The following is a conversation between two U.K. Lee Hazlewood fans, March 1999.

Lee Hazlewood was The Dude. Make no mistake.

With his deep lascivious voice and handlebar mustache, cowboy boots and way 'round the most desirable woman of the '60s (Nancy Sinatra), he was someone to aspire to; a someone, definitely. When he hit the opening, unbelievably low bass note on his 'n' Nancy's cover of "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling", it seemed life couldn't get any sweeter. He would stand there, seemingly immovable, as Nancy tried to enchant him with whispered sweet nothings on the turbulent, unsettling, spooky "Some Velvet Morning." He'd rest a moment, unperturbed, as country music turned salacious and far, far worse on their version of "Jackson." Who else, damn it, could've produced the deliciously dodgy amalgamation of the mainstream and steamy SM that was "These Boots Were Made for Walking"?

Lee's unshakable veneer of cool, his obviously brittle temper, his refusal to be drawn out of self-imposed exile by successive generations of hipsters... these were all traits to be admired, emulated. When he and Ms. Sinatra made Did You Ever?, their 1971 follow-up to the seminal Nancy and Lee, it was filled with the sound of bickering and stamped feet departing--and the most libidinous interplay imaginable. No wonder this decade's finest stars--from the Tindersticks' Stuart Staples, Dub Narcotic's Calvin Johnson and Nick Cave downwards--both venerate and downright steal from him.

I like his songs. I like his croaky old voice. I like the fact he didn't give a fuck. I like his mustache--how can you not like his mustache? I like the fact I'm beginning to look like him as I grow older. Some days I like his sleaziness, other days I'm appalled by it. I like his version of Tim Rose's "Morning Dew" because it's slower than the original, and more troubled. I like the fact he sounds troubled. I like his collaborations with Nancy, they're fantastic. That's how I most know him. I particularly like the way he juxtaposes sweet innocence with gnarly old man-ishness. I often wondered how Frank allowed his daughter to end up with someone like Lee. Actually, Nancy doesn't sound innocent at all on her Hazlewood recordings--more like an obvious sassy, slutty, world-weary foil to a dirty old man.

Yeah, I know what you're saying. Kinda like Marianne Faithfull gone to seed. (And yes, I know that's an oxymoron.) She 'n' Lee used to get seriously down and sleazy. After Nancy's departure, Lee continued to produce records which fascinated through the way they'd mix the crassest of pop music with the most sordid of fantasies and expressionless jaded vocalists (singers like Nina Lizell and early Gram Parsons producer Susie Jane Hokom). Lee Hazlewood's only peers were archetypal cigarette-smoking lecherous hedonistic Frenchman Serge Gainsbourg, and Isaac Hayes (circa the gold chainmail stage outfit).

On 1969's Forty, barefooted Lee is spread out on a coach (gatefold sleeve, natch!) like an aging porn star. Inside, he has the cigar and brandy to the fore, as he celebrates one more conquest, one more corruption through his wiles.

I like Lee because he makes me feel better about getting old. What else? I don't know much about him, apart from the facts. He recorded all those Duane Eddy records. He worked with Phil Spector in Hollywood, or maybe Phil worked with him, learning a lot of tricks off our Lee. He's moved around a lot, but was born in Oklahoma. He's been in semi-retirement since whenever. A couple more favorite songs? Nancy 'n' Lee's version of Dolly Parton's "Down From Dover" on Did You Ever?--which is a long way from being in tune or in key--but is fucking amazing. And you can't forget your "Some Velvet Morning," one of the best songs ever written.

You're right! You can't! And what about Lee's outrageously stylized sleeve notes?! Pure genius! On his magnificently louche 1968 solo album Love and Other Crimes, he writes about French jazz and teenage girls in a stream of consciousness that'd do Gertrude Stein proud--"Carlos... obesity can be a beautiful thing... he could always find a table in 10 minutes... even if it took two hours. Debbie... smiled... discovered she had beautiful legs... explained to a secretary twice her age to 'beware of Frenchmen... they start with your shoes....'"

Lee was The Dude. Make no mistake.

Steve Shelley's Smells Like Records label is re-releasing six Hazlewood albums--Trouble Is a Lonesome Town ('63), The N.S.V.I.P.s ('64), The Cowboy and the Lady ('69), Cowboy in Sweden ('70), Requiem for an Almost Lady ('71) and 13 ('72)--plus an album of pop standards, Farmisht, Flatulence, Origami, ARF!!! and Me, recorded between '96 and '98. The former are highly recommended. particularly the ones which mention cowboys. The latter is for "serious" Hazlewood fans only.