Thursday, February 9, 2017
Cher: “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)”
Entered the chart on: 3/26/66
Peaked on: 4/23/66
Weeks at #2: 1
Song at #1: “(You’re My) Soul & Inspiration” by the Righteous Brothers
Cher has become such a larger-than-life personality that her persona has rather eclipsed her artistic achievements. It’s hard to remember this time, when she was still the lanky, raven-haired, acerbic foil to diminutive, shaggy-vested Sonny Bono. Singing, comedy/variety, dramatic acting, Cher has done it all.
That said she wasn’t really a great singer. She set the mould for Madonna and others who pushed a strong character via limited talent. Which isn’t to say she’s awful, but there were definitely limits to Cher’s singing ability, and the results could be rather woeful when she pushed them too far (listen to her version of Janis Ian’s “Stars” some time).
To be fair to her, Cher’s throaty alto voice and twangy delivery was nothing if not distinctive and memorable. Coupled with her unforgettable appearance, one could understand why listeners reacted to her so strongly. It helps, in a way, that she was provided with unforgettable, if often kitschy, material. Her commercial (musical) plateau came in the early 70s with a hat-trick of #1 hits (“Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves,” “Half-Breed” and “Dark Lady”), each seemingly campier and more absurd than the last.
I’ll profess non-familiarity with this particular tune, but going by the title, it seems like a dry run of the delirious silliness to come in the following decade. In fact, coupled with her prior top 10 entry—“You Better Sit Down, Kids”—the titles suggest the plot of a soap-operatic potboiler. I’m getting Claudelle Inglish flashbacks just reading them.
Yeah, before her vocals even start, the overwrought orchestration—fronted by weepy violin, like something out of a Victorian melodrama—tells you what you’re in store for. My previous paragraph was pretty much right on the money with this. The lyrics are definitely in “kitschy story-telling mode.”
While it’s definitely cut from the same cloth as her later hits, it sounds like “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” in embryonic form. First off, the arrangement is a lot more old-fashioned. Her later hits had a modern pop flash to them, this is almost like gypsy campfire music with its violins, mandolins and fast fandango complete with shouts of “Hey!” in the middle eight. Also, she shows her age and inexperience with this, displaying almost a diffidence in her soft-pedal performance. She’d later gain an undeniable aura of confidence which made her irresistible to record buyers, but she still comes across as “girlish” here.
In short...pretty much what I expected. Inessential, but fun and more than a little silly.