Snuff Garrett and the Cher Brand

GuitarsMy parents had this album in their 70s record collection! It's one of his "50 Guitars" series that features Wrecking Crew guitarist Tommy Todesco.

Tommy Garrett (known as Snuff) died in Tucson December 16 or 17 at the age of 77. Some sites erroneously list his age as 76 but he was born July 5, 1938 according to The New York Times. Another one down in the last few months from cancer.

Garrett gained prominence as a radio DJ in Lubbock, TX, where he was the first to play a new artist local named Buddy Holly. Eventually he made his way to Liberty Records in Los Angeles and became a “pivotal producer.” His obit accolades include Gary Lewis & The Playboys, Del Shannon and Cher, although he had left Liberty Records by the time he started working with Sonny & Cher on Kapp Records.

Best Classic Bands website also claimed he was responsible for hiring Phil Spector to work at Liberty and first employing Leon Russell. He also produced the movie scores to Smokey and the Bandit II and Cannonball Run.

Cher has often said she doesn’t much like these Snuff–era songs. Bob Dylan didn’t like them either according to the story about the “Dark Lady” listening party of 1974. And Snuff Garrett himself didn’t sound too proud of anything he ever made. Or take much effort to defend it anyway. But luckily for me I am not Snuff Garrett or Cher or Bob Dylan and am perfectly free to like this music. In fact I would argue here is some of the most creative Cher music of all time, some of the most articulately original in tone, production and flourishes of instrumental inspiration. There is plenty of filler around as well. I can’t defend it all but the best is right up there with anything Cher has done.

AlliConsider the first guitar strums of All I Ever Need is You, the heartbeat of the muffled drum. This is the inaugural moment of Sonny & Cher in the 1970s. Consider that Garrett managed to get Sonny to sing better than he’d ever sung before. Garrett unveiled a comparatively pristine sound for Sonny & Cher with violins and horns. They cleaned up good those two. Garrett could have taken them down a completely dull, adult contemporary path; but the songs here are infused with western elements and Cher’s beautiful honey-flavored voice is pulled forward. There are some unforgettably well-crafted songs on this album including "A Cowboy’s Work is Never Done" (who else could invoke comparisons to Enni Morricone?) and "Somebody." More on the album.

According to Garrett he worked fast and kept his eye on the dollar. Allegedly, nothing else mattered much . And all while dealing with Cher’s broken manicures. Are we to believe he stumbled his way into some of Cher's most iconic songs? Was he being disingenuous or subtly self-abusing? This from an obsessive hit-maker who, like everybody else, could never deconstruct or predict the elusive formula of a hit single. Most of his songs for GypCher were hit-less, all told. How then can we explain how "Gypsys Tramps and Thieves" has become the timeless, enduring track it has? You don’t need to add a symlin in there to get a hit record. Ask anybody, "Gypsys Tramps and Thieves" doesn’t stand the test of time because it has a hook or was a gimmick record. Who’s still delighting over "Monster Mash" or the "Surfin Bird" besides Elvira or Peter Griffin?

Not only is hit prediction practically impossible but cynical hits drop away from public consciousness pretty fast. We could argue this was the fate of maybe "Half Breed." But not "Gypsies." I would argue not for "Dark Lady" either. Garrett’s version of “He Aint Heavy (He’s My Brother)” is also a lovely and subtle rendition.

But it was “The Way of Love” that took Cher to a whole other level and has become her definitive example of torch. What’s so hit-sure about that big to-do of a song? Those heartbreaking strings and the soft-build execution? But what an opening to an album!

FoxyThe Foxy Lady album sounds like it was a drama-filled experience behind the scenes. This seems reflected in the mishmash of its song lineup. But "Living in a House Divided" is another breathtaking opening to any album. The first cascading note unlike anything you’ve heard on a single anywhere. Shakers, horns, Cher’s anger at the end. What is formulaic here?

HbOf all Garrett’s albums for Cher, “Half Breed” has the most inexplicably subdued entrance with a Paul McCartney ballad (“My Love”). This strikes me as her most feminine album. “Carousel Man” is a thrill of texture. Garrett could have overplayed the carnival sound but he made the song more adult, more sinister than cotton candy and tilt-a-whirl music. Cher’s voice does the hard work of expressing life on the carnival grounds.

And I’ve always found “Chastity’s Song” better and more sincere than the original. Decide for yourself.

The "Dark Lady" tracks, like much of Cher’s work with Garrett, are not perfect but they are always ambitious and flavorful, much more so than either have ever admitted.

We’re back to a creative opening track here with that train whistle of the blues-pop sounds of “Train of Thought,” Cher singing through cigarette drags. The song is a suicide by gun, manic desperation, the keyboard sound evoking train travel, the backups doing the train’s horn. Truly delightful! And then the spiraling end. Who does all that work for a quick-off single?

