Pretty Fly - Kitty White
For the full beauty of this, take it from 24 seconds in.
Once upon a time there was a pretty fly
he had a pretty wife this pretty fly
but one day she flew away flew away
she had two pretty children
but one night these two pretty children
flew away flew away
into the sky
into the moon
All of the classic Nancy and Lee songs come from their eponymous 1968 album but the pair produced two other records: Nancy and Lee Again (1972) and Nancy and Lee 3 (2004). In two albums one might reasonably have expected another classic or two of the ilk of "Summer Wine" but there's not a sniff of anything of that quality on either platter, let alone the heady combination of romance and faery world menace and darkness of their first disc.
I also checked out Lee duets with other people, such as Ann Margret, hoping for gold dirt, to no effect. Towards the end of his life, Lee spent a lot of time in Sweden, so much so that, for instance, Swedish duo First Aid Kit include him on their recent Radio 6 Music Playlist singing a song about living there. Amongst the recordings from this time, I found "My Finland" a duet with Finnish singer Anna Hanski, curiously, like Nancy Sinatra, the daughter of a more famous singing father.
Immediately as heard the first words, my hopes rose. It began with the lush darkness of the classic sixties tracks. But by the chorus, curiously with the nationalistic words "your Finland", the song has lost it. Disappointed, I gave up on it, but for some reason the first two lines kept repeating on me all day, like musical kippers.
I realised that the bit I loved about was that chord change and tune in the opening words:
"Except for the dream in our mothers' eyes..."
this is the moment which sets up the song and which resonates in our hearts and minds, and repeats throughout the song. I realised also that I recognised it from somewhere, and spent another day trying to remember where. Was it "Ladybird"? Almost, but not quite.
There are many examples of songwriters who have unconsciously stolen a tune from their own internal record collection, most famously George Harrison's appropriation of the Chiffon's "He's so Fine" almost note for on "My Sweet Lord". It's easy to do. I've done it myself, writing a song in my head which was a steal of the throwaway line "I'll always love you" at the end of the Supremes' "Love Child".
There's no doubt in my mind that the line from "My Finland" is an unconscious theft from the Pretty Fly sequence in Charles Laughton's film "The Night of the Hunter". The tune the little girl singing is the same; but more significantly, the mood cast by the ensuing film sequence of the children floating down the river , the innocence, the danger, the simultaneously comforting and sinister night, the lush orchestration, the violins hinting at the wind in the trees, the harp articulating the swirling leaves is a recurring mood in Hazlewood's songs.
1 minute 34 seconds of sound and vision magic. I'm betting that Halzewood saw the film and not only subliminally imbued the tune, only to come up with it in a song 20 years later, but that it was a vital piece of the mental jigsaw that resulted in those "faery"tracks that were Nancy and Lee's greatest moments. "My Finland" is itself a reworking of a previous Hazlewood 1977 song "Soul's Island" (see below).
If you haven't seen it, watch the film, it's terrific, and a big influence on modern filmmakers such as the Coen Brothers, David Lynch, Jim Jarmusch, Scorsese, Fassbender et al. And of course, Lee Hazlewood.
Oh and the song does haunt you. Listen to it twice and I guarantee you'll be sining it to yourself for the next week.