8/6/08

Why I Care About Some Velvet Morning


I just read on Caslon Analytics that 92.4% of all blogs are created and read by people under 30. So, here's goes yet another post that will appeal to less than 7.6% of the blogosphere.

I just wrote a post on some great psychedelic songs which reminded me of one of the strangest and enigmatic psychedelic songs ever - "Some Velvet Morning" by Lee Hazelwood. The best version remains the original duet with Nancy Sinatra (1967); subsequent cover versions by Vanilla Fudge, Kate Moss (!) and Slowdive just don't cut it.

So, what's it all about? No one really knows for sure, and that's what makes it so intriguing.

Here's the lyrics. See if you can make heads or tails of it.

Lee: Some velvet morning when I'm straight I'm gonna open up your gate
And maybe tell you 'bout Phaedra and how she gave me life and how she made it in
Some velvet morning when I'm straight
Nancy:Flowers growing on the hill, dragonflies and daffodils
Learn from us very much. Look at us but do not touch.
Phaedra is my name
Lee: Some velvet morning when I'm straight I'm gonna open up your gate
And maybe tell you 'bout Phaedra and how she gave me life and how she made it in
Some velvet morning when I'm straight

Nancy:Flowers are the things we knew. Secrets are the things we grew.
Learn from us very much. Look at us but do not touch.
Phaedra is my name....

No luck at deciphering it? Let's look at some additional information and other theories, and maybe together we can absolutely over-analyze this song.

In Greek mythology Phaedra killed herself after accusing her stepson Hippolytus of rape. However, this tragic character doesn't seem to fit with Hazelwood's depiction of Phaedra as a lusty nymph- perhaps, he's trying a new contemporary twist to the mythological lady? Reinventing Phaedra for the twentieth century maybe?

Of course, some have attempted to put a strong sexual context to the lyrics: "some velvet morning when I'm straight" (i.e. erect), "I'm gonna open your garden gate" (i.e. intercourse). Also, as the song progresses the male and female parts become more and more co-mingled. Sounds plausible.

If you read the Wikipedia entry you'll wind up more confused than when you started. One explanation is that there actually is no explanation - it's just an abstraction, a nonsensical love song. After all, we're talking about the guy who wrote the lyrics "You keep lying, when you oughta be truthin'" in "These Boots Were Made for Walking".

Maybe the bigger question is why we should care what the hell he's talking about. Well, I guess that depends on what type of person you are. There are those that enjoy The Red Badge of Courage on its own terms, as a good tale in its own right and could give a crap foreshadowing and metaphors. Then there are those (English professors, I'm talking to you) who pick apart every sentence and look for symbolism with each syllable. To them, it's great fun looking for interpretations and hidden meanings - it's a puzzle of sorts. Certain authors (James Joyce's Ulysses and Flannery O'Connor's works come instantly to mind) also take special delight in embedding layers of meaning within their text.

I confess, I fall into the latter category. I love to find meanings in songs and works of literature. The more annotation the better. So, if you're this over-analyzing type, I'm afraid you may never have a satisfactory answer to the meaning behind "Some Velvet Morning". If you're the type to just appreciate a good song and could care less who wrote it and why, then just sit back and enjoy the music video from a 1967 Nancy Sinatra TV special. The rest of us will be wondering what's the symbolism of the horse on the beach.




67 comments:

  1. Lee Hazelwood is someone I did not know much about until recently but I am pretty curious. I am about to do a Marty Robbins post soon and I think Hazlewood produced some of his records too, including the gunfighter ballad stuff I like the most. There are some other odd producers from the 60's I can't recall right now, but ne was named Mickey Most, British... and I think he had some colorful stories.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm glad I'm not the only one who always sits through that song wondering what the heck Hazlewood meant. I think it's just a bunch of words and ideas that he liked strung together to fit the atmospheric musical track.

    Nancy had to fit in to the psychedelic movement, somehow.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think it's somewhat like Rod Stewart's "Maggie" in that the male singer is telling some woman in his past whom he abandoned that someday he will tell her about Phaedra, the woman who led to his downfall. Phaedra is a real mesmerizer, whether she is literally a witch or a succubus is open to interpretation. Also, the references to "getting straight" and "flowers growing on the hill" suggest a drug (specifically heroin) link. I've always liked this song and thought its ambiguity is a great part of its appeal, letting listeners fill in their own details.