Darklady“I Saw A Man Who Danced With His Wife” is the movie Casablanca on big band night. Then comes “Dark Lady” where Cher sings the word “laugh" like a cackle. This song is a perfect depiction of French folk/gypsy. And let’s be honest: a song like this would have created a sink hole on the charts if it hadn’t been perfect. The concept is too heavy, too near-cartoonish to bear any misstep. Only a master could have stepped so gingerly over this thing. It’s impressively un-embarrassing. It’s not one of my go-to songs, I admit, but I come back to it from time to time and I respect it. Some critic called it “grimly comedic” but considering its popularity with children in the mid-70s, it’s more like a Grimm’s lost fairy tale.

And THEN we get “Miss Subway” and Cher’s vaudevillian Mae West. And THEN we get the southern ballad Dixie and THEN the R&B cover “Rescue Me” and THEN the Great Gatsby’s Irving Berlin ballad “What’ll I Do” with Cher sounding full-bodied and contemporary compared to the tinny and sad original.

All this variety and no song feeling like it doesn’t belong together in the overall atmospheric and glamorous album set.

For all its faults Cherished even begins evocatively with violins and the sounds of seagulls. An accordion means sailors are about. Nothing feels as sharp on this album as other Garrett albums but there are lovely ballads here (“He Was Beautiful,” “Again”) and that cotton-gal song “Dixie” which always entertains me. This Cherishedis the only Cher album from the 70s that truly devolves into kitsch.

Like Cher, Garrett wasn’t perfect but there are more creative elements in these songs than you’ll find in earlier and later hits. And despite all claims to the contrary, they all feel less formulaic.

Cher’s career is nothing if not ironic on many levels. And the fact that Snuff Garrett gets no cred for his work on Cher music in the 1970s is most problematically ironic. These songs built Cher’s reputation as a gypsy. Garrett played no small part in her success during that decade and in solidifying her eternal image as an icon evermore. It takes more than a Bob Mackie to get there.

 


Cher Reviewed

SparklesMetro Weekly posted an essay of Cher’s best albums. The author, Gordon Ashenhurst, published a similar list as Diva Incarnate back in 2012, another review which Cher Scholar reviewed.

Cher’s Twitter oeuvre was also recently explicated by The New York Times. (Thank you for the heads up by Cher scholars Michael and Robrt). I actually think this piece provides a good theory about the phenomenon we’re seeing with Cher tweetage.

 


Snuff Garrett Dies

Cher SnuffSo I heard a rumor from Cher scholar Robrt that around December 18 Snuff Garrett had passed away. I did a short search for online obituaries that day but couldn’t find anything and then I went on a two-week vacation. I finally rechecked and indeed Snuff Garrett did pass away on Dec 16 or 17 depending upon the article. The New York Times obit says Dec 16 so let’s go with that.

We’ve lost many to cancer in December and January and I’m feeling somewhat soul depleted already; but I'm taking Snuff Garrett's passing especially hard. Over the last few years I've been having a bad feeling that we wouldn't have him around for long to discuss Cher history and this was a most important Cher record producer (beyond Sonny) who didn’t get nearly enough credit for shaping her image in the early to mid 1970s.

Image may be king but music moves the heavens.

However, I want to do a more considered post about Garrett than I’m prepared to do now. More later. In the meantime, here are some of his obits:

The New York Times

Contact Music

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Best Classic Bands

Times Record News

Passings: Producer "Snuff" Garrett (1939 - 2015) ~ VVN Music

  


Cher Sends Water to Flint, Michigan, and Twitter Stumbles

CherviewIf you've been following Cher's tweets or the news, you've been reading about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, (the same town Michael Moore filmed about in his first movie, Roger and Me by the way). Cher has been very vocal in tweets about the mess and Michigan’s governor Rick Snyder. Finally last week she took matters into her own hands and sent truck loads of bottled water to Flint citizens in conjunction with Icelandic Glacial bottled water company (see the water below).

Icelandic water! Yummy. It was huge news.

Cher on The View  (Thanks to Dishy for the heads up on this)

CherwaterdonationABC News

NBC News

The Huffington Post

Vogue

Michigan Radio

The Hill (I love it when she makes The Hill)

Channel 21 Nebraska!

MSNBC

Chertv
The Oakland Press (with talks about how Cher plans to do more)

Despite all the water shipping and governor scolding, Cher did not forget to continue her tweets against Donald Trump.

Pink News

The Huffington Post

In fact last week Cher called herself the “Crazy old Aunt of Twitterin The Huffington Post.

And all this while Twitter seems to be imploding. Cher may soon need to find a new platform for expressing herself.

