It’s a busy week this: Just saw David Sedaris read at UCLA's Royce Hall and the Los Angeles Times Book fest is coming up this weekend. This is my favorite literary event….ever!! I can’t wait. I just wish the poetry panels were more substantial – like the groovy fiction and non-fiction panels are. Instead they put out quaint, watery sessions, like this year: Poetry: Inspiring Lines and Poetry: Chapter & Verse.
Fiction get panels like Los Angeles Fiction: Living In Paradise or Writing Science. How about Science in Poetry or Poetry and Place? Feminism in Poetry would be great seminar.
Anyway...it’s also been a great week for Cher scholarship. I Found Some Blog commenter Rob emailed an MP3 of an old Elton John song called “Snow Queen” which appears to be a none-too-approving disrespect on Cher circa the mid 70s.
This single apparently was the 1976 UK B-side for "Don’t Go Breaking My Heart" and even Kiki Dee makes an appearance singing backup. The credits listed Elton John, Dave Johnstone, Kiki Dee, David Nutter for music and Bernie Taupin, per usual, as lyrics. You can find the lyrics here at Elton John Lyrics Site.
The song has a confusing object at first. It begins directed to a “you” person.: “You remind me so much / of her when you’re walkin.” Then in the chorus the song starts jumps to the Snow Queen suddenly, presumably one who reminds the writer of being like the "you" person.
Exactly who reminds Bernie Taupin of Cher, I'd like to know. Is that even possible that someone else could be anything resembling Cher? I don’t think so. Just what are the odds?
Early descriptions include “You’re a cushion uncrumpled / You’re a bed that’s unruffled.” Is this talking about the Snow Queen aka Cher here? “The finest bone china / bone china around”? Is this a poetic reference to Cher’s great cheek bone structure?
Hey now, the snow queen sounds a bit chilly so far. The lyrics state “she’s got the world on a string / like white wine when it’s chilled.” More chilliness again. And why does white wine have so much power over the world…when it’s chilled?
“I believe the Snow Queen / lives somewhere in the hills.” Had Cher moved from Carolwood to Malibu then (because that's a beach) or to the hills of her Egyptian palace by 1976? Didn't that house take years to build? But at least that one is in the Benedict Canyon Hills.
“The snow queen reigns in warm LA / behind the cold black gates.” So the gates of Carolwood were black. But they weren't in the hills. See the gates of the Carolwood and Benedict Canyon abodes. (Don’t ask me why I have these picks.)
“Your talons are tested / they’re polished and they’re shaped.” The lyric sheet replaces the first talons with talents but I think Elton is singing and referring to her nails or talons. “Your talents are wasted / on men who have no tasted” (Gregg Allman?)
And here is where we get in to real evidence that the song is indeed about Cher. “…passion means more than /a wardrobe of gowns, TV ratings /a fragile waist and a name.” Why a fragile waist; I mean, it’s tiny, but fragile?
Then fade out clinches it when Elton sings "I Got You Babe" three times, "Bang Bang" three times and then “aAnd the beat goes on.” I had to turn my iPod volume up to hear the last bit but it's there.
Honestly, Cher had a lot going on in 1976...even Elton would agree. I’d be a beeotch too if I was pregnant on national television, the father was a drug-addled Chia Pet, and my TV ratings and records were stalling like an Edsel.
It sounds like someone didn’t get their invitation to a Cher soirée. I don’t know much about Cher’s relationship to Elton John back then. He was a guest on the debut of the Cher Show back in 1975; but I believe I read somewhere that Cher wanted to open for Elton John when she was promoting Black Rose and he refused. Rumor? Fact? I dunno. She showed up at his Audience with Elton John in 1997 acting pretty chummy.
I actually really like this song. There’s an odd moment at the end where the bongos go crazy but I think it’s a lovely contemplative piece and would be really pleasant for a couples skate.
It also reminds me of Barry Manilow’s early 70s song “She’s a Star” from the album Tryin to Get the Feelin Again. The song was supposedly about Bette Midler.
It would be fun to hear Cher cover “Snow Queen.” It could be a sort of F.U. peace-offering. She could keep most of the lyrics but sing "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," "Rocket Man" and "Sorry Seems to Be"…at the fade out.
And speaking of talons and the lovely 80s Interview cover picture I talked about last week, my Richard Bernstein photo book came today. Whoo hoo! Bernstein did those Warhol-esque Interview covers for many years. In the book, Bernstein calls himself a “thoroughbred New Yorker and his photo looks like it fell the wall of an 80s hair salon.
Inside there’s a short essay on Cher that attempts to conceptualize her stardom. It says she’s somewhere between the invention of the Barbie Doll and the Valley Girl, “a money-to-burn celebrity,” and “someone every Jewish princess, Dry Wasp bitch, valley girl from Tuxedo, South Carolina and Hi Hat, Kentucky, can relate to.” I don’t quite get that, but okay.
“Today [this is the early 80s, remember] Cher’s famous claws for nails are clipped. So is her windfall of glossy black hair…Her nails were like falcon’s talons, a mighty two inches long and dipped in sanguine crayon. Cher's eyelashes still flap like porch awnings.”
“She wants to be an ordinary high-serious actress so she's moved to New York...”
Ah yes…so pedestrian to be an award winning actress when you can be a cultural icon. With that I agree.