"Fly Me To The Moon"* was written by Bart Howard in 1954. Ten years later, with an out-of-this-world arrangement by Quincy Jones, the star-powered Count Basie band, and his own stellar performance, Sinatra planted his flag and made it his own:
Mark Steyn tells us that it started out as a ballad, but it didn't "take flight" until Frank and Q got ahold of it:
Frank knew what he wanted that day. Quincy Jones' arrangement didn't build: It started with the band at full strength, and there they stayed. "I dunno," said the singer, after the run-through. "Up there at the beginning, it sounds a little dense, Q." So Jones told most of the guys to sit out the first bars and leave it to Frank and the rhythm. Sonny Payne's brushes set the tempo, Basie provides a couple of plinks an octave apart, and there's Sinatra:Read the rest. It's all there.
Fly Me To The Moon...
And suddenly Bart Howard's sideways cabaret ballad is head on and literal: it flies to the moon, a love song for the space age, a wild ride with a well-stocked wet-bar.
Frank opened his second Man and His Music TV special with it, adding some heavy drama up front (is this the original "dense" intro?) to match the drama of the camera panning up from under the stage for the big reveal of . . . The Man! And his Music! I prefer the studio recording, especially the quieter but jazzier intro, but I'm very attached to this performance. Even Ed McMahon's introduction (edited out here) can't ruin it for me:
I do regret that he sang "life" instead of "spring" -- "Let me see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars" is such an evocative line.
There are lots of great live versions out there. I think this one is particularly terrific:
*Yeah, I mixed up my #3 and #4, so I fixed it. It's a good thing this is almost over. :)