Cher at Live Aid

On July 13, 1985 I did not, unlike every other kid in my High School, actually watch Live Aid (all day or for any part). My fan favorites weren't appearing. But since all my friends were at home watching Live Aid on July 13, 1985, I remember being very bored that whole long day. As I was trying to watch other TV, I kept running in to Live Aid and feeling very annoyed. Later, I got the Live Aid book and realized Cher was actually there.

Picture from my Live Aid book of Cher lounging backstage.

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Recently, Cher scholar Tyler posted about Phil Collins telling Cher how to crash Live Aid in Philadelphia.

Here is Phil Collins' story starting at minute mark :40: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=orkMaiexPCw

Apparently Cher was on the famous flight Phil Collins took from London to Philadelphia (so he could appear at both locations) and she asked him what all the hubbub was about. He was like, if you don't know already...and then she asked if he could get her into the event and he basically told her to show up and she'd be let in. (Cos she's Cher dammit!) Anyway, his story has more detail but the moral of the story is that she got herself into the finale. 

Here are some screenshots of her singing "We Are the World." She comes and goes very fast. Here's video. (Don't miss Patti LaBelle!)

Cherliveaid

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Look, she's right behind Lionel Richie!

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Odds and Ends: Believe Cover, Cher Hair Care, Acting vs. Singing, Fan Stuff

OkaykayaI've been collecting quite a big of odds and ends to report. My last few weeks have been tied up with doctor appointments and electronic poems. So here's some catch-up.

Believe

There was a new "Believe" cover in 2019 from Okay Kaya – and the pattern shows there's always the temptation is to slow that sucker down in the revamp. But it's a nice cover. 

Puzzle!

Meanwhile, Cher has come out with some new "Chicquitita" merch, including a puzzle and a face mask, both a must for Cher merch collectors during Covid.

Puzzle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I must admit, I sought out a bootleg Cher puzzle before this one came out. I'm not at all a "puzzle person" but I'm fascinated by people who are. And since puzzles are such a rage right now, I decided I should try it again. What else could temp me to do a puzzle, but a Cher picture. I found a picture of Cher that I love (from her trip to Armenia) and it took a very long time to arrive, at which time I found out it was from the Ukraine. (I'm probably on a list now). Other puzzle solvers I know laughed at me because it was only 175 pieces. But it was hellaciously hard because it was a mostly gray and black pieces. I could have sworn there were times putting it together I actually felt dizzy. But I did it and shellacked the finished product as a testimony to my hard labor. The new sanctioned puzzle also looks challenging with all the white pieces! I'll start on it as soon as it arrives.

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GqfanFan Psychology

If you're a fan of Galaxy Quest (that nerdy fan is so charming) you may also appreciate parts of the movie Cruise of the Gods although the fans are way less attractive in this made-for-Brit-TV movie with an unlikable Rob Brydon, a very likable Steve Coogan, and a very young and impressive James Corden. Sadly, I felt I could relate too much to the "scholarly fan" character and the "lovelorn girl fan." I've been very wary of fan cruises (and after covid, hell no) but this movie let me experience the scene vicariously.

Cruisegods

 

 

 

 

 

 

CherhairCher Hair

Filing stuff in the Chersonian Institute I  found this email from Cher scholar Tyler from 1999! That’s back when Cher fans were just finding each other on the Internets. Anyway….it was a conversation between Cher scholars Tyler and Meghan about whether or not Cher dyes her hair black (from the warm Armenian brown original color). He paraphrased an article he had from the 1970s, an interview with early Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour hairstylist Jim Ortel about how handy Cher was with her own hair with top knots and whutnot, and how she knows what styles look good on her juxtaposed with her nose, chin and teeth. She had the ends trimmed every three weeks back then and in between salon visits, she wrapped her hair overnight occasionally in olive oil!

In Cher Zine 3, we talked about beauty fads like this. Over the last few years, the fads were avocado and coconut oil and now I’m seeing Kelp and castor oil everywhere. When they move to little baby seal oil, I’m out.

Anyway, the end of the story is funny, the interviewer asks about the olive oil night wrap, “How does this set with her husband Sonny?” And Ortel says, “He’s Italian. He didn’t notice.”

That’s somewhere between an Italian slur and the fact that during this era Sonny probably wouldn’t have noticed Cher’s hair if it had been on fire. 

Tyler, if you see this, thank you. Were there pictures with the article?

Acting V. Singing

In 1999 Entertainment Weekly posted an online argument between Dave Karger and Jessica Shaw about whether “Cher is better suited for the airwaves or the silver screen.”

Imagine! Here are the pertinent excerpts:

Dave: “Watching her strut around with her unique reckless professionalism confirmed to me that the concert stage is where she belongs.”

Jessica starts by saying “Believe” going to #1 in 23 countries was “no great feat” considering Alyssa Milano and David Hasselhoff received hits in countries like Japan and Germany. (Really?) She says, “Cher’s acting, on the other hand, is purely her own talent and skill.” And she’s looking forward to Cher’s role in Tea with Mussolini playing an eccentric Jewish American.

Dave then says Cher’s Oscar win over Holly Hunter in Broadcast News was a “travesty” [ how about over Meryl Streep in Ironweed and Sally Kirkland in Anna?] and he mentions her real bad films like Faithful. He says more people watched Divas Live 99 than will see Tea with Mussolini.

Jessica then goes off on Cher’s bad concert banter, her collagen and face lifts, her “morphing into another person.” She says high viewership means nothing and trashes the Home Improvement TV show. She ends with, “I have one word for you: Mask.”

Dave: He brings up Cher the actress who gave us hair infomercials.

Jessica: “And your hair has been looking much better since you invested." [snap] 

And the squabbling went downhill after that.


New Cher Scholarship Discovered: Cher's 70s Hits

JstorBecause I am a nerd, I am very familiar with the academic essay searching engine Jstor. Two weeks ago I was running a Difficult Book Club night on B.S. Johnson's The Unfortunates and looking for essays on the book for discussion ideas.  And whenever I go into Jstor I always check for new Cher essays, too. And bingo! This search pulled up Michael Morris’ “Cher’s “Dark Ladies” Showbiz Liberation" chapter from his book “The Persistence of Sentiment: Display and Feeling in Popular Music of the 1970s,” a book which also has Karen Carpenter and Barry Manilow essays inside. 

