Cher: The Sonny Side of Cher, A Review

Anybody that knows me or has just steadily kept up with my blog knows that I am unapologetic Cher fan. I have nearly all her albums (at one point I had all, long story), read numerous books on this legend, and I continue to buy concert tickets whenever she performs. Naturally, I would have to write about her for Women’s History Month.

img_3489Tonight, for a little nostalgia, I decided to revisit The Sonny Side of Cher. This album is important to understanding Cher’s career trajectory and how she became the artist she is today. I truly believe she is one of the best, yet underrated, vocalists of our time.

The Sonny Side of Cher opens with Cher’s biggest solo hit to that time “Bang, Bang.” This Sonny penned tune is a tale of two lovers explained as children. I love this composition. I love the exotic feel this song brings. It sounds a bit country at times, it is definitely pop, it takes advantage of 60’s folk, and there is a little Scottish flare for fun. It’s easy to see how this song claimed the number 2 spot on the Billboard Hot 100.

“Elusive Butterfly” and “The Girl From Ipanema” are among Cher fan’s favorites from this era in her career, but the songs that really take the cake for this album are “Old Man River” and “Like A Rolling Stone,” a Bob Dylan cover.

“Old Man River” comes in at number 1 on this album for me, right behind “Bang Bang.” When I hear Cher sings this song I just picture tears streaming out of some bodies deeply wounded eyes. I literally feel I can reach into this song and drench myself in emotion.

If you have any interest in Cher’s career or the culture of the 60’s, this album is essential. As a bonus, this record is sprinkled with Phil Spector’s fingerprints as Sonny Bono, once Spector’s employee, produces the full album. This is pre “glam” Cher, but post “I Got You Babe” Cher. This small era in her career was a gem in her soon to be legendary status.

Key Tracks: “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down),” “Elusive Butterfly,” “The Girl From Ipanema”

Deep Cuts: “Old Man River,” “Like a Rolling Stone,” “Where Do you Go”

 

With All My Love, My Valentine’s Day Playlist

Every year I ponder a playlist of my favorite love songs for Valentine’s Day. Romance has played such a large part in my life that I have nearly gone 26 years without it. Every year I tell myself next year will be different. I’m always wrong. So below are some of the most romantic songs that I can come up with.

5. “Parasite” -Kiss

The word parasite derives from the greek word “parasitos,” which translates to “a person eating at anothers table.” One might also associate this word with leeches and malaria. I swore love was a synonym, but Webster is proving otherwise.  At any rate, we can all relate to people that may have these qualities….or scabies.

4. “Bang, Bang” -Cher

Now many may recognize this Sonny Bono penned song from either Cher’s original 1966 version or Nancy Sinatra’s 1966 cover. Anywho it just talks about two people who have literally been in love forever and one walks away. Basically, the song says it’s like a gunshot to the head. Hot damn, get me over to eHarmony right now!

3. “Thank God and Greyhound” -Roy Clark

I often think that country music explains love perfectly. Country songs touch that soft spot in my heart. In this song, by my fellow Okie Roy Clark, he really contemplates everything his lady has given him, actions like spending all his money and making him feel an inch tall. The clouded judgment love provides just sounds whimsical.

2. “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” -Peter, Paul, and Mary

Most of us know this beautiful song written by the legendary Bob Dylan. This song has been covered by numerous artists, but Peter, Paul, and Mary’s version is my favorite. It’s a little ditty of love intertwined with hints of sarcasm. Who cares if somebody wastes your time? You just can’t get it back. Like I always say, you win some, you lose some.

1.” What’s Love Got To Do With It” -Tina Turner

And then there is the mother of all love songs. There are so many questions this song asks that I ask myself every morning when I look in the mirror. Questions like, “Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?” This song has now become my mantra. I just can’t help but think about how big of a “screw you” this song was to Ike Turner, signed with all Tina’s love of course.

Well folks, this is my 2017 Valentine’s day playlist. I hope it has filled you with joy and hope. Remember, it’s when your not looking that you will find that one special person….so keep your eyes open for there are a lot of parasites in this world that look like guns that need to take a greyhound far away from you. Don’t think twice about it, love has nothing to do with it.

