Cher Once Did Needlepoint; Now She Valiantly Defends the United States Post Office

Cher Works to Save the Post Office

Excuse my title up there. I really didn't know how to tie all these disparate stories together.

First off, fans have been delighted to see Cher fighting for the U.S. post office in recent protests, phone calls and Twitter pics.

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I hope if she starts volunteering for the post office, Bob Mackie designs her some "sensible shoes."

Cher and Needlepoint 

Months ago someone was requested photos of celebrity needlepointers like Dinah Shore and Rosey Grier. I found as many as I could but one photo I remembered proved elusive to locate. Then Cher scholar Drew asked me a question and I went searching for the answer to that but instead found the missing needlepoint pic. Maybe someday I'll locate the answer to Drew's question while I'm looking for something else. 

Anyway, Cher once did lots of needlpoint. She did so much she joked, "Then I took up needlepoint—my God, I needlepointed everything. I could have made a needlepoint stove!"

Cher needlepoints on airplanes:

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Cher needlepoints circa 1978/9.

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I also captured an image of Sonny pretending to needlepoint in episode #49 of The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour:

Needlept

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


And here are some needlepoints of Cher:

Sandcneedles Sandcneedles

 

 

 

 

 

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The Time Magazine pillow belonged to Bob Mackie and sold for $448 on Julien's Acutions.

You can buy the Moonstruck needlepoint pattern on Etsy with a companion Nicholas Cage!

What is a Silkwood Shower?

For the Chersonian Institute, I was filing old magazines and found something interesting. Remember when Entertainment Weekly did a Bullseye pieceon the last page? Do they still do that? Anyway, one I found had a disparaging arrow regarding a rumor that Bret Michaels and Miley Cyrus’ mom were dating. ET says the rumor has sent them “running for a Silkwood shower.” Ok, that's a big rude. And I wondered if that was like…a saying. Apparently it is. Urban Dictionary has a listing for it with this example:

“I had to take a Silkwood shower when I got home from that party since I smelled like an ash tray cooked on an open flame BBQ grill covered in hot sauce.”

So "snap out of it, Moonstruck eggs and the Jack speech are not the only iconic references from a Cher movie.

Here are some shots of a Silkwood shower. It's a pretty serious and scary thing and Meryl rocks it (as did Sudie Bond earlier in the movie). 

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1999showCher Concert Reviews

Concert reviews have changed. I've learned this lesson over the last year from various sources from current reviewers and from the deceased reviewers. Is this overwhelming evidence of capitalism taking over PR? Probably. Which is no such a great thing. Buyer beware, there are no objective reviews in the land of corporate conglomeration. 

So it’s good to look back at a positive review and interview from 1999 (when bad reviews still existed) and this one was by T’cha Dunlevy at the Montreal Gazette is one of those. She was 30 when she reviewed the Believe-era concert and said she

“regularly feels aversion to refuse-to-die ‘60s rock acts. I had no convulsions of revulsion at the Camp Queen’s coup. Maybe it’s her synthetic, timeless beauty or her go-with-the-flow versatility, but Cher has somehow kept her proverbial cool over her three-and-a-half decades in the spotlight…a repetoir of personae, including pop-ditty princess, serious actor, 'I’m-in-love-with-a-man-half-my-age' bachelorette, reactionary mother of a lesbian [remember this was 1999] and, in her 50s. back to the top of the pops without coming off like a circus side-show act.”

“...'How many fingers and toes have you got?’ she asks, queried about whether she’s ever thought of giving up. ‘(It happens) all the time. It’s frustrating. I’m a very mercurial, emotional person, more childish sometimes than grownup. I’m not very calculating. But it’s the only think I know how to do and really love.’”

The end of the interview also notes that both Cyndi Lauper and Wild Orchid were opening for Cher at the time, the same Wild Orchid that produced Stacy Ferguson a.k.a. Fergie Duhamel a.k.a Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas. 


Cher in Black Glass by Karen Joy Fowler

BlackglassA good friend of mine sends me lots of good books for birthdays and Christmas, some of them collections of short fiction. I've accumulated so many I need to start reading them to clear off a book shelf. Not all of them are my cup of tea so I usually attempt to read each story at least. If the writing doesn't grab me right away, I move on to another story or book. I keep the ones I really like. 

So it came time to read this one, Black Glass by Karen Joy Fowler and Cher was a prominent feature in the first three pages of the title story. Here are some screenshots. It's too much to retype.

The story opens in a bar. The Cher part on page one reads:

"Rows of cut-glass decanters filled the shelves. Schilling ran his towel over their glass stoppers. In the corner, on the big screen, Cher danced and sang a song for the U.S. Navy. Schilling had the sound off."

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The reference on page two: 

A drunk man comes in requesting booze. "'I don't have any money,' said the man. Cher closed her eyes and opened her mouth."

20200623_083448The reference on page three:

People are drinking, minding their own business: "A second shaft of sunlight appeared in the room, collided with the mirrored wall. Inside the sunlight, barely visible, Cher danced."

Then "a nightmare in the shape on an enormous post menopausal woman" comes in holding a hatchet and a rock and she "hit the big screen dead center with the rock. The screen cracked and smoked, make spitting noises, blackened." 

End of Cher in the story.

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This was actually nothing against Cher, this woman smashing the monitor. She was a Fire-and-Brimstone messenger come to scare the patrons over the evils of alcohol. After all the violence in the bar which runs for a few pages, we switch to a scene with a DEA agent and I lost interest here. I ended up not finishing any of the stories in the book.

Sometimes when you have too many books, you gotta make some tough choices.    


From the Chersonian Archive: Joni Mitchell Lyrics

Mitchellgeffen

Apologies to the Cher scholar who brought these lyrics to my attention. I printed them out to look at later and then years and years went by and I recently dug them out of the Chersonian Institute's messy archive.

There's speculation that references to Cher can be found in the lyrics of two Joni Mitchell songs. Here's what we do know: Joni Mitchell, Cher and David Geffen lived in the same house for a time while Cher was dating Geffen in 1973-74. Mitchell and Geffen are quoted mentioning this situation. When Cher left Geffen for Gregg Allman, Geffen admits he was distraught to distraction and had to seek therapy. He also states Cher was his only girlfriend. So the pool of possibilities here is very small (like Cher) if in fact Mitchell is referring to David Geffen in these two songs.

