Previous month:
June 2021
Next month:
August 2021

New-Old Cher Releases, Sonny Bono Dinner Party, Cher in Vogue 1971

13

Re-Releases!

First things first, Cher has been rereleasing her classic 70s-era Warner Bros. remastered on her YouTube channel. First Stars was released a few weeks ago: https://www.youtube.com/c/cher/videos

Today her channel announced that I'd Rather Believe in You will be next, coming out in August: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQc8H3CgeD8

This is happy news for fans who, although stocked with bootlegs, have been pestering for an official release for over two decades. The remastered Stars sounds pristine and hopefully the albums will someday be available on other streaming platforms or in physical form (with some scholarly words of perspective). Very happy July surprise!

In other music news, the single copy of the Wu-Tang Clan album with the Cher vocals on two songs, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, has been sold by the feds. Follow the story here. The second buyer paid millions once again and their identity will possibly be revealed in a few months. The Wu-Tang Clan wishes that the album be played only in small groups for 88 years from the date it was first sold to the nefarious Pharma Bro back in 2015, which means most of us will not live long enough to hear it. That is unless the resale contract was interrupted by federal confiscation. 

Sonny Bono Dinner Party

July has proven to be busy for Cher Scholar. I've started listening to KCRW again (lots of great stuff I’ve missed over the last five years I’ve been away) and I've thrown three small parties in as many weeks, and learned how to use my new braille machine.

For my upcoming birthday I received some meditation/introspection playing cards from a friend and the first one had the question: What makes you weird? I have a million answers to this but the one that pertains here is the fact that last Saturday I threw a Sonny Bono Recipe dinner party. And what's even more weird is the fact that it's not the first one I've thrown. I did it once before when I was 12 years old as a last-hurrah to my Sonny & Cher fandom, right before I decided it would be somewhat less weird in the 1980s to go solo with Cher. 

But last Saturday I invited my friends Priscilla and Mikaela over and they were gamely willing to test out a few of these Sonny  recipes. Mikaela also came over to teach me how to use my new braille machine. The fact that I just bought a braille machine is also a little bit weird. 

I made the recipe for Sonny Bono's Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce from The Dead Celebrity Cookbook by Frank DeCarlo.

IMG_20210724_141008

IMG_20210724_160728

IMG_20210724_175033

Mr. Cher Scholar made Sonny Bono's Pollo Bono from the Baltimore Sun.

IMG_20210724_163048

IMG_20210724_163307

IMG_20210724_161257

 

 

 

 

 

He made a vegetarian, fake-chicken version for me.

IMG_20210724_175036

IMG_20210724_121125

 

 

 

 

 

Cheap table wine: check. Everyone liked the results. The biggest critique came from me, which was to say the fake chicken was rubbery (but very tasty). Mikaela said the chicken was "fantastic, excellent" and she loved the spaghetti too. She said she especially loved watching the video I showed them before dinner of Sonny & Cher cooking on The Mike Douglas Show (thanks to Cher scholar Jay for that). Priscilla said she loved the Pollo Bono too and is usually very picky about her chicken.

Mr. Cher Scholar said, "I like his recipes because they’re authentic stuff made at home, not over-the-top elaborate. Simple ingredients. Simple process." Afterwards he said he would make it again for his brother. "It's not hard."

Alterations: Our chicken breasts were huge. Monstrous. So he ending up baking them for 50 minutes at 375 degrees. 

IMG_20210724_205749Spinning up the braille machine wasn’t so easy. Mikaela works at a school for the blind and she was able to bring me some braille guides. She showed me the basic concepts of the braille “alphabet.” We had a paper-loading issue which was solved by my googling "braille paper-loading issue" and getting the result "How do I load paper into the ^*#! brailler?"

Then we had an issue with the carriage return that caused us to take the whole machine apart, which Priscilla did with our drill. We all then looked at inside and provided speculative theories about the problem. Mr. Cher Scholar saw some "teeth" inside which needed to catch the return. He adjusted the margins and then it worked.

He usually avoids fixing stuff like an allergy so I asked him later what inspired him to do that and he said it was working with a manual typewriter all those years as a show-biz writer. So this was a real four-person team effort.

Then Mikaela taught me how to use the braille keys! Which are very cool and insanely complicated at the same time. I have to practice, she says, before I start typing out poems on the thing.

