Reviews

Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley: The Frank Sinatra Show -- Welcome Home Elvis [DVD]

John Davidson

Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley

The Frank Sinatra Show -- Welcome Home Elvis [DVD]

Label: Music Video Distributors
US Release Date: 2004-02-10
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

There's Sinatra, Elvis, and the Beatles, and nobody else comes close -- the holy trinity of 20th century music performers. Bing Crosby was an early pacesetter, but Crosby's influence scarcely crossed over into the second half of the century. Louis Armstrong transcended race and revolutionized a specific genre, but his overall impact is too local to join the triumvirate. Then there's Michael Jackson. Jackson may have formidable record sales, but his impact on the culture at large has been negligible. Even among his peers, it is difficult to trace a distinct line of heirs to his music legacy. Sure, they exist, but they follow a considerably narrower path than those who followed The Big Three.

Presley's arrival remains the single most significant jolt in the history of popular music. In a certain sense the Beatles were a seismic after-shock to Presley, albeit one whose impact produced arguably more wide-ranging long-term affects. Perhaps the most staggering fact of Sinatra and Presley's omnipotence is that both were interpretive artists relying on others to supply their means of expression. Neither one wrote their own songs, while the Beatles, of course, were a group, a collective of individuals who conspired to author change in popular culture.

If The Beatles were an add-on to Presley's revolution, Presley himself first arrived with the threat of wholesale replacement for Sinatra, and for all that he represented to two previous generations. Alone among his contemporaries, Sinatra managed to survive the tidal-wave of rock 'n' roll, occasionally as if clinging to a piece of driftwood in a sea of obsolescence. Certainly there's been no shift in music like it before or since -- and little wonder that at the time that Sinatra was, frankly, more than a little pissed.

Defending his turf, Sinatra was one of the more vociferous critics of early rock 'n' roll, and of Presley. Presley's televised appearance on The Frank Sinatra Show in May 1960 was therefore a major concession for the old-style crooner, even acknowledging as it did that the two might yet co-exist. In retrospect, the meeting was a momentous co-joining of cultural icons, bigger than might possibly have been imagined at the time. The resulting show, recorded at the Fontainbleu Hotel in Miami has just been released on DVD by Music Video Distribution.

Reality TV, it ain't. The Frank Sinatra Show -- Welcome Home Elvis offers a slick variety hour of Sinatra surrounded by the usual suspects -- Sammy Davis Junior, Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop, and his own daughter Nancy. The term "cronyism" might have been coined to define the "Rat Pack". Dean Martin may be absent here, but Bishop, and particularly Lawford, contribute nothing beyond cause for embarrassment. The occasion of the show, as the title suggests, was Presley's return from two years in the army, and the framing device is a series of skits intended to show Elvis what he'd missed while away. It doesn't amount to much.

Presley was paid a whopping $125,000 for 10 minutes of air time, and it's interesting to watch Sinatra's deference to the newer star. Referring to Presley's hit "Love Me Tender", Sinatra wonders aloud what might have happened had he recorded the song instead -- "It would have sold about two million less," Pal Joey Bishop chimes in. In physical stature, Presley dwarfs the King of Swoon, though Presley was hardly large himself.

Before Presley is introduced, Sinatra, backed by Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra, offers a wonderful version of "Gone with the Wind", from his 1958 classic Frank Sinatra Sings... For Only the Lonely. There's no doubting that it's performed live, not like in this day and age, with Sinatra audibly coughing between verses while chugging on a cigarette. When Elvis finally arrives, he performs the bland "Fame and Fortune" and a somewhat more ribald "Stuck on You", during which the audience screams predictably and wildly. For his part, Presley seems to already recognize that his famed gyrations are on their way to self-parody, and even the merest roll of his eyes elicits frenzy from the audience.

Naturally, a duet between the two stars is contrived, with Sinatra taking on "Love Me Tender" and Presley grappling with "Witchcraft". It's fairly mild stuff, with both men making a show of careful respect to the other. Sinatra ages Presley's song 15 years in two verses, while Presley briefly manages to inject his own brand of sexual magic into the old Sinatra hit... and then the duet is quickly brought to a close.

And that's about it. Sammy Davis Junior is revealed as a wildly energized and versatile performer over the course of the show, but there are no history-altering moments between the two real stars -- nothing beyond the momentous history of the occasion itself, and that lent by retrospect. Sinatra sailed along from here outside of offering any huge influence on youth culture, while Elvis lost his way, found it briefly again, then lost it forever.

If nothing else, the show suggests evidence contrary to John Lennon's famous claim: Elvis didn't really die in the army -- it was simply the first, youthful days of rock 'n' roll that did.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

9
Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane
Music

Mobley Laments the Evil of "James Crow" in the US

Austin's Mobley makes upbeat-sounding, soulful pop-rock songs with a political conscience, as on his latest single, "James Crow".

Music

Jordan Tice's "Bad Little Idea" Is a Satirical Spin on Dire Romance (premiere)

Hawktail's Jordan Tice impresses with his solo work on "Bad Little Idea", a folk rambler that blends bluesy undertones with satiric wit.

Music

Composer Ilan Eshkeri Discusses His Soundtrack for the 'Ghost of Tsushima' Game

Having composed for blockbuster films and ballet, Ilan Eshkeri discusses how powerful emotional narratives and the opportunity for creative freedom drew him to triple-A video game Ghost of Tsushima.

Film

Love and Cinema: The Ruinous Lives in Żuławski's L'important c'est d'aimer

Żuławski's world of hapless also-rans in L'important C'est D'aimer is surveyed with a clear and compassionate eye. He has never done anything in his anarchic world by the halves.

Books

On Bruce Springsteen's Music in Film and TV

Bruce Springsteen's music in film and television captured author Caroline Madden's imagination. She discuses her book, Springsteen as Soundtrack, and other things Springsteen in this interview.

Music

Alt-pop's merci, mercy Warns We May "Fall Apart"

Australian alt-pop singer-songwriter, merci, mercy shares a video for her catchy, sophisticated anthem, "Fall Apart".


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.