What’s awesome is that this writer knows his music AND his pop culture sociology. I bought the book, if only to see his back notes on the Cher article, which weren’t included in the jstor download of the chapter.

PersistMorris starts by discussing Cher’s longevity during her farewell tour. He goes into detail about the design of the tour logo and the tour book by LA designer Margo Chase, how it “reflected an attitude of memory distilled into excess….the wings symbolize the enduring spirit of Cher’s music, while the cross refers to the religious symbols used in the stage production…the cross also nods to the gothic, Cher’s most recognizable style…the front cover, all blue and platinum blonde to represent the ‘angel’ Cher, contrasted with the red and green ‘devil’ Cher on the back.”

Blue

Red

 

 

 

 


All that seems a bit much...if not a sales pitch from an ad exec.

But the essay then starts cooking: 

“it’s the mythology surrounding the incomparable Cherilyn Sarkisian LaPiere that pugs these songs [GT&Th, HB and DL]  up into fluffy, airy bits of pop, into songs that continue to soothe and inspire us, not because of the music, but because of who is singing it.”

YES…Cher is bigger somehow or apart from the music. That’s why dressing other women in Mackie costumes and doing Cher karaoke fails to work properly.

“The cult of Cherness is about much more than the lavish goddess worship….It was the sheer endurance that grounded that delirious hail and farewell of the [LIVING PROOF] tour. But it raises the question of what it was, amid all the feathers, the spangles, and the wigs that was supposed to be doing the enduring….it is worth searching for a few more details concerning its core of resonance.”

He then goes on to discuss Cher references in:

  • The 1995 Canadian film Dance Me Outside where a mixed group of First Nations/Native Americans and a white male relative all sing Cher’s “Half Breed.”
  • “The Post-Modern Prometheus” episode of The X-Files
  • References to Cher on the show Will and Grace

Morris says there are all texts which explore ideas about originals (or aboriginals) and imitations. Morris explores how Cher’s three songs, “Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves,” “Half Breed,” and “Dark Lady” provided Cher with a mythology that was both real and fake, and were all (1) explorations of “social anxieties about racial mixing, class conflict and sexual irregularity” and also (2) blatant entertainments, two things which seem, on the surface, “almost always contradictory.” He calls these songs “the imagistic core out of which her later reputation grew.”

I would agree with that. He points out that we audiences rarely think of Cher songs as autobiographical. And they probably haven’t been very personal outside of Sonny or Cher’s own self-penned lyrics. But listeners still grant a song’s mythology to its singer. And here is where the Cher effect becomes a commentary on “realness.” Morris says,

“…a persistent problem with ‘realness’ is at the root of Cher’s glorious manifestation of diva-hood and the attractions of her and her songs. The questions circulating around the play of appearance and essence in Cher’s performances have provided her with powerful ways of connecting to a huge cluster of issues circulating in American culture and beyond, precisely to the degree that they cannot be permanently resolved. She is faking, we know that she is faking, but we are not sure how much she is faking because although she knows we know she is faking, she keeps us uncertain about the precise degree to which she is faking. Or does she? When authenticity—or rather the illusion of authenticity—is held in abeyance for such a long time, it’s rewards begin to seem paltry compared to the energy coming from the juicy sense of permanent masquerade.”

Yes. Juicy masquerade. 

He then goes into Cher’s real history from El Centro, California, her Arkansas/Armenian heritage, pinpointing her sort of “non-white” cast of features.

“The ethnic complexity of Cher’s actual background is significantly tied into her family’s economic disadvantages; taken together they place her in a liminal place. She counts as white—but not that white.”

Then Morris juxtapositions Cher’s ethnicity with Sonny’s working-class Italian background from Detroit and Hawthorne, California, connecting him with other Italians interested in early rhythm and blues music.

“During this period [1950s], ethnically marked whiteness played an important role in mediating between black musicians and white mainstream audiences. Consider the way doo-wop groups, when not black, where usually visibly ethnic-white (often Italian) and blue-collar.”

Morris then traces the rise of Sonny & Cher through the 1960s into the late 1970s. And this next part blew my mind, where he quotes "a journalist" about what Cher-sing is. 

“Cher-sing is an interesting concoction, the foundation of which is actually soul, believe it or not…Because a young Cher imitated everything Sonny, right down to the whoop, you might say Cher-sing is actually a genetic Armenian contralto imitation of an Italian interpretation of Soul.”

Wow. When I saw that quote a few weeks ago, I read it to Mr. Cher Scholar. We were both duly impressed by this piece of Cher scholarship. I was even glad the full book was coming because I would able to go into the back notes to trace the cryptic  attribution. I was feeling lazy when I wrote this post and almost didn’t look it up, although I was in the same room as the book. (It’s been a long week.) But when I peeked through his back notes I quickly saw I had been quoted somewhere in the essay. How cool is that? So then I matched the footnote to the attribution. And…

it was ME!

Surely some mistake, right? So I rechecked the attribution. I still didn't believe it. So then I searched the text online and one of my old Cher tour reviews came up. I still didn't believe it! I have no memory of saying this. So I searched the text on the article. Sure enough, I said this thing back in 1999: http://www.apeculture.com/music/cher.htm.

This caused some real confused guffaws for about 20 minutes. I’ve been scholarin’ so long I’m scholarin’ people who are scholarin’ me! It’s always a shock to see some half-baked thing I’ve said in a “serious” book. When I say "Cher Scholar" it's so tongue-in-cheek. As a Cher fan, how else would I?

Morris even called me a journalist (which is generous). Feel free to let me know how sound you think my "cher-sing" theory is. Personally, I think it's only half as brilliant as I did when I thought someone else said it. So anyway, Morris continues to say,

“Once again the spectacle of the 1960s soul, with its attachment to showbiz display, underwrites an intertwining of imitation between ethnicities. The farrago of styles and strategies points up a joyous musical promiscuity common to this region of the industry. What matters is what entertains, what diverts, and it is worth noting how much closer Sonny & Cher’s aesthetic was to Elvis Presley and especially producers like Berry Gordy, Jr."

GypThen he talks about "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves" specifically and how Snuff Garret was looking for a “Son of a Preacher Man” for Cher.

“Already many of the crucial mythologems are in place. First, there is the artist herself: a power-alto with mysteriously cross-racial affinities, fond enough of costume to keep us aware at all times that she is projecting n image while still tempting us to believe it.”