Let's take a look. Good sleuthing Cher scholar!

From her song "Love or Money" from the 1974 concert album Miles of Ailses.

Full lyrics: https://jonimitchell.com/music/song.cfm?id=190
Song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WfplwJaBN1E

Specific lyrics that seem David Geffen related:

The firmament of Tinsel Town
Is strung with tungsten stars
Lots of forty watt successes
He says where's my own shining hour
He's the well kept secret of the underground
He's in debt to the company store

Specific lyrics that seem Cher-related:

His only channeled aspiration
was getting back the girl he had before…

All because that ghostly girl comes haunting
Just out of reach outside his bed
And she kicks the covers off his sleep
For the clumsy things he said
She commands his head she tries his sanity
She demands his head tonight unknowingly

Vaguely she floats and lacelike
Blown in like a curtain on the night wind
She's nebulous and naked
He wonders where she's been
He grabs at the air because there's nothing there
Her evasiveness stings him
With long legs-long lonely legs
Bruised from banging into things

One day he was standing just outside her door
He was carrying an armload of bright balloons
She just laughed
She said she heard him knocking
And she teased him for the moon...

he tried but he could not get it down
for love or money

This song was recorded in March and August of 1974, in the turmoil of Geffen and Cher's relationship.

 

Form "Off Night Backstreet" from the 1977 album Don Juan's Reckless Daughter.

Full lyrics: https://jonimitchell.com/music/song.cfm?id=169
Song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yrsub53A9EE

There are no overt references to David Geffen in the song but these are the possible Cher-related lyrics:

You pimp - laughing and strutting her to my chartered seat…
now she's moved in with you
She's keeping your house neat
and your sheets sweet…

who left her long black hair
in our bathtub drain?

This is a much later song, the album was recorded in 1977 and could be referring to another Mitchell relationship and another mysterious girl. 


Cher Scholar Digs: Mad Magazine, 1967 Interview, Moonstruck

Cher-mad1

The picture to the left is Cher reading Mad Magazine in the mid-1960s,

So I've been organizing Cher loot during the Great Shut-In and I'm finding some good stuff....and some not-so-good stuff, like this Mad Magazine spread from March of 1973, which is ironically exactly where we're up to in cataloging the TV episodes

Mad Magazine loves to take the piss out of popular things. So the tone of this isn't surprising. I don't tend to enjoy their sense of humor, although I enjoyed Spy vs. Spy as a kid. There's another clipping I once ripped out of one of my older brother's 70s-era issues that had a predictive age-progression for Cher's face. It was wildly inaccurate (looking back as it assumed she would never change her hair style) but I remember feeling a sense of dread about it (and not just because I destroyed a possible eBay sale from my brothers' future). I'll post it here if I come across it.

Here is the comic I was able to locate online. Click the thumbnails to enlarge. Prepare to be underwhelmed.

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I think part of the un-funnyness is knowing that the premise of the critique (Cher being a bitch who pushed Sonny around) was based on a tragically false assumption. I also think this is a macho response to an emerging feminist subtext occurring in this show. And I'm not just trying to be an academic wonk. (Liar!) This kind of response sort of proves that something unnerving was happening. It's like that disturbing quote from Chris Hodenfield in the 1973 Rolling Stone piece where the author's male friends were hoping Sonny "beat the shit out of her with a tire iron" which was also a macho-Rolling Stone-reading male response to seeing a woman (a wife, no less) like Cher on television daring to act assertive and critical when, at most, macho male audiences were used to seeing only the challenges of tentative but cautious characters like Marlo Thomas' Ann Marie or Mary Richards or Gloria on All in the Family. And then there's Maude. Look, Cher isn't even included in the list: https://www.thoughtco.com/sitcoms-of-1970s-3529025. But she got this kind of blowback. Why was that?

InsidepopThere's an interview with Sonny & Cher in the book “Inside Pop” book by David Dachs (1967). The most interesting parts describes a Cher modeling shoot for Vogue and calls out the uniquely packaged deal of Sonny being a writer, producer, provider of arrangement ideas (if not fully the arranger), music editor, and the one who chooses the master. The author says they were able to keep a lot of their royalties this way. The article also states that in his pre-music-biz life, Sonny was a masseur. I wonder if Cher got free massages during their time together. The interview also references Sonny's early compositions including “Koko Joe” Larrywilliams2 and “You Bug Me Baby," recorded by Larry Williams, which I first heard on my local oldies station a few months back.

There are also lots of mistakes in book: describing Georganne as Armenian, completely misrepresenting Sonny & Cher's age difference.

The author calls them an ingratiating couple and talks about their upcoming planned movie Ignaz (never came out)  and says the movie was concerned with “mind expansion.” The author finally concluded that they “aren’t all 'camp' and kooky clothes.”

What a hip word to use. Susan Songtag's essay "Notes on Camp" had just come out in 1964.

Moonstruck

I found an old local newspaper from when I was living in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in the year 2000. The American Film Institute had came out with this list of the funniest movies of all time.

Moonstruck is #47.
https://www.brainerddispatch.com/news/3372065-some-it-hot-tootsie-top-list-100-funniest-american-movies


Stories on the Sleeve: Take Me Home

So earlier this year SleeveMr. Cher Scholar found out about a call for submissions from the New Mexico Humanities Council. They wanted stories appreciating record album covers. I knew I could do something good with a Cher cover. I literally starred at them for hours after purchase, memorizing all the names. Cher's first inner sleeve was produced for her Casablanca album Prisoner in 1979, the album after Take Me Home.

