Sonny's declared ambition in mid-1965 is "to stay on top of the recording industry" but this is only a truth within a truth. The bigger picture involves bigger pictures - certainly bigger than "Wild On The Beach". With "What Now My Love" stalling short of the Top 10, her plows Cher, himself and neophyte director into GOOD TIMES. Within no time the movie is is over time and over-budget. He ignores Col. Tom Parker's advice on all counts: "Nothing artsy-fartsy - plenty of songs - call it "I Got You Babe" just get it made and out quick". A sixteen week shoot, only five new songs and months of post-production see the Summer '66 market come and go. Gone also are Greene and Stone. They're replaced by Kresky-DeCarlo Management. (Many stories are offered up around Sonny's acrimonious determination to get rid of the men who'd played no small part in the Sonny & Cher success story, but he'll have to borrow $200,000 (in cash) from Ahmet Ertegun to settle up with them.) As far as recording go, all single tracks will be credited to Sonny as producer, with Harold Battiste Jr. finally being named on labels as arranger.

 

Sessions in January yield a new solo album for Cher, and after two false starts (in December and January) the second Sonny & Cher LP is completed in the wake of "What Now My Love" charting.

 

"THE SONNY SIDE OF CHER" finds the artist is much finer voice, with a production "feel" Sonny has picked up from Jack Nitzsche's efforts with Bob Lind. After being originally considered to produce Lind's first album, Sonny is inspired to cop as much as he can from the unprecedented success of "Elusive Butterfly" which is as much MOR as it is folk-rock. For her album, Cher scores a terrific if wordy exclusive from Lind in the form of "Come To Your Window". (Lind has had some yuks at Sonny's expense with his "The World Is Just A "B" Movie...)

Cher bossa-novas her way through "Our Day Will Come" and "The Girl From Ipanema" without a gender-change. Two Francophile specials (Aznavour's wasted "A Young Girl" and Piaf's "Milord) complement the accented "e" in Cher's name but comprising only one so-so hit ("Where Do You Go") Imperial aren't crazy about releasing the album. But that all changes within a matter of weeks. As the story goes, Sonny has a tiff with Cher and writes "Bang Bang" and Cher doesn't like it but it comes alive with the Wrecking Crew in the studio. It's an oddity and radio's soft on Sonny & Cher but KHJ breaks it anyhow. It's Cher's first million-seller, and when it's tacked onto the album Imperial do another rush-release.

CHER: (Imperial 66160) "Bang, Bang" (SB) / "Needles & Pins" (SB, JN) (alternate B-side is "Our Day Will Come")

 

"THE WONDROUS WORLD OF SONNY & CHER" also scores an April release on Atco - with Sonny's "Laugh At Me" thrown on to conform with the Two Hits Plus formula of the times. But although a more-polished effort, it doesn't fly off the racks in the way that LOOK AT US did. (Rejected cuts include "Crying Time", "People Get Ready", an early version of "Love Don't Come" and "Concrete And Clay"as well as Sonny Bono originals.)

Cher's solo hit doesn't pave the way for for a duo hit. Ballad-follows-uptempo is the rule, and Sonny comes upwith the surprisingly mature "Have I Stayed Too Long" to follow "What Now My Love" and an album which isn't selling. Intended as an epic of alienation, the double-bridged song tries too hard asfter a throughly beautifulintro. The jocks say Sonny & Cher say too long on the turntable, and a hastily-edited promo does the rounds to no avail. The song will never appear on vinyl again, as long as records are being pressed.

 

SONNY & CHER: (Atco 6440) "Have I Stayed Too Long" 3.40 (SB) / "Leave Me Be" (shortened version of A-side runs 2,58)

CHER: (Imperial 66192) "Alfie" / "She's No Better Than Me"(SB)

 

Midsummer 1966 finds Sonny & Cher off the charts.

"What now my love" is indeed the question. Cher's version of "Alfie" for the U.S. soundtrack of that film is pulled from the film at the last minute and doesn't do especially well as a 45 release. A UK hit for Cilla Black the previous year, Cher's version isn't welcomed in some quarters. Sonny's production stamps it as a Sonny Bono record rather than a Bacharach/David song. Teen magazines are full of production stills and Sonny and Cher fluff - Cher has become a titular agony aunt for 16 Magazine, and Sonny will help out as the feature lingers on. But while fan club efforts are ramped up no vinyl is being shifted.

 

At the end of August Sonny & Cher kick off a highly succesful month-long promotional tour of Europe with no hit singles to pave the way. They've unleashed a new Cher original in the form of a teen-pregnancy opus: "I Feel Something In The Air." A magniicent production like none before, it flops in the UK and will only show up on Cher's next LP in the U.S. for the time being. (It will later show up a B-side, retitled as "Magic In The Air" with an alternate vocal take.) Italy in 1966 isn't the place to sell a song about a knocked up raggazza either, so with a dropped-in Italian vocal it will become "Nel Mio Cielo Ci Sei Tu"...but it's a stiff in any language.

