Guitarist Billy Strange Talks About Nancy Sinatra’s ‘Bang Bang’

Nancy Sinatra, Billy Strange

Nancy Sinatra and Billy Strange

Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” is a masterpiece of minimalism. Just a voice telling a dark love story and a haunting guitar.

The man who played the haunting guitar is Billy Strange, a veteran studio guitar player, singer, arranger, composer and producer. He was so kind to talk with me about the birth of this enthralling song.

Lost & Sound: Did you arrange the song?
Billy Strange:
There was no arrangement. I just played what I thought was appropriate and Nancy liked the way it was sounding, so we recorded it.

L&S: Why did you decide to record it with just one guitar?
BS: It was just as if the song called for it. More than one instrument would have been too many.

L&S: What kind of sound effect did you use on the guitar?
BS: I used a tremolo effect. There is a small box that creates it, made by Vox, I believe.

L&S: Do you remember which amp and guitar you used?
BS:
The amp was my old Fender Twin and the guitar was the Gibson 335 that Nancy gave me

L&S: Where did you record it?
BS: It was recorded at either United Recorders or Western Recorders in Hollywood. The engineer was Eddie Brackett.

L&S: Did you and Nancy record live together or did you lay down the guitar first?
BS: We recorded it live with no overdubbing at all.

‘Bang Bang’ took a long time to make some noise
Nancy Sinatra’s version of the Sonny Bono written “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” was a sleeper. When it came out in 1966 on the LP “How Does That Grab You?” it didn’t make a big impact. Cher’s original version was a big hit, though. This changed dramatically over the years. Nancy Sinatra’s take on the song is better known today. The song had a late breakthrough in 2005 when it was used for the soundtrack of the Quentin Tarantino movie “Kill Bill”.

L&S: Do you have any special memories regarding the recording session?
BS: I recall that Nancy and I were both very pleased with the way it turned out. I think it was done in one take.

L&S: How do you feel about the fact, that the song became popular again thanks to the “Kill Bill” soundtrack?
BS: It was very gratifying that it was felt to be “the” song for the movie main title.

L&S: How would you interpret the lyrics?
BS: It is simply a very sad love song about lost love, as I see it.

(This interview is based on an email conversation.)

Billy Strange, Jeanne Black

Billy Strange with his wife, singer Jeanne Black

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