The Pop History Dig

“Sinatra: Cycles”
1968

Frank Sinatra, looking a little “life weary” in a troubled pose on the cover of a “Cycles” single sleeve.
Frank Sinatra, looking a little “life weary” in a troubled pose on the cover of a “Cycles” single sleeve.
     “Cycles” is the name of a song Frank Sinatra recorded in July 1968.  The song was written by Gayle Caldwell, a singer-songwriter who had recorded with the New Christy Minstrel singers and also on her own.  Sinatra recorded the song for Reprise Records, then owned by Warner Brothers.  “Cycles,” in any case, proved to be a very good fit for Sinatra, as it has a classic Sinatra sound and feel to it – a song many believe is underrated, but has become, nonetheless, a fan favorite over the years.  What follows here is some background on Sinatra, the song, and its reception.

     After recording in New York in July 1968, two songs were released for a Frank Sinatra single that August – “My Way Of Life” on the A side and “Cycles” on the B side.  “My Way of Life” received more attention initially, lasting six weeks on the Billboard singles chart beginning August 31, 1968.  That song peaked at No. 64.

     After “My Way of Life” fell off the charts, however,  “Cycles” became the bigger hit.  It began to break through around October 12, 1968, and rose to No. 23 on Billboard Hot 100, lasting some 10 weeks on the charts.  It also rose to No. 2 on the Contemporary Adult / Easy Listening chart, remaining on that chart for 15 weeks through early 1969.

Frank Sinatra on the cover of Newsweek magazine, September 1965.
Frank Sinatra on the cover of Newsweek magazine, September 1965.
     Following the success of the “Cycles” single that fall, it was decided that an album using the same name, Cycles, would be rushed into production for the Christmas season.  Additional songs were recorded for the LP which was released in December 1968.  Along with “Cycles,” Sinatra recorded a variety of other of pop and folk-rock songs for the album, including the Glen Campbell hits “Gentle on My Mind” and “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” as well Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” and others.  The resulting album – a mixed bag of tunes and certainly not among Sinatra’s best – still peaked at No. 18 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, remaining on that chart for 28 weeks beginning December 28, 1968.

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“Cycles”-Frank Sinatra

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     When Sinatra recorded “Cycles” he was more or less in late mid-career.  He had just had a run of successes in the 1960s: in August 1965 he had released the retrospective album, September of My Years; in November that year he starred in the Emmy-winning T.V. special, Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music; and on the music charts in 1966-67 he had three Top Ten hits — “Strangers in the Night” (No. 1, 1966), “That’s Life (No. 4, 1966), and “Something Stupid” (No. 1, 1967).  In August 1968, a compilation album of his ’60s singles was also released – Frank Sinatra’s Greatest Hits! – which became a million-seller.

“Cycles”
Writer: Gayle Caldwell

So I’m down and so I’m out
But so are many others
So I feel like tryin’ to hide
My head ‘neath these covers
Life is like the seasons
After winter comes the spring
So I’ll keep this smile awhile
And see what tomorrow brings

I’ve been told and I believe
That life is meant for livin’
And even when my chips are low
There’s still some left for givin’
I’ve been many places
Maybe not as far as you
So I think I’ll stay awhile
And see if some dreams come true

There isn’t much that I have learned
Through all my foolish years
Except that life keeps runnin’ in cycles
First there’s laughter, then those tears

But I’ll keep my head up high
Although I’m kinda tired
My gal just up and left last week
Friday I got fired
You know it’s almost funny
But things can’t get worse than now
So I’ll keep on tryin’ to sing
But please, just don’t ask me how

     The “Cycles” song, however, is vintage Frank Sinatra, as if it were written just for him.  When he recorded it he was 53 years old.  By then he had lived long enough, and had a certain seasoning in his voice, which gave a believable, authentic feel to the song.  “Cycles” is also reminiscent of the Sinatra style on earlier albums, such as 1955′s In The Wee Small Hours.

     “Cycles” tells a tale of a worn-down soul who has been kicked around a bit, but still hasn’t given up.  Many a mid-lifer, hearing Sinatra croon this tune, will readily identify with the song’s sentiments and Sinatra’s manner.  Sinatra’s own life by 1968 had its share of ups and downs.  A ladies’ man from his teen idol days through his later years, Sinatra had a troubled love life it seems.  In the 1950s, he divorced his first wife to marry actress Ava Gardner, a relationship that ended in its own divorce.  They were married between 1951 and 1957.  In 1966 Sinatra married actress and TV star, Mia Farrow, but that union also ended in divorce, in fact in 1968, the year “Cycles” was recorded.  Sinatra also had relationships with other women, among them Marilyn Monroe, Juliet Prowse and Angie Dickinson.

     Politically, Sinatra had worked very hard in the 1960 presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy, also organizing and headlining JFK’s inaugural gala, only to be jilted by the Kennedys a few years later.  By the tumultuous political year of 1968, Sinatra was finished with the Kennedys, throwing his support to Hubert Humphrey rather than Bobby Kennedy.  So it appears Sinatra had plenty of real life depth to bring to the song “Cycles” as it was recorded in 1968.

