Variations On A Velvet Morning

“Some velvet morning when I’m straight … I’m gonna open up your gate … And maybe tell you about Phaedra … And how she gave me life … And how she made it end … Some velvet morning when I’m straight …”

Lee Hazlewood wrote those lyrics in the 1960s and collaborated with Nancy Sinatra on “Some Velvet Morning.” It stands as one of my favorite songs of all time with its haunting tune and strange lyrics.

I remember first taking notice of the song as a cover by the British shoegaze band Slowdive. It was on the American version of their 1993 album “Souvlaki,” which is a masterpiece.  (I’m not exaggerating. It is an amazing piece of music that has withstood the test of time. You need to engage with it immediately and get back to me.) Their swirling version complements the original well, I think.

It was while driving late at night later in the ’90s and listening to “Coast to Coast with Art Bell” that I really got a taste of the original, though I’m sure I had heard it previously. Bell often used the song as bumper music, and it added to the sometimes creepy and mysterious nature of his show.

“Some Velvet Morning” is best suited for the night in my opinion.

In 2002, another band I really love — Primal Scream — did their own cover of the song on the album “Evil Heat.” It features Kate Moss. Yes, that Kate Moss.

It’s definitely its own beast and doesn’t live up to the original or Slowdive’s version, but it has its charms. (By the way, Primal Scream just released their new album “More Light,” and it is well worth a listen)

Chicago-based critic Jim Derogatis wrote of the back-and-forth between Hazlewood and Sinatra: “If there has ever been a more sensual psychedelic exchange in the Top 40 (the single peaked at No. 26 on the Billboard chart in January 1968), I haven’t heard it.”

I can definitely agree with that.

The London Telegraph even named it the best duet ever in a feature of their picks for the 50 best duets of all time. They wrote: “Most pop music is quickly forgotten. All too rare are the songs that endure, whose sheer otherness takes your breath away, even 30-odd years after they were conceived. Some Velvet Morning belongs in that company.”

Again, you’ll get no arguments from me.

Interestingly, Hazlewood’s granddaughter is named Phaedra. They did a duet together before he died in 2007.

Anyway, yesterday’s rain had me thinking about “Some Velvet Morning,” so I thought I’d open up your gate and maybe tell you about Phaedra …

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