Perfect Pork Chops (Correction)

Another early birthday present I received yesterday was Celebrity Recipes, a newsstand publication from the 1980s judging by the big Heather Locklear, Linda Evans and Michael Douglas pictures on its cover. Anyway, on page 32 it claims that Perfect Pork Chop (the recipe I also have from Singers & Swingers in the Kitchen, The Scene-Makers Cook Book by Roberta Ashley) is actually Cher's recipe. 

Cher in Vogue

IMG_20210729_104538The following spread is from Vogue, September 1, 1971. This was the same year their first live album came out. while they were still on the nightclub circuit. 

Their live album cover is unusual in that the gatefold only shows a large photo of Sonny & Cher facing each other, a kind of extravagant gesture for a gatefold of recording artists on the skids. The photos are also very shadowy and almost abstract, especially the front cover.

Coverlive

 

 

So it's good to see another shot of Cher in the album outfit and have it described by the scribes of Vogue magazine.


Cher Scholar Mix Tape: Covering Cher

Cs-cover-songs-21Lots of great bootlegs are not available on Spotify, like Nirvana’s "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves," Paul Weller, Kaleo, Isobel Campbell, David Guetta/Skylar Grey, and Charlotte Church’s respective versions of "Bang Bang," Robbie Fulk and MNEK’s versions of "Believe," David Bowie and Marianne Faithful’s "I Got You Babe."

Of the remakes available on Spotify, these are the best:

The Beat Goes On - Live At Chez Club, Hollywood/1966/Remix, Buddy Rich Big Band
This cover might have influenced many that came after it, dispensing with Carol Kaye’s creative bass line and jazz-ifying the song. Many future covers would use this template.

Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) - 2004 Remaster, Terry Reid
Everyone seems to feel Nancy Sinatra’s cover is the best cover (and the one all future covers are created from), but this one is actually better IMHO. Like Sonny’s world-music version, it has movements.

Mama, Dalida
Dalida makes Cher songs better.

Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves, Scud Mountain Boys
Haunting version. And in the Cher style of not altering pronouns.

Baby Don't Go by Colorama
Very pretty, quiet version.

Pretty good remakes:

The Beat Goes On, Le Cercle, Chloé Del'Orté
Fun remake of the Buddy Rich version.

Needles And Pins - Live At The The Forum/1981, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Stevie Nicks
Since The Searchers recording pre-dates Cher’s version, it’s technically not a cover. Which is good because I hate the precedent they set in singing pinzah, which is no a word anyone should ever sing. Cher is the only artist to refrain from doing so. As they go, I guess this version is the best non-Cher version.

Bang Bang My Baby Shot Me Down, GMPresents & Jocelyn Scofield
The David Guetta/Skylar Grey version is really the most amazing thing, along with the Terry Reid version. This one is at least a slowed-down take of the song that isn’t a complete redux of Nancy Sinatra’s version.

It's the Little Things, Skeletons

Love Don’t Come, Tomasina Abate

I Got You Babe, Toadsuck Symphony
Hard to cover this song. This is probably as good as it gets.

Bang Bang, Dalida

Baby Don't Go, Dwight Yoakam with Sheryl Crow
Also a nice version.

The Beat Goes On, Herbie Mann
Kudos for respecting Kaye’s baseline.

Not-that-great but famous attempts

I Got You Babe, UB40, Chrissie Hynde
Popular during my formative years, but reggae doesn't really add anything to this song.

Needles and Pins - 2002 Remaster, Ramones

Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down), Nancy Sinatra

The Beat Goes On, Britney Spears

Half Breed, Shania Twain

Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves, Vicki Lawrence

A mixed bag, some good, some bad, none very memorable

Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down), Stevie Wonder

The Beat Goes On, Firewater

I Got You Babe, Etta James

A Cowboy's Work Is Never Done, Diego's Umbrella

Half-Breed, House of Large Sizes

Bang Bang, Vanilla Fudge

The Beat Goes On, Transmitters

I Got You Babe, The Dictators

Beat Goes On, The All Seeing I
So similar to Britney’s I do a double take. Theirs was 2 years earlier.

I Got You Babe, Cherie Currie

 

Peruse the Covers on Spotify.


Cher Scholar Mix Tape: The Philosophical Songs (plus an essay)

Cs-phil-songs-21Ok so not only did I think there would be too few Cher love songs for a mix (and I ended up having to be judicious there) but I thought I’d find a plethora of philosophical songs (or even pseudo-philosophical ones) for a mix. Not only were there not that many but I soon ran into the conundrum of where does a philosophical song end and a political one begin?