    ReplyDelete
  4. bill - looking forward to the Marty Robbins post... looking even more forward to you getting the uranium cafe back up and running.

    chris- over the years there's been so many songs that make absolutely no sense, from "Incense and Peppermint" to "Blinded by the Light", yet this one song always seems to be the one that sticks in people's craw the most.

    buzz - you're absolutely right that ambiguity is an asset to a piece of art, whether it be a painting or a novel. People love to solve a riddle and make interpretations. Now, this is the first time I've heard of a heroin connection... interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This was such a perfect collaboration, it's one of my favorite albums. And at least you have the right 7.6% reading your blog :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. I ran across this blog when searching for Some Velvet Morning MP3s.

    First time I heard it- it made me think of the Fae World. Obviously Phaedra is one of the Siddhe! That's what it makes me think of.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I love this song. Lee and Nancy were great together. I'm also clueless as to what's the meaning of this song.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I listened Nancy being interviewed April 28th 2002 on CoasttoCoastAM. This song is about a planet (X) that aligns with either the sun or earth. I don't remember. A force of energy will create a shift. The flowers have always been doors (vortex) of energy. Research chakras and see for yourselves.
    Greek- Phaedra ; Beautiful, the bright, the shiney one

    ReplyDelete
  9. I really enjoyed everyones comments!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Did you also read the meaning of phaedra as an addictive, mesmerizing thing? which can only be talked about when the person singing is 'straight'(sober). phaedra, giving secrets and creating the dreamy world of flowers growing on a hill, with dragonflies and daffodils? So a substance that gives insight but is portrayed as a female personification? (excuse me for grammatical faults, i'm not a native english speaker)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is what I thought this song was about, some kind of hallucinatory herb.

      Delete
  11. AnonymousJune 22, 2009

    Any one ever wonder about straight/gay? It's what I first thought of. I often wish I weren't gay and could just jump into a "normal" life. This song fits that description for me.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Well, has anyone ever ASKED Lee and Nancy what this song is about?

    I'm 30 years old, I listen to rock and R&B, so the only reason why I know this song exists is because I heard it on the Art Bell radio show and I couldn't get it outta my head!

    Are they still alive? If they have any type of fan club or internet blog, then perhaps we should get the answer from the horses' mouth.

    I'm gonna look into this . . .

    ReplyDelete
  13. I remember this song playing on the radio back in early 1968, when I was 15. I always loved it, and just today gave it a good listen on a collection of Hazelwood/Sinatra songs on a CD from the library.

    Anon posted about gay/straight, regarding "Some velvet morning when I'm straight", and for the younger folks, you should understand that 40 years ago, straight either meant that you didn't use drugs, or you were un-hip, or it characterized a state of mind unaffected by drugs, or in this case, when the effects of drugs or alcohol had worn off, and you were sober.

    Also, the term "Gay" for homosexuals didn't exist yet, at least in popular understanding. When the theme song for "The Flintstones" ended with, "we'll have a gay old time!" it referred to a joyous and carefree feeling, not to homosexuality, although gay folk must have enjoyed the double meaning.

    My impression was that Lee's narrative was alluding to a story that he wanted to tell the listener, but it would be better told when he wasn't under the influence.

    My impression, as a teenager at the time, was that Lee-as-narrator was relating the story as a slightly older man (in his 30s) who had an affair with a 20-year-old "flower child" (early hippie girl) who eschewed attachment, but he couldn't get her out of his mind.

    But at the time, I thought his line went, "and how she gave me life, and how she made it END". I see a different lyric above, which is no doubt the correct lyric. So when I thought I heard "end", it didn't have anything to do with actual death, but that he was still obsessed with her, and she was a free spirit ("free love" was a catchphrase at the time, at least in the media) who had moved on.

    The straight/garden gate as erect penis/vagina
    metephor is an interesting one, and it hadn't ever occurred to me. Also the flowers on a hill as opium poppies I hadn't thought of either. The song does have a dreamy or opiate quality.

    As I listen to it now off the CD on a good sound system (in the sixties I only heard it on an AM radio speaker), the production is really something! HUGE amounts of echo, the swirling orchestration, seem almost quaint, which is part of its charm.

    Lonosoliel asked if Nancy and Lee were still alive. Unfortunately, Lee died less than a month after Lonosoliel's post. He was 78 years old, and would have been in his late 30s when he produced the record. Nancy Sinatra is 69 years old, born June 8, 1940. Lee was born July 9, 1929, making him about the same age as my parents.

    The ambiguous lyrics add to the charm, and permit listeners to project their own meaning into it. And Lee's voice! That gravelly, world weary almost-growl, set against Nancy's very innocent sounding little girl vocalization.