  


Cher Among Billboard Record Breakers

ChertimeI subscribed to a year of Time Magazine last year and I'm still catching up on it. Sometime last spring there was a short column on Barbra Streisand being the Platinum album queen, the woman with the most platinum albums in history with 31. Reba McEntire has 19. She's also only artist to have at least one top album in six consecutive decades. The column went on to state that “Cher holds the same distinction, but for singles rather than albums.” There are men with more platinum albums than Streisand: George Strait (33), The Beatles (42), Elvis Presley (52).

Cher is in good company with this list.

 

 


Cher's Big Hair Day

CherallsleepCher Scholar’s friend Christopher came across some Cher references online over the holiday.

This first piece is about the fact that a love of Cher in the 1970s might constitute a clue that young man might be gay.

Christopher also sent me his ode to the video "We All Sleep Alone."  He reminded me that it’s the 30th anniversary of Cher’s 80s comeback. Wah?? I’m so damn old! Christopher calls this era the "Jovi/Desmond Child" period. I would call it the "Jovi/Child/Diane Warren" period although the Warren is lingering. How shall we celebrate it, he asks me knowing full well that this is not my favorite era of Cher and I am not inclined to celebrate it.

He also wants to commemorate Cher’s big 80s hair of that same period (okay, something I CAN get behind).  Of the “gargantuan” wig she wears in “We All Sleep Alone” he says, “It is truly stupendous, particularly as she is wearing it without irony--it is like the greatest, grandest expression of 'Big 80s Hair' I can think of.  The Wilson sisters probably had the biggest real hair, but Cher beats them handily if wigs are factored in.”

Christopher also had some good things to say about the video itself and why it’s his favorite video of Cher’s:

  • "The apocalyptic feel of the set:  very Mad-Max-boudoir, with the scaffolding, the tattered, torn grey sheets."
  • The aforementioned hair.
  • It's one of his favorite Cher songs of all time. He loves its "atmospheric, dramatic, truthful qualities and the way the song is a strange blend of the quiet and the bombastic.  Bonus points for all the heavy bleating."
  • "The canoodling with Rob (full-on mullet, natch)."
  • Allsleepvid"That she had the balls to base a whole video around the concept of her writhing around in a negligee on a satin-sheeted bed (I know the song is about "sleeping," but still...).  Bonus points for the tastefully glittery effect on the negligee and that the sheets are black satin (so Goth!)."
  • "Her astonishing body, which might be seen as being in its most impressive incarnation during this period; i.e., it's one thing to be in your 20s and have the astounding body she had on her TV shows in the 1970s, but another thing altogether to be 40 and still look like this.  It defies reason."
  • "That the song proved prophetic in terms of her own journey.  Unlike Babs, she really does sleep alone at this point in time." [We guess, but we don’t really know because Cher has been private about it for years. CS doubts this is the case.]

Happy New Year, New Cher Scholar Web Sites, New Tweets, More Fanny

ChertreeHappy new year!

I’m back from my work vacation which I spent most of adding analytics to my websites and giving them responsive themes so they’ll work on mobile devices well enough that Google won’t shun me in search results. Whew!

Everything went pretty well until I tried to post pictures of my Cher tree on Facebook (see left). I went to Google search my page on www.cherscholar.com about Cher doll outfits to find the name of this year’s new Cher doll dress on my tree (Gown of Paradise). It was then that I discovered my site had been hacked and was redirecting people to porn sites. On Christmas of all things!

So I spent the whole weekend after Christmas re-creating Cherscholar.com in a content managed, secured, responsive place. Anyway, along with the blog, the mama site has a whole new look and the job gave me a list of other things to update over there. So more to come.

Meanwhile, news kept happening in Cherland.

Twitterspats

Trump tweets

Tweet drama over Michigan governor Rick Snyer

Cher v. Ted Cruz

Cher's reaction to Tamir Rice ruling  (Billboard, thanks Christopher)

Movie Memorializing

MermaidsMermaids: Where Are They Know (dammit I feel old). 

The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour

More articles appeared on the band Fanny. June Millington’s biography has come out and it’s a hefty thing I can’t afford right now but reviews so far have been good:

From Pitchfork

From NPR

The NPR article talks about how bad-ass Fanny was and how they knew how to set themselves up and carry their own equipment. The article compares Fanny to both the current band Haim and the 70s The Band and surmises the reason they never broke into success was because they were too good, not gimmicky enough, more committed to their competent jams and funky breakdowns. But being bi-racial and bi-cultural, they were ahead of their time. The article laments that in the digital music age there are no record bins for young people to browse and discover Fanny.

Here's a look at Cherscholar.com website as it has evolved over the years:

Cs2001 Cs2010

 

 

 

 

 

 


RIP David Bowie, Natalie Cole, Wayne Rogers and Pat Harrington Jr.

CherbowieToday is a sad day for rock and roll fans. David Bowie was a 1970s and 80s icon to diverse groups of people.

