The Drug-Induced Meaning Behind Nancy Sinatra’s “Sugar Town”

Frolicking strings and a prancing beat give life to the Nancy Sinatra classic, “Sugar Town.” The sticky sweet serenade sounds like an innocently loping lullaby. However, a deeper listen unearths more adult themes, and all of a sudden that innocence is traded in for euphoria.

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The Double Entendre Tactic

Songwriter, producer, and frequent Sinatra collaborator Lee Hazlewood was the man behind the song. He employed a certain tactic to many of the tunes he wrote, and the 1966 hit, “Sugar Town,” was no different. By design, the tune was ambiguous, so young audiences were hip to the meaning, but their parents were none the wiser.

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Hazelwood explained his approach in an interview with Billboard. “You had to make the lyric dingy enough where the kids knew what you were talking about—and they did. Double entendre. But not much more if you wanted to get it played on the radio. We used to have lots of trouble with lyrics, but I think it’s fun to keep it hidden a little bit.”

While Hazelwood insisted he never partook in psychedelics, he sure made a hit song about it.

The Lyrics

“Sugar Town” is about ingesting Lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD, by way of sugar cubes. The drug-laced cube was an early way of selling the psychedelic when it first became widely synthesized in the 1960s.

I got some troubles but they won’t last, “Sugar Town” begins with the consumption of the drug, I’m gonna lay right down here in the grass / And pretty soon all my troubles will pass / ‘Cause I’m in shu shu shu / Shu shu shu / Shu shu shu shu shu shu Sugar Town.

A “trip” typically begins around 30 minutes after consumption. So as the tune progresses, the verses parallel the effects of the LSD, like intensified sensory perception, heightened emotions, and visual hallucinations.

I never had a dog that liked me some / I never had a friend or wanted one / So I just lay back and laugh at the sun, the following verse plays as the drug induces a pleasurable experience, ‘Cause I’m in shu shu shu / Shu shu shu / Shu shu shu shu shu shu Sugar Town.

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Yesterday it rained in Tennessee / I heard it also rained in Tallahassee / But not a drop fell on little old me, because she’s in shu shu shu shu shu shu Sugar Town. The trip is making space for joy and appreciation to enter in. “Sugar Town” comes to a close as the singer swims in euphoria with not a care in the world.

If I had a million dollars or ten, she sings, I’d give it to your world and then / You’d go away and let me spend / My life in shu shu shu / Shu shu shu / Shu shu shu shu shu shu Sugar Town.

Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

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