    I also love this record.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Perhaps the "flower child" he had an affair with may have been under 18?? That would explain all of the lyrics.

      Delete
  14. OOPS! Screwed up on Lee's date of death. At my age, two years ago seems like last week. It was August 4, 2007.

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=12537578

    http://www.ready-steady-go.org.uk/LEE_HAZLEWOOD.html

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_Hazlewood

    http://www.somevelvetmorning.net/

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20152340/

    ReplyDelete
  15. I think Chris' take is probably the most accurate. I mean, it was recorded in 1966... Lee was probably just trying to get into Nancy's pants and threw some cute weird lyrics together. In the words of Fred Durst, "He did it all for the nookie".

    ReplyDelete
  16. The tone of the song and the mention of flowers that one should not touch always made me think of the flowers that are the source of a drug in the P K Dick novel "A Scanner Darkly" (though the song clearly is not about that novel which was published 10 years later).

    The botanic name for daffodils is Narcissus, which could allude to how attractive Phaedra is.

    Ephedra is a plant that is a source for the alkaloids ephedrine and pseudoephrine, from which meth can be made. It is considered a possible candidate for the still unknown Soma plant of Indo-Iranian religion.

    Daffodils do contain an alkaloid, but it is not used to make any drug I know if.

    So much for speculation about drugs and flowers.

    In any case, it is a haunting and beautiful song. Like a few others, I first heard it as bumper music on Coast To Coast AM. The last time was two days ago, which inspired me to find out who did the song and buy myself the CD, and search around for its meaning.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I may be wrong but to me the meaning is plain.

    Phaedra is an underaged girl.

    The man who is singing is telling someone, a wife or a friend, that some 'velvet' morning, in other words, a morning where things are easy going and the world is smooth for him, like velvet, maybe even like the scotch 'black velvet' when he is REALLY relaxed. That his tongue may also be loosened and he will for once and all finally speak about a forbidden thing, an affair he can't forget, with an underage girl 'how she made it in'.

    He is surprised at himself, and can't forget this girl that caused him to have feelings again, instead of the rote he felt with a mature woman, the tired experience of that vs the excitement with this forbidden fruit, so fresh and new (how she gave me life) this girl he was not supposed to touch.

    Some velvet mornin' when I'm straight
    I'm gonna open up your gate

    (in other words, he's going to tear that wall down that prevents you from seeing this other side of him)

    And maybe tell you 'bout Phaedra
    And how she gave me life
    And how she made it end
    Some velvet mornin' when I'm straight


    Flowers are the things we know, SECRETS are the things we grow (his conundrum)

    Learn from us very much, look at us but do not touch (he feels he should not have, but couldn't help it)

    Phaedra is my name

    And how she made it end (she grew up)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love this explanation.

      Delete
    2. AnonymousJune 23, 2012

      I like this explanation also. Consider too, "flowers" vs. "deflowering" fitting in to this explanation?

      Delete
    3. Pretty much my exact thoughts too. You don't touch an underage women, you just look. Perhaps she told him her true age after the act and that attributed to self medicating and/or his euphoria after loosing his virginity.

      Delete
    4. "How she made it end" is not in lyrics.

      Or perhaps Phaedra was in fact prepubertal.

      Delete
    5. The song is an actual confession...

      Delete
    6. Perhaps it's Nancy's confession. I'll say no more because the story could get even darker...

      Delete
  18. Interesting conversation and theories. I'm not sure I have it right but for me Phaedra is not real. She is the allusion of the author's mind, a concept he hallucinated probably when he was high, thus the "straight". The open gate is the opening of the mind to strange things, as when a having a trip into another dimension.

    Phaedra made it "in" the singer's mind, his secrets and desires, dragonflies and daffodils. He can see them, but cannot touch them because they are only visions in his mind. He can see Phaedra but cannot touch her, because she is not real.

    For her part, Phaedra confirms to the author what he alredy knows. In a way, he tantilizes himself with her. She is a vision he can never attain, a perfect woman that only exists in his drug induced world.

