FRIDAYS ARE FOR FRANK: “Watertown”
UPDATE—February 28, 2020: Winter has pretty much passed us by here in Hoboken, but Watertown, New York is currently getting pummeled with a full-on blizzard. So our attention returns to the North Country, looking back at a piece we ran four years ago.
As we head into a much warmer weekend, we look back on Valentine’s Day to find that the coldest place in the continental U.S. was a city in New York State—just a few hours north of Hoboken.
Situated close to the Canadian border just south of the Thousand Islands, where the St. Lawrence River meets Lake Ontario, Watertown, New York recorded temps of -37 last weekend.
Upon its release in 1970, Frank Sinatra’s puzzling concept album Watertown also made the news for chilly reviews.
With the Sinatra mystique in decline during the cultural upheaval of the Vietnam Era, Frank was pretty much open to anything in the hope of reaching the younger audience.
Produced and co-written by Bob Gaudio from The Four Seasons, the songs were co-written by Jake Holmes—best known for writing Led Zeppelin’s hit “Dazed and Confused.”
The album Watertown is centered around a man from Watertown, New York. Using soliloquies and voiceovers, Sinatra knits a depressing yarn throughout the LP, with tales of woe about his wife leaving him and his boys in small-town Watertown to pursue a life in the big city.
Perhaps ahead of its time as a concept album, Watertown was Sinatra’s only major album release not to crack the Billboard Top 100. Although critical reviews were mixed, they were a wintry mix at best.
Frank’s fixation with the little town certainly stems from his time growing up in Hoboken—when New York City seemed hours away, and in terms of spotlight, the our town was pretty frigid.
Of course we all know those little town blues were longing to stray, and Frank was back on the top of the heap a few years later, shifting focus further downstate with his effort.
Nevertheless, “Watertown” is always a place worth visiting…