Morris even suggests Cher’s depictions of poverty and even a southern-white-trash poverty, race and class struggles and illicit sexcapades are believable and might even reflect the “tragic mulatto” or the “fallen women” stereotypical mythologies. Morris talks about the issues with the term of gypsy instead of the more appreciated reference of Rom or Romani and the history of their persecution in the United States, which apparently was still an issue in the early 1970s.

The explication of the themes in the music and instruments used is where Morris sets himself apart from other pop-culture academics. He goes into the song structures, the vamps, chords, motives, countermelodies (shows pieces of musical notation)…all things outside my sphere of knowledge but illuminating nonetheless, what connotes gypsyness, despair, the sound of being trapped and the parts of the song which “uncover proof of deep feeling.”

“To a correctly sentimental listener, the music’s struggle between rigid determinism and failed visions of freedom is quite poignant….the song’s picture of an eternal wheel of abject femininity…an echo chamber of shaming…we enjoy the spectacle all the more because we are to some extent at risk ourselves….but the vicariousness of our identification also suggests that the song is simply flattering our narcissism while allowing us to indulge in a voyeuristic thrill….we’ve been hijacked by the opulent fun of the arrangement and its too-muchness.”

HbreedThen we move on to "Half Breed:"

Morris goes into the history of miscegenation laws from Reconstruction era, various issues around Indian identity  and the activism happening among American Indian groups in the early 1970s and how that affected Cher’s identity presentation on her TV shows. Here he highlights the 1971 movie Billy Jack. Morris says Cher’s last name wasn’t generally known at the time and her early 1970s claims to be “part Indian” coincided with public service announcements Sonny & Cher did for the Alaskan Native Land Claims Settlement Act.

The lyrics of Cher’s song “focuses on the ‘here and now’ problem of prejudice against people of mixed race without letting any desires for accuracy get in the way.” Like the prior song, Morris deconstructs the structures of the music, including the stereotypical male “heyas,” the drum patters, all which belong to “the Hollywood Indianist strain.” But Morris also hears “proto-disco countermelodies.”

“Cher’s vocal style….sits somewhere between Indianist ornament, bargain-counter verismo, and a country-western larmes aux voix. It picks up the spectacular elements of the arrangement perfectly."

He also deconstructs Bob Mackie’s 'Half Breed' dress, commenting “the fantastic nature of the getup is apparent even to the most casual viewer.” The spectacle is disorienting however because Cher’s apparel is male, “a kind of double-drag—and the effectiveness of the costume depends on the history of Wild West Shows and Indian Princess pageants, rather than the kinds of pow-wow regalia to which it ostensibly refers.”

Costume is an unfortunate term here but it may apply to Cher and Mackie’s re-suse of solemn, religious clothing: Morris talks about the problems of ethnic drag but wonders,

“Could it be any other way? The kind of identification that the song means to foster is sentimental in the best traditions of melodrama. There is no place for the complexities of authenticity in this tale. Hence the music, like the clothing, must be unreal. The song is not about actual Indians; it is not even really about actual white persecutors. It is about those of us who sympathize with the narrator’s plight.”

DladyMorris ends the essay by looking at Cher’s Vamp characters, the best of which he considers to be the “Dark Lady” character:

He reviews the term “vamp” and silent film star Theda Bara's movies and ideas around a threatening “female sexual power.” He also gives historical context to the character of Sadie Thompson from a W. Somerset Maugham novel. (Who says Cher isn’t literary?) Morris talks about the ironic power of those performances:

“Lampooning ironically reinstates its object as a source of strength. By making such a joke of her sexual power as Sadie Thompson, Cher reinforced her own ethnic glamour.”

He also covers Cher’s Take Me Home era, culminating in this feminist position:

"...the strategies of unreality that were so central to the effect of her early 1970s hits….the obscured lines between reality and spectacle…these became the basis for Cher’s real celebrity life because in casting her as an abject, marginal figure, her self-presentation has made it possible to enact a narrative of progressive emancipation and self-ownership. This kind of autonomy was not exactly like that imagined by the 1970s women’s liberation mainstream, of course. Cher’s dependence on Hollywood/Vegas archetypes violated the restrictions on bodily display that seemed necessary at the time in order to neutralize sexism.”

TmhomeHe then talks about the Take Me Home album cover. He even mentions “her direct glare at us…the fourth wall…. so  crucial to the mechanics of voyeurism is relinquished in favor or reciprocal confrontation.”

The song, he reminds us, is a command, not a plea. He talks about divas and their history and their “archetypes of female abjection or defiance...audiences love her most for her ability to keep going…the stigmata of a diva are crucial to her appeal, for they are the points at which the investments of an audience at the margins (almost certainly the most passionate part of the public) can be most easily attached.”

He then points to Cher’s film roles, her earthy, lower-class characters and their own dark lady personas and how her acting further complicates the real/fake dichotomies:

“Was she acting when she portrayed these characters, or merely uncovering some prior truth about her interior self? How could we separate fictions of fictions from fictions of realities?..thus duplicat[ing] the interpretive instabilities already put into place in the ‘dark lady’ songs...And so what? Fiction-versus-reality are surely dime-a-dozen in the careers of overtly theatrical artists like Cher...It is useful to discuss them as a way of reminding ourselves to be suspicious about claims to truth and reality in musical performance.”

THANK YOU.

He ends with this gem:

“Cher’s ‘dark lady’ songs sought to put questions and attitudes into play in a way that turned out to be especially important to the politics of gay liberation. The stigmata of mixed race and class disadvantage were translatable into those of sexual marginality. Cher’s enactment of triumph over her initial abjection could be taken as an allegory for the successes of the gay and lesbian rights movement, as well as for the general project of sexual liberation in the late twentieth-century North America.”

THANK YOU!


I think this is the best essay on Cher I've ever read. And not just because he quoted moi. 

Moi


Biases of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (and Museum)

Contrast3

As I've been reading academic books on pop culture, I come across some interesting things like this most interesting essay, “The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum: Myth, Memory, and History by Robert Santelli from the book Stars Don't Stand Still, Music and Myth.

Now, I didn't know Santelli when I started reading the essay and I appreciated the first paragraph:

“Depending upon your point of view, the Cleveland-based Rock and roll Hall of Fame and Museum is either the music’s official house of history—the place where one can find proof of its artistic and cultural merit—or as triangular-shaped glass temple that has more to do with myth and mass consumption that the real story of rock ‘n’ roll.”