I chose Take Me Home and the entry had to be 100 words or less and I kept to that limit (although I noticed many other entries in the show did not). Here was my entry:

I was 9 years old in 1979 when Cher released her only disco album. My mother balked buying it for me, saying the cover was too risqué. Forget side boob; this cover was all boob! She relented and I spent hours perusing the cover and credits to search musicians, like members of the band Toto she usually worked with or whom she thanked. She gave boyfriends and kids affectionate nicknames. I loved the burst of green Barry Levine used for the background of the photographs. A make-up malfunction resulted in the airbrushing of her face. Her outfit was designed by Bob Mackie with inspiration from then-boyfriend Gene Simmons from KISS. It was less a costume than a set piece, Viking plates and capes of shining gold. This was the time of backlash against disco, where angry white boys were gleefully burning piles of records. Cher sat on her fabulous cape, quarter-turned to us with her devil-may-care stare, as if to say “I’m going to outlast your hate and go on to play “Take Me Home,”  (the title song went to #8 on Billboard’s Hot 100), to sold-out shows in big arenas well into my 70s. 
And so she did. -- Mary McCray, January 2019

 

Here are the front and back covers (click to enlarge):

Tmh-cher-front Tmh-cher-back
The reception was last Thursday. My entry was first in the display but last in the discussion. Surprisingly the show was SRO. Here's what the full spread looked like:

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Other albums were prestigious competition in record collecting: the obligatory Beatles, Pink Floyd and Rolling Stones covers, but also RUSH, Laura Nero, K.D. Lang, Simon & Garfunkel, Stan Getz, Jackson Browne, Iron Maiden, Jackson Browne, Deep Purple, Joy Division, Sufjan Stevens and two local New Mexican albums. There was thankfully one Dolly Parton album and one other disco album, Donna Summer's Greatest Hits

I paid close attention to what the girl record collectors were talking about.  The Dolly fan talked about growing up in rural New Mexico liking Dolly and feeling Dolly shame in front of her peers. The girl talking about Donna Summer also took pains to say her other cover submissions was a Doors cover.  Girls talked about the Rolling Stones, Deep Purple, Joy Division and Sufjan Stevens entries.

The wife of the Stan Getz collector told my friend he would only listen to cool jazz and so she was unable to play her Miles Davis records. The RUSH and Iron Maiden stories were a bit intimidating in subject matter and funny presentations. But since everyone went before me, I had a chance to reconfigure my speech. Here's me talking about Cher.

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I started by saying how I came from a record collecting family, including my Beatles-loving brothers and my country-and-western collecting Dad, and that when at 5 years old I decided to collect Cher records, this wasn't received well. I also retold the story of my mother not wanting to buy the album for me and what she said recently when I reminded her about it over email. She wrote me, "have I ever denied you anything?!" And I had to admit that was true...but what was the word she used? The word was "risque" and that was also true (considering I was only 9 years old and all). Anyway, I talked about the sexy viking costume design concept by Gene Simmons, who Cher was dating at the time, and how Bob Mackie made it. And how I had recently found a similar design on a Mae West dress so that cut-out boob-design wasn't anything new. Here it is from the 1933 Mae West movie, I'm No Angel:

West

I then talked about how record collecting wasn't easy after Take Me Home because Cher disappeared as a tab in the record bins for almost 10 years and how we all thought her career was over. But she came back to the stores in the mid-1980s and even last year at 72 her last album charted.

I talked about photographer (now movie producer) Barry Levine and the makeup snafu and how they had to do a bad, late-1970s airbrushing of her face. I also went on to talk about the musicians on the album, the three players who were part of the band Toto (and how they were also part of Sonny & Cher's backup band earlier in the 1970s and how Cher used them off and on through the early 1990s) and keyboardist Paul Shaffer.

I also talked about why I picked the album cover of all of Cher's over 40 album covers (I mentioned that every album but two have been released on vinyl). I talked about how Cher didn't want to do disco and how Casablanca talked her into it and how unpopular disco was at the time (for possibly homophobic and racist reasons in retrospect) and how looking back I think about the male gaze and how Cher is starring so strongly and defiantly back and how when I was nine (although I didn't know what the male gaze was at the time) I probably understood this as a model for how to be a confident and defiant Cher fan. 

Everyone had the chance to play a sample of a song from their album. So the show ended on the song "Take Me Home."

I was most interested in the women in the show who picked artists who were very unlike them in some way. The Laura Nero album was picked by an African American woman who talked about Nero's quality of whiteness and her facial expressions captured on the cover. The Dolly Parton album was picked by the Hispanic woman from rural New Mexico. These choices opened up conversations about identity and how you relate to each other as women. The Laura Nero woman told me later she really liked my presentation, as did the man who did the RUSH cover. I appreciated that. 

The Iron Maiden cover was picked by a man writing a book about Greek mythology in Heavy Metal. I will be sure to purchase it and discuss.


Mixed Bag of Honors and Accomplishments


Moony2First of all Cher's Believe album will be out on vinyl in December.  

In Music

A few weeks ago Cher's album Dancing Queen made its debut on the Billboard album chart at #3. This felt disappointing as Cher and the fans were aiming for #2. Although the album did hit #1 in the list for Top Album Sales. And the song "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!" reached #5 on the Dance Club Play chart. And the Gimme remixes were recently released

So it felt a bit short at the time but my Billboard guru friend tells me I was off my meds to think this way: Sos

"For me, I am super impressed with her position on the chart. The year is three-quarters done, so for her to have the largest week of sales for an album in 2018 by a female pop artist is a major achievement.  It means she sold more albums in her debut week than 20-something Ariana Grande, who is the hottest female pop star in the U.S. currently, when she released Sweetener a few months ago. It means that the only female in any genre to post a larger one week tally this year is Cardi B. Were this released four years ago, before they started incorporating streaming into chart calculations, she would have debuted at #1 on the Top 200 chart, rather than #3 (and #1 on the sales chart).  The last female pop artist to exceed this level of sales in a single week was none other than 20-something Taylor Swift who remains the biggest U.S. female artist of the last ten years.  Not shabby company to keep. The fact that it is a sales sum that has only been surpassed by one other pop artist this year (Justin Timberlake) is truly remarkable. 

Mary, please think of it this way--over 50,000 albums across genres are released in the U.S. each year and our 72-year-old beloved can in 2018 sell more in a single week than literally any other pop artist on Earth except one, and more than any other female artist on Earth except one.  That is stupendous."

So that perspective was great. But then in week two the album feel from #3 to #43. 

In Movies

Anyway, there was another Billboard list that made me feel better again: Billboards list of 100 top musician performances in movies. Cher ranks #1. J. Lynch has this to say:

Cher’s Oscar-winning turn in the 1987 romcom Moonstruck remains the standard by which you mentally check all others. Cher brings that mixture of reluctance and romantic recklessness to the screen with a self-effacing realism and millisecond-sharp comedic timing. Few performances are this irresistible, hysterical and believably low-key -- and the fact that it came from one of the 20th century’s biggest pop stars leaves us unable to snap out of loving Cher in her deservedly Oscar-winning performance more than 30 years later."