With all my love, Gabe

Dusting My Shelves: Gene Simmons “KISS Solo”

Artist: Gene Simmons  AlbumGene Simmons (KISS Solo)

I really do love Kiss. Their image is revolutionary and their music is timeless rock and roll. When they came out into the public they shook America’s pop culture to its core with their different costumes and on stage antics, and the inevitable meaning of KISS. *Rolls eyes*

The face that is most quickly identified amongst the members of Kiss is that of Gene Simmons. He is the demon and yes he does breathe fire. Pastors beware!!

Simmons is an excellent business man and has really helped construct Kiss into the product they are today. From t-shirts, coffee mugs, shower curtains and dolls, one can always find a Kiss product. I might have owned that shower curtain…

FullSizeRender 2Now back to the music. In 1978 all four members of Kiss released their own solo albums. There are varying accounts of why they did this with the most popular being that the band was starting to not get along so well. Basically, they needed a break from each other.

Simmon’s opens his album with a haunting laugh reminiscent of Vincent Price in Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” The album then goes into “Radioactive.” This song could easily be identified as a Kiss song with its obsessive guitar rifts and rhyming chorus. The same goes for the second track of the album “Burning Up With Fever.” Although, not easily heard by the untrained musical historian, this track does feature Donna Summer.

We then get treated to some soft rock vibes that continue throughout the record. This is easily heard in the tracks “See You Tonight,” “Always Near You/Nowhere to Hide,” and “Mr. Make Believe.”

Side two opens with the track “Living in Sin.” This track is an odd track that could easily be updated and be the theme song of the dating app Tinder. With lyrics such as “I know you write me sexy letters and you send your pictures for my wall” and “I’m living in sin
at the Holiday Inn,” one can feel a tad uncomfortable. This song is quickly redeemed though once one realizes the lady on the phone is Cher. I also believe she added some backing tracks. A cameo from Cher can never hurt, especially during her 1970’s heyday.

Side two goes on to “Man of 1000 Faces,” which has very Beatles-esque styling, incorporating  ear friendly melodies and a 1960’s pop feel. This song is also mixed with strings and horns, not something you expect from Simmons. He quickly returns to his rock and roll flare though with “See You In Your Dreams.”

1045078_10151748873836412_1047232890_nWhat shocked me the most about this album was the closing song. I thought the album was over until I heard a Disney like medley with Simmons continuing into “When You Wish Upon a Star.” I was definitely not expecting the Demon to cover Jiminey Cricket, but after reading about this album I found the profound meaning behind the reason Simmons chose to record this song.

“When I first heard that song I could barely speak English but I knew the words were true. Anybody can have what they want, the world and life can give its rewards to anyone.”

This song gave a young Simmons, an immigrant from Israel, inspiration for his new life in America. I absolutely love that and the fact that he covered this song going against every fiber of the image KISS had built.

What I really discovered about Simmons while listening to this album was he is kind of a softie. Not in a bad way though. I just alway think of him as breathing fire or spitting blood for the sake of entertainment, but underneath all the showmanship is a true artist. He wrote nearly each song on this album and there are some great lyrics to be had. This album will make you see a completely new side to Simmons. I find this album to truly be the first time he was “unmasked” and vulnerable with his audience, showing some of his core emotions.

I guess one could say he is a sentimental demon.

Key Tracks: “Radioactive,” “Living in Sin,” “See You In Your Dreams”

Deep Cuts: “True Confessions,” “Mr. Make Believe,” “When You Wish Upon a Star”

Slaying Since The 60’s: Happy Birthday Cher

Today is a musical holiday. They should stop the presses, close the banks, and hold the mail. It is the Prime Minister of Pop, Cher’s Birthday.

I am going to take a gamble that you have probably not heard Cher regarded as the “Prime Minister of Pop.” Often times we hear loads of people saying that Madonna is the “Queen of Pop.” Cher fans argue otherwise, but to be honest, being the queen is beneath Cher.

Let’s take a step back into our English Government Class or lack there of. We all know there is a Queen, but England is no longer a dictatorship. Today the title is held mostly ceremonially with limited powers. The position with all the decision-making is the Prime Minister.

In the case of music, we have a queen of pop based on pedigree, Madonna, then we have the Prime Minister of Pop, Cher, who gets sh*t done. Cher was the original female pop star, garnering 3 number one solo hits in the early 1970’s with countless other charting hits. She had a show with her husband Sonny Bono and when that ended in divorce, she had her own popular variety show. At the same time she quickly became a fashion icon with her over the top costumes and hip length straight black hair. She is even the first lady to ever show her stomach on TV.

