Watertown (album)

Last updated
Studio album by
ReleasedMarch 1970
RecordedJuly 14 – August 27, 1969
Genre Traditional pop
Label Reprise
Producer Bob Gaudio
Frank Sinatra chronology
A Man Alone
Sinatra & Company
Professional ratings
Review scores
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Watertown is a studio album by American singer Frank Sinatra. It was released in March 1970 through Reprise Records. It is a concept album centered on a man from Watertown, New York. In a series of soliloquies, the nameless narrator tells his heartbreaking story of personal loss: his wife has left him and their two boys for the lure of the big city. Watertown was produced and co-written by Bob Gaudio, one of four members of the rock band the Four Seasons. The songs were co-written by Jake Holmes. It is the only album Sinatra ever voiced over pre-recorded orchestral tracks. The album was released to mixed critical reviews and poor sales, Sinatra's only major album release not to crack the Billboard Top 100; the packaging was uncharacteristic of typical Sinatra album designs.

Frank Sinatra American singer, actor, and producer

Francis Albert Sinatra was an American singer, actor and producer who was one of the most popular and influential musical artists of the 20th century. He is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than 150 million records worldwide.

Reprise Records American record label

Reprise Records is an American record label founded in 1960 by Frank Sinatra. It is owned by Warner Music Group, and operates through Warner Records, one of its flagship labels.

Concept album album with a theme

A concept album is an album in which its tracks hold a larger purpose or meaning collectively than they do individually. This is typically achieved through a single central narrative or theme, which can be instrumental, compositional, or lyrical. Sometimes the term is applied to albums considered to be of "uniform excellence" rather than an LP with an explicit musical or lyrical motif. There is no consensus among music critics as to the specific criteria for what a "concept album" is.


Nina Simone recorded "For a While" on her 1985 album, "Nina's Back." In 2011, the band Cake covered "What's Now Is Now" on its album Showroom of Compassion . And in 2014, Scottish singer Todd Gordon recorded his version for the album Love dot com, resulting in Jake Holmes commenting: "Todd's attention to a lyric is Sinatra-esque."

Cake (band) American rock band

Cake is an American alternative rock band from Sacramento, California, consisting of singer John McCrea, trumpeter Vince DiFiore, guitarist Xan McCurdy, bassist Daniel McCallum and drummer Todd Roper. The band has been noted for McCrea's sarcastic lyrics and monotone vocals, and their wide-ranging musical influences, including country music, Mariachi, rock, funk, Iranian folk music and hip hop.

<i>Showroom of Compassion</i> 2011 studio album by Cake

Showroom of Compassion is the sixth full-length studio album from the band Cake, released on January 11, 2011. Produced by the band, it was the band's first studio album to be independently released. The musical style of Showroom of Compassion is grounded in the band's unique style of alternative rock, combining droll, often esoteric lyrics rife with word play and syncopation, catchy distorted guitar riffs, complex bass patterns, Moog and prominent use of trumpet. Cake's former lead guitarist, Greg Brown, makes a guest appearance on the song, "Bound Away," his first appearance on a Cake album since 1996's Fashion Nugget.

Todd Gordon is a singer and entertainer from Scotland, United Kingdom. He was a Beatles fan until the age of eleven when he first listened to Frank Sinatra's seminal "Songs for Swingin' Lovers". Gordon's first-ever visit to a major jazz concert was in 1973 to see Duke Ellington performing at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh. His second was on April 11, 1974 to see Ella Fitzgerald at The Apollo in Glasgow. Recently, the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation included Gordon's off- and on- stage encounters with Ella Fitzgerald.

History and recording

In 1969, Sinatra's sales were low. To try to combat this, he agreed to record a concept album with Bob Gaudio and Frankie Valli of the Four Seasons and singer-songwriter Jake Holmes. Sinatra was no stranger to concept albums, having done them in the past, such as In the Wee Small Hours in 1955. Gaudio and Valli brought Sinatra a fully written album that told the story of a man whose wife has left him to raise his two young sons in Watertown.