Santelli acknowledges the “vigorous discourse” about the two points of view. Note here that he calls the institution a Hall of Fame AND museum, and here surmises it might be a "house of history." More on that point later.

He continues,

"The skeptics’ fear that institutionalizing rock ‘n’ roll would kill the music’s present and future and trivialize and compress its past into neat, carefully packaged modules was not to be taken lightly….After all, rock, by its nature, has always been chaotic, incorrigible and anti-institutional.”

So I'm somewhere with these skeptics. A canon of taste-makers creating an in-circle is very antithetical to the idea of rebellion in art, but Santelli has a point that doesn’t stop folk and fine art museums from canonizing rebel painters, sculptors, writers, etc.

But then Santelli dismisses all the skeptics with one sentence: “No one explained, mind you, how rock’s integrity would be violated…No critic came forth with any anarchic alternative worth recalling.”

This dismissal is so vague, essentially saying 'no challenges were worthy' and the use of the phrase “mind you” sent up a warning flag to me that maybe this guy was affiliated in some way with the hall of fame.

Ah yes, we get to page two where he admits he was “a member of the curatorial team.”

He would be biased then. But I still wanted to give him a hearing. He spoke about the museum needing to be “free to make mistakes” and that they wanted to not be that guy who creates “a myth-plated story of the music and its most famous artists that is often shallow, vague, fractured, exclusionary, and nonrevisionist.”

Unfortunately, "exclusionary" and "nonrevisionist" are two words that come to my mind when I consider this museum.

So I wondered what happened? Well, the essay goes on to provide answers.

Early curators worried that

“without any standard historiographical references, there was no way to know for sure if we had gone too far, forging, for example, our own ideas on rock’s role as a countercultural force in the sixties, or assigning values to certain artifacts, or giving one artist too much credit and another too little[me: or none] in shaping the music. Even more importantly, how could we be certain that we separated myth from truth, when so much of what passes as standard pop music history is suspect?”

This is a place to start from, for sure. So what happened?

It turns out maybe the bias was in the homogeneity of the early team. And maybe this is a homogeneity that persists. 

Santelli says, “Jim Henke, the museum’s newly appointed chief curator, assembled a team of music journalists to act as consultants, most of whom he had worked with or who had worked for him when he was music editor at Rolling Stone."

Wow. I was not prepared for that. So it might be fair to call this the Rolling Stone Magazine Hall of Fame. How shocking that one magazine would be so influential in the trajectory of a supposedly unbiased hall of fame institution. I mean, this magazine was never the only point of reference in the industry, right? Anyway, maybe unintentionally, but surely effectively, a Rolling Stone point of view prevailed to set standards and practices for inclusion and exclusion to the lists.

Santelli admits that “each of us owned entirely different interpretations of events, artists, and albums, despite the fact that we were all approximately the same age—late-thirties to early forties—…had been at many of the same major concerts, knew intimately the so-called classic-rock works…”

Ok. That’s not good either.

He goes on to say that “Rock ‘n’ roll, like America itself, is a multicultural, multidimensional maze. The museum, it was agreed, ought to reflect this.”

It’s fascinating to me that this group of people, all from essentially the same social group, is surprised by their own diversity but clueless as to the limits of that diversity. Rock criticism is male-dominated and it's no wonder the roster is as homogeneous as it is.

He takes pride in the non-chronology of the flow of the museum, where an exhibit of The Allman Brothers Band could be situated next to one for Alice Cooper…

“the Allman Brothers Band demonstrated its importance as a musical unit minus theatrical histrionics, like those that made Alice Cooper’s show so exciting in the early seventies; yet an Alice Cooper exhibit, complete with stage props and costumes, was positioned just a few feet away, as if the two were somehow thematically linked. Such a chaotic, “unruly” approach to rock history was spectacularly effective in breaking apart myth and convention and challenged the visitor to rethink his view of rock history—perhaps the museum’s most important accomplishment to this point.”

Contrst2Aside from all the self-congratulations right there, it’s maddening to imagine this, if you will, an exhibit of Gregg Allman (minus those "theatrical histrionics") [oh my blood pressure] situated right next to a CHER exibit (“complete with stage props and costumes”) positioned just mere feet way as if, not somehow but f*#king actually, those two acts were physically linked in some way, like say a concert they did together in 1978 or Allman’s appearance on Cher's TV show in 1975. I’m not talking about a relationship here. I’m talking about products and performances. If Alice Cooper and Gregg Allman were linked romantically, that’s beyond the scope of the Hall of Fame surely. But actual rock shows, record albums and TV segments…

Imagine that!

Oh…my…God. The same reasons they use to glorify Alice Cooper (creative theatrics and costumes) are used against more feminine acts like Cher or Madonna or ad nauseam. I’ve also read quite a lot of rock history in the past 6 months and everybody seems to agree that an Alice Cooper show was mostly image and artifice and show biz. I actually think he would agree with that assessment.

Related: this week I saw a great documentary about the cross-influences of Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and David Bowie called Bowie, Iggy & Lou 1971-1973: The Sacred Triangle. Bowie’s Contrast1Ziggy Stardust creation is described by one commentator as pure image. The commentator said the music could as well have been Elton John songs. [They love to dismiss Elton John too]. The music didn’t matter. The show was about the image-making.

Ignoring the contributions of women artists in image-making is selective history.

First of all, a Hall of Fame is by definition an establishment institution, asserting itself as THE authority figure. When you become the authority you set yourself as an opposing force to rebellion. This is why establishments respond to challenges to its authority. Practitioners of any rebellion will necessarily happen outside of the establishment. Which is an irony of any art canon. It abdicates its identity as rebellious and should be aware of its own new bias.

Of course I’m not the first person to kvetch about these hypocrisies in canon-making and the double standards for men and women inductees. The best example I’ve read to date is “Across the Great Divide: Rock Critics, Rock Women” by Barbara O’Dair (also in Stars Don't Stand Still, Music and Myth), who points out how most rock and blues histories have eliminated the stories of women artists. She also describes the push-back received in attempts to correct this from rock music institutions, like Rolling Stone. A quote from her essay:

“But while male fans and critics may say it’s okay for Mick Jagger to wear eyeliner or Kurt Cobain a dress, identifying with actual female rockers appears to be a much Tourpostergreater leap for most men to take. It’s interesting to note, for instance, that the male fans Joni Mitchell and Madonna boast seem to be disproportionately gay.”

