Cher on Sirius


SiriusSirius Radio did a limited run Cher channel back in April. I don't have Sirius but my friend does so I was able to listen to the last 7 days, not 24/7 but during work hours, give or take a meeting when I had to turn it off. I would estimate I listened to 5 to 6 hours a day. 

Immediately, I nerded out with the decision to write down every song they played so that I could partake in the nerd activities of (1) cataloging them by album, (2) analyzing the choices and (3) judging them. 

Below are the results of what they played by album. Is it random? It's surely mysterious and I can't imagine Cher was involved in the selecting because most of her reported favorites are M.I.A. The playlist definitely favored deep cuts and later-day Sonny & Cher. As you would expect, all Warner Bros. albums (70s and current) are also missing, including her latest album!! So strange but part of the mysterious world of Cher.

See how many times your favorites were played...

Continue reading "Cher on Sirius" »


Cher Scholarship of 2019

Cher-joni Cher-joniThanks to all the Cher scholars out there who sussed these articles out, including super-scholars Michael, Tyler and Dishy. What an amazing year of Cher scholarship it's been. Lots of younger writers extolling the virtues of Cher!

The Guardian: It’s not always easy to be a Joni Mitchell Fan

Although not about Cher per se, Linda Grant has been a Joni Mitchell fan for over 50 years (I’m 5 years away from that and I'm sure some of you are more) and she's thinking about the death of her subject, how Mitchell doesn’t get the credit she deserves (Dylanesque credit, specifically).

She claims Mitchell has written her emotional biography. I don't feel that so much as the fact that Cher has been a soundtrack to the physical biography, and definitely an aesthetic biography.

But what I like about this article is mostly this well-written line:

“Perhaps the lifelong experience of being a fan, an admirer, an acolyte or a student of an artist will turn out to have been a fluke, a small window of privilege, and from now on careers will burn up in a year or two, the experience fleeting for the adorer and the adored alike. I don’t think she knows how much she’s venerated. Or maybe she knows and it doesn’t matter. It fulfils nothing. It makes no difference. She’s as alone with her music as we are.”

Thankfully Cher in her old age has not become bitter, her tone “autocratic, arrogant and angry.” I worry maybe Mitchell is bitter because she’s a music treasure not venerated as much as she should be, as much as Cher is starting to be, although their apples and oranges.

Remember their moment together living under the same roof with David Geffen while Mitchell was recording her classic Court and Spark album and Cher was recording and self-conscious of, Dark Lady? Giant ships crossing in the night.

Cosmo, a magazine I love more now than when I started reading it in the 1980s, publishes a lot of strong women stuff these days, interspersed with the celebrity fluff, including this interesting article “Decoding Beyonce and Jay-Z’s Relationship, It’s Complicated.” 

It reminds me of two things:

(1) Beyoncé does the accent thing and I never noticed that before. I wish Chér still did. Pink

(2) I wish this sort of laser-focus existed back in late 1972 through 1974 with Sonny & Cher were "decoupling," this decoding of the body positions: interlaced fingers, embraces.

This also reminds me of the ubiquitous breakout box of the 1980s and early 90s Cher magazine interviews, the list of Cher’s husbands and boyfriends with their pictures and maybe a sassy Cher quote about each of them. You couldn’t get through a magazine article without that breakout box of boyfriends. Thankfully, this era is over. But I can’t help but feel Katy Perry and Tyler Swift are in competition to have the longest breakout box of boyfriends to this day, as if they’re somehow modeling after Cher.

I recently watched a video of Pinks Funhouse Tour of 2009 and it’s got Cher’s Farewell Tour written all over it...although you might argue she does it even better. But it begs the question, remembering of those horrid reviews Cher got for “circus-i-fying” her concerts, why is this the style de rigueur now with young pop women. 

DarkhairedsCosmo also did a great essay this month by Shannon Carlin about the evil villains of Disney movies. Remember Cher’s lament that all the characters who looked like her in Disney movies were the evil women villains?

