The year is 1980, and Frank Sinatra is singing about outer space. He is singing about other things, too, if we want to be very accurate here. Lots of them. He just put out a three-part theme album called Trilogy: Past Present Future, his first commercial release in six years. There’s an excellent history of the hows and whys of this on an episode of Karina Longworth’s Old Hollywood podcast, You Must Remember This, but here’s the gist of things: Disc 1, The Past: Collectibles of the Early Years includes a bunch of standards, from George Gershwin and Cole Porter and such; Disc 2, The Present: Some Very Good Years, features Ol’ Blue Eyes covering songs by Billy Joel and Elvis Presley (as well as his recording of “New York, New York,” which would become a late-career staple); and Disc 3, The Future: Reflections on the Future in Three Tenses, is weird as all hell.
Don’t believe me? Listen to the track at the top of this page, the first song on the final part of the trilogy, “What Time Does the Next Miracle Leave?” It is — and I promise I am not making this up — a 10-minute song about Frank Sinatra traveling through outer space and visiting the planets of the solar system, like Ring-A-Ding-Ding deGrasse Tyson. It’s really quite something. Let’s work our way through it together.
The song opens with a few minutes of introduction. A very literal introduction, actually. The first line is, “My name is Francis Albert, and I sing love songs mostly after dark, mostly in saloons.” From there he goes on to discuss the “firecracker” life he’s lived and his constant yearning for more. Then, at the 3:30 mark, the music stops and there is an actual countdown (“10…9…8…”), and then the music kicks back in and swells and WHHHEEEEEEE FRANK’S IN SPACE.
First stop, Venus.
When I arrive at Venus, it will surely be spring
And the girl I have waited for, will be waiting for me
And she’ll dance with me all the afternoon
Comfort me when the darkness falls
And she’ll still be there in the morning when I need her the most
Maybe when I get to Venus, I will never be lonely again
- This is so incredibly sad. Frank Sinatra has to travel to Venus to find a woman who will love him and end his loneliness? A psychologist could have a field day with this.
- I… I think Frank Sinatra just said he wants to hump an alien. I really think that’s what’s happening here. Still not the weirdest part of this song. That’s coming.
After a quick pit stop at Jupiter and Saturn, Frank and his spaceship — and I really do recommend picturing Frank Sinatra piloting a spaceship through the cosmos while you read/listen along — end up at Pluto, “where the devils dwell.”
Pluto is a rotten place, an evil misbegotten place
It’s Hades (It’s Hades)
Filled with graduates of the the pen
A sordid flock of criminal men
And ladies (Ladies, ladies, ladies, ladies)
It’s pure hell, when your journey ends there
But you can bet your ass, I’ll lead a lot of friends there
- You really need to listen to this verse (around 6:30 or so) to get how funny the “And laaaaadies” thing is. I almost wish you could go back and hear it with fresh ears, before you read the lyrics. It’s like, Pluto is hell because it’s filled with scoundrel ex-cons and reprobates… and laaaaaadies. Working theory is that he misses the Venus lady, who he professed his love to and then immediately rocketed himself millions of miles away from so he could hang out with lowlifes at some dump. JUST LIKE A MAN, AMIRITE?.
- Updated list of things Frank Sinatra wants to do in space: 1) Hump that alien ; 2) Send his friends to their demise on a freezing cold crime-ridden hell-hole. You … you okay, Frank? You don’t sound okay.
Luckily, we escape that rat’s nest Pluto and move on to the next and final stop of what I have now begun calling Carnival Cruises Presents Frank Sinatra’s Space Tour. And then this happens.
(And then) And then to Uranus (Uranus)
Uranus is heaven (Heaven, heaven, heaven)
(How will you know, Francis, if it’s really heaven?)
A preliminary note: Sinatra pronounces Uranus “YOUR-uh-nuss” as opposed to “Your Anus,” which given the context and the line “Uranus is heaven” and the fact that I am perpetually 11 years old, is the single worst thing that has ever happened to me. You couldn’t give me this one thing, Frank? THIS ONE LITTLE THING? GOD.
Anyway, Francis, how will you know if Uranus is really heaven? Do tell.
I will know, if they need me at the station
With the cheese and tomato pizza
Well done (Well done)
And a little red wine
That’s kind of a low bar there, bud. By this standard, like, Gary, Ind. could be heaven, too, if you place a call or two about a half hour before you pull into the Greyhound depot. And you’re Frank Sinatra, for the love of God. You could ask them to have a giraffe driving a sports car deliver the pizza and they’d at least try to pull it off. Think bigger, man. Ask for two pizzas, at least.
This brings us to the end of Frank’s journey. Let’s recap: he hooked up with an alien, stranded his friends at a desolate lawless hellhole, and ate some pizza from Uranus.
I mean, you could do worse, I guess.