My feeling is it takes balls to buck gender conventions. So those who do it, do it. Those who can’t, don’t.

On the way to my Aunt's funeral last weekend, Mr. Cher Scholar, a student of the NMU museum studies program, was asked by me to explain the differences between a Hall of Fame and a museum and it seems the curatorial aim of each would be entirely different.

A museum tells the history (by both big and small players) and a Hall of Fame simply celebrates the most successful, which is not a history. It would seem an insurmountable challenge to curate for both things at the same time. But I guess that's the least of it.


Chiquitita Espanol

Chiq-coverOy. What a week I had last week. The bedrock of my extended family, Aunt Mildred, passed away suddenly on May 1. I currently have her name on three to-do lists for various reasons (which is killing me right now). This happening during Covid-19 was particularly harsh for the family and her friends as there are quite a large amount of mourners. Twenty-five of us did go to the gravesite near a small town in northeastern New Mexico last Saturday. And incredibly, the funeral was Zoomed to the rest of the family.

The release of the new Cher single for UNICEF was a breath of fresh air in a dreary and painful week. I played it on the drive up to the funeral.

Cher released the ABBA cover of "Chiquitita" in Spanish on Friday, May 8. The video was released Saturday May 9 during a UNICEF special. Everything is available to purchase online to benefit UNICEF, the foundation Audrey Hepburn worked with for so long toward the end of her life.

There's also a new Cher interview in Billboard. In the conversation we find out one of the single "Believe’s" early champions, Warner Bros executive Orlando Puerta, has died of Covid-19.

There's also a nice mention in the New York Post.

The Spanish version is shorter but contains a very charming spoken word section. Cher scholar Heather transcribed the spoken word section for us in a Facebook fan group:

Chiquitita, no need to cry
I want to see you smile
Share your happiness
Ay, Chiquitita

Cher has been working on Covid-19 relief with her CherCares charity coordinating with Dr. Irwin Redlener. She has also donated to a fund for MGM Grand Resorts employees.

You can buy the English and Spanish together in a package. Review your purchase options

Watch the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZhysXendqjo

IMG_4927Aunt Mildred


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.

Funnyglare5 Funnyglare1 Funnyglare2-5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Funnyglare3 Funnyglare4-5 Funnyglare4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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


The Rolling Stone Reviews

LivesonnycherI’ve been blogging about some books on rock music I’ve been reading and how I went off on a tangent of reading rock books and essays by women. The exception to this rule has been Lester Bangs. I’ve been reading his anthology as well. There’s something I really enjoy about Lester Bangs. Although he is the snob in the record store, he’s very much also the anti-snob in the record store too, advocating for and labeling the whole punk scene. He describes his tastes as "shrieking anomic noise."

On a whim, I googled “Lester Bangs Cher” to see if he had ever mentioned her in his lifetime, sure to find a similar hatchet job to the kind Chris Hodenfield did in the 1973 profile of Sonny & Cher. But I was also cautiously curious about what he would say. And bing! I came up with a hit. He reviewed Sonny & Cher’s 1972 All I Ever Need is You album. So I went looking for that and found out another iconoclast critic John Mendlesson, also wrote about their Live Album in 1971. These reviews don’t exist online so I went out on eBay to find them. Boy was I shocked to get my mail last week.

You should know I had to buy this naked Rs-cassidyissue of David Cassidy to get one of the reviews but I did it for you, dear reader. (Don't miss the Samantha Fox story.) I also braved carpel tunnel relapses transcribing these verbose reviews (Lester says they got paid by the word). You're welcome.

Sonny & Cher Live, Rolling Stone, February 3, 1972

JmWe'll start with the John Mendelsohn review. He wrote such scathing reviews Rolling Stone once commented he would have even given God a bad review. He was a fan of the Kinks and David Bowie and he hated Led Zeppelin.

Like the recently departed Orson Bean (who was once blacklisted as a Communist but later became a right-wing extremist...he influenced and his daughter married Andrew Breitbart) and similarly (although less extremely) Sonny Bono, Mendelsohn went from being a liberal kid to embracing extreme conservatism late in life.

Singling Sonny out for losing his hippie cred as a Republican seems unfair  in this context.

"I’m sure I’ll never understand why it’s become so fashionable to belittle Sonny & Cher, to blame everything from the dissolution of the Beatles to the scarcity of high-quality dope on the duo’s outgrowing its hippie image.

Granted that they’ve gone through some heavy changes since they practically single-handedly insinuated folk-rock into the American musical consciousness, that social-commentary material no longer accounts for the vast predominance of their repertoire, that they’ve discarded the floral bellbottoms and bobcat vests of yesteryear for mod formal attire, and that one is as likely to catch them in some swank hotel as in It’s Boss or a similar tween watering hole—granted all of this, they’re still essentially the same old Sonny & Cher, tight, topical, and together, for vivid evidence of which one need search no farther than their new “live” disc.

Not only are all their greatest protest numbers—“The Beat Goes On,” Laugh At Me,” “I Got You Babe,” and “What Now My Love”—all present, but at least a couple of them are accorded treatments nearly ten minutes long, over which duration the duo seek out and elucidate every tiniest emotional implication present in the words and music. So much for the preposterous allegation that Sonny & Cher have turned their backs on the counter-culture.

Such allegations are usually based on the consideration that the duo are rather more heavily into standards than your average folk-rock team. But what Sonny & Cher’s detractors always fail to mention is that the couple have matured into such sensitive interpreters that they can transform even the most over familiar material into searingly soulful expressions, as witness Cher’s fiery treatment of “Danny Boy.” Truly Cher has developed into one of our most inspiring ladies of song, capable of evoking emotions that not even a Nancy Sinatra or Marcia Strassman can deal with without some evidence of strain. Sonny, although he too has matured greatly, is content for the most part of remain in the background vocally, although only a fool could suspect that Cher wouldn’t miss the clear, precise harmonies he contributes, or or that the show wouldn’t suffer from the absence of his few solo moments. Perhaps this would be clearer had his truly breathtaking version of Sinatra’s “My Way” been included in this album.

It would be impossible to lavish excessive praise on the Bonos’ seven-piece rhythm section, who together own a vast profusion of torrid chops, licks and the like and whose rock-flavored beat never falters. On this disc they are effectively complemented by Al Pellegrini’s orchestra, which can really swing, when it chooses to.