Carlin says “pretty princess types pitted against vengeful, aging antagonists. There’s no question who little girls are supposed to root for.” But aside from all the murderous plots and kidnappings,  “at least [they] take action instead of waiting around for someone [ahem, prince charming] to rescue [them].”

You could argue the raven-haired might have opted for that chance had they been offered it. Also, Cher was rescued by her prince and he did saver her from poverty (into the stratosphere)...but then what?

And that is the sublime part of the Cher story. Another important point: she never went villain. 

Carlin goes on to say that “complicated women are far more captivating than one-note damsels in distress. They’re just legit more human--even when they’re half octopus.” 

She then calls the Seven Dwarfs “groody men” which is entirely unfair. Happy and Bashful were real charmers. 

My favorite Disney movies was The Rescuers (because it was scary) and this action-still for years has been my icon at work. I feel it represents all three aspects of my personality: a somewhat misguided and insane Medusa, a very content little bear and a completely confused little girl.

Madame-medusa-top-disney-villains-la-11-1-12

Rolling Stone did a piece about how "Cher Stands Alone" by Rob Sheffield. He calls her “the one-woman embodiment of the whole gaudy story of pop music.” And this is very funny: he depicts “the battle of Cher versus Time turned out to be a mismatch. It’s Time that has trouble turning back Cher.”

He says, “There are no careers remotely like hers….she’s been on her farewell tour so long, it’s old enough to vote.” He says she invented red carpets and infomercials. "People said she couldn’t sing, yet she always sounds like herself...She’s part of every pop story,"

Chris Dondoros wrote about "Six decades of Cher" and said, "Cher’s creative risks have foreshadowed music industry trends." He mentions her Wall of Sound records (not really risky but trendy) and auto-tune (continues to be controversial). 

Pop-shapeshiftNick Levine produced, "A Guide to Getting into Cher, Pop Shapeshifter" with original art by Tara Jacoby.

He notes her "majestic voice" and ability to "reinvent herself repeatedly over the decades without losing her quintessential Cher-ness." He notes correctly that Sonny & Cher were the "family-friendly faces of the hippie movement" and that they showed in the 1970s "flawless comic timing" and "firecracker duets" and back to her voice, "it’s easy to forget what a dazzlingly distinctive vocalist she actually is." (thank you)

There are even suggested playlists for all her eras: kitschy folk-pop Cher, middle-of-the-road pop Cher, disco diva Cher, soft-rock Cher, (which he says, "made a strange kind of sense at the time...her voice wasn’t overshadowed by the cheesy metal riffs of 1989, camped-up Bon Jovi" which "essentially, appealed to your Dad and queer uncle alike") and wig-wearing, vocoder-loving dance-pop Cher (which he calls "Cher of Light").

He calls "Turn Back Time" , a song that taught us that no key change is too shameless." (thank you again)

In Nashville Scene, Ashley Spurgeon writes about how Cher continues to be an icon.

"At the disgusting, decrepit age of 43, [Cher] had the audacity to look really sexy and imply she was going to bone a boatful of sailors in the ["Turn Back Time"] music video….Authenticity is the byword of the age, and for all creative arts, music is held to its absolute highest standard….but the problem with centering this definition...in the realm of musical creativity is that it completely forgets that entertainers exist.  The Authentic Entertainer is an explosion, usually of glitter. Artifice is the point. And Cher is as authentic an entertainer as has ever graced the stage." (THANK YOU)

Spurgeon even acknowledges Cher's “SoCal” plastic surgery and her AutoTune and only says: “The sheer audacity, to this day!” Indeed.

Spurgeon continues,

"she was always going to tell those who had it coming to go fuck themselves....criticism can go fuck itself. She has been an LGBT icon for decades, and no small part of that work involves telling all manner of bigots [and bullies] to go fuck themselves.”

I think I'm hyperventilating I'm enjoying this so much.

"Basically, Cher has taken ever-more-insistent demands for authenticity and reflected them back in her own bedazzled, witty and wry image (not unlike her peer Dolly Parton). Making this contradiction work is how an icon stays an icon..."