The Kennedy Honor

And then there's the incredible Kennedy Honor. Maybe not in and of itself but for the fact that fans and Cher-watchers have been lobbying so long for Cher's simple induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. To be beset with yet a larger honor was fully unexpected. And a bit disorienting quite frankly. But what a big deal. As my friend Christopher described it, “the government's highest form of recognition for artists...its official intention is to identify and honor artists for their lifetime contribution to the culture of the United States. That is no small potatoes.”

Especially since nobody's been noticing Cher's lifetime contribution to the culture of the United States. 

The awards will be televised on December 26 on CBS at 8 p.m. Eastern.

Some articles about the honor:

Here is the 2016 batch with some unsmiling Eagles (I take that back, 2/3 unsmiling Eagles), James Taylor, Martha Argerich, Mavis Staples, and the incomparable Al Pacino. 

Last-year


Cher On the Verge

Chermama22Between last November and today, lots of Cher news has happened, is happening. These days I feel like my posts are just roll-up lists of links. It’s kind of amazing (and daunting), but all these major categories below are all in play right now, not only with new stuff but the constant consumption and evaluation of old stuff! It's like her career is rolling up on itself.

Movies & Music

The new movie,  Mama Mia 2, is set to open July 20, 2018. I still have yet to see MM1. And I bet everyone has seen this already but here is the trailer

Christine Baranski recently talked about working with Cher on Live with Kelly & Ryan. Cher apparently sings "Super Trooper" (with the cast) and "Fernando" (solo). I got overly excited about this news last week. I love ABBA and I also love imagining Cher singing improbable covers; but to put these two interests together never entered my head, even after it was announced Cher would be the movie. Either I’m very preoccupied right now (which is true) or this was a big imagination fail on my part. I still can’t really picture Cher singing ABBA.

More stories:

Mamma-mia-Ci-risiamo-1280x500

Old Movies: Here's a story about "How Moonstruck got Italian Americans right." I was just in a new book club at a local tea room a few weeks ago and met a couple, Irv and Di, who had retired to Albuquerque from New York City and I asked them what movie they thought best captured New York City. The husband said he had never thought about that before and asked me what I thought and I said I didn't really know but that Moonstruck perfectly captured the Italian landlords I once had in Yonkers. He heartily agreed about Moonstruck and then came up with "Crossing Delancy" and "The Chosen."

Moonstruck-Cinderella-at-the-BallBill Maher also mentioned Moonstruck in his February 16 episode as part of his New Rules segment covering conflicting messages men get about women from popular movies. Basically Maher was saying women seem to want more aggressiveness from men in movies, judging by the latest movies that are popular with women. In fact, women seem to want sexual advances from men outside of movies too, but only from those particular men they want advances from and not from the ones they don’t want them from. Arguably, this is an unsaid truth of the #metoo movement. And the obvious problem, Maher says, is that men don’t know which of these categories they fall under. Another unfortunate truth. Who can argue that human relationships confuse and contradict easy political solutions. Yeah, it sucks…and it sucks for everybody including women making advances and gay or bisexual men and men women trying to figure out who’s allowed to make advances to whom. Maher then lists some popular movies among women, movies with problematic plot lines such as:

  1. Marrying your boss
  2. Stalking is romantic
  3. I hate you and then I love you …and he lists Moonstruck here.

And this list was very upsetting to me only because Moonstruck was the only movie I recognized! What are all these movies about even? So I can only speak for Moonstruck, a screenplay written by a man and directed by another man. So, clearly the story is a male idea. Women may have liked it (although I don’t remember that) but women certainly didn’t like it as much as they liked Dirty Dancing that year, (I had the unfortunate experience of working in a video store then  and can't begin to describe the absolute frenzy surrounding the lack of enough VHS rentals for that movie), or Thelma and Louise a few years later. I particularly liked Adventures in Babysitting at the time even though I had never babysat in my life and babysitting seemed as scary as the movie confirmed it would be.

But in any case, even if recent mainstream movies with un-PC plot lines have been popular among women lately, it’s not like we've had a lot of space on the marquee lately, in between all the apocalyptic and superhero titles. And if you punch in “popular movies for women” on Google, you get none of those mysterious movies on Maher’s list. “Legally Blonde” pops up first, followed by “Sense and Sensibility,” “Chocolate,” “Julie & Julia” (there’s not even a love story in there, is there?), “You’ve Got Mail” (I should really see that one), “Miss Congeniality,” and “Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion” among others. The only truly disturbing title on the list is “Pretty Woman.”

Anyway, this is not a new conundrum really. Alan Parson’s Project wrote a dramatic song about it in 1979, a song I sometimes fantasize Cher will someday cover. And since I’m on the topic of random songs I’d like Cher to cover, this guilty pleasure song is on the short list too. I’m not proposing Cher should make it with an over-emoted, shirtless video. But it’s inspiring in its way and sometimes very helpful messages come in over-the-top six-packages.

Other music stuff:

I found this brilliant video of what Cher sounded like to us when we were seven years old and had shitty record players.

And recently, The Los Angeles Times opined that if Cher’s song "Prayers for this World" was nominated, we could enjoy Cher dazzling us all on the red carpet this year.  But then nominations came out and the song was not nominated.

Remember that Cher track on that recent Wu Tang Clan album that sleazy pharmaceutical guy Martin Shkreli bought in 2015 for two million and wouldn’t share with anyone? Well, he’s about to lose it to the U.S. government which means we might someday hear it: https://noisey.vice.com/en_uk/article/bj543d/cher-wu-tang-clan-u-god-album-2018.

ScsanremomariannefaithfulAnd here’s a thing! A video for "Il Cammino Di Ogni Speranza," the song Sonny & Cher sang during the San Remo festival of 1967. They met Marianne Faithful for the first time at that festival (see right).