It should be noted in passing that some of the hilarious between-song patter on this record (Cher has some absolutely hysterical lines about her mother-in-law’s physical resemblance to a whale, of all things) is unabashedly risqué, so those readers with youngsters are advised not to spin the disc while they’re still awake.

Sonny & Cher may no longer be the king and queen of folk-rock, but the bag they’re into now has plenty to offer the rock buff who’s resisted becoming prejudiced by the couple’s shoddy treatment by the underground press. Miss their Live album at your own risk."

Sonny sang "My Way?" Here it is. Whatdoyaknow? 

Sonny & Cher, All I Ever Need Is You, Rolling Stone, May 11, 1972

AllieverLester Bangs liked Lou Reed, MC5, Iggy Pop/The Stooges and The Clash. He also defended Detroit's Bob Seger. He allegedly coined the term punk and could be blisteringly dismissive of Led Zeppelin, too, as well as James Taylor. I was not expecting this:

"John & Yoko. Grace & Paul. Paul & Linda. Sonny & Cher had the formula down years before any of those melodious romances hit the stage and were a hell of a lot more appealing too., although that may not be particularly significant—the same thing could be said for Louis Prima and Keely Smith. And let us not forget Paul and Paula.

The reason that Sonny & Cher are so much nicer to think about than the aforementioned crew of dilettantes, barterers and their wives is that Sonny & Cher don’t put on the same kind of airs. Their paisley bellbottom Sunset Strip days are long gone, they’ve made a spectacularly successful comeback by selling their love in much the same way the King Family sells household solidarity, garnished with a bit of that good old (what?) rock and roll and showbiz.

LesterbangsHow you feel about them at this point pretty much depends on how you feel about showbiz in general. If you think that Johnny Carson is a honk and the Copa just a hangout for alcoholics, if you cannot abide the sigh of black ties and/or tiaras between you and your artist-heroes, then you probably don’t like Sonny & Cher; I have seen reviews of their recent albums by earnest 17-year old rock critics lambasting the devoted duo entirely in terms of “us” versus “them.” And at the recent MCA convention in Burbank, when Sonny & Cher played a long, slick supperclub set climaxing with their eight-minute histrionic orgy on “Hey Jude,” I observed people all around me set their faces in that grimace they never pulled out for bluejeaned mediocrities. And those that thought themselves too hip for this schmaltz would make remarks later about the “tastelessness” of it. Why? Because Cher tells Sonny she’s not gonna ball him after the show, and drops innuendos about the size of his dong?

Well, I’ll settle for Sonny & Cher being just blue enough for them poor old farts and fraus in the belly of the beast, because I like slick supperclub music, I like glittery Las Vegas-style entertainment without one iota of artistic aspiration. I’ll even put on a tie. Maybe I’m just getting old but I would rather see Sonny & Cher with a bourbon and water in front of me anytime than squat sweating in another concert hall while another rock group runs through amplified oatmeal highlights from the last big album it took them eight months of overdubs to produce.

On the other hand, there is the possibility that what works in the nightclub may not be so pleasurable on a wax disc spinning in your living room. In fact, Sonny & Cher have a problem that is the exact inverse of that faced by rockers who make good albums but can’t play live; which is to say that, like almost all of their recorded post-comeback work, this album is just about as pristinely vacuous as it can be. Nobody expects their basic “gee aren’t we lucky to have each other to keep out that bad old world” persona (“All I Ever Need is You,” “United We Stand”) to change at this point, but they’ve filled in, extrapolated on and repackaged it under increasing layers of linseed oil for so long, through so many dinners and prime-time hours, that there is almost nothing left but a posture that is getting as soporific in its saccharinity as Tina’s Turner’s bomb riff is in its monotonous exploitativeness.

Despite the fact of absolute predictability, some of the stuff here works in a marginal way, sounds like something you can actually listen to, and some doesn’t. “A Cowboy’s Work Is Never Done” is great, opening with a mysterious riff straight out of Emerson, Lake & Palmer (a famous menage-a-trois) and applying curiously successful quasi-Eastern riffs to the fine oater lyrics: “I used to jump my horse and ride/I had a six gun at my side/I was so handsome women cried/And I got shot but I never died.”

The title song may give your heart a flutter if you bear no aversion to reconstituted mush expertly laid out, and “More Today Than Yesterday” has a great arrangement jubilantly reminiscent of the horns on the Rascals’ “With a Girl Like You.” “Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again,” a natural for the pair, suffers by a jerky carnivalish arrangement that makes the performance sound even more mechanical than it already is; “United We Stand” is recognizable but nothing really happens; “You Better Sit Down Kids,” a Sonny solo that’s a highlight of their club act, comes off just as melodramatic and phony here as it did there, and should have been left on the shelf to shine in peace as the classic that it was. The rest isn’t worth talking about.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not one of those cranks who goes around maligning love, or even Love. In fact, part of the point of this is that I’m so fed up with the pretentious, unprofessional welters of self-consciousness typifying the contemporary rock concert that I will enthusiastically lap up absolute schmaltz and pap if the show is good and the sequins in technicolor. But I still remember “I Got You Babe” and “The Beat Goes On” and the original “You Better Sit Down Kids..” And I remember Johnny Cash and even flatulent old Tom Jones. And I wonder just what I have a right to expect."

Not a five-star but not bad. Both of these reviews actually literally made my jaw drop and I wondered for a moment if coronavirus had deposited me in another universe.

I'm still mulling this over but there might have been something about this idea that John, Lester and Sonny all liked good-ol'-1950s style rock music, a simple kind without pretensions to being high art, that made these famous iconoclasts predisposed to defending Sonny & Cher here.

Early theory...stay tuned. 


Sonny & Cher: Contested Folk Rockers

Stone-greeneIn the beginning, Sonny & Cher were managed by Brian Stone and Charlie Greene (pictured at left and below with Sonny & Cher), who also managed Buffalo Springfield.

This is what Stephen Stills has to say about Stone and Greene in an interview:

"We had Charles Green and Brian Stone, who basically were hustlers. They kind of got people in the studio and let them do their thing and if it happened to be a hit, they'd take all the a credit even though it was really Sonny Bono. [Green and Stone also managed Sonny & Cher.] They just stood around and made phone calls. It led to such things as Tom Petty cutting the telephone wire in that great documentary. I felt like doing that so many times."

