Cher-Its and Bits

Ford Toodle-loo

My Cher Friends, you will be getting four posts this week. This is because I’m leaving Saturday for nine days of vacation bliss in Amish country, Pennsylvania. The bf and I are visiting my family there for small-towney 4th of July celebrations in Lititz, which is near Blue Ball and Intercourse. You’ve all heard the joke; now I’m living the dream. Actually, Amish country is very interesting, not just for the Amish, but for the other old, alternative religious orders that flourished there in Pennsylvania during the early American centuries. Read previous Ape Culture reviews about Amish country.

Cher Site of the Month

I have been remiss in doing my Cher site reviews for months. But someone on Chergroups found this one recently. It has a Myspace feel but a great catalog of pictures:
http://www.bebo.com/Profile.jsp?MID=367137231&MemberId=3668384741

Anniversary of an Ending

Tyler from Chergroups reminded us all that June 26, 32 years ago, was a sad day in Cher history: it was the day in 1975 that Sonny and Cher's divorce was finalized in a courtroom in Santa Monica, California.  Happy day for Cher who was preparing to marry Gregg Allman…but what about us???

Songs Cher Should Cover

If Cher were my bf, she'd say "Don't should on me!"

However, I’d really love to hear Cher go spiritual. Her songs of late, like "Human" and others from her last three Warner Bros albums, indicate Cher’s picking of more introspective material. She’d do a groovy gospel  (1971s "Somebody" is a testament to that). She could even give it a California twist. Two songs would easily accommodate: Allen Toussaint's’s recent gem “We Are One” and a song from the last Norah Jones album, “Humble Me.” Not quite the wailers you'd hear in church, but contemplative little pieces about brotherhood and humility. She could still sing them in a unitard with sequins. God can get jiggy with it.
   


From One Snow Queen to Another

Chershow2 It’s a busy week this: Just saw David Sedaris read at UCLA's Royce Hall and the Los Angeles Times Book fest is coming up this weekend. This is my favorite literary event….ever!! I can’t wait. I just wish the poetry panels were more substantial – like the groovy fiction and non-fiction panels are. Instead they put out quaint, watery sessions, like this year: Poetry: Inspiring Lines and Poetry: Chapter & Verse.

Fiction get panels like Los Angeles Fiction: Living In Paradise or Writing Science. How about Science in Poetry or Poetry and Place? Feminism in Poetry would be great seminar.

Anyway...it’s also been a great week for Cher scholarship. I Found Some Blog commenter Rob emailed  an MP3 of an old Elton John song called “Snow Queen” which appears to be a none-too-approving disrespect on Cher circa the mid 70s.

This single apparently was the 1976 UK B-side for "Don’t Go Breaking My Heart" and even Kiki Dee makes an appearance singing backup.  The credits listed Elton John, Dave Johnstone, Kiki Dee, David Nutter for music and Bernie Taupin, per usual, as lyrics. You can find the lyrics here at Elton John Lyrics Site.

The song has a confusing object at first. It begins directed to a “you” person.: “You remind me so much / of her when you’re walkin.” Then in the chorus the song starts jumps to the Snow Queen suddenly, presumably one who reminds the writer of being like the "you" person.

Exactly who reminds Bernie Taupin of Cher, I'd like to know. Is that even possible that someone else could be anything resembling Cher? I don’t think so. Just what are the odds?

Early descriptions include “You’re a cushion uncrumpled / You’re a bed that’s unruffled.” Is this talking about the Snow Queen aka Cher here?  “The finest bone china / bone china around”? Is this a poetic reference to Cher’s great cheek bone structure?

Hey now, the snow queen sounds a bit chilly so far. The lyrics state “she’s got the world on a string / like white wine when it’s chilled.” More chilliness again. And why does white wine have so much power over the world…when it’s chilled?

Carolwood2 “I believe the Snow Queen / lives somewhere in the hills.” Had Cher moved from Carolwood to Malibu then (because that's a beach) or to the hills of her Egyptian palace by 1976? Didn't that house take years to  build? But at least that one is in the  Benedict Canyon  Hills.