Cher didn’t need a shock factor. She didn’t have to roll around and moan in a wedding dress. She used her natural sex appeal and underrated vocals to pave the way for future female pop stars.

Today, in honor of Cher’s legacy, I have created a list of my favorite Cher songs. They are not in any particular order, because it is impossible for me to rank them nor is this list conclusive. They go from obscure to huge hits and from the 1960’s to today.

“Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” (1966)

This is one of Sonny Bono’s greatest pop inventions. “Bang Bang” has now been covered by numerous artists over nearly every genre. It takes love and encapsulates it in a child’s arms showing both the simplicity and intricacy of this emotion. Cher “remixed” this song on her 1987 self titled album. I have included the original here, but here is a link to the other. This remix shows how versatile Cher’s vocals are and also how Cher’s voice has grown over her career.


“Classified 1A” (1971)

This song barely ever sees the light of day, but it is one of Sonny Bono’s greatest musical masterpieces. The song tells the story of a woman being told that her husband has been killed in a war. “Classified 1A” was released in the midst of the Vietnam War in 1971. Cher can stylize with the best divas, but the raw emotion she portrays on this recording is hard to come by. She has always has a way of shooting straight to the heart through her deliverance of ballads and this is one of her best.


“Train of Thought” (1971)

This should have been a huge hit! I don’t know the exact story of this song, but it has all the mechanisms of a number one. It’s one of those songs that just gets my blood flowing.


“By Myself” (1973)

Easily one of Cher’s least successful albums, Bittersweet White Light, is a diamond in the rough. Within this album, she visits the American Song Book that she has expressed much love for. This is one of the best tracks from this album, but her Jolsen Melody and her take on “The Man That Got Away” should not fall on deaf ears.


“Take Me Home” (1979)

This song makes me want to go struttin,’ much like John Travolta in Staying Alive. The beat is infectious and roller skates are a must. Mixed with Cher’s sex appeal, this record is classic. She could take me home any day…..


“We All Sleep Alone” (1987)

As children we are taught to aspire to have a spouse and a family. We are surrounded by images of the nuclear family that never really existed. What they didn’t tell you was that we are all alone in the end. While being a dark and cryptic song to say the least, Cher lives this song as her power house vocals lay across this power ballad.


“Save Up All Your Tears” (1991)

This is the best song to belt in your car when you are mad at someone. Try it.


“The Gunman” (1995)

This is one of Cher’s best vocal performances. Her warm voice shivers down my spine as she speaks of love having no mercy. She again shares her raw emotion from experience. It leaves you thinking and hitting the repeat button over and over again.


“Our Lady of San Francisco” (2000)

This song comes from, Not.com.mercial, the only album Cher wrote nearly every song. She sings of a homeless woman and how she is looked at as garbage on the street. She speaks to humanity and how many times we have become inhumane. Helping people with the basics is dear to Cher’s heart as seen in her acts of kindness in countries like Armenia and the current Flint water crisis. To this day this album, has not been widely released.


“Love One Another” (2001)

Okay, only two more. This song is from Cher’s 2001 release Living Proof. It is a “filler” song, but Cher, nonetheless, gives it her all. I think she might just believe in its message.


“Lie To Me” (2013)

Cher knocks another ballad out of the park. This time she doesn’t quite use those soaring vocals that she is well equipped with, yet she stays in a modest tone. The beauty of this song is all in her conviction. This comes from her latest studio album in 2013 and is the only true ballad on the entire album. I love EDM Cher, but her voice is magnificent stripped down.


“You Haven’t Seen The Last of Me” (2010)

Lastly comes one of Cher’s songs that has helped me out the most in life. Once I hit my adult life, I have found myself kicked down by career, relationship, and life choices just like everyone does. It is always easy to back up into a corner, but you can’t. Cher is a living example that lying down is never an option. I’ve had this song on repeat many times and belted it off-key. It is really the best thing that came out of Burlesque. 

As it is often said with Cher: “After the nuclear holocaust there will be cockroaches and Cher.” Don’t let them ever see the last of you.


As these videos and a proper lesson in music history makes clear, Cher is the first female pop star to call all the shots. She pushed the envelope, but she did not need a shock and awe factor. Her raw talent catapulted her into the icon she is today. She became a legend when there wasn’t a legacy to follow.

Basically, she slays.

So on this day we celebrate Cher’s 35th birthday once more. While I’m lowering my flag to half staff, I’m ok with calling Madonna or one of those other little pop starlets the queen of pop. It’s just an honorary title. Remember, everybody on the tball team gets a trophy.