BelieveincherLindsay Zoladz writes "Believe In Cher or Not" another kick-ass article with more original, unaccredited, artwork.

She calls Cher the ultimate millennial and explains why. She's "transgressed the laws of celebrity...in the past few years, though, she has ascended to an even more rarefied level of the celebrity stratosphere."

She continues,

"Part of the reason I think Cher is so beloved right now—especially for people whose lived memory of Cher begins just 20 years ago, with “Believe”—is that even her past makes sense through a modern cultural lens. She was famous for being famous decades before anybody knew what a Kardashian was. She has fluidly toyed with gender norms and sexual mores until they’ve looked stiflingly passé, and she has always been brazen about her hustle. She is very good at using emoji. And above all things, she evinces an odd combination of over-the-top artifice and gritty authenticity. Of course she’s had work done. But, as she so characteristically put it in an interview montage that aired right before her Kennedy Center Honor, “If I wanna put my tits on my back, that’s nobody’s business but my own.”

"Cher has always presented androgyny as a source of power. It’s part of the reason she’s always had such a devoted queer following. She was also one of the earliest proponents of drag culture….Cher would time and again wield this kind of gender fluidity as a superpower."

Zoladz calls Laverne a proto-Kristen Wiig character and toward the end of the piece says this very funny thing:

"This time her sparing partner wasn’t sonny, Peter Bogdanovich, or a nonbelieving recorde executive, but mortality itself--and Cher seemed to have it in a headlock.”

And as that article referenced Cher’s ass does indeed have a Facebook page.

CherbillboardAnd this article came out recently about LA’s Greatest Billboards. And just look at the company she keeps here. And she's the only woman!

A fan recently posted Sonny Bono's visit to The Bob Costas ShowIt's interesting to revisit this post The Cher Show revelations.

Sonny talks about how Sonny & Cher can cause a media frenzy together that they never can by themselves (even into the 1980s). "Ten times our impact when we're together," he says. He's talking about the frenzy they created on David Letterman's show. But there was also frenzies prior: when Cher attended the opening of his first restaurant, when they appeared on other show together. They did seem to be a sum bigger than their parts.

And that was probably true until the day he died. Then, as I’ve argued, you could see a shift in her personal impact, as if she inherited the Sonny & Cher brand fully and was creating the frenzy alone.

In one sentence, Sonny says Cher would have been a phenomenon without him (due to her drive) and then minutes later tells the media frenzy story. The truth is probably that Cher had superstar material organically but Sonny added something to make it really big.

He also talks about the pride he takes in "The Beat Goes On" and the legacy of hearing “the beat goes on” coined into phrase.


The Universal Fire and a New Believe Cover

PissedcherThe UMG UGH!

Earlier this year the Universal Fire story broke and details about the huge losses by the Universal Music Group when a warehouse of master tapes in Los Angeles caught fire and were destroyed. And then they covered it up. 

Here is the New York Times coverage:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/11/magazine/universal-fire-master-recordings.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/25/magazine/universal-music-fire-bands-list-umg.html

This story brings up whole new slate of debates about the value of digitalization and problems with authorship, corporate consolidation, corporate bullying and the tragic danger of having too much intellectual property in one physical location. 

It's a cultural loss on a huge scale with original masters lost from artist such as Billie Holliday, Johnny Coltraine and Martin Luther King, but also on a very small specific scale for individual artists and their fans. 

Anyway, Cher's name was mentioned a lot. Many, by no means all, of her many labels were long ago consumed into Universal Music Group, only to be consumed once again. 

I was making the case to my music-biz-scholar friend Christopher that curation of large cultural holdings, even if you're a private entity, should come with extra responsibilities such as a museum, (even a private one) would be pressured to adhere to.  

I remember one phone call about 10 years ago where he rattled off all the major music label conglomerations off the top of his head! I asked him to reiterate the tangle for me again here and forensically trace the behemoth that has become United Music Group and which labels it has swallowed up. This would be another way to figure out which Cher albums might have been affected.

But sadly, we are beyond such quaint displays of memory. Instead, he simply just sent me this link. It's a graphic of all the consolidations and it's so goddamn big, it's unprintable!