    That's what I make of it for now. Who knows what I'll think tomorrow.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I was named Phaedra because my Dad absolutely loved this song!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have the same story :)

      Delete
  20. Given the context of the 1960's, I think the earlier posts are right that say "straight" means sober. The lyrics "how she have me life" and "how she made it end" sound like a huge crush. "Flowers" and "daffodils" symbolize beauty, which point to his crush. He felt totally alive when he fell for some woman in his past, but was devastated when the feelings were not reciprocated, so he does "not touch". After that, he ends up with some kind of substance abuse to deal with the pain. Someday, he plans to get sober and open the "gate", which is some kind of resolution to the problem: moving on with a normal life, suicide, pursuing the woman of his dreams if he didn't have the nerve in the first place, etc.
    Looking at the video with Nancy, it looks like beauty and the beast. I wonder if his crush was Nancy, maybe that's why in the video he sounds so compelling, since he is performing with her.
    I agree that most of the remakes are not as good, but I think the one by "Beloved Enemy", is nearly as good.
    -Bubba

    ReplyDelete
  21. I always thought it was "How she did me in," not "made it end" or "made it in." So the song was about the male singer being both awakened and destroyed by Phaedra. And "straight," no question, meant "sober."

    ReplyDelete
  22. It always sounded (and still sounds) to me that Nancy does NOT say "Phaedra is my name" but something like "Fodra is my name" which made the song even MORE ambiguous to me. Was she "correcting" the author's pronunciation? Was she NOT Phaedra? Did Nancy not know how to pronounce "Phaedra"? Was/Am I mishearing her?

    ReplyDelete
  23. midnight owlMarch 19, 2011

    I first noticed this song on Coast To Coast AM. If you're not familiar with the show, it's a great nightly radio show about the unexplained, aliens, the supernatural, etc. With the mood already creepy from listening to this show in the middle of the night, when I hear this song played (as the show returns from commercial) it suggests to me that Phaedra is from another world, a beautiful alien, or some goddess. The song is both cheesy and mysteriously intriguing at the same time. Must be why I dig it!

    ReplyDelete
  24. ALL of your opinions helped me very much to interprate this song...it's a beautiful feeling to see that there are more people in this world thinking about these sorts of things, and even more beautiful how all of your views are in some way different, but you can connect them.
    Cheers, all

    ReplyDelete
  25. there is another interesting cover, by thin white rope, quite dark but also has something to it... probably because of the ambiguity of the lyrics, it can be interpreted in many ways

    ReplyDelete
  26. I'm not sure what it means, but it's a really creepy song. Not that I don't like, because I do. It's just spooky.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I loved reading all of these comments. I heard the song when I was young and remember being intrigued by it. It sounded very grounded (Lee) and ethereal (Nancy) at the same time. It is a good juxtaposition (spelling?), a spellbinding blend of contrasts. Then I heard it on Coast to Coast when I started listening several years ago. Art Bell played it a lot. I am glad to hear that George Noory still has it as his bumper music occasionally. Still love the song!

    ReplyDelete
  28. groovy guruOctober 20, 2011

    enjoyed all your comments....i think the different 4/4 and 3/4 timing of lee and nancy respectivelly helps in the 'other-worldly' vibe of this song.I was pleased to see the song voted as best duet ever.I finally found out who Phaedra was.I liked how this song was used in the soundtrack to the film "Morvern Caller"...happy trails, fellow peace-niks!

    ReplyDelete
  29. Some Velvet Morning, a song that lays claim to both brilliance and ominous mystery, certainly merits the analysis it inspires. It is a superb technical achievement, especially for its day, and to my mind represents the apex of both Nancy Sinatra's career as a vocalist, and Lee Hazelwood's as composer/producer.

    That said, I have always considered SVM an Ode concerned with the impossibility of true psychic union between Man and Woman. Hazelwood's uber-masculine passages, juxtaposed with Sinatra's uber-feminine never overlap but remain utterly separate (if musically complimentary) universes throughout. This point is even more significantly underlined in the final segmentation and intertwining of Yin and Yang voices when both points of view are expressed but remain "rigidly" unalloyed in (perhaps) mere sexual intercourse.

    Of course the nebulous SOME Velvet Morning will never arrive, with its vague promise to "MAYBE tell (us) about Phaedra - WHEN (HE'S) STRAIGHT" (straight with her, straight with himself). But what I am left with by Ode's End is a suspicion that our antagonist, blocked within a heavy mythology, is doomed to bear with exquisite remorse an unresolvable loop of innocence and corruption to its inconclusive fadeout.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you're absolutely right, and this is very much the point I concluded on, myself.
      I was sent the song by my ex-girlfriend, shortly after we split, it's almost an elegy for our love, our relationship having lasted over half a decade. I feel we had a lot of differences, which were intrinsically located in the differences between sex, and how a man will never quite comprehend the inner workings of women, which we typically see as delicate, airy, ephemeral, etc. The links to nature, the unity of all women as 'us', rather than I, and the unattainableness of it all from a male perspective is probably what leads to the ambiguity, as it is from Lee, himself, that we're really hearing it (as the writer).
      But maybe I'm seeing my own relationship in it too much!

