Wednesday, June 20, 2012

CHER - I WALK ON GUILDED SPLINTERS


Love her or hate her, you gotta admit that Cher is in a class by herself. Yes, some of her later records make me absolutely cringe, but that voice will always be welcome to my ears. Her 1960s and 1970s output under Sonny Bono's watchful eye is remarkably consistent - no, she'd never be mistaken for The Beatles in the creativity department, but you are always guaranteed a good performance on a Cher 45 (or LP). Then she married Gregg Allman, did that horrible Allman And Woman LP, and all hell broke loose from there.

Cher always gets special attention from me when referencing her exotic heritage (she is half Armenian, the other half divided between French, English, German, Dutch and Cherokee Indian descent) in song. Tunes like "Dark Lady", "Half-Breed", "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" (with its great "gypsy" arrangement) and, of course, "Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves" were some of her biggest hits, and with good reason: Cher always seemed to be from another world that most Americans didn't know about, and, in the minds of Americans at least, acted as a conduit to those worlds. Which is probably why nine out of ten people think that Cher really is either an American Indian or a gypsy.

It's also why Cher and this song (written and originally released by Mac Rebennack, aka Dr. John The Night Tripper, on his 1968 LP Gris-Gris, also on Atco) are an outrageously perfect match.

As careful as Sonny Bono was with Cher's career, he really blew it on this one. After Cher's contract with Imperial expired in late 1968, she signed to Atco (made sense, since they already had her recordings with Sonny under contract) and was immediately whisked off to Muscle Shoals, Alabama by producer Jerry Wexler and engineer Tom Dowd. The idea was to try and repeat the success of Dusty Springfield's trip there, which resulted in the brilliant Dusty In Memphis LP.

The first production decision that was made was to cut Sonny Bono out of all production decisions. The Muscle Shoals house band (Eddie Hinton and Jimmy Johnson on guitar, Roger Hawkins on drums, Barry Beckett on keys and David Hood on bass) were given carte blanche, and the resulting LP, 3614 Jackson Highway, became an artistic high point of Cher's career, despite Sonny Bono's objections (though that didn't stop him from appearing on the front cover).

But Sonny had the last laugh - at Cher's expense. When it came time to pick a single from the LP, pretty much everyone agreed "I Walk On Guilded Splinters" was THE cut, so it was released as Atco 6684 in May, 1969. However, at that time, the second Sonny & Cher movie, Chastity, was in the theaters, and Sonny wanted to promote it as much as possible. So he had one of the film's songs, called "Chastity's Song (Band Of Thieves)", placed on the other side of "Splinters", and instructed Atco to release the promo 45s with no plug side. Atco didn't really care, since they figured that "Splinters" was such a good cut, once the DJs heard it they'd play it to death. But Sonny put all of the promotional push on HIS side of the record, appearing on TV shows hawking Cher's new single "Chastity's Song", and the film of the same name, completely ignoring the other side. Since Sonny & Cher (and Cher herself) hadn't had a hit since 1967, the failure of the single (and the LP, and Chastity) wasn't exactly a surprise to the execs at Atlantic/Atco, and they simply moved on.

One of the oft-repeated rumors about Cher's "Guilded Splinters" is that The Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia is playing guitar on it. Not true, though one of the female backing singers was Donna Thatcher, who later married Keith Godchaux and joined the Dead with him in the early 1970s.

Cher - I Walk On Guilded Splinters (Atco 6684) - 1969

4 comments:

  1. I have actually been looking (not very hard) for a copy of this 45 or the LP. Out of all the damn Cher records I come across, I never see Jackson Highway!

    ReplyDelete
  2. The record is not easy to find. It is rather easy to find the CD, thought. Very GOOD (and surprising) album from Cher. We may say a lot of things about her nowadays style, but the voice is something (and the career quite impressive).
    Thanks for sharing this song from an album that shows what she was capable of...

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hey, ummmm, like, I've played it 3 times & the player looks to be moving & working, but, NO audio! What's happened? Did I loose my hearing????

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Funny, just checked it....works fine on my end!

      Delete