Mess

Christopher's comments:

It truly is shocking.  Not the fire, per se, but their slimy way of keeping the news from the artists for over a decade!   Although, I should probably say it is shocking...but not surprising.  I harbor such distrust of corporations; their ranks seems always to be filled with individuals who pass the buck to someone else when accountability enters the picture.  The larger the corporation, the less likely anyone is willing to take responsibility when something goes awry.
 
Here is a great graphic that New York Magazine put out a couple years back which gives an excellent summary of the conglomeration of the music labels over the years.
 
Personally, I think of all the major labels, UMG is the most higgledy-piggledy in terms of its roster; both Sony and Warner's various absorptions involved more organic matches/compatibility.  All the feverish flipping that occurred in 1995-1999 between Seagram/MCA/Vivendi/Universal may have created the largest conglomerate, but I believe it also created the most inherently unstable one.  So in some ways it makes sense that if there was going to be a disaster of this sort it should occur amid their holdings.  If the ass doesn't know the elbow, the lack of proper archiving (that is, record-keeping--aside from the lack of the materials' physical safety) would appear to necessarily follow, and who knows, maybe the same could be said for their basic physical operations.

 

But the graphic does mostly explain where all the holdings of Cher are and she is spread out pretty wide across all the three behemoths:   

- At Sony Music Entertainment are holdings for Columbia (everybody breathe: the I Paralyze album is safe!)

- At Warner Music Group are holdings for ATCO, Reprise, Rhino (Cher’s 60s output), plus her already lost albums from Warner Bros (was there a mini fire somewhere?), not including the later-day Warner Bros. UK albums. 

- At Universal Music Group were holdings for MCA/Kapp, Casablanca (very early 70s Cher and Sonny & Cher and very late-70s Cher), and, although I can't even find it on this stupid chart, Geffen Records (Cher's 80s label). This is not great news. Some iconic stuff in there. Young-cher-mlk

Still, some of the news stories mentioning Cher were somewhat humorous, like this one with the angry Cher face as the lead photo.

Or this article with this hilarious photo by juxtaposition: implying the biggest cultural losses were Neil Young, Martin Luther King and Cher.

Hey, I'm the first to defend Cher's cultural impact, but... 

A New "Believe" Cover

BHuman has made a pretty decent "Believe" cover, keeping it techno-friendly but slowing it down. 

ABBACher 2.0

And a new Cher ABBA album is in the works. No full set list yet but she's been talking about individual songs on her Twitter feed. My vote was for "When All Is Said and Done." Fingers crossed it makes it.


New TV Shows Available and More Reviews

Timelife2Time/Life has come out with a DVD set of The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, Cher and The Sonny & Cher Show. The site will lure you with an upgrade which is just a set of Laugh In shows they've probably been unable to sell. 

That said, Cher’s performances in the one episode of her guest spots included is wonderful, unseen Cherness, so much better than her Indian skit with Tim Conway found online from that episode. That might be worth the upcharge for you. It was for me but...

See the trailer for the DVDs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5Mcper-JcE&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR1Ap63YwwpRGDOXo98cTednBtRa3r6nEbH5QMENLShrcrMs6A17pDZZJzE

The 18 Episode set:  https://timelife.com/products/i-got-you-babe-the-best-of-sonny-cher

The 58 Episode set (not more Sonny & Cher shows though): https://timelife.com/products/the-best-of-sonny-&-cher-and-laugh-in

It is good we’re seeing Cher episodes available now. But these are mostly episodes we've either seen on TV Land or GetTV, with the exception of one episode with Jim Neighbors.

I would think we should get DVDs of at least what was Emmy Nominated from the show, including the lost-lost Cloris Leachman episode that won an Emmy. 

The booklet and packaging are great, great photos although not always in order  (especially for series 2) and claim Steve Martin would stop by with one-liners instead of come to work as part of the first show's staff. You get to see an early version of the Sonny & Cher bubble drawing. The interviews are also good.