Frankie Valli American singer

Frankie Valli is an American singer and actor, known as the frontman of The Four Seasons beginning in 1960. He is known for his unusually powerful tenor/lead. Valli scored 29 Top 40 hits with The Four Seasons, one Top 40 hit under The Four Seasons alias The Wonder Who?, and nine Top 40 hits as a solo artist. As a member of The Four Seasons, Valli's number-one hits included "Sherry" (1962), "Big Girls Don't Cry" (1962), "Walk Like a Man" (1963), "Rag Doll" (1964) and "December, 1963 " (1975). Valli's recording of the song "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" reached number two in 1967. As a solo artist, Valli scored number-one hits with the songs "My Eyes Adored You" (1974) and "Grease" (1978).

The Four Seasons (band) American rock and pop band

The Four Seasons are an American rock and pop band that became internationally successful in the 1960s and 1970s. Since 1970, they have also been known at times as Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. In 1960, the band known as The Four Lovers evolved into the Four Seasons, with Frankie Valli as the lead singer, Bob Gaudio on keyboards and tenor vocals, Tommy DeVito on lead guitar and baritone vocals, and Nick Massi on electric bass and bass vocals.

<i>In the Wee Small Hours</i> 1955 studio album by Frank Sinatra

In the Wee Small Hours is the ninth studio album by American vocalist Frank Sinatra. It was released in April 1955 by Capitol and produced by Voyle Gilmore with arrangements by Nelson Riddle. All the songs on the album deal with themes such as loneliness, introspection, lost love, failed relationships, depression and night life. In the Wee Small Hours has been called one of the first concept albums. The cover artwork reflects these themes, portraying Sinatra on an eerie and deserted street awash in blue-tinged street lights.

The album's orchestral tracks were recorded in New York at Columbia 30th Street Studio, also referred to as "The Church." Unlike previous work, Sinatra did not record with the orchestra, but he did attend the recording sessions for the music. He recorded his vocals over the prerecorded tracks at United/Western Studios on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. He would never again record his vocals without a live orchestra.

Recording for the music took place from July 14 to 17 and October 13. Tracks 5 and 10 were recorded on July 14, tracks 1,4, and 6 on July 15, tracks 8 and 9 on July 16, and 3,7, and 11 on July 17. "Michael and Peter," "Lady Day" and "For a While" were rerecorded October 13.

Sinatra recorded his vocals in California from August 25 to 27 and October 31. Tracks 5,9,10, and 11 were recorded on August 25, 1 and 8 on August 26, and 2 and 7 on August 27. Sinatra went back into the studio on October 31 to finish vocals for "Elizabeth," "Michael and Peter," and "For a While" after not finishing them in August.


The album is told in two parts with an epilogue. Part 1 is tracks 1-5 and tells the story of the main character's disbelief in his wife leaving. Part 2 is tracks 6-10 and tells of the main character's desperation. A 1994 CD bonus track "Lady Day" tells the story of his wife leaving Watertown for the city.

Jake Holmes, the lyricist, explained the story of each track to Ed O'Brien for the liner notes:

Part 1

1. "Watertown": It was the set-up for everything that followed. I had in mind as a model "Lazy Afternoon." I wanted a languid feeling. If we had done the TV special, it would have opened it up, with the credits going by.

2. "Goodbye (She Quietly Says)": I had a line in my head. "There was no tempest in the tea." That's what led me there. I love the idea of those kind of goodbyes that people have where nothing is happening emotionally. It knocks me out when there is nothing on the surface. People are just sitting in a coffee shop and devastation has happened. They don't articulate their feelings. Instead, they are putting sugar in their coffee and spooning cake. They are having a quiet conversation but meanwhile a life is coming apart.

3."For a While": I've always felt that there is that moment in your life when you forget about something that is really terrible. For five minutes the sun is shining and everything is beautiful. Then all of a sudden you realize that the person you cared about is gone, and it all comes back. It is one of those horrible things about grief – one of those little holes in grief when it becomes even more painful.

4."Michael & Peter": I had lost a child in my first marriage. I would have had a child by myself if I could have (laughs). I desperately wanted kids. In a funny kind of way, Gaudio's kids were the models for that song. I put it in letter form, because it was the only way the guy could articulate those sentiments to her.

5. "I Would Be in Love (Anyway)": I guess it's that you can't regret where you are even if life takes you someplace where you don't want to be. In a strange kind of way, it was this guy trying to let go of this woman without being angry with her. You know, throughout the story, he was never really angry at her. He kind of understood; she had to go.

Part 2

6. "Elizabeth." It was real simple. I just love that name. Bobby was writing the song and that word just fell into the melody. I just imagined a girl named Elizabeth and wrote words that were a tribute to her.