I finally decided to exclude overtly political songs without any self-improvement qualities or introspective quality. So no “For What It’s Worth,” “Love and Understanding,” or “Love Can Build a Bridge” or “Love One Another.” And “Perfection” got kicked out of the list because the lyric never does come out against seeking perfection, just admits "I don’t have what it takes," which is I guess the philosophy of defeatism….these are hard hairs to split. Anyway, I tried to focus on world-views and mindsets instead outward focused encouragements.

Blowin’ In the Wind: Yes, definitively and famously political but essentially a direct address to ‘my friend,’ someone who is ostensibly seeking counsel. Alternatively, some self-talk. Enough non-political, philosophical questions to apply for inclusion here. And because the song is structures as a list of questions: Socratic.

Where Do You Go: Sonny Bono’s facsimile of the above. But even more self-help-y. 

Time: Not sure what the point is in this rambling bit of philosophy except to say things just are and to pay attention or you will lose time. This is probably Buddhism.

Sing C’est La Vie: Sometimes words to the wise are hard to hear, in various ways. But there it is. That’s life. Here's an article about the phrase, Albert Camus and Absurdity which makes this Camus-style existentialism. 

There But For Fortune: Ah, here we go. This is the mindset of 'things could be worse,' a version of "There but for the grace of God," which was a paraphrase from the Bible so Christian.

Good Times: Although I think there is philosophy hidden all up in lines like “Irving, bubby” and “Why don’t you sing ‘em a song/Shucks ma’am I can’t sing/Don’t let that stop you” you will have to ignore some nonsensical verses until you can-can into the song’s live-it-up philosophy, one that is infectious if not alarmingly factually inaccurate. Merry-go-rounds: notorious for breaking down. But hey, “Drink to the good times and hope, my friend, that they last.” Could possibly be interpreted as Hedonism.

We All Sleep Alone: A bit of a Debbie-Downer here but at least the video message goes down with some satin-sheeted sugar. Some fans disagree with me but I think this song is about death and the alienation of the soul…in death. But it's also about Cher’s list of lovers and her philosophy about relationships before she ultimately encounters….death.  Possibly Atheism.

Heart of Stone: Like "Blowin in the Wind," lots of very political lines (which are emphasized visually in the video), but essentially this song is about the self and I have decided she’s singing about Stoicism

Love is the Groove: I wonder if the dance-bait title does the song a disservice. The ideas are a bit vague and not sure where the metaphors point. But that gives the song a koan-like quality. So there you go. 

Più Che Puoi: Not that different from the philosophy of "Good Times," although delivered with much more melancholy.

Favorite Scars: Okay, more than the other songs, this feels a bit like Brené Brown and self-help. Which I guess makes it Applied Philosophy

The Winner Takes It All: Questionable addition even to me. But there’s a cynicism to this song that feels downright Ancient Greek. “The Gods may throw a dice/their minds as cold as ice.”

Peruse the Philosophical on Spotify

 

Moonstruck-soloSpeaking of philosophy, I read this essay recently, "Moonstruck, or How to Ruin Everything" by William Day. It's from the book Ordinary Language Criticism: Literary Thinking after Cavell after Wittgenstein. Yes, Wittgenstein. I kid you not.

Day compares the operatic elements in Moonstruck to Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo. I can tell you this, I never thought I’d see the words Cher and Wittgenstein in one sentence, let alone Cher and Fitzcarraldo.

Day also compares the movie to certain romantic comedies of the 1940s with emphasis on a heroine involved in the idea of a re-marriage. This is quite an amazing essay as much about the movie’s themes as it is about the experience of reading in comparison to the experience of performance.. Day even suggests the movie’s depiction of the repression of sexual desire is actually a metaphor for lost or unrealized potential and living with abandon. 


Cher Scholar Mix Tape: The Girl Power Songs

Cs-girl-songs-21In the middle of creating this list I realized a lot of these songs were written by men. So I counted it all up and yes there are 35 male writers to just 10 woman writers. Oy. And I kept losing count of all the writers listed for “A Different Kind of Love Song” so this is an undercount.

All I Really Want to Do: Early idea of relationship emancipation when sung by Cher. That’s why her version of this Dylan song is important.

I Walk on Guilded Splinters: The witchy New-Orleans swamper written by a future Dr. John. Mess with this voodoo version of Cher at your own risk. I have never not liked this song.

Hell on Wheels: All the stuff the voodoo princess in the prior song does but this time on roller skates. It’s still dangerous!

