Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong continue sorting through their archives of punk-era concert footage as it’s digitized for the Downtown Collection at N.Y.U.’s Fales Library.
Time’s a funny thing, especially where musicians are concerned. If the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Rolling Stones doesn’t scare you, perhaps the realization that we’ve shared nearly 36 years with Bono and 29 with Madonna will.
Still, it’s a little surprising that a mere 21 years separates the release of “Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely” in 1958 and the above video of Iggy Pop covering the LP’s iconic track, “One for My Baby,” at Hurrah’s in 1979. At first glance, the culture wars of the ’60s would seem to render irrelevant the bars, broads and bruisers ethos that Ol’ Blue Eyes represented. But for the generation that made up the original punks, those childhood memories of cigarette smoke, parents’ late nights and Sinatra’s music ran deep.
Check out the portrait of Patti Smith on the album cover of “Horses.” “I flung my jacket over my shoulder, Frank Sinatra style,” she writes in her memoir, “Just Kids.” The undone tie, the louche stance was precisely what photographer Robert Mapplethorpe was looking for. By the eighth shot, he exclaimed,“I got it!”, Smith recalls.
Maybe what he got was an essence, a distillation of what punks secretly hoped their parents saw in Sinatra: an artist whose songs were romantic, cool and maybe even a little dangerous. In an interview with NPR, Iggy recalled the effect Sinatra had on his career choice. “I’ll never forget riding in the back of my parents’ Cadillac, and my father was singing along, ‘Fairy tales can come true / It can happen to you / If you’re young at heart.’ I thought, ‘Gee, I’d like to do that.’”
Iggy Pop did a lot of things but it took a while before he channeled his inner Frank. While he recorded a version of “One for My Baby” in 1982, it didn’t show up until 1989, as a bonus track on a reissue of Pop’s LP, “Party.” On his most recent release, “Apres,” Iggy finally covers Sinatra’s title track, “Only the Lonely.”
At 65, releasing an album of French songs and classics is interesting but not startling – recording a standards album is becoming the boomer musician fallback position (witness Rod Stewart and Paul McCartney). But on a hot sweaty night in 1979, we watched Iggy bring the raucous crowd at Hurrah’s to a standstill with one of our parents’ songs. That’s showmanship. And finding that essence, not just one born of nostalgia but tapping into its timelessness, is what make it great.
This post originally appeared on The Local East Village.