October 1971: CHER - "Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves"

Cher gave me this song for my birthday! And Sonny & Cher came to life on TV every week! I’d always known who Sonny & Cher were; I’d heard the songs on the radio, seen the pictures. But it wasn’t until they blazed on a TV screen before me that it all fell into place.

There were plenty of variety shows to choose from, but theirs was by far the most tailored to my tastes. They had animated cartoons of popular songs as interpreted by Cher (her version of “One Tin Soldier” kicks the ass of the original), fast and breezy rounds of sketches full of motion and funny costumes, great songs and then there was CHER!

To my eyes, she was glamorous without being threatening because she was funny, sarcastic, laughed a lot and enthusiastically wore the stupidest costumes. And when not dressed as Raggedy Ann or Minnie Mouse, she wore dresses that looked just like the clothes I put on my Barbie dolls. But Cher wasn’t a doll, she was a real live lady! And she would always break out in song. She was the human personification of my imaginary playmate, the perfect person, and the time I got to spend with her (and Sonny) once a week actually eclipsed The Partridge Family in television importance.

At this time, to keep me occupied during a shopping trip at J.C. Penney, Mom had me go to the record department and pick out something for myself. A casual cruise of the racks turned dead serious when the cover of Sonny & Cher Live came into view. My dramatic intake of breath could surely be heard all the way across the store.

This album (with a gatefold!) was a level above the Partridges because not only was there music, but they talked! They told jokes, bantered, griped and then sang. It was like having the variety show come to life at my command, and the sense of power was heady. Sure, it took me years to get most of the sexual content of the jokes, but when I did it cleared up a kiddie confusion.

I wanted to take my new favorite record to nursery school for Show & Tell. Now, since I played the thing repeatedly, Mom had obviously heard the entire thing, and obviously got all the jokes right off the bat. So, she knew that if I took this record to nursery school, the risqué humor would sail right over my class mates heads, but that all the teachers would have mini-heart attacks. That would lead to them questioning her decision to let me listen to this kind of stuff, and who wants to be confronted with that while picking up your kid after work?

So, she tried to convince me to bring my Alvin & The Chipmunks record instead. Yeah, I liked that album well enough, but any of my classmates could bring that. I wanted to share Cher, and threw a miniature fit over being kept from doing so.

See and hear the song.

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