7. "What a Funny Girl (You Used to Be).": The album could have been a little bit maudlin and dour. I was trying to put a little bit of sunlight everywhere I could. It was a retrospective song. I also wanted to indicate in the song that they had been childhood sweethearts. I wanted that kind of an idea. They were probably kids together. I wanted to give the sense that they had gone to school together. They had fallen in love and married quite young.

8. "What's Now Is Now." There is in that song an indication that she had obviously gone with somebody else. She has had a relationship, and he hadn't been able to accept it. That is partially what drove her off to the big city. There is a guilt theme in that song. It is the song that opens up the story.

9. "She Says." The song is a triple turn to me. He is suspicious of the small talk. The kids are echoing his fears. Why is she sending this letter? What is going on? It is such good news; they can't believe it and they don't trust it. The twist is her saying, "She's comin' home." They don't trust that either.

10. "The Train": ... is the story. We find out that he really didn't communicate anything to her, and she isn't coming back. Although we're getting all of this story from him, she never got any of this. If she had heard this album, she might have come home. She never saw this side of him. When I think about this in retrospect, there is so much that is not done. There is so much that is unfinished. It gives the story a very deep resonance.


11. "Lady Day." I saw the woman as someone who had talent. She wanted to be an artist or a singer. He was a hometown person. His whole orientation was family and business. He was the knd of guy who really lived in Watertown. She was more restless – a more contemporary woman. She wanted to do other things. She wasn't liberated enough to tell him, and she didn't think he'd understand. He was basically a good guy, but she wanted more. She abandoned her family and went for a career. The postscript was whether or not she got it and was it worth it.

Track listing

  1. "Watertown" – 3:36
  2. "Goodbye (She Quietly Says)" – 3:06
  3. "For a While" – 3:09
  4. "Michael & Peter" – 5:10
  5. "I Would Be in Love (Anyway)" – 2:31
  6. "Elizabeth" – 3:38
  7. "What a Funny Girl (You Used to Be)" – 3:00
  8. "What's Now Is Now" – 4:04
  9. "She Says" – 1:51
  10. "The Train" – 3:26
  11. "Lady Day" (1994 CD bonus track) – 2:47

All songs written by Bob Gaudio and Jake Holmes


Robert John Gaudio is an American singer, songwriter, musician, and record producer, and the keyboardist/backing vocalist of the Four Seasons.

Jake Holmes is an American singer-songwriter and jingle writer who began a recording career in the 1960s.

Charles Calello American record producer

Charlie Calello is an American, singer, composer, conductor, arranger, and record producer born in Newark, New Jersey. Calello attended Newark Arts High School and the Manhattan School of Music, in New York City. His track record of successfully collaborating with various artists to produce or arrange Billboard hit songs led to his nickname in the industry as the "Hit Man".

Wayne Andre, Warren Covington, Urbie Green, Jimmy Knepper (trombone); Tony Studd (bass trombone); Ray Alonge, James Buffington, Brooks Tillotson (French horn); Phil Bodner, Wally Kane, Romeo Penque, William Slapin (woodwind); Mannie Green, Max Cahn, Julius Held, Joe Malin, George Ockner, Rocco Pesile, Raoul Poliakin, Aaron Rosand, Max Pollikoff, Tosha Samaroff, Aaron Rosand, Julius Schachter, Hemi Aubert, Mannie Green (violin); Alfred Brown, Harold Coletta, Richard Dickler, Cal Fleisig (viola); George Ricci, Harvey Shapiro (vie); Margaret Ross (harp); Dick Hyman, Moe Wechsler (piano); Jay Berliner, Ralph Casale, Willard Suyker (guitar); Stuart Scharf (classic guitar); Richard Davis, Russell George (bass); Alvin Rogers (drums); David Carey (percussion)

Wayne Andre was an American jazz trombonist, best known for his work as a session musician.

Jay Berliner American musician

Jay Berliner is an American guitarist who has worked with Van Morrison.

Richard Davis (bassist) American double-bassist

Richard Davis is an American jazz bassist. Among his best-known contributions to the albums of others are Eric Dolphy's Out to Lunch!, Andrew Hill's Point of Departure, and Van Morrison's Astral Weeks, of which critic Greil Marcus wrote, "Richard Davis provided the greatest bass ever heard on a rock album."

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