Covers of Cher:

Judy Hill from the band Girl recently posted videos of the performances she did at CherCon 2002 at the now-demolished Riviera in Las Vegas:

Her band's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/girlrocksyourworld/

Cher Scholar Michael forwarded me this great clip of Liza Minelli singing “You’d Better Sit Down Kids.”

Television

CherfireCher, along with other artists, did a video for the Grammys spoofing readings of the book about Trump, Fire and Fury. Cher-scholar Tyler then reminded us that in 1966 Sonny & Cher were nominees for best new artists along with Herman's Hermits, They Byrds, Marilyn Made and Tom Jones (who won). 

Cher scholar Tyler also found a clip of Sonny & Cher enduring comments about their hipness on The Carol Burnett Show.

Broadway, Las Vegas, Australia & Old Concerts

"Experiencing Cher in Las Vegas" by Naomi Gall: "Not only was she worth travelling half way around the world to see but I’d do it all again – in a heartbeat."

An article in the New York Post about how the producers of the new Donna Summer musical are worried about the opening of the Cher musical. There was also an open call for the Broadway Cher show. Cher scholar Laura P. sent me this list of characters with descriptions from a Broadway casting site. The show has a new logo and early commercial. Tickets also just went on sale for the Chicago pre-shows.  It feels very meta, how they recognize Cher as a process. I like it! Here's a story about the designer behind the logo.

Cher scholar Tyler also found me this clipping about Sonny & Cher’s visit to Abilene Texas for a concert in 1967.

Australia2The big story last week was Cher's trip to Australia for the Sydney Gay Mardis Gras:

Style

More Cher style retrospectives:

Every year for the past few years Cher has been selling Christmas merch on her website. For some reason this year that made news in Vogue and Good Housekeeping:

My friend Julie got me the "Ho Ho Bitches" ornament this year.

And like Linda on Bob’s Burgers, Mandy Moore dressed up like Cher for Halloween on her show.

Activism

Cher’s animal group made a video about Animals in Captivity.

She endorsed an Idaho politician.

She spoke at the January Women's March in Las Vegas:

Cher helped produce the short film Edith & Eddie which was nominated for an Academy Award for best short documentary film. Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405 won. Here's the trailer for that interesting one about an LA artist named Mindy Alper.

More stories about Edith and Eddie:

House & Cars

The Sonny & Cher house in Bel Air on Carrolwood is part of a Ponzi scheme controversy.

Sonny & Cher’s famous mustangs are back on sale. They go on sale so often, I’m convinced they must be haunted by Sonny.

Peripherals

The 1970s girl band Fanny has been making news again with a reunion record!

(Thanks to Michael and Mr. Cher Scholar for those links.)

Two-time Cher co-star John Mahoney (Suspect and Moonstruck) recently passed away. Read his New York Times obit.

Elton John referenced Cher in his Farewell Tour announcement.

Chaz Bono talks about his acting experiences and projects.

Cher is suing the owner of the LA Times.

Cher in Media

Hashtags connected to Cher has been coming up lately, including these two:

#CherStrong
#CherIfYouAgree

Las Vegas also honored Cher recently by choosing "Believe" as one of the songs that will play during the Bellagio fountain show. I have to admit the light show song combo is more moving that I anticipated. The boom-boom-boom you can feel viscerally even in these fan video captures. Cher’s in some rarefied company for this Vegas institution.

Believe-fountain

Stories and video:

Family Guy did an episode that was basically a satire of three directors: Wes Anderson, Michael Bay, and Quentin Tarantino. The Wes Anderson spoof is at minute 7:14 and it satires his quirky pop covers with a German version of “I Got You Babe” at minute 11:02. The song is “Bleib Bei Mir Babe” by Wirtschaftswunder. (Here's a more contemporary live version.)

DictaphoneDoing research for a novel, I was reading a cheap anthology of short stories about ghosts and came across one called “Dead Media” by Nick Mamatus. In the story, a girl named Lenore goes to a Liberal arts college called Miskatonik. She meets the college A/V nerd named Walt who attempts to help her trace back an audio file of a chanting ghost through all sorts of media platforms. They go from an archive of mp3s to DAT tapes of a cassette of reel-to-reel tapes of a 78 record of a dictaphone cylinder. At first, the author had me enraptured with this very nerdy premise and commentary on every-changing media. The characters ended up recorded a voicemail to a dictaphone cylinder in order to debunk the

“vibrato buzz of the sort that made Walt’s molars cringe in his mouth, like auto-tune, a nail on a chalkboard. Walt didn’t hear it so much as feel it.”

Ugh. Auto-tune snobbery inside this fun technology ghost story. What a bummer.

At the end of the story, the author changes the point of view from the nerdy Lenore character to a girl who went on the same search back in 1977 and is now a ghost who murders Walt and Lenore on behalf of Mi-Go aliens

“from Tche, a great, gas giant in the Oort Cloud, a cold and squishy minor planet like Pluto.”

It takes four pages at the end to basically say the aliens did it, the kind of plot cop-out and genre whiplash that always makes my molars ache.

  


Tons of Cher Scholarshiping

BelieveOver the summer I did a bit of Cher scholarship and some awesome scholarship came to me.

Chart Masters

One of the most exciting things was this analytics data Cher scholar Aurélien sent me, this study conducted by the site Chart Masters. I love this nerdy stuff! Numbers have been crunched to combine physical sales, compilation and live album sales with digital sales to get a better understanding of a song or artist’s overall popularity. For longtime Cher fans, there aren’t many surprises in this report, but it's still fascinating nonetheless, especially the streaming aspect. Madonna fans in the comments took great umbrage with the new Cher moniker “goddess of pop” (was this a fan label or a press one, I never did know). This week my friend Ann suggested the title "the Nefertiti of Pop Music," but the article suggests possibly a more accurate alternative moniker: the “Godmother of All Divas.”

Something to keep in mind, these statistics don’t take into account Cher's popularity in movies, television programs or any other products and these diminutive sales might prove that Cher’s true popularity lies more in other products beyond music, which makes the longevity of her career making music (to date: 1964-2017) and the Billboard record breaking stats all the more mysterious.

BelievealbumRanking of Top Albums

The first section lists the sales of albums, both physical and digital. I’ve re-ordered the list by top albums by total world sales. However, early 60s and 70s albums numbers were  hindered by the fact that apparently few people invested in buying full albums (is this true?) and there weren’t many international sales. The deep catalog is also severely compromised by the fact that almost a decade of Cher’s output has never been officially released digitally (on iTunes, Spotify, YouTube).