      Delete
  30. I've always thought this song was about heroin, particularly after I saw the video were they are riding horses, and "horse" is a slang term for heroin. The "flowers" on the hill I assumed were poppys, and that once he got "straight" (off the drug), he could confess how it both made him feel great (when high) and almost dead (when he needed more).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. this reply by Anonymous comes closest to what I too take the song as, when I was younger, I didn't think so much about the type of drug, thought it was about alcohol probably, I am in my 50s, so that is why. Anyhow, I am confused about one word in the song, I have seen it "How the made it in" not How she made it END, that's what I always thought it was and changes the song meaning a bit too. I have always loved this duet and happy to see it featured in NOT FADE AWAY and on soundtrack. It probably was underrated in it's day. I always thought so. Glad to see in this internet age how many other people like it too. It is very haunting for the 60s types of music that most of us were buying then. My opinion of course. Thanks.

      Delete
  31. i discovered this song through this article about some of the best duets ever. the atmosphere the song creates is so almost-real, if you know what i mean. i always assumed that the song was a bit like Nobokov's Lolita...

    ReplyDelete
  32. I was a lad of 12 when I heard this song. It never received much airplay on KKIS or KFRC. I am really attached to the this earth and the beauty of my neighborhood during different times of day. Some Velvet Morning impressed me due to Lee Hazelwood's voice and the notion that one day when he's "straight" things will be fantastic and he will realize his internal beauty and the things bothering him will fall by the wayside as most of the things we worry about are basically minor things that effect out pride and ego and if we just realize that they are meaningless and will have no bearing on reality we'd be happy.

    ReplyDelete
  33. AnonymousMay 14, 2012

    There may be a strong symbolic significance to the horse on the beach. "Phaedra" in Wikipedia: "In one version, Phaedra's nurse told Hippolytus of her love, and he swore he would not reveal her as a source of information. In revenge, Phaedra wrote Theseus a letter that claimed Hippolytus raped her. Theseus believed her and cursed Hippolytus with one of the three curses he had received from Poseidon. As a result, Hippolytus' horses were frightened by a sea monster and dragged their rider to his death."

    ReplyDelete
  34. The sexual symbolism of the song speaks for itself, and pretty clearly at that. The reason that the song persists as a perennial favorite of mine is the ARRANGING !

    Phil Spector once said that he was charged with presenting an entire teenage opera in the 2.5 minute constraint of a juke box single: love, betrayal, hop, despair all must happen in two and a half minutes.

    In 'Some Velvet Morning' the arranging has an absolutely cinematic quality to it due to the use of intercuts between the male and female vocals; line for line until they have merged. It is both an intellectual and carnal composition and equally rewarding taken either (or both) way(s).

    sardonique@netscape.net

    ReplyDelete
  35. AnonymousJuly 09, 2012

    My interpretation of the line "open up your gate" is that he'll tell his current partner about Phaedra, and it will open up the gate for her to leave when she sees him for who he really is.

    I'm still undecided if I think Phaedra is a real lolita experience or if she's something from a profound, life changing drug episode. Or maybe both :)

    ReplyDelete
  36. AnonymousJuly 21, 2012

    Funny how we tune the song to our own needs and aspirations. It's not about sex. It's about a connection between two dimensions. Of this I'm sure. And as Lee knew at the time, it's not a safe place for him to go. Sorry, but he's a bit angry she let him see her. . . there is no going back.

    ReplyDelete
  37. In 1968, when I was seven years old, I knew even then it was a song about drugs (specifically 'Phaedra / ephedra although it wasn't until decades later that I realized that particular connection). Some drugs came from natural plant sources (like flowers going on a hill). I don't remember if someone told me that or if it was my own interpretation at the time. I was a really bright kid. My parents didn't do (illicit) drugs, no one I knew personally did drugs, but I was quite aware that it was what was going on then. Nature and what was natural were 'hip' things back then. 'Phaedra was a plant which contained a natural drug which made the male singer's life livable but which also had a down side (look at us, but do not touch). But I guess the meth-heads of today know more about that down-side than I do.

    ReplyDelete
  38. While I really can see how the drug interpretations fit well, and quite possibly are the far more accurate interpretations, I thought of something else when I was reading the lyrics just now.

    From the more mythological standpoint, Phaedra was a married woman who fell in love with her stepson. I don't necessarily take the song be exactly that, but I didn't see it as a man loving an under-aged girl, but rather, loving one who was already taken.

