Song Of The Day 7/31/2013: Frank Sinatra - "What Time Does The Next Miracle Leave?"

I revere Frank Sinatra just like everyone else does. He invented pop singing. The stretch of albums he made in the '50s and early '60s is untouchable. And then there was that time he tripped on shrooms and did a ten-minute jam about space travel.

Well, I'm almost certain Sinatra wasn't zooming on boomers when he recorded "What Time Does The Next Miracle Leave?" for his ambitious concept album Trilogy. In fact, the more I think about it, there's about a 0.05% chance anybody involved in the writing, recording or performance of "What Time Does The Next Miracle Leave?" was imbibing in anything stronger than scotch. But it stands as the weirdest thing Sinatra ever recorded, an awkward attempt to record a legacy-clinching extended work, although isn't that what you'd call the September Of My Years album?

"WTDTNML?" was written by Gordon Jenkins, who had some composing credits but was better known for his arrangement and orchestration career. His mission: create a long work piecing together several mini-songs about Sinatra's traveling to the planets. In a quaint fantasy, Sinatra gets aboard the "Satellite Special" and visits each and every planet in the solar system (including Pluto -- this was well before the other planets stack-ranked Pluto out of the business).

Oh yes, it's gauche. But it's fascinating. If you can't listen to the entire ten-plus minutes, here's a list of bullet points about Jenkins'/Sinatra's visualization of life on other planets:

  • Venus is where his dream girl lives. They fall instantly in love and go dancing. And she's still there the next morning because she's a classy broad.

  • Jupiter and Saturn have a co-dependent relationship with each other based on cagily explained agrarian principles.

  • Pluto is hell, where all bad guys are punished. Sinatra cracks that he'll probably know half the population in hell anyway, a charming wink in reference to his alleged racketeering associates. I guess it's snappier than a deposition.

  • Mercury's a limo service and Neptune has a lot of water. If Jenkins had made them more than one-dimensional the musicians' union would have charged overtime.

  • Uranus -- conveniently pronounced "YOUR-eh-nus" to avoid the snickering junior-high-school-boys demographic -- is heaven (I told you to stop snickering), especially if they serve Neapolitan pizza and Gallo red.

And now with the NASA cuts, Frank's dream is slipping into the void. Ah, well, we still have Space Mountain. Ciao, Frank.

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