BANNER

A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & Owner
Ray Rasmussen, General Editor

Volume 13, Number 3, September 2019
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Glenn G. Coats
Carolina Shores, North Carolina, USA


Watertown Revisited

Track Two “Goodbye (She Quietly Says).” The cut, subdued, begins with just Sinatra’s voice and the occasional brush of a classical guitar. Woodwinds kick in at the end of the seventh line—goodbye.

A man and his wife sit in a coffee shop, chairs pulled in tight. Cups tremble in their hands. A voice asks about pecan pie but they don’t hear it. A little boy shares a glazed doughnut with his father. They remain oblivious to him. The oboe’s notes are thick and low like a moan.

Trombones, French horns, violins, piano, all blend together like traffic on a rainy day. The couple in the cafe never raise their voices. The wife says he hasn’t done anything wrong. The husband wants more than that. He needs a reason, like someone else, the day-to-day struggle with money, the weariness of winter in a northern town.

The song ends with the word goodbye and a two beat arpeggio. Nothing fancy. No explosion of drums. It’s over. Both coffee cups empty.

Sunday night—
trying to pair a shirt
with a tie

Track Three “For A While.” Sinatra sings in short, smooth phrases accompanied by gentle orchestration. The tune moves leisurely, a walk through a familiar neighborhood. He starts with the things she left under the sink: shampoos the color of sea, hairsprays and gels, body-wash that smells of flowers, combs and brushes still tangled with her hair, Scottish soaps and witch hazel clear as a day without clouds. That is enough today. Tomorrow, he will open her closet.

Sales are slow. People can’t make up their minds. There are Christmas presents to buy and fuel tanks to be filled, and maybe a garage door can wait until after the New Year. In the long spaces between customers he can’t stop thinking about her. Pictures her riding a horse or stepping into the ocean. Work will get going after the holidays, he tells himself.

At the end of the song, Sinatra sings, “They forget, that I’m not over you, for a while.” He repeats those lines but the words begin to fade.

couple on a bridge
the dart of fish
in a marsh creek

Track Six “Elizabeth.” Electric guitar and piano highlight the introduction. Brief lyrics, as if Elizabeth is someone met in passing, a face on a train. The singer longs for someone who can’t be his: “You were all much too much, out of reach, out of touch.”

He sees the new girl working at the inn, the way she greets each customer, shakes her hair from her face, touches an arm when she talks, smiles at every child, every story. Elizabeth is written on her name tag.

The restaurant is candle lit and snow falls on the narrow street outside. He pushes in his chair to leave, turns to look for her as he slips into his coat. He wants to remember. The song ends with muted woodwinds like distant birds, dimming. Then they are gone.

riverflow . . .
a skipping stone
leaves its mark


Note: Frank Sinatra’s album “Watertown” appeared in 1970. Jake Holmes wrote the lyrics and Bob Gaudio composed the music. The songs are all connected and tell a story. At the time of its release, the record received mixed reviews and suffered from poor sales.

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