    I see it as a man saying that one day when he is comfortable and more together he will tell the story of a woman that brought him to life and how he was crushed by her departure. I pictured a man in love with a married woman, one he was taken with but could not touch. The wispy voice that Nancy brings to the piece made me think that perhaps Phaedra was dead and the flowers growing on the hill were her grave. Perhaps her husband found out about their love and killed her. "Learn from us, do not touch" meaning, do not make the same mistakes we did and cheat on your spouse. "flowers are the things we knew, secrets are the things we grew" Past tense, pointing perhaps to death... knew the blossoming of love that created secrets within the marriage...

    I know that there can't be any definitive answers here, but I thought I would just throw that option out there.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Phaedra (a woman) as metaphore for substance use/abuse. His relationship with substances is similar to a relationship with a "forbidden" woman, i.e. an inappropriate relationship he can't freely discuss.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Art is rumored to be coming back on, somehow, somewhere...he apparently wants nothing to do with Premier Radio or C2C anymore, though

    ReplyDelete
  41. I think that this song has to be viewed within the context of the times in which it was created. I was all of 9 years old when this song was released but I can STILL remember associating it with drugs and the effects of that. Remember that in the late 60's, it was common to pen such compositions. I went on to become a songwriter myself and to become friends with other songwriters. I can tell you this much - most non-songwriters over-analyze lyrics. As I eventually achieved a degree in psychology I can also say that a person's iterpretation of ambiguous lyrics serves as an excellent insight into the analyzer's psyche. Bottom line though is that this is a great song and I've enjoyed it for decades.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Some Velvet Morning was just introduced to me via someone posting it on another site as background music. The original trippy video from 1968 is quite metaphysical and symbolic. I like some of the answers. I think having some hippie siblings that I can tell the meaning pretty clearly though. They know it well.

    By using the symbol of Phaedra and the tragedy of that Hazelwood is expressing an actual manifestation of his inner voice, his muse, his inspiration, which is only seen while he is not sober. The line about being straight is definitely meant to mean sober, or not high. (As someone said, gay and straight are later inventions, as in 68 straight meant not high).

    Sinatra is not supposed to be a 'lolita' or young girl he can't have. It's fairly evident she is someone he can't have anymore, probably because she has married and moved on. I got the impression she was actually the older woman, as someone else suggested, like the old Simon and Garfunkle tune, Mrs. Robinson, (same time period), which also would be a bit like the Phaedra story. (Older married woman is unattainable).

    I also suspect Phaedra is symbolic of forbidden love and of unattainable attraction, but it is reflected in the male's muse.

    The female is personified as sweet and flowery and kind, while he is more bestial. Like the Beauty and the Beast analogy a little. Reading too much into it.

    Also the gate imagery and the timing is very much about sex, sensuality and passion, and it could be like a romance movie where two lovers enter a field of flowers and one thing leads to another.

    Also there is the drug imagery obviously woven in there, as the male cannot achieve the tantric muse lady without being high, but one day he wants to be sober and tell his new love about it, but he can never get there.

    And 'end' isn't the line. It's 'in'. As in let her into his heart and soul.

    Very groovy.

    ReplyDelete
  43. Some Velvet Morning was just introduced to me via someone posting it on another site as background music. The original trippy video from 1968 is quite metaphysical and symbolic. I like some of the answers. I think having some hippie siblings that I can tell the meaning pretty clearly though. They know it well.

    By using the symbol of Phaedra and the tragedy of that Hazelwood is expressing an actual manifestation of his inner voice, his muse, his inspiration, which is only seen while he is not sober. The line about being straight is definitely meant to mean sober, or not high. (As someone said, gay and straight are later inventions, as in 68 straight meant not high).

    Sinatra is not supposed to be a 'lolita' or young girl he can't have. It's fairly evident she is someone he can't have anymore, probably because she has married and moved on. I got the impression she was actually the older woman, as someone else suggested, like the old Simon and Garfunkle tune, Mrs. Robinson, (same time period), which also would be a bit like the Phaedra story. (Older married woman is unattainable).

    I also suspect Phaedra is symbolic of forbidden love and of unattainable attraction, but it is reflected in the male's muse.

    The female is personified as sweet and flowery and kind, while he is more bestial. Like the Beauty and the Beast analogy a little. Reading too much into it.

    Also the gate imagery and the timing is very much about sex, sensuality and passion, and it could be like a romance movie where two lovers enter a field of flowers and one thing leads to another.

    Also there is the drug imagery obviously woven in there, as the male cannot achieve the tantric muse lady without being high, but one day he wants to be sober and tell his new love about it, but he can never get there.

