“Strangers in the Night” was Frank Sinatra’s best-selling single and — between the single and its namesake album — the recipient of four Grammy Awards including Record of the Year in 1966. But it almost didn’t get to market in time, with Bobby Darin and Jack Jones cutting the song at the same time. Sinatra’s version was the hit, displacing the Beatles’ “Paperback Writer” to the #2 position in 1966 and proving the biggest hit of his career. The album shot to the top of the charts as well. Even in the rock ’n’ roll era, nine-time Grammy recipient Frank Sinatra was still the Chairman and one of the most important musical figures of the 20th Century, selling more than 27 million CDs in the SoundScan era alone.
Concord Records, on license from Frank Sinatra Enterprises (FSE), will release Strangers in the Night: Deluxe Edition, a digitally remastered reissue of Sinatra’s classic album featuring three bonus tracks and liner notes by Ken Barnes. The deluxe edition contains all ten of the original Reprise Records album’s songs as well as three previously unreleased additions: “Strangers in the Night” and “All or Nothing at All,” both recorded live at Budokan Hall in Tokyo in the ’80s, and an alternate take of “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby” from the original 1966 album sessions.
The Strangers in the Night album was arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle (with the title track arranged by Ernie Freeman). Sonny Burke was the album’s producer, with the exception of the title track, which was produced by Jimmy Bowen, theretofore known primarily for his work in rock ’n’ roll and country. German composer/arranger Burt Kaempfert, known for his production of the Beatles’ first commercial recordings in the very early ’60s, had supplied theme music for the James Garner film A Man Could Get Killed called “Strangers in the Night.” Within days, Bobby Darin and Jack Jones were both recording it. But Bowen heard it as a hit for Sinatra and instantly set up a session to record just that song (most sessions would produce four songs at a time). Sinatra was not initially crazy about the song, but trusted Bowen’s judgment. It wasn’t long before the trust was justified.
Within hours of final mixing, Bowen sent acetates of the song to key radio stations —by private planes. The extravagance paid off, but not overnight. Two months later, the song broke big in the U.K. and a month later, on July 2, 1966, it hit #1 in the U.S. and in every major territory, becoming the biggest record of Sinatra’s career.
The rest of the Strangers in the Night album was recorded in two May 1966 sessions with longtime producer Burke again at the helm and Riddle arranging. The songs were primarily classic standards with a few of them reflecting the current scene. But as annotator Barnes points out, there was no attempt to appeal to teenage America, other than that some of the songs came from Sinatra’s own teenage years: Walter Donaldson and Gus Kahn’s “My Baby Cares for Me” from 1928, Donaldson’s “You’re Driving Me Crazy” from 1930, and “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby,” also by Donaldson and Kahn, from 1925. Also included was Rodgers & Hart’s “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” from the 1935 musical Jumbo. Apart from the album’s title track, the most important song on the album was a German tune with English lyrics by Johnny Mercer, “Summer Wind,” which reached #1 on Billboard’s Easy Listening chart.
Two British songs, both popularized by Petula Clark, “Call Me” and “Downtown,” were a nod to current tastes, as was Alan Jay Lerner’s “On a Clear Day,” one of the better show tunes of its period.
Ken Barnes observes, “Despite a marked stylistic difference between the title song and the rest of the tracks, Strangers in the Night became Sinatra’s most commercially successful album. He had dealt with the new pop age spectacularly — and on his own terms.”