“The snow queen reigns in warm LA / behind the cold black gates.” So the gates of Carolwood were black. But they weren't in the hills. See the gates of the Carolwood and Benedict Canyon abodes. (Don’t ask me why I have these picks.)

Egyptdriveway_4 The best lines of the song are "Arms are spread like icicles / upon a frosted cake.” Yet more chilliness. Are they insinuating Cher is a cold beeotch?

“Your talons are tested / they’re polished and they’re shaped.” The lyric sheet replaces the first talons   with talents but I think Elton is singing and referring to her nails or talons. “Your talents are wasted / on men who have no tasted” (Gregg Allman?)

And here is where we get in to real evidence that the song is indeed about Cher. “…passion means more than /a wardrobe of gowns, TV ratings /a fragile waist and a name.” Why a fragile waist; I mean, it’s tiny, but fragile?

Then fade out clinches it when Elton sings "I Got You Babe" three times, "Bang Bang" three times and then “aAnd the beat goes on.” I had to turn my iPod volume up to hear the last bit but it's there.

Honestly, Cher had a lot going on in 1976...even Elton would agree. I’d be a beeotch too if I was pregnant on national television, the father was a drug-addled Chia Pet, and my TV ratings and records were stalling like an Edsel.

It sounds like someone didn’t get their invitation to a Cher soirée. I don’t know much about Cher’s relationship to Elton John back then. He was a guest on the debut of the Cher Show back in 1975; but I believe I read somewhere that Cher wanted to open for Elton John when she was promoting Black Rose and he refused. Rumor? Fact? I dunno. She showed up at his Audience with Elton John in 1997 acting pretty chummy.

I actually really like this song. There’s an odd moment at the end where the bongos go crazy but I think it’s a lovely contemplative piece and would be really pleasant for a couples skate.

It also reminds me of Barry Manilow’s early 70s song “She’s a Star” from the album Tryin to Get the Feelin Again. The song was supposedly about Bette Midler.

It would be fun to hear Cher cover “Snow Queen.” It could be a  sort of F.U. peace-offering. She could keep most of the lyrics but sing "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," "Rocket Man" and "Sorry Seems to Be"…at the fade out.

And speaking of talons and the lovely 80s Interview cover picture I talked about last week, my Richard Bernstein photo book came today. Whoo hoo! Bernstein did those Warhol-esque Interview covers for many years. In the book, Bernstein calls himself a “thoroughbred New Yorker and his photo looks like it fell the wall of an  80s hair salon.

Inside there’s a short essay on Cher that attempts to conceptualize her stardom. It says she’s somewhere between the invention of the Barbie Doll and the Valley Girl, “a money-to-burn celebrity,” and “someone every Jewish princess, Dry Wasp bitch, valley girl from Tuxedo, South Carolina and Hi Hat, Kentucky, can relate to.” I don’t quite get that, but okay.

“Today [this is the early 80s, remember] Cher’s famous claws for nails are clipped. So is her windfall of glossy black hair…Her nails were like falcon’s talons, a mighty two inches long and dipped in sanguine crayon. Cher's eyelashes still flap like porch awnings.”

“She wants to be an ordinary high-serious actress so she's moved to New York...”

Ah yes…so pedestrian to be an award winning actress when you can be a cultural icon. With that I agree.


Songs Cher Should Cover

Sandc_2Since my first thought of having a Cher blog, I’ve wanted to include a feature called “Songs Cher Should Cover.” You run into so many songs here and there that you think have that special stamp of Cher-potential. I always thought Elton John’s “Take Me To The Pilot” would really kick ass and I felt a self-satisfied sort of delight when finally seeing her sing it with the Pointer Sisters on a re-run of her mid-70s Cher Show. However, in my fantasy it was a Sonny & Cher cover for some reason. I could see them arm in arm, rocking to the chorus: “Take me to the pilot; lead me to the chamber. Take me to the pilot; I am but a stranger. Na na na. Na na na!” (See picture to the right.)