I've also been making my way through reviews of the show and am down with Season 2: https://www.cherscholar.com/the-tv-variety-shows-and-specials.html


Cher Show Ends on Broadway But Biopics Continue

Final-chersAugust 18, 2019, was the final performance of The Cher Show on Broadway. As you know, my friend Christopher and I thought the Broadway show was looking pretty healthy. The final returns can be found here: https://www.broadwayworld.com/grosses/THE-CHER-SHOW 

Playbill reported that the show ended strongly: http://www.playbill.com/article/grosses-analysis-the-cher-show-ends-broadway-run-on-a-bang-bang

 

Here's the graphic of the run...

Chershowgraphic

 

I was indeed sad because I really wanted to see it again. My friend Coolia said not to worry; the show would hit the road. And it will in 2020. For more information on the touring version coming to your town: https://www.broadway.com/buzz/196276/the-beat-goes-on-the-cher-show-will-launch-a-national-tour-in-fall-2020/

The show continued to get positive vibes, like this one from Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jerylbrunner/2019/04/09/the-cher-show-celebrates-the-ultimate-empowered-woman-cher

The author quotes Gloria Steinem and her book Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions to talk about "the incredible strength of non-conforming women:"

“I have met brave women who are exploring the outer edge of human possibility, with no history to guide them, and with a courage to make themselves vulnerable that I find moving beyond words,”

and says this show had a “unique perspective on a powerful female who continues to thrive without ever apologizing for who she is.”

(even if who that is...is very sparkly).

Emily Skinner (who plays Cher’s mom in the show) says “She has zero pretense and we love her for that.” Skinner also talks about how her mom swapped out her Barbie doll with a Cher doll. “My feminist mother must have thought, let me put somebody in front of my daughter who is beautiful in a completely different way.”

More to Come

Don't forget we have an autobiography coming and a 2020 movie in the works.

And the British documentary/biopic of Cher's life aired last Friday: The Greatest Showgirl. Where are all the reviews and screenshots of this?? Help a scholar out here! 

All I could find is this brief Guardian review: 

Cher was not actually born in the wagon of a travelling show, as this documentary proves, but she did have a tough childhood. There are more talking heads and dramatised scenes featuring unforgivable wigs than there are Cher interviews, but it’s still a reminder of her majesty. Hannah Verdier


Revisiting Good Times and 3614 Jackson Highway

Good-timesI totally missed this when it happened in 2017, but there's been a re-release of the movie Good Times. My friend Dave alerted me to the situation while we were in Amoeba Records in Los Angeles this spring. It's quite amazing and has me rethinking the movie.

It's extras include an interesting interview with William Friedkin describing how he came to the project and how it all came together. Friedkin talks about their guerrilla film-making (they had no permits) and how they filmed skits first in studio. Afterwards, they only had 45 minutes of film, so they padded it.

There's also a fabulous commentary track across the movie with film historian Lee Gambin who highlights things you’ve never noticed (or at least I never noticed): Friedkin’s mark on the movie, for instance with the chaotic edit of the wrestling scene, typical angles and shots, and subversive low shots. He comments on George Saunder’s "faustian" performance.

He categorizes all 1960s films into dark films, Elvis films, avant guard cinema and rock docs. He feels Good Times is very meta.

He references the western skit to the spaghetti western Ringo movies of 1965, A Pistol for Ringo and The Return of Ringo. He labels Friedken as a  documentary realist at that time, who dabbled in fantasy (The Exorcist). Sonny liked the hard edge of Friedkin and shared his sense of humor (note the Los Angeles parking signs on the Western street). He notes the crane work and says that, in fact, Good Times went crane happy.

He notes the "incredible dancing" in the western musical, saying the choreographer (who's name I couldn't catch: Andre T?) was one of the sharks in West Side Story. I like how they keep the whole body of the dancer in frame and long shots of the whole dance, which was the unfortunate issues with dances in Burlesque.

Gambin says the movie got a few good reviews. The LA Times said there were moments of Woody Allen brilliance and The Hollywood Reporter said it was the best directorial debut since Coppola. It might shock fans to hear that.