     Meanwhile, many of his fans mark “Cycles” as among their favorite Sinatra songs.  One guest to the SinatraFamily.com site named Steve, writing in April 2004, noted in part: “I have always loved this song because it relates so well to the common people and I think despite all his wealth and fame, Sinatra could very well relate to the avg. working folks.  The song is not one of despair but one of quiet hope and of someone who needs a little time to himself in order to regroup.”

Frank Sinatra with cigarette, Miami Beach, 1968. Photo, Terry O' Neill.
Frank Sinatra with cigarette, Miami Beach, 1968. Photo, Terry O' Neill.
     A customer at the iTunes music website reviewing the Cycles album, headlined his comment, “Cycles – The Song Itself is 5 Stars, Top Shelf!,” and wrote: “While this album is average (or maybe below) it has one of the greatest songs Sinatra ever recorded.  I will never understand how…[Cycles] wasn’t one of his most famous songs; it is haunting and just beautiful.”

     Beyond “Cycles” Sinatra still had a couple more decades of career to come.  In 1969, for example, his hit song “My Way” came out, which in the U.S. rose to No. 27 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 2 on the Easy Listening chart.  In the U.K., however, “My Way” was a much bigger hit and had a record run of 75 weeks in the Top 40 there, from April 1969 to September 1971.

Cover for Capitol Records’ “Classic Sinatra” CD – “His Great Performances, 1953-1960,” March-April 2000.
Cover for Capitol Records’ “Classic Sinatra” CD – “His Great Performances, 1953-1960,” March-April 2000.
     In the early 1970s, Sinatra flirted with retirement briefly, but by 1973 had another gold-selling album – Ol’ Blue Eyes Is Back – and a television special.  He also returned to live performing Las Vegas.  In the mid-1980s, his Trilogy album – which includes the “New York, New York” tune – broke into the U.S. Top 20, peaking at No. 17.  In 1984, he worked with Quincy Jones on the album, L.A. Is My Lady, also well received.  And in 1993, he did a Top Ten album titled Duets, recording songs with partners such as Aretha Franklin, Tony Bennet, Bono, Liza Minneli and others.  A follow-up album, Duets II, was released in 1994 and rose to No.9 on the Billboard charts.

     His last public concerts were held in Japan in December, 1994.  In February 1995, at a private party for 1,200 selected guests, Sinatra gave his final live performance, reportedly still in commanding form, closing the night with “The Best is Yet to Come.”  Frank Sinatra died on May 14,1998.  He was 82 years old.

Early 1960s: Frank Sinatra, right, with “Rat Pack” pals Dean Martin, left, and Sammy Davis, Jr, center. Click on photo for related story.
Early 1960s: Frank Sinatra, right, with “Rat Pack” pals Dean Martin, left, and Sammy Davis, Jr, center. Click on photo for related story.
     The entertainment career of Frank Sinatra spanned nearly 60 years, stretching from the 1940s as a rising young singer with the Harry James and Tommy Dorsey orchestras to headlining in Las Vegas and  starring in Hollywood films.  His recording output alone included some 296 singles and 69 albums.  Along the way, he collected a number of awards and honors,  including: eleven Grammy Awards; a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for acting; Kennedy Center Honors in 1983, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1985, and a Congressional Gold Medal in 1997.

     Other stories at this website that cover parts of Frank Sinatra’s life and career include, for example: “The Jack Pack” (Sinatra & Rat Pack campaigning for JFK); “Ava Gardner” (includes the Sinatra years); “Mia’s Metamorphoses” (includes Mia Farrow/Frank Sinatra years); and “The Sinatra Riots” (his early years as a teen idol star).  Additional stories covering the history of popular music, artist profiles, and song histories can be found at the Annals of Music category page.  Thanks for visiting — and please consider supporting this website. Thank you. - Jack Doyle

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Date Posted: 11 January 2013
Last Update: 11 January 2013
Comments to: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Sinatra: Cycles, 1968,”
PopHistoryDig.com, January 11, 2013.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information

Cover of James Kaplan’s book, “Frank The Voice,” Doubleday hardback edition, November 2010.
Cover of James Kaplan’s book, “Frank The Voice,” Doubleday hardback edition, November 2010.
“Frank Sinatra,” in Holly George-Warren and Patricia Romanowski (eds), The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, New York: Rolling Stone Press, 3rd Edition, 2001, pp. 889-890.

Cycles (Frank Sinatra album),” Wikipedia.org.

“Frank Sinatra : Album Of The Month Club #14 (Oct 2008) ‘Cycles’,” SinatraFamily.com, September 28, 2008.

“Gayle’s Cycles,” RickieLeeJones.com.

Gale Caldwell Website.

Joe Goldberg, “The Best Album Sinatra Made: ‘In The Wee Small Hours,’ ‘A Vast Cathedral of a Work,’ Tells of Loss and Loneliness,” Wall Street Journal, April 29, 2006.

“Frank Sinatra,” Wikipedia.org.

Kitty Kelley, His Way: The Unauthorized Biography of Frank Sinatra, New York: Bantam, 1986.

“Frank Sinatra’s 1963 Playboy Magazine Interview,” Sinatra Family Forum.

Nancy Sinatra, Frank Sinatra: An American Legend, Santa Monica: General Publishing Group, 1995.

Stephen Holden, “Frank Sinatra Dies at 82; Matchless Stylist of Pop,” New York Times, May 16, 1998.

 
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