I feel the same way about the song “Best Imitation of Myself” by Ben Folds Five. Not only does the song rock hardy, but Ben Folds’ lyrics seem truly written about Cher, like those Prisoner songs back in 1979, only smarter. (I mean we all know Cher loves to shop, but I’d like the few-and-far-between biographical numbers to be more informative than she buys one in every color.

I feel like a quote out of context…withholding the rest so I can be free what you wanna see.
I got the gestures, sounds, got and the timing down …it’s uncanny. Yeah you’d think it was me.

Did I make me up?
Or make this face ‘til it stuck?
I do the best imitation of myself.

It’s a song that says both “Impersonators out there, take heed – you can’t do this better than me” and  “Everyone else, I am the master of my show; stop judging me and piss off!”

To fully disclose, I’m a Ben Folds fan. I’ve seen Ben Folds Five play in New York City and I saw Ben Folds play alone at the Coachella Music Festival a few years ago. He was amazing without a band, just him pounding away on his piano. I love “Brick,” “Eddie Walker” and “Rockin the Suburbs.” Even the line

I take the check and face the facts as some producer with computers fixes all my shitty tracks

makes me smile like Bette Midler might before saying something snarky about “Believe.”

Ben Folds Five also mentions Cher in a cover of the Flaming Lips song, “She Don’t Use Jelly”

I know a girl who reminds me of Cher. She’s always changing the color of her hair.”

My Dad just sent me the Tom Waits’ album Orphans. I know many pop-fans find Tom Waits un-listen-able. My Ape Culture co-hort Julie Wiskirchen said “[Waits] sings and acts like a crazy person on the subway.” In many ways Waits is the anti-Cher. He’s so anti-image, this is his image. So anti-artifice, that’s his artifice. He’s the pinnacle of rock 'n' roll credibility and would never be caught dead on dance-floor speakers. He dresses down – way, way down. No wigs (as far as we know) and no glitter.

I had the Waits CD once with “Downtown Train” on it. I don’t know what happened to it, which means the CD found its way to the Salvation Army store. A scoundrelish Irishman I used to date re-introduced me to a few Waits tunes which I passed on to my Dad who is now a fan. I didn’t realize Waits sang “Ole 55.” Back then he sounded more like Gregg Allman than the smoking, hard-drinking, gnarly voice we’re hearing today. (Yes I know, Allman has a gnarly voice too; but there's really no comparison.)

I love the new album. The lyrics are stand-out poetry and the pieces are very melodious -- if some of you can get past his voice. Which if you’re acclimated to Sonny Bono shouldn’t be a problem. In fact, I think if it were not for Waits' rough-and-tumble image, these songs would be considered pop songs, they’re so catchy. The album has three CDs. Brawlers is bluesy, Bawlers is more about standards. I haven’t gotten to the last one, Bastards, yet.

But from the blues-infused Brawlers CD, two songs would be great to hear Cher cover: “Lowdown” and “Lost at the Bottom of the World.” They are lyrically strong (like her later Warner Bros material) and they offer contrast to her musical oeuvre, such as the ballads of It’s a Man’s World did. Those ballads gave Cher “a slow moment” in the overall show.

To this point, it was tragic when we lost “The Way of Love” from the set of Cher’s Farewell tour because that was the only quiet moment in a frantic, non-stop show. Just like Celebration at Caesars had “Take It To the Limit” and “On My Own,” the Farewell needed a ballad or two. We need a quiet, melodic contrast to all the lights and color, just as a visual design needs a contrast between light and dark or rough and smooth.

Plus, Waits would be a respectable choice for someone interested in amping up their rock 'n' roll street cred. In fact, “Ole 55” would be a great cover too.

And now the sun’s comin up
I’m riding with lady luck
Freeway cars and trucks…
Freeway cars and trucks…

If my mind’s somewhere else, you won’t be able to tell…
I do the best imitation of myself.