::Literate Blather::
Monday, August 18, 2008
The Sexiest Song Ever Recorded?

Who Can Match the Sex Appeal of Nancy Sinatra Singing "These Boots Are Made for Walking?"

Nancy Sinatra may not have invented the concept of pop singer as sex kitten, but with her 1966 hit “These Boots Are Made for Walking” she came damn close to perfecting it.

Can you say: Purrrrrrrrrrrr?

Rock critic Tom Breihan describes the song as “maybe the finest bitchy kiss-off in pop history.” That’s putting it mildly. “Boots’” is subversively nasty stuff – conjuring images of erotic, sadomasochistic encounters in hotels with underage girls that would make your hometown minister sweat through his priestly collar.

Take a gander at lyrics like: “You’ve been messin’ where you shouldn’t have been a messin’/ and now someone else is gettin’ all your best.”


“You keep playin’ where you shouldn’t be playin’/ and you keep thinkin’ that you’ll never get burnt. Ha! I just found me a brand new box of matches yeah/ and what he know you ain’t had time to learn.”

I’m starting to sweat myself.

“Boots” was written and produced by Texas-born Lee Hazlewood who instructed Sinatra to sing the song as if she were a 16-year-old girl breaking up with a 40-year-old man. Apparently, Nancy took that advice to heart and the result was seductive, high-camp pop hit.

She sings the song like a playful seductress who knows she’s got the goods – and knows how to use them (see the go-go video above). Nancy knows how to use that smile of hers to good effect – using her voice (and in the video her eyes) to convey sexiness more effectively than most of today’s scantily clad pop mavens could ever dream of.

All you have to do is listen to Jessica Simpson’s poorly executed attempt to cover the song for the movie “Dukes of Hazard” to understand that being sexy is more than wearing short shorts. Nancy oozes sex appeal while Jessica oozes raunchiness.

There’s no doubt that Nancy had limited vocal range and she won’t be appearing anywhere in the pantheon of great female vocalists. But on this song – Nancy hit magical pay dirt. It’s a one-hit wonder of astonishing achievement – combining borderline vague sexually charged lyrics with Sinatra’s nice, but somewhat dirty ingénue persona.

Part of the magic came from being backed up by some rather magnificent musicians – who add a sultry sizzle to the song. That’s where the legendary Los Angeles session musicians known as the Wrecking Crew came in. The key was using Carol Kaye on electric bass and Chuck Berghofer on the double bass – giving “Boots” that heavy, driving backbeat that adds to the atmosphere. The tangy guitar and bass that just picks and sails at the end of each refrain doesn’t hurt either. It’s no wonder that the troops in Vietnam fell in love with this number.

What’s not to love? A beautiful blond singing about catching her lover with another woman – so for revenge she breaks his heart in two and starts giving all of her attention to a new (and damn lucky) boy toy.

Few songs hit the pay dirt for playful sexiness as “Boots” – and certainly Nancy Sinatra drive more sex appeal into one pop song than the likes of Brittany, Jessica and Christina have done over there whole careers. Here’s a nod to “Boots” as one of the sexiest songs ever put to vinyl.

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Blogger Bybee said...
This song came out when I was five or six. I wanted to BE Nancy Sinatra! I got go-go boots for my birthday that year.

Blogger Dave Zeltserman said...
To answer your question, if it wasn't for the great Dusty Springfield, maybe.

Blogger GFS3 said...
Alas, Dusty hasn't aged as well as Nancy...

Blogger Chrees said...
The song is an interesting mix of explicit and implied, unlike... say something like the Divinyls' "I Touch Myself". Which makes "Boots" much longer lived while the other sounds more like a novelty song today.

Regarding sex appeal in other songs, when the chemistry is right, duets can be steamier than a sauna. Gaye & Terrell or Womack & Womack for example...you wonder how they were keeping their hands off each other during some of those songs.

Blogger GFS3 said...
You're right about the Divinyls. "I Touch Myself" is just too overt and what seemed cutting-edge sexual then is now rather trite.

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