Nancy and Lee Week No 4: Summer Wine
The ultimate one afternoon stand.
Towards the end of the nineties, Nick Cave did a Meltdown programme for the Royal Festival Hall, the highlight of which was Lee Hazlewood in concert, supported (bizarrely) by the Harry Dean Stanton Band. It was Lee's first concert over here in 30 years so us Hazlewood fans were very excited indeed.
Just under three thousand turned up primarily to hear him sing the Nancy and Lee classics along with the songs he penned for Nancy Sinatra's solo career, but instead had to sit through a collection of seedy, country-tinged lounge tunes. This was what he was really interested in he said. At one point he dismissively drawled:" here's a short medley of the songs that got my kids through high school" and then did a fifteen minute melange of all his great Nancy and Lee songs plus "These Boots are made for walking" and one or two others. In other words he mashed together shortened versions of all the stuff his audience loved. We were not happy.
He finished the medley with Summer Wine, no female singer accompanying him, and the sudden sense of excitement in the hall showed that this was the song that everyone had come for.
Even though we all had been shortchanged, the fact that he wrote this and then sung half of it - even without a female singer - was enough for us to forgive him, to make the evening worthwhile. And listening to this - you can hear why.
This is Lee's orchestration at its best, beautifully framing Nancy's misty hot summery vocal right from the start, the strings and acoustic guitars pushing the story along like Lee's horse on the hot day. The violins and then the brass describe his temptation and subsequent alcoholic excesses and hangover.
Since when was a roll in the hay, and a bit of small time robbery, so epic? But it is, because the "Summer Wine" he is left "cravin' for" is a metaphor for their steamy love making. This is the languid Lee at his most expressive and least taciturn, his greatest evocation of the weakness of man for a beautiful woman, and the ensuing hunger to retaste that passion.
I love the onomatopoeic feel to the word "shining"
as he sings
"when I woke up the sun was SHINING in my eyes"
but better still is the haunting melody of temptress Nancy:
"Strawberries, cherries and an angel's kiss in spring......"