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.

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Song of the Day #1,166: ‘What a Funny Girl You Used to Be’ – Frank Sinatra

After opening with the gentle ‘Elizabeth,’ Part Two of Frank Sinatra’s Watertown moves on to the album’s most playful song. Again we are given a glimpse at the woman who is the cause of all this heartbreak, and this time it’s a very sympathetic portrait.

Of course none of the songs on Watertown are particularly upbeat and even this one, despite its amusing lyrics (“you’d fall for lines so easily… whatever they were selling, you’d buy three”) is tinged with sadness and regret.

The way Sinatra sings the single line that makes up the chorus — “What a funny girl you used to be” — captures the loneliness of a man whose happiest memories are a constant source of suffering.

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Song of the Day #1,165: ‘Elizabeth’ – Frank Sinatra

For those just joining us, today begins Week Two of my presentation of Frank Sinatra’s 1970 album Watertown. Last week I covered the five songs that make up Part One of the concept album and this week I’ll examine the five songs in Part Two.

Kicking things off is ‘Elizabeth,’ the first Watertown song about the woman who does the leaving rather than the man who was left behind.

‘Elizabeth’ doesn’t contain any specifics about the storyline of Watertown. It’s a rather straight-forward romantic ballad about a woman shrouded in mystery, “out of reach and out of touch.”

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Song of the Day #1,162: ‘I Would Be In Love Anyway’ – Frank Sinatra

Track Five of Frank Sinatra’s Watertown is the concluding song of Side One (or Part One, as it is labelled on the packaging). Remember when albums had sides?

The segmentation is appropriate on an album like this one. You can even look at the the two sides as separate acts in a play, with the flipping of your vinyl record playing the role of intermission. I believe the composers plotted and sequenced the album with exactly that in mind.

This concluding song of Part One has our protagonist looking back at the events that have led him to this point and deciding that he wouldn’t trade the past for a better present.

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Song of the Day #1,161: ‘Michael & Peter’ – Frank Sinatra

‘Michael & Peter’ doesn’t fall at the exact center of Frank Sinatra’s Watertown, but it is nonetheless the emotional centerpiece of the album. So much hope, pride and regret is packed into the song’s five minutes.

It starts off with a slow intro in which the abandoned husband describes his two sons. “If you look at them both for awhile, you can see that are you, they are me,” he says, beautifully summing up the way we see ourselves in our children, not just physically but emotionally.

The song then kicks it up a gear, and we get our first glimpse of the life this man is leading on his own. Unlike in ‘For Awhile,’ it now feels like he really is moving on and making the best of things.

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