AUK Chain Gang: Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra “Summer Wine”

Almost every time I have to write an AUK Chain Gang feature it seems to involve drinking – not because I need to imbibe while I’m working, although it has been known – but it just so happens that the theme I’m often given by the previous writer is drink related, usually whiskey or coffee. Well, this latest entry is no exception, although I’ve moved on to wine.

Last week’s article was about ‘Bluebird Wine’ by Rodney Crowell, so I’m going to open another bottle, but this time around I’m choosing ‘Summer Wine.’

Included by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood on their seminal 1968 album of duets, Nancy & Lee – the original was recorded by Hazlewood and Suzi Jane Hokom in 1966 and, a year later, Sinatra and Hazlewood’s version appeared on Sinatra’s ‘Nancy In London’ album – it’s one of my favourite songs of all time.

I first heard it when I was a child – my dad loved the track and he included it on a homemade compilation tape that he used to play when we were on car journeys. I was immediately struck by its mysterious and haunting atmosphere, Hazlewood’s astonishing doomy baritone and the wonderfully dramatic and cinematic orchestral arrangement, which, at one point, recalls John Barry’s work on The James Bond Theme.

For this shimmering and seductive country-psych-pop masterpiece, Hazlewood plays the part of a cowboy who walks into town and meets a woman – Sinatra – whose gaze soon falls upon his silver spurs. She invites him to drink wine with her – it’s made up of “strawberries, cherries and an angel’s kiss in spring” – but after a serious session, he wakes up alone with a hell of a headache and finds his spurs and his money are missing. Our cowboy protagonist is left craving more of the mysterious temptress’s summer wine.

Hazlewood and Sinatra’s style of singing duets – a deep, rich male vocal contrasting with a sweet female voice – has inspired so many his and hers americana and country songs by the likes of Mark Lanegan and Isobel Campbell, The Delines, Calexico and Marianna Dissard, and the Jesus and Mary Chain and Hope Sandoval.

So, grab another bottle of summer wine and raise your glass to the genius of Hazlewood and this sweet and heady vintage that’s delicious but lethally intoxicating.

About Sean Hannam 76 Articles
Freelance journalist, editor and presenter. Digs retro specs,The Smiths,Dylan,Cash,Richard Hawley, Scott Walker, Lee Hazlewood, country / Americana and '50s/'60s pop.
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