  • Believe – 11,800,000
  • Heart of Stone – 6,000,000
  • Love Hurts – 3,500,000
  • Cher (1987) – 2,050,000
  • Burlesque Soundtrack – 1,375,000
  • Look at Us – 1,300,000 (the best of 60s albums)
  • Living Proof – 1,125,000 (said to be bomb because it landed next to Believe but it doesn’t seem awful, like other Cher bombs below)
  • Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves – 1,000,000 (strong comeback for the time)
  • It’s a Man’s World – 850,000
  • All I Ever Need Is You – 700,000
  • Half Breed – 600,000 (half of Gypsies)
  • Closer to the Truth – 600,000
  • Take Me Home – 550,000 (not as good as Half Breed)
  • All I Really Want to Do – 450,000 (second best of the 60s)

CherishedRanking of Albums That Didn’t Do So Well

  • Foxy Lady – 375,000
  • The Sonny Side of Cher – 325,000
  • Dark Lady – 300,000 (I was surprised at this low ranking considering the album had a #1 hit attached to it; but maybe being in the middle of a highly publicized divorce with the sad end of a popular television show compromised its chances. But it’s nutty to me that Foxy Lady outperformed it.)
  • Cher (1966) – 250,000
  • With Love, Cher – 250,000
  • Wondrous World of S&C – 250,000
  • In Case You’re in Love – 250,000
  • Good Times Soundtrack – 150,000
  • Stars – 125,000 (sad results for three of Cher’s best albums, Stars, Backstage and 3614 Jackson Highway)
  • Backstage – 100,000
  • 3614 Jackson Highway – 100,000
  • Bittersweet White Light -- 100,000
  • Mama Was a Rock and Roll Singer – 75,000
  • I’d Rather Believe in You – 75,000
  • Prisoner – 75,000
  • Cherished – 50,000
  • Two the Hard Way – 50,000
  • I Paralyze – 50,000

Single Rankings

The single “Believe” is a legitimate phenomenon and all the more so for Cher being 52 at the time.

  • Believe – 7,020,000
  • I Got You Babe – 2,870,000
  • Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves – 2,370,000
  • Half Breed – 1,850,000
  • If I Could Turn Back Time – 1,780,000
  • The Shoop Shoop Song – 1,710,000
  • Bang Bang – 1,570,000
  • Dark Lady 1,510,000
  • The Beat Goes On – 1,360,000
  • Baby Don’t Go – 1,300,000
  • All I Ever Need Is You – 1,290,000
  • Little Man—1,270,000 (I’m very surprised this song made the list; I always assumed it was a minor hit.)
  • Strong Enough – 1,170,000
  • A Cowboy’s Work Is Never Done – 1,140,000
  • Just Like Jesse James – 1,010,000

Take Me Home doesn’t even make the list. Due to the funkiness of the disco era where they were counting 12-inch singles and chart rankings based on units shipped, the single was certified Gold and it charted #8 on the U.S. Billboard chart.

Other songs that charted in the U.S. but did not make the sales list: After All, Walking in Memphis, The Way of Love, You Better Sit Down Kids, I Found Someone, We All Sleep Alone, All I Really Want to Do, Love and Understanding, and Heart of Stone.

I found it interesting that even for streaming statistics on old catalog albums that have been released digitally, the blips that did occur in sales were usually for single releases, even non-successful singles, for instance a song like “Carousel Man.“ Sometimes music companies make strange choices for singles, (“Sing C’est La Vie” instead of “I Got You Babe” being a famous example of Sonny having to fight the ideas of Ahmet Ertegun at ATCO). You’d think streaming would even the playing field a bit, especially for young people who don’t have the cultural memory of what those unsuccessful single releases even were. According to MJD, this is because most users on Spotify rely on playlists, which just reinforce the "best" of an era.

Some of the charts also have misapplied orphan songs that really belong in another artist category, (Cher versus Sonny & Cher), are actually from soundtracks or live albums or may just be bootlegs.

The brutal summary is that Cher has a dead catalog compared to other artists Chart Masters has studied. I don’t know how she compares to other artists her age or other artists who began releasing material in the 1960s, (besides The Rolling Stones and the Beatles). But Chart Masters does list the records she has broken: longest span between two hits (she’s 8 years ahead of Michael Jackson), oldest artist to have a top Hot 100 song, “Believe” is also the most successful album from an artist over 50, and she’s one of the few artists to win an Oscar, Grammy, Emmy and a Golden Globe.

Cher in Music Guides (It's Never Pretty)

I posted this article a few months ago (http://www.ninjajournalist.com/entertainment/secrets-cher/) but I revisited it over the summer. I like the thematic dissections of Cherness and the article points out that the Burlesque soundtrack was nominated for Grammy. Really? It was and it also won the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association Campy Film of the Year. It must have been a camp-free year. They  also call out the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Good!

But the article doesn’t debunk the silly rib removal story, passes an impersonator photo off as Cher, in once place Cher is spelled “share,” and the article claims S&C sang harmonies. They really didn’t. In one place it says Cher excelled in school despite her dyslexia and then later states she always got Cs and D.

Most interestingly, the article quotes writer Nicholas E. Tawa to say Cher’s voice is “bold, deep, and with a spacious vibrato.” That sounded like a rare compliment so I looked up the attribution. In his book Supremely American: Popular Song in the 20th Century (2005) Tawa spends a paragraph on Cher. Here’s the excerpt from Google books.

One small paragraph full of so many common inaccuracies about Cher.

“During the seventies, too, a new kind of performer came into view – the chameleon, always ready to adapt his or her public personality and tailor a singing style to suit the prevalent fashion.”

This is both true and not true. Sonny, Cher's first producer, was a bona fide folk rock artist. He picked the material and he didn’t change in the 1970s. He just handed Cher over to producer Snuff Garrett and so her music style changed. Cher never endorsed adult contemporary and fared only adequately with it (aside from 3 #1 hits), considering how long she was assigned this style by producers). Cher critics are constantly having it both ways. Tawa sees Cher as an exploiter of styles and cynical chameleon (when actually she felt powerless at the time to choose her material). Tawa even admits further down that some artists are “steered hither and yon.” But he must not be thinking of Cher here.

