This song was originally written by Ivo Robic for a music festival in Split, Croatia; Robic later recorded versions of it in Croatian ("Stranci u Noci") and in German ("Fremde in der Nacht"). English lyrics about love at first sight were written by Charles Singleton and Eddie Snyder.
Bert Kaempfert rewrote this for the film A Man Could Get Killed, and the song was used as the movie's theme. It won a Golden Globe Award in 1967 for Best Original Song in a Motion Picture. In addition, the song won the 1966 Grammys in four different categories: Record Of The Year; Best Arrangement Accompanying A Vocalist Or Instrumentalist (Ernie Freeman was the arranger); Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male; and Best Engineered Recording - Non-Classical (Eddie Brackett and Lee Herschberg were the engineers).
Other artists who have covered this song include Shirley Bassey, Hal Blaine, James Brown, Vikki Carr, Petula Clark
, Engelbert Humperdinck, Brenda Lee, Peggy Lee, Barry Manilow, Al Martino, Johnny Mathis, Bette Midler, Matt Monro, Jim Nabors, Wayne Newton, Johnny Rivers, the Sandpipers, Kate Smith, the Supremes, Mel Torme, the Ventures, Andy Williams, and Young-Holt Unlimited.
This was a big comeback song for Sinatra, becoming his first #1 pop hit in 11 years. His previous chart-topper was "Learnin' The Blues" in 1955.
Sinatra ad-libbed the "Dooby dooby doo" closing scat. Iwao Takamoto, the animator who created the cartoon dog Scooby-Doo, said that he got the inspiration to name his character from Sinatra's ad-lib.
Sinatra despised the song, calling it "a piece of s--t." Even though it was his biggest hit in 11 years, the singer never included this number in any of his late 1960s specials.
Country star Glen Campbell, who was then a session musician for hire, played rhythm guitar on this track. According to Campbell, he was one of four guitarists, and the only one using a capo (playing E-Flat). They rehearsed the song about 15 times before Sinatra arrived, then did just three takes before producer Jimmy Bowen stopped the session and selected the first take.
Campbell was positioned next to Sinatra's singing booth, and couldn't stop staring at the singer, since he was, you know, Frank Sinatra. After the session, Campbell was sure he had impressed Sinatra, but he later learned from Bowen that he got his attention for another reason. "He wanted to know who the fag guitar player was," Bowen told Campbell. "Frank said you never stopped looking at him and he thought you were lusting." (As told in Campbell's autobiography Rhinestone Cowboy.)
Glen Campbell recalled to the Daily Mail that when this song was cut, "we did the whole song in two takes. We were all in the studio together, Frank and the band. They spliced together the best bits of both versions for the final record." They were under a time crunch to get the song out as quickly as possible, as Bobby Darin and Jack Jones were also recording the song.
This was one of two Sinatra songs - the other being "That's Life
" - prominently featured in the '80s comedy License to Drive
. Les (Corey Haim) takes his crush (Heather Graham) out for a wild night in his grandpa's Cadillac, which has a Sinatra cassette stuck in the tape player. This song plays as the two dance on the hood of the car.
This topped the charts 18 weeks after Frank's daughter Nancy had a #1 hit with "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'
." Not long after, the pair would make history with "Somethin' Stupid
" as the first father-daughter duo to have a #1 single (Ozzy and Kelly Osbourne would hit this mark in the UK with "Changes
" in 2003).
Sinatra knocked The Beatles down a peg when this song hit #1 in the US and pushed "Paperback Writer
" to #2. After one week, the group reclaimed their spot at the top. A month earlier, "Strangers in the Night" dominated the UK chart for three weeks before The Beatles' song took over.
This was released through Sinatra's Reprise Records, the label he founded in 1960. The song was the third #1 hit from the company, following Dean Martin's "Everybody Loves Somebody
" and Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'."
Stan Cornyn, who would win Grammy Awards for Best Album Notes for September of My Years (1966) and Sinatra at the Sands (1967), wrote of Sinatra singing this song: "He leans into the front end of 'Strangers' and starts singing all the way to 'The End.' And there's no chop-choppy phrasing along the way. No dit-dit-dit. It comes out mmmmmmmmm all the way. If he runs our of gas on a phrase, which is a very rare bird for the man, then he runs out of gas two-and-a-half miles after anybody else would. He sings like he's got an extra tank of Texaco in his tummy."
Charles Pignone, Senior Vice President of Frank Sinatra Enterprises, talked about Sinatra's aversion to the song in a Songfacts interview: "Yes, he said it many times, he was not a fan of the song, but this is that innate ability of Frank of knowing what the audience wanted. He would do that again in concert, it would come in and out of his repertoire and a lot of times he would joke with the lyrics. He would say, 'I hate this song, I detest this song,' but he would do it because the people wanted to hear it."
Pignone explained that record producer Jimmy Bowen was the mastermind behind getting this song off the ground and on the airwaves before anyone else could: "They did the recording session, and then Jimmy actually pressed some acetates and sent them out to disc jockeys. He actually paid people or paid stewardesses in certain cities to take these acetates on a plane then drop them off at a city to disc jockeys because he was aware that Jack Jones had recorded the song, and it was going to come out in a specific time, and he wanted Frank to get airplay on it."
Although Ernie Freeman arranged the title track for Strangers in the Night, the rest of the album was arranged by Nelson Riddle.
In the mid-'90s, a Budweiser ad campaign
featured a beer-stealing penguin who would sing the "dooby-dooby-doo" refrain before nabbing a pack of Bud Ice.