Gambin calls it a fun tributes to genre movies, full of beautiful colors. He said originally a Sonny & Cher fan was to write initial script but that took too long.

He describes he movie as a tension between artistic integrity vs. commerce, turning artists into commodities which is exactly what they don’t want to become. Cher is trying to get control of her own trajectory. S&C are reclaiming their turf. They are decidedly here not a rags to riches story, although I think it's curious that their variety show would recycle a rags to riches mythology for its “behind the scenes” fake documentary reels and skits.

Gambin relates the movie to the backstage musical similar to Vincent Minnelli's The Bandwagon, a genre about The Hollywood Machine. As always, Gambin insists that Cher owns her own presentation. He also doesn't deny the camp sensibility of the "It's the Little Things" video reel, and use of Batman iconography.

He also loves the studio lot scene where Sonny & Cher discuss their dilemma with the big studio and play with backstage costumes and props. Gambin calls this a place "where costumes have lost their meaning." The Hollywood Tzar, the studio wants to fix them." Note the part where they tell Sonny, “This nose will have to go” and remember the ongoing teasing Sonny gave Cher's nose on their variety show four years later. Interestingly, Gambin says that women in clown garb is rare. Is this true?

He equates the S&C script scene here with the one in The Exorcist.

Jungle Geno is Mikey Dolenz. I always wondered about that. Gambin notes that all Tarzan movies always had a “boy” who was young and athletic. So their elderly son is a joke on that convention. Animal trainer Ray Halfaster was used and Gambin says he was better than some (I'm assuming he means regarding abuse of his animals). Gambin reminds us that Saunders' role in this skit is a nod to the Great White Hunter and his coldness and malevolence. He notes the moving camera work in the chase scene.

He notes Sonny's interesting phrasing and chord progression in his favorite musical number, "Don’t Talk to Strangers."

Gambin says the detective story is a nod to Film Noir and was also the seed of Cher's Vamp. He likes the texture palette in this skit.

He says some Friedkin fans feel the songs in this movie drag on the momentum. But Gambin feels they give film time to breathe and are like soliloquy moments. They give the characters space to grow.

Overall, Gambin notes Cher's fiery acting performances in strong female roles (Jimmy Dean, Moonstruck, Silkwood, Mask) and says she is underappreciated as both a vocalist and an actress, having worked with many greats including Friedkin, Altman, Nichols, Bogdanovich, and Jewison. He says, "Cher songs are institutions" about race relations, the occult and people on the fringe.

After this, Gambin says, Sonny & Cher were hired to do the Speedway movie, but were replaced by Elvis and Nancy Sinatra.

I also noticed two things in rewatching this movie. First, how their LA house (in Encino) is surrounded by undeveloped land! Second, this is another movie with Cher playing herself and showing a disinterest in show business. What an amazing foreshadowing of the Cher story, as if her life were scripted. Gambin talks about how she later reinvented herself as a multi-medium business woman decades later.

20190612_144147There's also a new release of 3614 Jackson Highway on purple vinyl.

The same Ward Lamb essay from the CD re-release booklet years ago is also included in the vinyl release. 

 


R.I.P. Franco Zeffirelli

Zeff

One of Cher's directors has passed away: Franco Zeffirelli, most famous for his 1968 version of Romeo and Juliet. 

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2019/jun/15/franco-zeffirelli-obituary

Many Cher directors have passed: Robert Altman, Mike Nichols, Peter Yates, Franco Zeffirelli, Paul Mazursky and Sonny Bono (if you believe he was really the direction behind Chastity),  These are the Cher's directors still with us: William Friedkin, George Miller, Richard Benjamin, Ol Parker, the Farrelly brothers...

 


Fashion and Fumes

20190612_141854Cher is soon to launch a new perfume,  a scent she’s calling ungendered and named Eau de Couture (not quite the sparkle the name Uninhibited had). But Cher’s got a great nose for a perfume as we know. Musty old bottles of Uninhibited are still smelling nice are still selling on eBay. Someday the liquid will run out and maybe 10,000 years aliens will find it.