And while queens have tiara’s, Prime Ministers have headdresses, because you don’t need to see what’s around them while you follow. There is nothing to see. They are paving the way while walking into uncharted territory.

But as always, the wise Cher summarizes her contemporaries perfectly.

Follow this you bitches.

That Infectious Smile You Get

Today I was driving with my head phones on. I decided to listen to a live version of Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary” from her 2009 tour. This has always been one of my favorite Turner songs like the majority of the world, but this time I felt something different.

I just oddly began smiling. After around a minute into the smile I realized how odd I must look to those passing me.

So tonight I have decided to compile a list of songs that give me that infectious smile or at least those songs that make me look like I’m smiling at nothing while driving.

1. “Proud Mary” -Tina Turner

If you are a music fan and don’t love the energy, spunk, and high-octane vocals this song possesses then I do not know who you are. “Proud Mary” immediately hooks me from the beginning guitar rift to Turner telling me how she likes to sing it “nice and rough.” Every time I hear this song I find myself (to the best of my ability) doing Turner’s iconic dance moves as the song progresses, but I will warn you, my legs ain’t that pretty. Least we forget the original though by Creedence Clearwater Revival.

2. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” -Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell

There has never been another blend of vocals like Marvin Gaye’s and Tammi Terrell’s. They are simply superb. Tammi’s voice echoed that of Diana Ross and Aretha Franklin combined. She had a star-studded career ahead of her until brain cancer stole her away from the world too soon. AIthough she now dwells in the valley of peace, her artistry lives on. I could go on and on about this song, but there’s only two other words that truly describe its greatness….Marvin Gaye.

3. “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” -Kiss

This is pretty much my anthem for every Tinder swipe…ummm…date I go on. I try to walk out of the house with the spirit of the star child intertwined in my swagger, but it doesn’t ever quite work out. I’m not sure if it is because the 1970’s are over or if I just can’t quite find my mojo. I never did think those leotards looked good on me anyway.

4. “If I Could Turn Back Time” -Cher

What’s a list without Cher!?! I have been in a long-term relationship with Cher since I was about 11. She has always liked younger men that are on the shorter side so I fit the bill. This riveting song was penned by the great Diane Warren and is one of her best pop masterpieces. From Navy ships to bootys and hips, Cher never disappoints.

5. “All Night Long (All Night)” -Lionel Richie

This song and I go way back. I grew up listening to Richie and his smooth vocals. My mother had many of his cassettes in the car and we would listen to them…. a lot. I’ll admit, as a young kid I wasn’t a fan, but then I grew up and I was like “Hello!” I have been addicted to his music and writing genius ever since. Moms generally know what’s best, yet she never let me dance all night long. First it was the 9:00 bedtime then the curfew.

There are many, many more songs that make me extremely happy. I could literally go on and on. It would be impossible for me to make a complete list. It’s like asking me who my favorite singer is. In closing I would like to leave you with a brief poem I wrote especially for this post.

If you need me call me

No matter if you are rolling on the river

No matter if sailing on a riverboat queen

I was always made for loving you

No matter how far back you turn back time

We’ll have a party, fiesta, whatever

All night long

A Spring Record Haul…In January

Today I went out to a few record shops here in Oklahoma City, where it is 74 degrees! I haven’t taken a look at these stores in at least a month or more. I have been striving to save money and listen to what I have, yet that never satisfies us vinyl collectors does it?

I mean food, rent, or vinyl? I think the obvious answer is vinyl

I did sacrifice today though. Instead of keeping the vinyl I don’t like I took it back for trade in. I didn’t get nearly the amount I paid for them in the first place, but I’d rather somebody enjoy them then collect dust on my shelf.

IMG_1789I made my first stop at Guestroom Records. This is where I found the Tina Turner 1980’s compilation. It’s clearly an 80’s press trying to capitalize off of her Private Dancer success. I can never resist a Turner album I don’t have, even if it is merely a compilation.

Next I made a stop by Monkey Feet Music. They are a newer store here in the OKC metro, but I am quickly finding them a force to be reckoned with. I always find nice clean vinyl there and Chris, the owner, is always looking out for my favorites and suggesting new favorites. This is where I found my nearly mint David Bowie Let’s Dance, Cher’s disco infused Take Me Home, and The Judd’s first mini LP.

