According to Carol Kaye, "Arranger Billy Strange believed in using the two basses together. Producer Lee Hazlewood asked Chuck to put a sliding run on the front of the tune. Chuck complied by playing notes about three tones apart (4-6 frets apart), but Lee stopped the take. 'No Chuck, make your sliding notes closer together', and that is what you hear."
According to Al Casey, "Well, Lee and I had been friends forever, and he said, 'I've got this song I'm working on, and I want the guitar to play this.' And he showed me, because there's a little bit more than banging on an 'E-chord', which is what most people do. There's more to it than that. He said, 'I want you to do this on the song,' and he sang the song and played the rhythm guitar lick, and I went 'Oh, that's cute!', little suspecting it was gonna be huge."
The second single taken from her debut album Boots, and follow-up to the minor hit "So Long, Babe," the song became an instant success. In late February 1966, the song topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart, a move it replicated in similar charts across the world.
When the single was first released, some thought it had to do with the subway strike in New York. That same year, Sinatra recorded an early music video for the song. It was produced by Color-Sonics, and played on Scopitone video jukeboxes. In 1986, for the song's twentieth anniversary, cable station VH1 played this music video.
In popular culture
In 2006, Pitchfork Media selected it as the 114th best song of the 1960s. Critic Tom Breihan described the song as "maybe the finest bitchy kiss-off in pop history".
The song was used in a number of ways related to the Vietnam War:
Sinatra played herself, re-enacting her 1960s performance of the song in Vietnam, in episode 6 (June 1988) of the television show China Beach.
In 2005, Paul Revere & the Raiders recorded a revamped version of the song using Sinatra's original vocal track. It appeared on the CD Ride to the Wall, Vol. 2, with proceeds going to help Vietnam veterans.
Goodyear Tire and Rubber used portions of the song for its 1960s' ad campaign promoting its "wide boots" tires. Nancy Sinatra unsuccessfully sued Goodyear for using the song, claiming that it had violated her publicity rights. In the 1997 film Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, the Fembots were introduced to the strains of the opening and closing notes of the song.
The song is mentioned by title in The Stone Roses' 1989 song "Fools Gold" ("These boots were made for walking/The Marquis de Sade don't wear no boots like these").
Episode 1 of the 2004 BBC miniseries Blackpool featured the Sinatra recording, accompanied on screen by the singing and dancing of the characters, as part of the story.
When the album started selling well, the writer of the song, Lee Hazlewood, began demanding that the song be omitted, due to its being a "perversion of the original". Megadeth guitarist and frontman Dave Mustaine made the point that Hazlewood had been paid royalties for years before he made the complaint, although Mustaine eventually omitted the song anyway from newer pressings of the album. When the album was remixed in 2002, a censored version of the song was included as a bonus track. In 2011, an uncensored live version recorded in 1987 was released as part of the 25th anniversary edition of the album Peace Sells... but Who's Buying?.
Simpson's version of the song is performed from the point of view of her character in The Dukes of Hazzard, Daisy Duke, and it has several major differences from Sinatra's version. The song's lyrics were changed almost completely as Simpson felt that they did not accurately convey the feelings needed for the film; in the original Sinatra dealt with a cheating boyfriend, while in the new version Simpson explored Daisy Duke's personality and experiences. She rewrote the majority of the lyrics herself, although some elements were retained such as the opening line "You keep saying you got something for me..." and the spoken "Are you ready, boots? Start walkin'".
Simpson also added some new music to her version of the song. Whereas the original version did not have a bridge, she created one for the cover. A risqué rap-like/spoken breakdown was added after the bridge. Because of the legalities of songwriting, Simpson has not been credited for the new music or lyrics that she wrote. The production of the song was altered as well. Producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis gave the cover a country-inspired production because of its relationship to the film The Dukes of Hazzard, but they also added a more hip hop-like beat.
In an interview with GAC Nights, Jessica stated that her record label did not want to promote the song because of its country feel, even though the song is more pop than country. She said that she told the label "It's a great song and Willie Nelson's on it with me" and she said the label told her pop radio wouldn't understand that importance.
"These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" peaked at fourteen on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, and in late 2005 the RIAA certified the single Gold for 500,000 legal downloads or more. Its digital downloads were high, but radio airplay was low. Due to this, it's the song that reached the lowest chart position on the Billboard Hot 100 for a song topping the Hot Digital Songs chart. It reached the top ten on Billboard's Pop 100 chart, and was Simpson's first single to appear on the chart. On 11 December 2006 the single was certified Gold by the RIAA again, this time by Epic Records. In total, the single has received 1 million digital downloads.
Internationally it was a success, reaching top 5 in several European countries. It became her biggest hit in Australia, where it reached number two and remained in the top forty for twenty-four weeks. In Ireland, the single also reached number 2. The song also cracked the top five in the United Kingdom, where it reached number four and is to date, her highest peaking single in that territory. It reached the top ten in the chart European Hot 100 Singles, Belgium, and New Zealand and the top twenty in Austria, Switzerland and Germany. As the end of the year 2005, the single has selling 69,500 copies in UK.
The video, directed by Brett Ratner, has caused some controversy because of its sexual imagery. Mostly have to do with Jessica shaking her rear to numerous men and rubbing her rear against a man's crotch. The scene was well-publicised, with Simpson admitting to the public and the media that she went on the South Beach Diet to achieve her well-toned look in the video. Because of its sexual imagery, the music video is banned in all Middle Eastern and North African nations except Algeria, Israel, Iraq, Lebanon, and Turkey. In Malaysia, it was eventually edited with some of the scenes removed.
1966 Lee Hazlewood, the songwriter's own version, a humorous take on Sinatra's original recording sessions ("this is the part of the song where Billy Strange raised his hand and asked if he could please leave the room", "this is the part of the record where the engineer Eddy Brackett said if we don't fade this thing out, we're all gonna be arrested...") and the song's worldwide success ("and this is the part of the record where everybody said, 'Aw, that can't be no.1...!'", "You'll put on yer boots an' I'll put on mine, we'll sell a million ol' records any ol' time, yeah!")