Speaking for myself, my Cher she-shed shelf is stock full of Cher product. I will find room.

Cher’s been working on the project for four years with with perfumer Clément Gavarry. More info: https://wwd.com/beauty-industry-news/fragrance/cher-plots-fragrance-and-discusses-emojis-retirement-1203133815/

20190612_141835I love perfume. My favorite is Flower Bomb right now. Recently my friend Christopher bought me the Bob Mackie brand. It smells very strong with the following notes of pineapple, raspberry, peach, tuberose, orange blossom, narcissus, jasmine, ylang-ylang and roseand. Very floral and yet it smells very gendered to me. 

Cher-perfWhen I was going online looking for a preview of the new Cher bottle (another aspect of perfume I love), I couldn’t find one but I did find this perfume called CHER. Did anyone know about this?

Shouldn’t CHER be trademarked by now.... if it wasn’t for being such a common French word?

My friend Christopher has also been sending me subscriptions to Cosmo magazine and InSTYLE magazine. A month or so ago InSTYLE magazine had a picture of Sandra Oh wearing this Gucci dress. Does it remind you of anything?

Oh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


...like these Bob Mackie dresses Tina Turner and Cher wore in the late 1970s?

Cher-tina Cher-tina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


I was kind of shocked by that.


Revisiting Cher's Catalog & Rock Status

Cher60s2

Cher has a pretty big musical catalog, with over 30 studio albums alone, forget about soundtracks, live albums, rare bootlegs. Recently reviewers have been taking a look back.

Rolling Stone did a light but nice tribute story on Cher's endurance.

Christopher Muther at The Boston Globe recently did a fabulous piece revisiting her best covers. I have to quote a lot of it because it was so surprising and mind-blowing:

He starts by asking, "Did you ever associate the pop goddess with Bob Dylan, the Kinks or James Brown? Bruce Springsteen, Bee Gees…"

And then he goes through some less-than-successful covers, including the album Dancing Queen which he feels was rushed karaoke music, except "Fernando" (the only track produced by ABBA's own Benny Andersson) which he says “almost rivals the rebellious spirit of the original.”

Here are other songs he liked:

  • Eddie Floyd's Knock on Wood: “shockingly good disco-funk interpretation of Eddie Floyd…seriously sensuous swagger."

  • Jimi Hendrix's Hey Joe: "the dangerous side of Cher. Can deliver the drama on film and through the song."

  • Marc Cohn's Walking in Memphis: "soulful take on Cohn’s milquetoast song….sings rings around the choir and makes a rather mediocre song memorable."

  • Loving Spoonful's Do You Believe in Magic: "delicate and funky take on the bubblegum original….her vocals lazily stretch out over the chorus…a witchy spell."

  • Donovan's Catch the Wind: "imbues it with urgency and power." Cher76

  • Michael Bolton's I Found Someone: "sexy cougar anthem"

  • James Brown's It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World: "a pleasant shocker. Cher flips the script on Brown’s chauvinistic slow cooker…you know the sexist proclamations are ridiculous…because they’re coming from Cher."

  • Judy Garland's The Man That Got Away: "Cher’s bluesy interpretation offers a cheeky 1970s take on Garland’s impassioned version."

  • The Walker Brothers' The Sun Aint Gonna Shine Anymore: "hitting the chorus full-throttle, and then crumpling back to despondency when she cuts to the line…'lonely, without you, baby'"

  • Buffalo Springfield's For What It’s Worth and the 3614 Jackson Highway album: "filled with gems….criminally overlooked."

  • Bob Dylan's All I Really Want to Do: "approached like a Phil Spector, Wall of Sound spectacular. The Byrds come off as detached storytellers, Cher’s version has true heart."

It's interesting to me how much music critics love Jackson Highway and how fans always love on Stars more or Backstage.

And then last month, Sirius Radio had about a two-week Cher channel that my friend Julie hooked me up with. More on that later because I wrote down all the songs they played for 7 days and it's pretty interesting what made it in and what was left out. Coming soon. I'm dong real scholarship on it...with like a spreadsheet an all. Nerd alert.