    And 'end' isn't the line. It's 'in'. As in let her into his heart and soul.

    Very groovy.

    ReplyDelete
  44. My name came from this song. My mom and dad liked the name Phaedra, but they decided to shorten it to Aedra. I've spent my whole life explaining my name, how to pronounce it, spell it, etc. but it's unique and I like it, and I especially like that it came from a song. I also wonder what the song is about, which is one of the reasons I like it.

    ReplyDelete
  45. noooo Phaedra is a female character in the ancient Greek play Hippolytus, where in which she is madly in love with her step son, Hippolytus. Phaedra's nurse deceives her and tells Hippolytus about Phaedra's love for him, which he was unaware of. Out of pride, Phaedra kills herself, and her husband, Theseus, demands that the Gods kill Hippolytus, his son, which they do.

    ReplyDelete
  46. The amazingly gorgeous and very talented British Actress, Alice Eve, is starring in a movie called "Some Velvet Morning" screening currently on 2013's Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. From what I am gathering, Alice plays a lady named "Velvet" who is suddenly visited by a delusional older man who confessed his love/obsession to her after being apart for 5 years. In retrospect to the song, it's about an older man who had/have/has a forbidden desire/love with a much younger woman. Hence Alice Eve and her co-star.

    ReplyDelete
  47. First of all, I love the title of the post. Second, I have also been intrigued by the lyrics of this specific song for a long time. And I'm a student of literature, maybe there's a correlation between these facts. Anyway, to me this songs always had a taste of sexual meaning. I mean, the male voice so deep and masculine, and the girl voice so sweet and feminine are answering each other. And also the things each one says: the male talking about "opening your gate" and the girl eluding his "touch". It's like the myth of the faun and the nymphs, one always chasing the other, like men and women.

    ReplyDelete
  48. AnonymousMay 15, 2013

    I remember hearing this song played by a radio show called nightlines,or by David Wisdom on the CBC radio station in Canada in 1985 or so. Following Lee Hazelwoods version was a very interesting classical song that sounded very similar but was compossed by a classical musician. Perhaps Lee was inspired by some other composition. I wish that I could hear a replay of the show from that night. I would like to find out what the name was of the classical piece. It wasn't by Gabor Zsabo either. Very curious.

    ReplyDelete
  49. AnonymousMay 22, 2013

    For some reason, I seem to recall Lee Hazlewood explaining that he had written the song for a biker acquaintance who had been in love with a young hippie woman who had subsequently died of a drug overdose. In the 1960s and 1970s, it was rather uncommon for an outlaw biker to be in a loving relationship with a hippie (see the documentary film "Gimme Shelter" for examples of the Hell's Angels interacting with hippies); and the song seems to indicate that their relationship was a secret. The narrator is world-weary (and wary, as well) of revealing to his peers the reason for his sadness and loss, until he can emotionally reach a sufficient point of security and safety -- safe and secure from the scorn, insults and lack of empathy from his biker peers: "Some velvet morning when I'm straight/I'm gonna open up your gate." This is a two-person song; and the narrator wearily and reluctantly dredges up the memory of a lost love, in a voice which is at once longing with sadness, but also tinged with a bitter bravado, possibly daring his friends to defy and deny him; while he is answered by the ghost of his long-lost, long-dead love, responding with a sing-song prayer that is light, and happy, and ethereal -- but a lyric that seems to hang lightly in the air, like the mist over a grave. It's a ghost story, about a love never meant to be, and is very similar in narrative style to some of the old Child Ballads of the British Isles.

    ReplyDelete
  50. AnonymousJune 09, 2013

    I grew up knowing this song and always understood Phaedra as being an alien or an all good supernatural being whom for some reason exposed herself to Lee Hazelwoods character and then left. There was a society of them because she says "learn from us very much". I never really questioned the songs meaning until recently.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Look at my post on 7/21/2012. I understand . . . . . . .

      Delete
  51. Herewith the lyrics

    Nancy Sinatra - Some Velvet Morning Lyrics

    Writer(s):WHEELER/LEIBER
    Artist: Nancy Sinatra Lyrics
    Popularity: 3535 users have visited this page.