Tawa calls Cher a “case in point” of someone “who gave careful consideration to advancing her career.” If you’re a real student of Cher, you know her career is not Madonna-esque. It was always a fly-by-the-seat music career with occasional attempts at steering, some of which worked, but most of which did not. 

The Chart Master’s study above proves all this. As I said in my comments there: “Cher has never been a successful pop star in comparison (to Madonna) and yet she is consistently accused of being simultaneously too popular and calculated (by rock artists who never have pop hits) and not being popular and calculated enough (by fans of young pop hit-makers). This survey proves she is neither calculated nor popular. Which just makes her icon status all the more mysterious and remarkable.”

From Tawa, this is poor scholarship:

“In order to prove irresistible to her audiences, she had her nose and teeth straightened, her teeth capped, her breasts firmed up, and her body reshaped” and that this is why she succeeded.

First of all WTF does having your body reshaped even mean? That could simply mean twelve months at the gym. Secondly, Cher did have her nose and teeth done in her mid-40s, starting at her third decade of her career after the bulk of her music career was ostensibly over with. Those were fixes for her acting career, beyond the scope of this book on popular music. Other body amendments were allegedly made after pregnancies or in the 1990s and beyond. Tawa implies that she did all this as a young woman in order to make it in the music business. His chronology is completely off base but he plunges ahead with his conclusions.

When he lists her music styles, he includes 60s folk-rocker (true), pop-rock (true), wailed power ballads (is wail really the word one would use if Cher weren't a woman? Does Bon Jovi wail?), disco numbers (true, but why are disco songs always called “numbers”?),  New Wave glitter rock queen in the early 80s (one album of New Wave that was as far as queen-dom as you could possibly get, see album's ranking above), punk (ah, no), an exponent of arena-rock (ok maybe), and in a later reincarnation tried hip hop (is this a reference to It’s a Man’s World?). He leaves out dance (or as some would say Eurotrash) and the biggest hit of her career.

The Poet Scholar

A while back I posted the text of a poem called “Cher” by Dorianne Laux, who does a lot of pop culture pieces. The poem made the rounds again on a fan site and I decided to give it a closer reading and research other comments about it. There are some factual errors in the poem. And I hate to a Nelly-Nit-Pick but…a poem is all about particulars so...

  • Cher's labeled as tall. I guess she was perceived as tall on television but in reality looks tiny.
  • Laux says “before the shaving knife/took her…before they shoved/pillows in her tits” --Cher has never had huge breast implants, only breasts lifts…and even if she has had some, they are not quite “pillows inserted.” That was a huge recurring joke on the television shows, how flat Cher was. She may be bustier now...but not at a pillow level.
  • In general the language is vague and presents a weak ending that doesn’t really say anything: “singing in a sloppy alto/the oldest, saddest songs.”

But there are some really great lines too:

  • “bony shoulders draped/with a curtain of dark hair”
  • “nonexistent butt…I wanted to wear a lantern/for a hat”
  • “throaty panache, her voice/of gravel and clover, the hokum/of her clothes….bullet-hole navel….her crooked/teeth, hit-and-miss beauty” - all this stuff is great, if sometimes backhanded.

The poem originally appeared in a book called The Book of Men in 2011 but Laux re-published it in a book with her husband called Duets (2017). Laux says,

"All the poems are about music and musicians. I love rock ’n’ roll and pop music so my poems feature Cher and Dolly Parton, Mick Jagger, and Paul Simon. And Joe loves jazz and the blues so his poems are about Bo Diddley and Lightnin’ Hopkins, Ray Charles and Monk, among others.

And here:

"I’ve written poems about some of the icons of my time (Cher, Mick Jagger, the Beatles), and I’ve written poems about the artist Manet and his subject, Olympia, a failed poem about Van Gogh’s room in Arles. Those are obvious influences. But I think other influences are subtler and more profound. The music of my time included the harmonic complexities of Joni Mitchell, Simon and Garfunkel, The Beatles, the rough-edged energy of the Rolling Stones and Janis Joplin, the lonely solo of Otis Redding singing “Dock of the Bay.” This is a music I try to bring to my poems and look for in the poems of others."

The Cher poem is singled out here:

In “Cher,” the entire poem is a list of descriptors both plain and precise. Only two verbs activate the poem—and it’s the same verb—“wanted.” The movement comes in the swivels, the mini voltas that spin the poem along its axis. And, of course, how fitting to write a catalogue poem about J.C. Penney’s. It is as if the form was made for such a poem.

And here is a quote saved from Laux's defunct blog: 

"Laux wrote "Cher" after he husband Joe Millar gave her 10 words and told her to use them while saying something she'd wanted to say but hadn't. Laux took the chance to talk about her Cher envy."

So okay that makes sense. Cher envy. It doesn't even need to be based on reality. My bad.

BwlHow Does Cher Sound to a Classically Trained Musician?

And finally, my most favorite scholarshipping over the summer: a new interview and research project!

Musician Todd Grossman, a classically trained musician and teacher, took some time to discuss Cher and her oeuvre, her strengths and flaws all from a more professional perspective.
We talked about Cher’s 60s sound, ticks of self-consciousness, and an objective review on what’s still messy in her catalog and what was maybe overlooked.

Check it out!

Beat2The Idiom of The Beat Goes On

And now the research! I hear the phrase “the beat goes on” spoken as a common idiom constantly on the radio and I read it in print articles, attached to stories that have nothing to do with Sonny or Cher. And I started to wonder what people think this phrase means and how popular it might have become since 1967. I started a survey and found the phrase in lyric tributes, in Internet and scholarly articles and news stories, as book, album and movie titles, made into random images. Then I explored a possible etymology that predates Sonny’s lyric.

Check it out!

 


The Armenian Poets

CherarmeniaOn Big Bang Poetry, I’ve been doing blog posts about protest poetry ("Protest Poetry and Resistance Poetry are Flourishing") and one of the books I mention, Against Forgetting, 20th Century Poetry of Witness, edited by poet Carolyn Forche, starts with two Armenian poets.