Sadly there is so much music and so little time. Out of my 1100 records I did not anything by David Bowie, but I have been listening to him constantly on Spotify at work. I think I have committed a music and vinyl sin not listening to him until now. May he rest in peace and his music live forever.

Lastly, I made a stop at my always favorite Trolley Stop CQYNQG0VAAAWC98Record Shop. I have been frequenting this store for a few years now and the owner, John, is a record genius. When you shop in there you find great records and get a great conversation. He is nearly an expert in musicians from Oklahoma. This is Where I found Dusty Springfield’s Custom Deluxe (A Japanese Import!) and Oklahoma’s own Lee Hazlewood’s, Houston.

Now I just have one problem. I have a friend’s birthday party tonight. Now I know I should be looking forward to this, but I really just want to sit at home and listen to all my new music. The struggle is real.

I guess I need to be a normal 25-year-old for a little while. Have a great day vinyl world and please let me know what you are spinning!

Cher: Cher and Tell

It all began in 2001. My mother rented a VHS at Blockbuster for my entertainment. Knowing how interested I am in music, she decided to rent a concert. That VHS was Cher: Live in Concert (The 1999-2000 Do you Believe tour).MV5BMTkzNTc1MTY0MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNDU5MDg4._V1_SX214_AL_

Furthermore, I immediately demanded Cher CDs and my mother regretted her decision.

This was a big tour for Cher. It was the first after her smash number one hit “Believe.” I was mesmerized into the evening as each of her elaborate sets unfolded and was confused how one could dye their hair so quickly.

Over the next few years, I collected almost every album on CD (hence, my mother’s financial regret) that I could find of this impeccable performer.  I was completely enamored  by her originality and resilience. I loved her new dance tunes from the albums “Believe” and “Living Proof,” but I equally loved her 80’s, 70’s, and 60’s equivalents.

Throughout these albums, one always stood out to me, and 15 years later I find myself still listening to it. Cher’s self-titled LP in 1987 has always kept my attention differently then her other efforts. She sounds renewed with a new energy in these songs after what was a tumultuous decade and a half in her life. She was a new Cher while distinctly being nostalgic of where she came from.

ChercherThe album opens with the anthem “I Found Someone.” This song is very empowering and Cher’s distinct vocals roll over the beginning notes with a gothic arrangement, taking the listener straight into the guitar and piano wrung “screw you” attitude.

Next is one of my all time favorite Cher songs, “We All Sleep Alone.” This song speaks a truth that many don’t necessarily think about. It’s not a ballad, it’s not an anthem, and it’s not pure rock. It’s raw emotion coming from the lonelieness in all of our souls, something Cher knew all to well. The song just glides over you, like wind rippling through sheets with Cher’s voice setting the climate.

Then there is her “remix” of sorts of the Sonny Bono penned “Bang Bang.” This new arrangement gives this song a new, rougher sentiment. Cher’s vocals are stronger than ever, yet within the song’s lyrics she is still the unlikely victim. These are brilliant, ironic vocals that only Cher can achieve.

Flipping the record to the last song, “Hard Enough Getting Over You” sends yet another message. This song conveys an optimistic message that there is always another chance, even though it’s hard to rid yourself of your past. It is a low amped power ballad sprinkled with ache with a durable spirit. She belts that she can’t say good-bye again, yet the future is in full view. This song signifies Cher closing the door, with no regrets, of her past.

6a00e54ecca8b9883301901c3000fa970bThen there is the rest of the album that I equally love. She serenades us with her tender
power ballad “Main Man,” while we have the pure rock tunes like “Give Our Love a Fighting Chance” and “Dangerous Times” and pure pop tunes like “Perfection” and “Working Girl.” Then there’s this random one that reminds me of a 1980’s aerobic class with high cut leotards, “Skin Deep.” Was Cher thinking about a future video?

Today I have nearly every album she has made, seen her twice in concert, and I might have a poster on my wall. This is always my go to Cher album. This u proves Cher’s vocal ability. It was made before the time that auto tune and various measures took over pop music. Although Cher employs these today, underneath it all, she is a pure vocal acrobat.

This album is a cumulation of bad relationships, being a single mother, and rampant lies from the press attempting to destroy her character. When you look into her history, these emotions are heard clearly in this album. This is an album of strife, tears, and success.

It’s just too good to keep to myself. If you haven’t found someone, tend to sleep alone, have a fondness for vocals that go skin deep, and yet ring in your ear like a bang from a gun, just give me a ring, I’ll Cher this one with you.