    Some velvet mornin' when I'm straight
    I'm gonna open up your gate
    And maybe tell you 'bout Phaedra
    And how she gave me life
    And how she made it end
    Some velvet mornin' when I'm straight


    Flowers growing on a hill, dragonflies and daffodils
    Learn from us very much, look at us but do not touch
    Phaedra is my name


    Some velvet mornin' when I'm straight
    I'm gonna open up your gate
    And maybe tell you 'bout Phaedra
    And how she gave me life
    And how she made it end
    Some velvet mornin' when I'm straight


    Flowers are the things we know, secrets are the things we grow
    Learn from us very much, look at us but do not touch
    Phaedra is my name

    Some velvet mornin' when I'm straight
    Flowers growing on a hill
    I'm gonna open up your gate
    dragonflies and daffodils
    And maybe tell you 'bout Phaedra
    Learn from us very much
    And how she gave me life
    look at us but do not touch
    FADE
    And how she made it end

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I believe the correct lyric is "made it in", rather than "made it end", although way back when I also thought the song used the word "end". Also, these lyrics credit "Wheeler/Leiber". You mean Jerry Leiber and Billy Edd Wheeler? They wrote the song "Jackson", recorded by June Carter and Johnny Cash. This song was composed and arranged by Lee Hazlewood.

      Delete
  52. Though married to Theseus, Phaedra fell in love with Hippolytus, Theseus' son to another woman. According to some sources Hippolytus had spurned Aphrodite to remain a steadfast devotee of Artemis, and Aphrodite made Phaedra fall in love with him as punishment. He rejected her. In revenge Phaedra hung herself and left a letter behind claiming that she did it because Hippolytus raped her. Theseus believed her and cursed Hippolytus with one of the three curses he received from Poseidon. As a result Hippolytus' horses were frightened by a sea monster and dragged him to his death. Which brings us to the song. I believe the song is supposed to be by Hippolytus some time between the time his father cursed him and the time he died. The part about some velvet morning when I'm straight refers to a future time when he's got his head straightened out and he no longer feels screwed up about what she did to him. The velvet morning refers to the dawning of a new day when he longer feels overwhelmed by the harsh feelings over what happened and is able to finally talk about it. But of course we know this day never comes because we see him in the video riding a horse by the sea and a sea monster is about to scare his horse which will result in his death.

    ReplyDelete
  53. As a student of mythology., I think the meaning of this song is likely tied to Greek Mythology, influenced by drug culture of the times as well as previous Beatnik poetry and cultural works. I don't think its about love of a girl at all. Its about mythology which often is beyond the realm of reason.

    The movie "Phaedra" that came out in 1962, revisits an ancient Greek tale where the wife of a man of a boy by another woman, falls in love with his son. Its an Oedipus type story....ie mother/son love tale, which in mythology is usually symbolic of the eternal Earth Mother and her relationship to rebirth of the year, her son. We know much of the decadence of the 1870's and then 100 years later in the 1960's/1970's is a cultural rebirth in modern society which follows with artistic works that tap into mankind's subconscious. If you look at much of the art and music and literature during these decadent periods you have very creative but dark works that tap into the darker parts of the imagination and these often bring forth creative works that represent mythological archetypes of forbidden love, rebirth stories, religious symbols, primitive connections to the earth, the mother, dark forms of love, and deeper philosophical challenges that shake and change the society. In the 1960's you add the drug element and you have a song that likely reflected this dark connection to the ancient Phaedra and her mother/son forbidden love. You also had the release of a lot of beat music and poetry that came out a few years prior, for example in the "Velvet Underground". Its very likely the beat like poetic nature of the song in connection with the Greek myth and the drug culture was a reflection of the authors knowledge to Beatnik poetry and these previous creative works. I would also add that during these short years the woman's movement was taking shape and the power of the female persona in the tale, beyond just a love interest or marriage interest, and her relationship to a Goddess is a direct reflection of the times and the challenges women had to society at the time. I think the song is very much a song about the female power and the shift in the 1960's of men seeing women as the Sphinx; The same Madonna-Whore complex we saw in the turn of the last century during that same decadent creative upheaval. Again the idea of an older mother figure in the Phaedra Myth in love with and dooming a younger male figure perfectly reflects that idea.

    Overall, to me, the first time I heard the song, knowing Greek Mythology and the story of Hippolytus being a victim of Phaedra fits perfectly with the lyrics and likely part of a drug-induced subconscious dream. Whatever meaning was layered onto it when the singers were sober or after reflection (planets, gateways, love stories) has little relationship to the darker subconscious theme implied.

    ReplyDelete
  54. Love all these comments! I sent the video and lyrics to my daughter hoping she will consider it for my granddaughter name (she is due in November 2014). She & hubby cannot agree on a name. Her comment back to me...."Interesting". We may have a winner here! I also listen to C2C and hear this being played. It gets in your head just like another favorite of mine played on C2C by Coldplay "Viva la Vida".

    ReplyDelete