So think about that when you re-read the Rolling Stone article about Sonny & Cher in 1973, a much more mean-spirited and overwrought piece than I remembered it being. But anyway, in the piece Charlie Green is interviewed and he makes MANY accusations about Sonny ripping off other songs from the era. You can listen track by track below to weigh in.

I read this eBook about folk-rock two years ago called Jingle Jangle Morning: Folk Rock in the 1960s. It's a tome of material about a very small subject. But Richie Unterberger, the author, is very disparaging about the part Sonny & Cher played in the genre. He depicts them as posers and calls the Byrds version of "All I Really Want to Do" “immensely superior” to Cher's version but the Byrds lost to Sonny's games of promotion. Remember The Boston Globe only in 2019 called Cher’s version better, "The Byrds come off as detached storytellers, Cher’s version has true heart."  

Anyway, Unterberger points to Sonny’s age (30), their subsequent glamour-TV show, Cher’s movie career and Sonny’s Republican political career as reasons why “it can be difficult to comprehend or acknowledge that Sonny & Cher, for just a few brief months in the summer of 1965, we considered folk-rockers.”

In the meantime, while digging around my Cher stuff, I found a printout of a page from the website of Playboy immediately after the death of Sonny Bono in 1998. It catalogs everything anyone said about Sonny in the pages of Playboy, including excerpts by Steve Martin, Bob Dylan, Cher and James Carville (Sonny attended his wedding to Mary Matalin). 

AwardAnd interestingly enough Bob Dylan (King of folk-rock himself) comments about pioneering the genre and who the scene included in a Playboy interview in March 1978:

“Those were exciting times. We were doing it before anybody knew we would—or could. We didn’t know what it was going to turn out to be. Nobody thought of it as folk rock at the time. There were some people involved in it, like the Byrds, and remember Sonny and Cher and the Turtles and the early Rascals. It began coming out on the radio…and it was exciting, those days were exciting. It was the sound of the streets. It still is.”

I'm also reading Lillian Roxon’s Encyclopedia of Rock, 1971 edition, which is surprisingly full of Sonny & Cher mentions about their legacy in folk rock (as seen from the year 1971): 

"Los Angles Sound: It started as Sunshine Dylan—that is, New York protest folk married to California sunshine rock—the Byrds and the Turtles rocking Dylan and getting the sound and themselves into the charts and the national eye. That was 1965, after the Beatles but before San Francisco and acid rock. It was the first faint indication that American was not about to take the English invasion completely lying down. Sonny and Cher were the Los Angeles sound with "I Got You Babe" and other early folk rock…The Byrds, Love, The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean…later came the California sound of the Mamas and the Papas.”

"LOVE…one of the earliest of the Los Angeles rock groups…until then Los Angeles has produced only the Byrds and Sonny & Cher and the Raiders…"

"LOVIN’ SPOONFUL: “And in California there was a burgeoning folk-rock scene with the Byrds and Sonny and Cher."

So here are the alleged rip-offs according to Charlie Greene. Give them a listen and post your comments.

1. I Got You Babe vs. Donovan's Catch the Wind, which Cher also covered. A Record Mirror reader once called "I Got You Babe" a combo of "Catch the Wind," Dylan's "It Aint’ Me Babe" and "Chines of Freedom."

2. Just You vs. Baby It's You by The Shirelles.

3. Bang Bang vs. Zorba the Greek 

4. The Beat Goes On vs. Donovan's The Trip

5. Baby Don't Go vs. We'll Sing in the Sunshine

6. But You're Mine vs. You've Got Your Troubles I've Got Mine

 


Stuck at Home with Somebody Variations

Cherathome

Stuff to Hold Us Over

Cher tweeted the picture (right) of herself staying at home. Which is what most of us are doing right now, give or take an ocean view.

A small list of things cancelled on me recently:

- Cher concert in Kansas City
- My 50th birthday Rio Grande rafting trip
- A local family reunion
- Mr. Cher Scholar's mother's internment
- All plans to leave the house

It sucks to be human right now but you have to keep reminding yourself, it could be much worse. Crazy enemies could be bombing your house. That would be a lot worse, especially because you'd lose your internet connection.

We're so spoiled.

Anyway, this month was to be my first visit to see a Cher show this tour but, as we all know, everyone's everything was cancelled this season or postponed and all our plans were given wedgies. 

Maybe this will give me time to catch up on tour reviews. 

In the meantime, hopefully you aren't going crazy by forced inactivity. Like toilet paper and frozen pizzas, here are some things to hold you over:

20200330_104618A few year's ago Cher scholar Dishy sent me a song on a 45 record. I didn't have a record player at the time. I dug it out last weekend and played it, Sonny singing "I'll Change."  Cher scholar Robrt informed me recently this was originally a Don Christy (Sonny's pseudonym) track on Rush Records in 1961. It was released a few times after Sonny became well known, including this misleading 45 label indicating Cher had anything to do with it.

CfbThe lovely CR Fashion Book cover is out. Read the interview, see the pics here.

Along with the 45 above, I dug out all copies of my favorite Cher song, "Somebody." Here's a breakdown of the versions:

  • The LP version without the gospel wailing outro. I didn't know this version even existed until one of the compilations came out. My first LP had the outro, but I've since found LPs that didn't have it. 
  • The LP version with the gospel wailing outro and the single version (this is also the single version, the B-side to "A Cowboy's Work is Never Done"). My parents had the LP album with this version on it. So from my narcissistic viewpoint, this feels like the canonical version.
  • There is also a radio edit version that's so dramatically different it will blow your mind.

20200330_104602 20200330_104602

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, for years I've been trying to locate a picture of Sonny & Cher's wedding rings together. I know I had seen that somewhere. I was looking through the opening credits of the movie Good Times when I found it. Now I've totally forgotten why I was looking for this but...here it is. I'll remember someday and by that time completely forget that I left it here.

Rings


The Politics of Pop Music

ShakeitupOver the years I’ve been refining my ability to defend my taste in Cher’s music, not just her meaning as a media cultural object. Both things, but mostly her music because this is what is attacked the most from...well, mainly boys and the rare girl music aficionado. And as I’ve been taking incoming criticism for her music by my other brothers since I was about 5 or 6 years old, I’ve had a lot of practice doing this. And although I’ve appraised my biases with books like How Pleasure Works by Paul Bloom (which I highly recommend) and just the instinctual understanding that all taste is relative, I’ve always worried that defending one’s taste can be too much of an ongoing rationalization.

