Friday, November 06, 2009

Sonny Gets His Share

Forgotten gems turn up when you're cleaning. I came across Bonograph: Sonny Gets His Share. This CD pays tribute to the musical genius of Sonny Bono. There are covers of songs he wrote by Flat Duo Jets, Scott McCaughey, The Skeletons, Peter Holsapple and Ben Vaughn. Perhaps the most haunting song Sonny wrote, gets a haunting treatment: You Better Sit Down Kids is performed by What Else featuring Jim Babjak and Dennis Diken of the Smithereens and the latter also of Dennis Diken and Bell Sounds. The pounding of drums accentuates the spoken lyrics. It's driving home the message: hey kids divorce isn't pretty. It's the facts. The narrator/father is blunt, to the point and not mincing words. By the end of the version you might think the father has gone mad. Taking a song and turning it upside down is probably one of the greatest compliments to a songwriter.

A father is telling his kids that he and their mother are divorcing, a taboo subject in 1967 and still a strange topic for a top 10 hit. Cher took it to #9. Her version is eerie as the lyrics weren't changed to reflect a female singer. She's singing lines like "Your mother is staying and I'm going away." The production is varied. There are musical interludes that sound reminiscent of "Remember (Walking in the Sand)" the Shangri-La's hit, which preceded this song by 3 years. The lines "Say your prayers before you go to bed/Make sure you get yourself to school on time" are sung with urgency and speed. The ending is a blizzard of music: A foreshadowing of the chaos in the family? The staging of Cher's performance on a 1960's TV show is creepy. Why the cuts to mannequins of children? The song begins about 1 minute into the video.

Sonny faced realities in his music. Laugh At Me, his only solo hit (brilliantly covered by Mott the Hoople), was a protest song. "What do they care, about the clothes I wear?/Why get their kicks from making fun." He was famous for his fur vests and if people didn't like it, tough.
"So I don't care
Let 'em laugh at me
If that's the fare
I have to pay to be free
then baby
Laugh at me, and I'll cry for you
and I'll pray for you."

No grudges held. Sonny was too good a songwriter for that.

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