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Cher and Madonna, Kate Hudson, Bang Bang

MadonnaThe blog Cher News came back with some tidbits in August:

- David Shelley, one of Cher’s guitarists passed away. The story has pics of Cher singing with him.
- A good compilation post of anthemic Cher mixes (listen at work!)

In the news...

It seems Kate Hudson has come out saying she's been inspired by Cher. I don't really see it but...

My friend Christopher sent me this clip, Buddha Bar’s chill-out version of “Bang Bang.”

Mads2Cher tweeted about people comparing her to Madonna. Here are some concepts for scholarship so you can do your own comparison (play the fun home game version!):

  • Amount of reinventions over how long a period of time
  • Likeability, relatability
  • Types of personality qualifications (TV, film, music, stage)
  • Video presence versus variety show presence
  • Voice conventions
  • Beauty conventions
  • Acting reviews
  • Intellectual/cultural point of view, something to say
  • Types of Billboard success
  • As gay icon

Cher in John Lennon’s Rock and Roll

LennonIn the outtakes of The Wrecking Crew DVD Mike Lang talks about the John Lennon  Rock ‘n’ Roll album with Phil Spector and how Harry Nilsson came in wanting to do a duet with Lennon.

These sessions were famous because (a) Phil Spector reportedly held a gun on John Lennon and (b) this was during John Lennon’s infamous lost weekend, the year he spent estranged from Yoko Ono, the year of drinking and carousing with May Pang.

Apparently, during the Nilsson/Lennon duet, Cher arrived and did some backup. Mike Lang joked that they were like a strange Peter, Paul and Mary singing together. Then at some point during the duet Yoko Ono calls on the phone and upsets John Lennon and he leaves abruptly. Since all the musicians were there and the time was booked, Spector decided to go ahead and produce a duet between Cher and Harry Nilsson, (an artist not known for his many collaborations with women), covering the Martha and the Vandellas song, “A Love Like Yours Don’t Come Knockin Everyday.” 

Here’s some online historical mentions of the happening:

In 1974, John Lennon was in a bad way. After he lost a copyright lawsuit to Chuck Berry, as compensation he was forced to record a few songs from Berry’s publisher’s songbook. Using this situation as an opportunity to create a rock classics album, he recruited the legendary producer Phil Spector and traveled to L.A. to record what would become 1975’s Rock ‘n’ Roll. During the sessions, Nilsson started hanging around the studio. Spector brandished a gun in the studio one night, Lennon began his descent into a sloshed hellscape, and Nilsson got to share a vocal booth with Cher (who chipped in on backup).

http://grantland.com/features/the-legacy-harry-nilsson/

As they progressed, the sessions quickly attracted a number of celebrities to the studio, among them Warren Beatty, Cher and Joni Mitchell. Lennon and Spector often fought, and the project was moved to Record Plant West after Spector let off a pistol one night at A&M Studios.

After three months a number of suitable takes were finally in the can, although Phil Spector's habit of taking the tapes away with him each night eventually led to disaster.

http://www.beatlesbible.com/people/john-lennon/albums/rock-n-roll/2/

May Pang’s words

Blogger: Was Harry Nilsson around at that time?

May Pang: Yeah, he came in for a visit. Joni Mitchell was recording in the other studio. When she found out that John was recording in the studio we were in, she was coming in all the time. She would bring in other people. One night it was Warren Beatty and David Geffen. Musicians were always coming through the door: Elton John, Cher. Then Phil would give his speech, “How dare you walk into my session.” I would have fights with Phil, because I wouldn’t take it from him. I was in my early 20s at the time, and I was really strong-headed with him. He couldn’t handle that. I was trying to keep John from all the crazy things that people were trying to drag him into, things he was not aware of.

http://articles.absoluteelsewhere.net/Articles/may_pang_rocknroll.html

The Cher influence on the outtake "Be My Baby"

In 1973 Spector produced a number of recordings for Lennon's Rock 'N' Roll album. Inspired by Cher's version of The Ronettes' Baby I Love You [CS: which Spector had just produced!], he slowed down Be My Baby and another of his hits, To Know Her Is To Love Her. Never one to underuse a recording technique, the trick was repeated on Sweet Little Sixteen, Bony Moronie, You Can't Catch Me and Since My Baby Left Me.