RockFinally, over Christmas I was given the book Women Who Rock, an encyclopedia of 100 women artists edited by Ed Evelyn McDonnel. 

It's also interesting to see who made it in the book's list and who has fallen by the wayside. It includes gospel, blues, country, folk, pop, Latino, Caribbean, rap, Motown, SoCal, Experimental, New Wave, Punk, R&B and rock artists and includes Darlene Love, Carol Kaye and June Millington (which is great) but not Pat Benetar or the Indigo Girls. 

The intro essay says the book focused on "game changers" and leaders vs. geniuses and survivors in the wake of rape, bad contracts, sexual exploitation, anorexia, bad management, Svengalis, addiction, suicide and murder. For instance, they couldn't put in every singer-songwriter (like Carly Simon, who didn't make it in either).

The Cher essay was written by Lucretia Tye Jasmine, who summarized Cher as a "singer, actor, comedian and business woman" and calls Cher "woefully underrepresented and unappreciated in the canon, that she "kicked down doors and painted flags" in music, feminism, fashion and social justice. 

She smartly picks up on this very important angle regarding Cher being cast as a Vamp: "sex was a joke but she was not the butt of it." She says Cher made theater of social issues with "Half Breed," "Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves," songs about outcast and the condemned. 

With her "crooked teeth and low voice" she was always "strong, in narrative control" with an "elaborate self-presentation" that signaled "a trust in one's own experiences." Honestly, I'm not sure what that last phrase means, but she calls it a "panache of glitter" and says she "commands the stage." 

She admires Cher's decision in the "Turn Back Time" video to use a Navy ship, "the bastion of masculinity." Most importantly she had the "ability to withstand and transcend critics."

Jasmine also elaborates on Cher's musical record breaking stats: only artist with a #1 single in decades from the 1960s-2010s, oldest female artist with a #1 US Billboard song, only three artists of five with a US#1 hit single and an Academy Award. Plus a Grammy, Emmy, Golden Globe awards, an Icon Award and a Razzie. 

Rock2

 


Cher's Latest Tour Getting Universal Raves

Set
So much to catch up on, it’s been kind of discouraging and I’ve been avoiding it. Now that I’m getting back into a routine with work, we can get back to this multi-year-long period of Cher awesomeness.

The concert tour is doing very well, both sell-outs and fill-ups. View the attendance and receipts.

It's been a challenge for me to describe Cher-mania these days. I’m enjoying it but it feels so suddenly over-the-top. Like if we had gradually gotten here...I don't know. Maybe for fans so used to rooting for this underdog, praise never fully lands. I mean outside of acting raves (which were a new venture) Cher has never received raves for her concerts or albums.

Not that it’s undeserved praise, but still odd to get your head around it, historically speaking.

I mean, when a reviewer says “Cher’s still got it!” the first thing I think of is "when exactly did you admit Cher had it in the first place? I'd like to go back to that time and enjoy it." So why now are we getting a kind of make-up history that Cher has always been "triumphant." And there's a tone in the press that they've always thought Cher was great (which is complete revisionist history). I mean, I'm so glad we're finally here but I don't think they should be so self-satisfied in their phrase. Pretend like all that shade didn't happen.

I think what’s really going on is a new generation of people are reviewing Cher shows and possibly making the assumption that prior reviewers must have seen the obvious amazingness.  They did not. So, if you’re writing that Cher is dazzling, triumphant, fantastic, timeless, tour-de-force, force of nature, camp queen, fierce (my favorite compliment), masterful, bringing the sass and style, triumphant...(all from current review headlines), if she's indeed slaying the dragon, this is all news to me. Not that Cher is doing it, but that the press is saying it.

I keep thinking of this alleged quote from Willie Nelson: “If you fail at something long enough, you become a legend.”

Truer words could not apply to what we're seeing right now.

I've caught up on my concert reviews and if you want to bask in some good Cher press, here you go: https://www.cherscholar.com/concert-reviews.html

Warriors