‘What’s Now is Now’ – Frank Sinatra

  1. Dana says:

    It sounds as if he learned of the affair because others in the town found out about it and revealed her secret, causing her to leave and not return as much out of shame as anything else.

  2. pegclifton says:

    I had forgotten this song dealing with an affair, and now I have to rethink my thoughts about her “finding herself” hmmmmm This was not one of my favorite songs either; and the quote from Harry is priceless 🙂

  3. Amy says:

    I’m fascinated that you all take it at face value that he is speaking of an affair. While I agree that is certainly the most obvious way to interpret the lyrics, I don’t think it’s the only possibility.

    Again, I come back to the image of Joanna leaving Ted in Kramer Vs. Kramer. She had to deal with the doubting faces of even her former best friend (played so brilliantly by Jane Alexander) when it was revealed that she left her son behind.

    Couldn’t this declaration be uttered some time after the desertion, and the “mistake” Elizabeth made refer to the choice to leave in the first place? I don’t know; it seems possible.

    Regardless, I like the song a bit better than you all seem to, though only in the context of the overall story being told.

  4. pegclifton says:

    Interesting comment Amy, now I’m going back to my Joanna theory again 🙂

  5. Arlee Bird says:

    I do like this song, but listening to the versions by Bomb Dawg and then Cake gave it new dimension for me.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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