From The New York Times today:

"David Bowie, his generation’s standard-bearer for rock music as theater, died on Sunday, two days after his 69th birthday. He had cancer. He released his 25th album, “Blackstar,” on Friday and has a show, “Lazarus,” running Off Broadway. He’ll be honored at Carnegie Hall with a concert on March 31." Watch Cher and David Bowie in 1975.

Cher tweeted: “DEVASTATED…A LEGEND IS GONE”

Singer Natalie Cole and television star Wayne Rogers also both died on December 31.

Cher-wayne-raquel-tatemMost remember Wayne Rogers from the show M*A*S*H although I was also a fan of his show with Lynn Redgrave, House Calls. Cher fans will remember him from multiple appearances on the Cher show. See him to the right with Raquel Welch, Cher and Tatum O'Neal.

Cher tweeted about Natalie Cole:

"NATALIE COLE …..A VOICE FROM HEAVEN HAS BEEN CALLED HOME."

And I know they say these celebrity passings come in threes, but we actually had four over the holiday. Pat Harrington, Jr. (who played Schneider on the show One Day at a Time) also died January 6.

We are losing a lot of 70s icons!

As you may know, one particular supermarket rag was once again hastening Cher's demise on its cover last week. It's the third alarming "Cher is dying" report since the illness that cancelled her tour in 2014.  It is just a tabloid story but still...it can't help but make you feel nervous. David Bowie, at 69, is just a little over a year younger than Cher.

 


Cher in New Amazon Prime Ad

Amazon-primeTaking a break from the holiday break to express my glee over the fact that the Sonny & Cher song "Little Man" is being now featured in a very funny Amazon Prime ad. Mr. Cher Scholar said he saw the commercial first during football last Sunday. "Why didn't you alert Cher Scholar?" Cher Scholar asked. Apparently he had the sound turned down. Hmm.

In any case, I saw the commercial last night on A&E and flipped!

Watch it here!


Happy Holidays: Twitter Fights, Airpocalypse, George Bush and Glen Campbell

SnowcherHappy holidays to all the Cher Zombies out there. This is my last blog post of the year! We’re coming up on my Christmas break and my somewhat bi-annual Christmas party. I’ll spend some time off CNM working on book and web site projects.

Politics and Global Affairs

What would a blog week be without some Cher Twitter kerfuffles?

There are Paris-attack tweets (Billboard) and U.S. Refugee Policy tweets (New York Daily News and Daily Mail).

Cher also recently did the voice over for a Sierra Club video that just came out. You can read about it and see the video at Mother Jones:

"Now, Cher is lending her famous voice to the fight for a better, cleaner world, in an innovative virtual-reality tour of China's environmental emergency published by the Sierra Club on Monday. Throughout the short video, Cher explains how China has become the world's leading emitter of carbon dioxide, and how putrid air filled with poisonous sulfur leads to 4,000 premature deaths every day in China (true), and two birth defects every minute (also true, but a pretty old statistic at this point)."

HardhatcherMother Jones also does a play-by-play of the video's stated facts. I love their graphic of Cher on their web page with a hard hat, although it's a tad condescending. 

It's a timely launch of the video, however, because Tuesday New York Times just reported this:

"Airpocalypse: Officials in Beijing have declared that the thick smog blanketing the city was bad enough to require a red alert, the first time they have raised the alarm to its highest level, angering and confusing residents."

The Sierra Club video story in also in Eco-watch.

Cher’s Old Malibu House For Sale

Not to be confused with the big house, this is a former house of Cher’s which is back on the market for a paltry $10 million dollars.

Glenc-showCher Music History

Rolling Stone Magazine has been giving Cher some love lately. Previously they posted her tour-de-force video from 1978 with Dolly Parton. This week they posted her holiday duet on Glen Campbell’s variety show from 1969. They sing "Jingle Bells." Cher really rips the seams out of the song in parts and alternatively seems a bit unsure about the arrangement, which should sound familiar to us because it's the same one Cher did with Sonny on their variety shows. At the end, Glen Campbell jokes about "locking Marty Paich up in a basement for a week to get that arrangement."

Better yet, there are more great Glen and Cher duets to be found on YouTube:

  • Cher and Glen doing a duet of "He Aint’ Heavy, He’s My Brother." Such a great performance and apropos in light of recent events occurring in our political discourse about Muslims.

  • Cher and Glen doing a duet of "Bang Bang." Glen goofs up a line of the song.

Also, Cher's song "Believe" is still appearing in song competition shows.

Bono v. Bono

News came out recently that George W. Bush once thought rock singer Bono from the band U2 was the same Bono who was once married to Cher. I guess that might be confusing if you hadn’t lived through the 1970s or the 1980s. But wait...

I guess this isn't any worse than Cher once thinking the moon was the other side of the sun. I guess we have to let this one slide.

Chaz 

Chaz was recently spotted with a date at The Danish Girl premiere