For Armenians there are the best of times and the worst of times. The most famous Armenian superstar in the world is now winning icon awards and yet barely 100 years ago her ancestors were being slaughtered in the first modern genocide.

“Any 20th century history of human rights and genocide must begin with the massacre of Armenians, then the largest Christian minority population of Turkey…Between 1909 and 1918…1.5 million Armenians were massacred by order of the Ottoman Turkish government...Historians have called [it] the first “modern” genocide…the first instance of political mass murder made possible by advanced technology and modern communications."

Siamanto

SiamantoThe first poet, named simply Siamanto, was himself executed on April 24, 1915.

This passage from his poem “Grief” sounds eerily familiar in reference to Trump and those who have and those who have not, although admittedly on a much smaller scale than genocide.

“And this evening before sunset
all of you will go back to your houses,
whether they are mud or marble,
and calmly close the treacherous
shutters of your windows.
Shut them from the wicked Capital,

shut them to the face of humanity,
and to the face of your god…
even the lamp on your table
will be extinguished
by your soul’s clear whispers.”

Siamanto’s poem “The Dance” is absolutely horrific, a poem about a group of Armenian women made to dance naked in public until they were exhausted, then lit of fire with kerosene. The poem ends with Siamanto saying “How can I dig out my eyes.”

His poems were translated by Peter Balakian and Nevart Yaghlian.

More about Siamanto

His bust was dedicated in Yerevan.

Remembering the Armenian Genocide thru Siamanto’s Poetry

Vahan Tekeyan

3799The second Armenian poet in the anthology is Vahan Tekeyan. He escaped execution due to being in Jerusalem on business and lived in exile until his death. I loved all his poems in the book.

"Forgetting"

"Prayer for the Threshold of Tomorrow

Does this remind you of anything?

“Let the fortress of egos,
that huge barricade,
crumble.”

The poem “Dream” is about the dead coming back from heaven and “a wolf slinking off, surprised to see his victims again.”

And "The Country of Dust," is a great poem about being small and scattered and dispersed like dust:

“But hope
rises like the sun. Accumulate. Dust consolidates into stone.”

His poems translated by Diana Der Hovanessian and Marzbed Margossian.

More about Vahan Tekeyan

A bootleg book of his poems which must be out of print.

Sixty-five Years after His Demise, His Vision is Alive and Growing

 

You can also read the Anthology of Armenia Poetry.

Famous culture critic Theodor Adorno once said there can be no poetry after the holocaust. This was often taken to mean there can be no beauty after such atrocities. But academics believe he really meant that there could be no poetry because the state would co-opt it for their own purposes. Carolyn Forche begins her anthology quoting German poet Bertolt Brecht, almost in response, who said:

“In the dark times, will there also be singing?
Yes, there will be singing.
About the dark times.”


Nerdy Cher Stuff: Poetry & Statistics

Javier-collectionPoetry

It’s very exciting for me when my poetry and Cher blogs overlap. That’s the kind of nerd I am. And they have been overlapping lately.

I finished another year of the NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) challenge, which involves writing a poem a day for the month of April. No easy feat, especially when you commit to following the prompts, which I did this year.

The prompt of April 26 was to write a poem about how an archaeologist in the future would make sense of our culture. In my poem, archaeologists uncover my garage full of Cher memorabilia. To the left is a picture of Cher scholar Javier Ozuna's very fine Cher collection. Mine is not nearly this extensive but imagine archeologists coming upon this scene and trying to write up a thesis on it.

It’s rare that I do a Cher poem. I don't know why. I think I’ve only done two really crappy ones and those were over 20 years ago. I called this poem “The Relics of Very Tiny Religions.” 

I'm back to enjoying the Cher/Sonny & Cher shows on GetTV. There have also been quite a few skits that are new to me. Either previous TVLand of VH1 episodes skipped them or on was a fully new episodes for me.  This segment floored me. It's a bad recording from a bad recording but it’s Cher reciting the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling.  Cher references the cartoonist Sergio Aragonés, who you might recognize from 1970s MAD magazines and books. Cher, like everybody else, can’t help but recite in “the poem voice,” a kind of plodding tone everybody uses when reading poems for some reason. There are some prophetic moments of the cartoon and poem, including...

Narcissm If

 

 

 

 


...the bits about narcissism and political corruption.

There’s more Cher/poetry commentary to come because I’m really into protest poetry right now  and reading the mother anthology of protest poetry, “Against Forgetting, 20th Century Poetry of Witness,” the first section of which is poets of the Armenian genocide.

ReadersguideStatistics

At work I often do usage research on Google Analytics and keyword research on Google Trends. When I start to learn any new research tool, I always test it out by plugging 'Cher' into the system to see how it works. I've done this my whole life, since learning how to use the green periodical lookup books at the school library when I was a tween.They were very boring books but led to all the articles of Cher in People Magazine and Ladies Home Journal that I could check out in the library which was a great incentive to plunging into the nerd universe.

Anyway, plugging Cher into Google Trends led me to discover two great new-to-me Cher sites:

Paul_Revere_And_The_Raiders_-_Indian_Reservation And I've had Google Analytics on my blogs for over a year now. The most popular page result is a blog post I did in 2008 about the fact that Cher did not ever release a recording or perform live the song people search for as “Cherokee People” or “Cherokee Nation.” The song is actually a Paul Revere & the Raiders song called "Indian Nation." I tallied up the results from an entire year and 649 people made that search and visited my blog to be disabused of that erroneous belief. A huge amount of people associate Cher with that song.

Last month my search queries also showed a very funny result for “cher all i wanna do is make love to you lyrics” confusing bombastic Heart with bombastic Cher. Due to this I looked up that song. On Wikipedia it says:

Heart-80sAnn Wilson commented on the band's dislike for the song, stating, "Actually we had sworn off it because it kind of stood for everything we wanted to get away from. It was a song by "Mutt" Lange, who we liked, and it was originally written for Don Henley, but there was a lot of pressure on us to do the song at the time." Ann Wilson has made a number of comments on her dislike for the song, calling the song's message "hideous" in an interview with Dan Rather. In that same interview, Ann mentions that she's surprised at how many of their fans, especially in Australia and New Zealand, want to hear the song to this day when Heart plays live (Heart does not perform it live anymore despite the requests).”

Watch the video.