Young and Pretty: I worried this song might sound too victim-y. It’s the only Spotify Black Rose song available so it slipped in. I think it’s Cher’s defiant performance of the song that makes me want to include it and her 40-year literal defiance of the lyric (actually giving the words retrospective irony) that makes this one apropos to our mix here today.

Back on the Street Again: I worried about including this one as well. The girl-power part is mostly in the chorus and the way Cher delivers it. This is another example of how a lyric's meaning changes when sung by a woman instead of man, especially a woman who has decided to change “feet” to “street” and “came” to “gave” illustrating some different priorities there.

I Found Someone: Cher’s first Geffen-era kiss-off song. Honestly, it doesn’t sound like what I would image a girl-power song to be but I’ve witnessed girls-of-a-certain-age at Cher concerts who really love reenacting this one to each other while Cher sings it. It taps into something, this one does.

Save Up All Your Tears: Part two of "I Found Someone." Cher doesn’t sing this one in her shows anymore, but I’m assuming the aforementioned girls would do the same re-enactments for this one. This is a fun song to sing with indignation, whether you have cause or not.

Just Begin Again (with Spinal Tap): Because it’s funny and not bad advice. Although Cher belts too much in it. This was the 1990s and I’m glad that whole thing is over.

It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World: The example most people give when Cher’s persona provides a cover song with ironic disobedience.

Believe: Cher’s girl-power incarnation in the new millennium. This song is another surprising girl-anthem since it’s a bit equivocal and vacillating. But the boys and girls disagree. You see them dancing to this one with a look of self-confidence on their faces and have to admit they are digging empowerment out of it. This is a good example of how music and lyric can mix to evoke a stronger message than the literal words indicate. Honestly, I have never loved this song. I know. What can I say? This is the remix I can take (with the happy electronica) and happily this is the version Cher uses to open her shows.

Strong Enough: Post-Believe, Cher is putting more girl-power out there. More overt girl-power than "Believe." And the disco sound lets us pretend Cher sang this one decades earlier.

A Different Kind of Love Song: It’s not all about what girls are reacting against, but what we celebrate too.

You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me: Yes, a good phoenix rising song but like "Believe" I don’t really like it. So I found a remix I did like, a softer, slightly anthemic, less bombastic journey. Undeniably a strong sentiment though. “Times are hard but I was built tough.”

Woman’s World: Written by men. Harrumph! Cher sells the empowerment here though, especially in her shows.

Take it Like a Man: A tongue-in-cheek “we can do better” song for that works well for girls and gay men, which is why there are about 100 zillion dance remixes. “And how does it feel when we do it better?”

Chiquitita: Girl to girl, things will be okay. Great when ABBA sings it. Cher’s version feels very motherly, or fairy-godmotherly. “Love’s a blown out candle….but the sun is still in the sky and shining above you.”

Stop Crying Your Heart Out: My mother has a lot of somewhat harsh pieces of advice we call Estel-igims. When she was sick in the hospital with Covid and hours away from the ventilator, she was still scolding me to “toughen up” and to “do as I say” and I think this sentiment applies here. The song came out right as she was telling me this although at the time I told her I regretted to inform her that I was a cream puff. Sorry not sorry. :-)

Peruse the Girl Power songs on Spotify.


Cher Scholar Mix Tape: The Love Songs

Cs-love-songs-21A month or so ago I was driving to Taos and discovered fan mixes on Spotify for a few other artists and decided it would be fun to create some new-fangled media mixes for Cher.

Sometimes I come across a Cher love song on shuffle and think, huh, a love song. I should make a mix of these but I don’t normally associate Cher with love songs, which is daffy because that was Sonny & Cher's stock-in-trade, two lovebirds singing love songs. But I was like, nope, not enough songs. So I was shocked when compiling this first mix in Spotify last week.

The songs run the gamut from sweet to crazy. Because this is Spotify, there are songs from four albums we couldn’t add here, like the lovely version of “Love Hurts” from Stars, “I’d Rather Believe in You” from the album of the same name, or any song with Gregg Allman. The mix is also missing the rare b-side “She’s No Better Than Me” and probably one of the most moving songs Cher ever sang for Sonny, Jimmy Webb’s “Didn’t We” from her last recorded torch performance on The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour in 1974. On purpose I didn’t include Cher’s latter-day "Love Hurts" (too bombastic) and “Bang Bang” (she’s having too much fun in the 1980s remake and the 1966 version feels like it somehow belongs to another mix). I curated these songs out-of-chronological order to indicate their timelessness. 

Here’s the blow-by-blow:

The Way of Love: Easily Cher’s biggest, most-representative torch ballad and the ballad that started off her torch era. It has to go first.

