One of the great working partnerships in all of ’60s pop was the one between Lee Hazlewood, the spaced-out cowboy libertine who may have been America’s closest thing to a Serge Gainsbourg figure, and Nancy Sinatra, a rare example of show-business royalty who firmly established herself as something other than a famous last name. Together, Sinatra and Hazlewood made hits like the 1966 chart-topper “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’.” But when they sang together, they also found a sense of languid mistiness that nobody has topped since. Their 1968 duets album Nancy & Lee is full of woozy classics like that: “Some Velvet Morning,” “Sand,” “Summer Wine.”
“Summer Wine,” first released in 1967, is a song about a traveling cowboy who loses his silver spurs after a night with a mysterious woman. It peaked at #49 in the US, and it rules. Today, the forever-dapper Franz Ferdinand leader Alex Kapranos has teamed up with the French singer and songwriter Clara Luciani for a new take on “Summer Wine” that does a lovely job capturing the hallucinatory heat of the original.
On the “Summer Wine” cover, Kapranos sings in his deepest baritone, which comes closer than you might expect at evoking Hazlewood’s depraved rumble. Meanwhile, Clara Luciani makes a hell of a Nancy Sinatra stand-in. Luciani’s 2018 debut album Sainte-Victoire went double platinum in France, and she’s translated Sinatra’s parts into French, giving them a classic Gallic confidence. They recorded it together at Kapranos’ studio in Scotland and mixed it at the late Philippe Zdar’s Motorbass Studio in Paris. Maybe we shouldn’t be encouraging international travel during a pandemic, but, I mean, I get it.
Director Ryder The Eagle has made a fun video for the “Summer Wine” cover. Kapranos and Luciani sing the song at an abandoned karaoke outpost in the middle of a desert, and they seem to enjoy each other’s company a whole lot. It’s a simple but gratifying thing — two glamorous and attractive people having fun together. Kapranos, you might be reminded, has one hell of a bone structure. Check out the video and the original Nancy-and-Lee classic below.
In a statement, Kapranos writes:
Back in October, Clara asked me to join her on stage at the Olympia in Paris, where we first sang “Summer Wine” together. We are both big fans of Lee and Nancy, and enjoyed the interaction that the song allows you. Clara translated the chorus into French, and the performance is bilingual, which really suits the song.
When the lockdown started, we decided to record it — more for ourselves than anything else. We wanted to create the atmosphere of an imaginary world away from the confinement we were experiencing. Not that we were unhappy, but the imagination is the greatest medium for escape and adventure. It was recorded at my place in Scotland and mixed by our friends Antoine and Pierre at Motorbass studio in Paris. When we played it to our labels they suggested we release it, so here it is.
I loved performing with Clara — she has such a naturally beautiful voice and a fresh perspective. After the lockdown eased off, we got together to film the video with our friends Adrien, Leo, Fiona and Hugo. I love the ideas they had, which suit the mood of the song and reflect our… well, our love of karaoke!
The Kapranos/Luciani version of “Summer Wine” is out now on the streaming platforms.