In the knowledge that John Lennon and Yoko Ono were separated at the time of Be My Baby's recording, the funereal pace and cathartic pleading transforms the song from being an account of teenage desire into a desperate plea for acceptance.

The decision not to include Be My Baby on Rock 'N' Roll remains puzzling. The song features some of Lennon's most impassioned vocals from the sessions, and stripped of the Wall of Sound backing it would not have sounded out of place on 1970's John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band.

The song did appear on Roots: John Lennon Sings The Great Rock & Roll Hits, a rare mail-order album containing rough mixes of the sessions. The collection was released by music publisher Morris Levy and followed legal action over The Beatles song Come Together's similarity to Chuck Berry's You Can't Catch Me, a song owned by Levy. Roots was briefly available in January 1975 before EMI blocked its sale.

www.beatlesbible.com/people/john-lennon/songs/be-my-baby/

So, after the fights between Spector and Lennon over their resulting collaboration, Lennon did gain custody of the tracks but found many of them unusable. The resulting album only has a few Spectorish tracks. Some of the official song selections interestingly have been Cher staples for years: "Stand By Me," "Rip It Up," "Do You Wanna Dance," and "Bring It On Home To Me."

As for all the celebrity backup work done on the album, none of the songs use backups at all or just barely. "Do You Wanna Dance" maybe slightly. Little from the Spector sessions remain: "You Can't Catch Me," Sweet Little Sixteen," "Bony Moronie," and "Just Because." "Stand By Me" is not credited as a Spector song in the album notes but it sounds obviously wall-of-soundish to me. “You Can’t Catch Me” is the song that most addresses the lawsuit over the Chuck Berry song as it was excerpted into The Beatles’ song “Come Together.” 

Lennon said the following about Rock 'n' Roll: "It started in '73 with Phil and fell apart. I ended up as part of mad, drunk scenes in Los Angeles and I finally finished it off on me own. And there was still problems with it up to the minute it came out. I can't begin to say, it's just barmy, there's a jinx on that album."

But Rolling Stone's Album Guide: wrote that "John lends dignity to these classics; his singing is tender, convincing, and fond." And AllMusic described the album "as a peak in [Lennon's] post-Imagine catalog: an album that catches him with nothing to prove and no need to try."

Listen to the Nilsson/Cher duet here courtesy of Dangerous Minds.

Other interesting tidbits surrounding the album:

  


LAX Fashion Shows, Mask, Wrecking Crew Outtakes, Chaz Productions

Slimjim2Tweets

Here you can watch Perez Hilton dramatizing Cher tweets. Hmm...it already feels old before it got old. :-/

Outfits & Fashion

It's time for the latest Cher LAX outfit watch! See photo left where Cher is looking like a smooth and shady street corner pimp. (I do like the flowing pants and the whole pimp look, truth be told.)

Speaking of fashion and the career flack Cher always receives from critics (and I consider myself a hobbyist Cher critic), here's a good little blog post from marketing guru Seth Godin about how criticism is ultimately perishable.

Sooner or later, the ones who told you that this isn't the way it's done, the ones who found time to sneer, they will find someone else to hassle.

Sooner or later, they stop pointing out how much hubris you've got, how you're not entitled to make a new thing, how you will certainly come to regret your choices.

Sooner or later, your work speaks for itself.

Outlasting the critics feels like it will take a very long time, but you're more patient than they are.

Movies

Peter Bogdanovich is still talking about working with Cher in Mask. And you might ask yourself, who uses the word "druggie" anymore? Peter Bogdanovich, that's who!