In other words, I’m just rationalizing arguments to defend what I like and there’s an argument to be found for the worst taste in mankind. For example, one day at lunch when I was defending Agatha Christie's craft innovations to my boss (I've just turned 50 and am insatiably attracted to British mysteries as expected), my boss scoffed, "You can come up with an argument to defend anything." Fair enough.

But I still have this ongoing desire to keep looking for something to explain it, especially when a feeling of defiance is aroused in me that this music is meaningful and a protest and a celebration of something, that it's doing some cultural work. But then that feels like a rationalization again. Until a straight, white male goes all anti-disco on me and then I go back to the search.

But that’s important. The straight male thing. And I don’t want to gloss over that. It turns out this was very important. I always thought that was incidental to the enjoyment of this music, the fact that I'm a woman and enjoy it along with a whole horde of gay men (and some gay women). It’s completely not incidental. Turns out it’s the whole thing.

Oh man. Sometimes you don’t know what you’re looking for until you come across it.

Years ago I started reading academic pop culture books, stuff about the male gaze, drag and camp. If only there had been such a pop culture degree when I was starting college in the late 1980s. Recently I was doing an Amazon search and this book came up, Shake It Up: Great American Writing on Rock and Pop from Elvis to Jay Z and I kept it on my wish list for a few years. I assumed it would be very rock-centric, which isn’t bad but not as pertinent to my search as those books on camp and MTV videos. But eventually I bought it and loved every minute of reading it.  it opened my horizons to aspects of music writing that I wasn’t getting from the other cultural books.

Not only that, but there was some amazing essays in there by women, essays about rock music from a female point of view. I didn’t even know I was looking for that. But I loved it so much so that I made a list of the writers and have been hunting down their books. The first one I found was the anthology Rock She Wrote. In many ways it wasn’t as satisfying as the Shake It Up anthology but there were a few essays in the back that more than paid for themselves. 

The poet Emily Dickinson talks about reading poems that take the top of her head off.  This idea has become such a cliché in poet circles that a poet with go “yeah, yeah, whatever” if you so much as mention a poem “taking the top of your head off.” It's like when you were in the late 1960s telling someone that thing “blew your mind.”

All the same, this essay took the top of my head off. And if you ever need an essay to defend yourself as a Cher fan: this…is…the one.

RockshewroteIt’s by a music academic named Susan McClary. She doesn’t write about modern music very often, but this essay is called “Same As It Ever Was: Youth Culture and Music” and it appeared in the journal Microphone Fiends in 1994. You can’t find it online but you can find it in Rock She Wrote, edited by Evelyn McDonnell and Ann Powers. The essay talks about “youth culture” as it has occurred throughout Western civilization and how this music always threatened the status quo because it was an explicit threat to their authority.

You may not be a young person, but liking pop music is a threat to some kind of authority.

And here's the interesting thing: most historical reactions have construed "the new thing" as being “too feminine” and too much of the body. McClary traces these critiques going back to Plato through the Middle Ages up to Theodor Adorno and beyond.

“Yet those who purport to speak for popular culture have often reproduced this fear of the feminine, the body, and the sensual. Recall, for instance, the erasure of women—whether the blues queens of the 1920s or girl groups of the early sixties—from historical narratives, or the continuing devaluation of dance music as a pathetic successor to the politically potent music of the sixties—especially in the “DISCO SUCKS” campaign where an underlying homophobia is quite obvious, but also in the blanket dismissals of the many African-American genres (including disco) that are designed to maximize physical engagement.”

And she traces this back past early responses to jazz to the Middle Ages innovation of polyphony.

She also questions where a real political charge happens, in a lyric text (think 1960s folk songs) or in the music itself. She states [my bold]:

“From my perspective as a music historian, it seems to me that the music itself—especially as it intersects with the body and destabilizes accepted norms of subjectivity, gender and sexuality—is precisely where the politics of music often reside….The important question is: What qualifies as political? If the term is limited to party politics, then music plays little role except to serve as cheerleader; if it involves specifically economic struggle, then the vehicle of music is available to amplify protest and to consolidate community. But the musical power of the disenfranchised—whether youth, the underclass, ethnic minorities, women, or gay people—most often resides in their ability to articulate different ways of construing the body [see where fashion innovation happens], ways that bring along in their wake the potential for different experiential worlds. And the anxious reactions that so often greet new musics from such groups indicate that something crucially political is at issue.”

…”This is not at all to suggest that artists or fans control the scenario—the ability of the industry to absorb and blunt the political edge of anything it touches must not be underestimated…[but] by virtue of the market and its greed-motivated attention to emergent tastes that music has broken out of the officially prescribed restrictions and has participated as an active force in changing social formations—formations that Plato and his followers saw as the very core of the political.

“’It’s got a good beat. You can dance to it.' Critics often dismiss such statements as evidence of the mindlessness, the lamentable absence of discrimination in pop music reception.”…

“Recall Plato’s warning: ‘For the modes of music are never disturbed without unsettling of the most fundamental political and social conventions.’”

“…the fact that a tune is construed to maximize its ability to make money…does not mean that its social effects are negligible. Without question we need to attend closely to how those who profit manipulate our reactions. But students of popular culture who hasten to trash all commercial music betray how little they know about Western music history.”

Snap!

She concludes with:

“In short, the study of popular music should also include the study of popular music.”

Yes! Wow. We have arrived at a clue here!

This essay led to so many thoughts about the effectiveness of political action through lyrics and politics through music and where we are today vis a vis 1969. What has changed. What hasn’t changed. I have been a firm defender of Bob Dylan as a poet fully deserving of the Nobel Prize in literature but you could sing a Bob Dylan song today and it would not sound historical. We have changed but since the 1980s have been regressing backwards. For all the lyrics we love, "Masters of War" still stands as a current argument. CCR’s "Fortunate Son" more than ever. "One Tin Soldier" one-hundred fold. "RESPECT." Beatles’ "Revolution." Must I invoke "The Eve of Destruction" amidst coronavirus and Trump?

But then we have gay marriage and Barak Obama was president for eight years. This is not to say one genre of music is better than the other.

Just don’t dismiss the “other.”