Song for You: Leon Russell’s classic torchy ballad. Strong love song. Cher's version is better than the Carpenter’s version I think. Cher gives a more jaded delivery.

Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here with You: From Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline album. When I was 8 years old I made my parents sit in the living room and listen to this song on the record player because I thought it was that good. They patiently sat there until the song was over and then excused themselves to go back into the den to finish their cigarettes and whatever TV show I had interrupted them from.

I Wasn’t Ready: Loved this one as a kid too and still like it.

Angels Running: One of Cher’s most bittersweet covers. This version isn’t as good as the rarer, alternate US version, which is simpler and dispenses with the superfluous touches, especially around the bridge(s).

All I Ever Need Is You: Easy listening gold. As perfect a vocal as Sonny could get. Cher perfection.

Needles & Pins: A classic Sonny Bono/Jack Nitzsche song. I prefer Cher’s more more sincere, painful version than all the other silly-sounding pinzah covers. Thanks the Searchers!

You Take It All: Underrated little deep cut. I love the underwater sound of it.

The Man That Got Away: Lots of tragic love songs on Bittersweet White Light. "More Than You Know" is a Cher favorite and good candidate, but her televised and live versions were better than this up-tempo attempt. This song was noted as a good Judy Garland cover recently by The Boston Globe and I can’t deny that might have influenced my choosing it for this list. The song is at turns resigned, bitter, anguished and dismayed.

Let It Be Me: S&C loved the French around this time and two of their Gilbert Bécaud covers made this list.  Sweet and lilting.

Train of Thought: I’ve been thinking about this suicide song and that it was released in May of 1974, eerily one year before Jenny Arness’ suicide in May of 1975 when Gregg Allman left her for Cher. Cher’s smoker’s voice here leads us through a harrowing (very meta) train of thought.

Catch the Wind: Sweet song by Donovan. Cher does a doe-eyed version.

Then He Kissed Me: Not as great as The Crystals version but I’ve always liked this version too. Nice Harold Battiste piano part in this one.

United We Stand: The sonic version of the photograph displayed on the back of their 1971 All I Ever Need Is You album. As true as any S&C love song probably, at least emotionally, if not when they actually divided a few years later. Neither of them did, in fact, fall.

Love & Pain: Cher’s fist belting melodrama. I like that there are non-belting parts here too, unlike the Geffen years full of full-blast ballads.

Stand By Me: I was torn about including this one. Took it out. Then added it back in. The original is so iconic. But this is very Sonny & Cher too, similar to "United We Stand" (lots of standing). I like that Sonny comes in at the very end with his support.

What Now My Love: The second Gilbert Bécaud ("Et Maintenant"). Both of these versions are go-tos when I’m feeling gloomy. The numbness , the becoming unreal, the resignation! Such a sorrowful lyric. As I kid I always loved their cheesy nightclub version better. But this version has grown on me quite a bit.

Somebody: My favorite modest little S&C song.

Just You: I liked this song better when I was younger. It’s kind of a plodding event to me now. But that said, it’s the best, most perfect example of Sonny Bono writing a lyric about his own thoughts and feelings which he sublimates by letting Cher  sing them instead. It’s easy for the audience to read these sentiments as Cher’s (it’s what we wanted to believe about their dynamic) but they truly belong to Sonny. After all, he would sound paternalistic and crass singing them (and why is Cher so jealous? Question for another day.) so giving them to Cher probably felt chivalrous to him. Not without its charm anyway.

Baby Don’t Go: I don’t love their honky version but this is one of the most popular love songs for other artists to cover from the S&C oeuvre. So it seems important to add here. It’s also an easy song to cover well, unlike "I Got You Babe."

After All: Sonically mushy but good slow-dance material. Still popular and still a part of her shows.

It’s The Little Things: My non-Cher-fan-friends (boys or girls) always pick this song as one of their favorite Sonny & Cher songs and it's a deserving favorite. Again Sonny speaking through Cher (remember Sonny told Cher she wasn’t pretty enough to make it without him and they both often joked about how naïve and dumb Cher could be), but more catchy and a happier song than "Just You."  

I Got You Babe, Live at the Westside Room in Century City: Haven’t we all heard enough of their original recording? It’s a classic but this has always been my sentimental favorite version, particularly due to Sonny’s humorous interjections. 

I Got You Babe, Good Times Soundtrack Version: Another sweet cover of their own song. No one covers this song better than S&C did themselves.

Peruse the love songs on Spotify