I made that picture for Dorothy Stratten because she’d been murdered, and in the 10 months I knew her I found that she was very, very interested in The Elephant Man on Broadway. She went to see this production and she was very moved by it. After she was killed I figured it out: Dorothy identified with him because of her beauty — because her beauty was as much of a source of alienation as his ugliness. They came to me with this picture called Mask. I thought it was not a very good script but it surely was an interesting story because it was a true story. And then I remember how Dorothy felt about The Elephant Man and I thought, “Well, I’ll make it for her.” [We had] a list of actresses for the role of Rusty. Ellen Burstyn and Cloris [Leachman] and Jane Fonda — anybody with a name. About two-thirds of the way through the list, there’s Cher. I said, "That’s interesting. I can see her [playing] a druggie and riding a motorcycle, and I can’t see Jane Fonda doing it. She’s too sophisticated." Cher and I didn’t get along that well. She sort of irritated me, because she had such a negative attitude. But she’s very good in the picture. I don’t think I’ve ever shot more close-ups — she’s very good in close-ups and not that good in playing the whole scene through, because she loses the thread of it. So I shot it that way, and she should have won an Oscar.

Here are some outtake photos I found online with Cher and her director. These iconic Mask tableaus all look strange with Bogdanovich interrupting them all:

Mask-121 Mask-112

 

 

 

 

  

 

Mask-113  Idontrespectyou

  

 

  

 

In the last one Cher seems to be giving him an"I don't respect you" look.

Music

Finally finished The Wrecking Crew DVD outtakes. Hand over forehead: It took days and days out of my life! Things to look for: Pianist Mike Lang talks about Cher during the John Lennon album sessions; there's a Phil Spector chapter with Cher talking about working with no breaks and how during the Spector Xmas album she didn’t go home for 6 weeks; there’s a S&C segment where Lyle Ritz talks about the scab labor used for the IGUB session and how they all got caught by the union and had to pay a fine but they finally got paid and it all turned out okay because they got like 100 more S&C sessions out of it; Don Peake talks about "The Beat Goes On" session and the dying of cancer joke that was told to Sonny who didn’t get it. (This story is also in the big Wrecking Crew commemorative book.)

There's also a Phil Spector Xmas album section where Cher talks again about the harsh working conditions, for example 15-16 hour days. Cher said she was 16 or 17 years old then and dying she was so tired so she didn't know how the old guys did it.

Frank Capp was the drummer on IGUB. Did we know that?

Snuff Garrett has a section. He says he didn’t know much about music or aesthetics and was basically a money maker. I know this is his thing to keep saying this but it just sounds disingenuous at the end of the day. I feel like it's become a way for him to cover for his choices, to not be accountable for his oeuvre.

Cher on Leon Russel was the best Cher outtake. She comments on Leon's normal unassuming personality and the one days he came into a Phil Spector session drunk. In a later clip, Leon himself says Cher tells the story accurately. After years of following Leon Russell as a respected, gritty solo artist, it was a kitschy thrill hearing him say “Cher.” You can say some of Cher's Narrative Period songs are hokey lyrically, but there were some interesting things going on musically in many of them. The music business is highly unpredictable hit-wise. There is truly no formula that has evolved to make pop songs assured phenomenons.

In other “I Got You Babe” 50th anniversary news...

It’s similarly the 50th anniversary of the St. Louis Arch, the "Poppin' Fresh" Pillsbury Doughboy, The Sound of Music, the Voting Rights Act, the Beatles playing their historic Shea Stadium concert in New York City, and my employer CNM, Central New Mexico Community College!

On August 14, Billboard Magazine officially commemorated IGUB: http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/chart-beat/6221458/rewinding-the-charts-fifty-years-ago-sonny-cher-got-to-no-1

And while researching Greil Marcus's commentary about Cher music a few months ago, I came across this Camille Paglia essay on one of his books about The Doors. The essay mentions a Cher story I hadn't heard before:

Oddly for a California writer, Marcus says little about the immense differences between the funky, fast-track Sunset Strip club scene from which the Doors emerged in Los Angeles and the utopian San Francisco milieu of hippie flower power. Furthermore, Marcus notes no parallels between the dark themes of the Doors and those of the Velvet Underground, whom Morrison in fact saw perform in Los Angeles while the Doors were working on their first album. (Cher, attending the same show, reportedly said of the Velvets’ music, “It will replace nothing, except maybe suicide.”)

Peripherals

Here is more coverage on Chaz’s new theatrical ventures including a website he launched for his production venture and August play:

Performance reviews have been good and the website looks great!