Sonny finishes off a new duet track in London with vocals and overdubs including piano strings plinked with a bottle top and a commanding gypsy opening reminiscent of "Bang Bang". A rush-release in Europe, "Little Man" is an immediate worldwide smash, faring worst back home where it just limps into the Top 20. It's "Hava Nagila" meets "Zorba's Dance" and the Wall of Sound. Europeans love it enough to get it French and Italian from Sonny & Cher as well as even competing Serbian versions.

Things are improving - Cher's UK subsidiary rushes out "Sunny" from Cher's unreleased album to compete with Bobby Hebb's original and another cover from local lad Georgie Fame. Cher's version does well: it's relentless rock and roll, and a tasty twist on the laid-back groove of the competition.

 

CHER: (Liberty 12034 UK) "I Feel Something In The Air" (SB) / "Come To Your Window" (A-side is a unique version exclusive to this single release)

SONNY & CHER: (Atco 6440) "Little Man" (SB) / "Monday (SB)

SONNY & CHER: ( Atco 117 France) "Petit Homme" plus 3

SONNY & CHER: (Atlantic 90196 Italy) "Little Man" Versione Italiana / "Set Me Free"

CHER: (Liberty 12038 UK) "Sunny" / "She's No Better Than Me" (SB)

 

 

 

Sonny & Cher certainly look like stars, but fans and observers alike aren't connecting with them as authentic rockers. The endearing informality of their 1965 image is now replaced by Hollywood stills from GOOD TIMES. Their image in the mainstream Saturday Evening Post takes a beating with an especially cynical gonzo profile by then-writer Peter Bogdanovich. Cher realizes that they're out of touch with progressive American tastes, and Sonny's attempts to get groovy are beyond his sensibility. Musically he's the bastard son of Phil Spector and he just doesn't get where things are going.

Cher's eponymous third album CHER (includes "Sunny' and "Alfie") doesn't do a lot of business in the U.S. but elsewhere it's well-received as an excellent representation of the West Coast Sound and compared favorably to the Beach Boys and The Byrds. Essentially it's a well-produced collection of covers which Cher delivers with style and conviction.

Meanwhile Sonny takes a whack at revamping his solo career. He warbles Tim Hardin's "Misty Roses" along with dissonant-sounding fiddles, and almost turns Bob Lind's "Cheryl's Goin' Home" into a neo-Spectorian rocker but his pipes aren't up for the job. The 45 release is cancelled. The next Sonny & Cher 45 pitches clanging guitars and major-key fiddles against a churning Wall Of Sound but drops dead right when it should kick. Lyrically trite and pretentious, "Living For You" is contrived, not crafted. The B-side "Love Don't Come" is a 1965 reject tweaked to ersatz Jefferson Airplane, complete with druggy bongos and ominous "mystery lady" incantations from Cher.

 

 

"Behind The Door" is sourced for Cher from in-demand writer and future 10cc-er Graham Gouldman. It gets a good modern production from Sonny but isn't strong enough to reverse her chart slide. The next effort for Cher is the lyrically maudlin "Mama (When My Dollies Have Babies) from Sonny's pen. Our heroine is once again an unwed mother...but while it's a flop for Cher, Euro superstar Dalida takes it to the top in both France and Italy, albeit with a lyric cleaned up in translation. (Cher herself overdubs the Italian lyrics for her release of the song in Italy.) Inexplicably, the B-side is "Dream Baby" - her 1964 outing as Cherilyn.

If Sonny can't reach the masses of kids who the Sunset Strip "riots" personify, then he figures they can sure reach themselves. To that end he records them live, garbles the tapes and puts it out as by The People of Sunset Strip.

The scorecard of consequtive release is showing two flops for Sonny & Cher, two flops for Cher and the Sunset People don't make it past promos.

 

SONNY: (Atco 6446) "Misty Roses" / "Cheryl's Goin' Home" (cancelled release)

SONNY & CHER: (Atco 6449) "Living For You" (SB) / "Love Don't Come" (SB)

CHER: (Imperial 66217) "Behind The Door" / "Magic In The Air" (SB) (Retitled "I Feel Something In The Air")

CHER: (Imperial 66223) "Mam (When My Dollies Have Babies" (SB) / "Dream Baby" (SB) arr Gene Page

THE PEOPLE OF SUNSET STRIP: (Atco 6458) "Sunset Symphony" (SB) / SONNY"S GROUP (SB) : "Trippin' (Instrumental)

 

Somewhat dejected at year's end - with no hits and no release date for GOOD TIMES - Sonny parlays his five known chords into a more-commercial version of Donovan's "The Trip (What Goes On)". The folk-rocker, who's provided Sonny & Cher with more "inspiation" than his royalty statements show, has made a hugely successful transition to Flower Power. His riff and Sonny's throwaway line will see Sonny & Cher cruise into the Top 10, and see Sonny tenuously freed from Spectoriana. Instead of being indicative of Sonny & Cher's has-been status, "The Beat Goes On" is one of those records which encapsulate the future of Rock, and its timing couldn't be more precise. As groovy songs go, it's absolutely the grooviest.

 

SONNY & CHER: (Atco 6461) "The Beat Goes On" (SB) / "Love Don't Come" (SB) (Both Arr HB, Prod SB)

 

 

 

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