Cyndi Lauper

TrackAlbum
Feels Like ChristmasHat Full Of Stars / Merry Christmas
Girls Just Wanna Have FunShe’'s So Unusual
My First Night Without YouA Night To Remember
I’'m Gonna Be StrongBlue Angel / Twelve Deadly Cyns
Romance In The DarkMemphis Blues
Sally’'s PigeonsHat Full Of Stars
Time After TimeShe’'s So Unusual
Time After TimeThe Body Acoustic
True ColorsTrue Colors
When You Were MineShe'’s So Unusual

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Contributor: Peter Viney

Cyndi Lauper was with Blue Angel in 1980, who have just a single album to their credit. The standout track was her cover of the Mann-Weil song I’m Gonna Be Strong which had been Gene Pitney’s 1964 hit (UK #2) so I guess the band name was inspired by Pitney’s 1974 hit, Blue Angel. I bought the Blue Angel LP for it … after hearing She’s So Unusual, I wasn’t ahead of the game, She re-recorded it in 1994 as a track on her Twelve Deadly Cyns compilation and the new version was a single. That individuality, the girlie sound with a touch of punk attitude, is matched with a flat-out full vocal range capable of tackling anything.

She’s So Unusual in 1982 saw her team up with producer Rick Chertoff, and Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman of The Hooters. The album kept spawning hit records: Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Time After Time, that hymn to diddling, She Bop, All Through The Night, Money Changes Everything, When You Were Mine. The key track is Time After Time, one of the classic compositions of the 1980s (and more) co-written by Cyndi Lauper and Rob Hyman. It has had more than a hundred covers, with Miles Davis’s cover being my favourite. It’s Cyndi Lauper’s favourite too. I have to have Time After Time in twice because she redid it in 2005 as a duet with Sarah McLachlan on The Body Acoustic where she revisited her major hits in new settings. You need to hear both versions. I’m also tempted by her TV duet with Patti Labelle on the same song.

I also picked Girls Just Wanna Have Fun and the Prince cover, When You Were Mine (also in my Prince choice of ten). I prefer Cyndi’s version of When You Were Mine to the original. At this point she was ahead of Madonna in the game, beating her to Best Newcomer Award, and for several years they were compared, with Cyndi considered to have got there first in all sorts of ways.

Her next venture was the soundtrack to The Goonies most of which ended up on the cutting room floor, but The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough was the single. She was furious at the addition of “The Goonies ‘R’” to her song title and refused to sing it for years. So I’ll follow her and skip it.

She lost The Hooters backing when she fell out with Chertoff, but the title track of her next LP was True Colors, and her autobiography makes it clear how important that title song is to her. Definitely in. Other chart successes were Change Of Heart and her brave cover of What’s Goin’ On.

1989 brought A Night To Remember and the single was I Drove All Night which was the hit. My First Night Without You is the other outstanding song. It starts out like a Drifters 1962 classic and just gets my vote.

On Hat Full Of Stars, Feels Like Christmas is co-written with The Hooters, Hyman & Bazilian, and a welcome return of their combined sound. She repeated it on her Merry Christmas album, though the lyrics are not festive at all, Hyman & Bazilian also co-wrote That’s What I Think, Someone Like Me and Product Of Misery, and musicians included Bakthi Kumalo (from Paul Simon’s band, and Graceland) on bass, Carlos Alomar on guitar, Nile Rodgers and Hugh Masakela. From Hat Full Of Stars, Cyndi is especially proud of Sally’s Pigeons, written with Mary Chapin Carpenter. Bakthi Kumalo’s unique and stellar bass playing combined with such a personal lyric put it into the Toppermost Ten.

The Hyman-Bazilian connection reappeared when she contributed White Man’s Melody to their Largo album. Other tracks from this album are in the Levon Helm and Taj Mahal sections on this site, but White Man’s Melody is the stand-out track on the entire album. Largo was a peculiar project. Everyone who bought it loves it, but they foolishly put no group name on it, so it’s just Largo. Who by? No one. It’s just Largo. So few people have found it.

Sisters Of Avalon was a concept album in 1996. The Selections From CD is the four track CD which turns up most often.

Cyndi is nothing if not eclectic. You have the Christmas album (Merry Christmas), the standards album (At Last), the dance album (Bring Ya To The Brink), the blues album (Memphis Blues), the film tie in (The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough). She complains throughout her autobiography about her record company’s loss of interest, but is also justifiably proud of her strong comments on sexism, alienating Stephen Spielberg and Bruce Springsteen let alone record company executives, along the way. It probably didn’t help her career.

At Last is a covers album with the likes of If You Go Away, Unchained Melody, You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me and Walk On By. All feature her strongly distinctive voice. If you like it, as I do, you’ll love hearing it entwined round such great songs. The radical treatment of Maurice Williams’ Stay is not up to other versions. Sorry. Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood is my favourite, but maybe that’s the song. In 1999, she had a hit with a cover of The Trampps Disco Inferno.

Shine was recorded in 2001, but released only in 2004, and then only in Japan. The UK and USA just got an EP. Two tracks are reunited with Rob Hyman, It’s Hard To Be Me and Water’s Edge, but the attention grabber was Madonna Whore, a reference to the complex, not to her rival. While the first track, Shine, and Water’s Edge are especially good, I’m not including them on the grounds that the album is too hard to find.

Bring Ya To The Brink came in 2008, her dance album. I’ve tried hard. Can’t get into it because I don’t like the genre. The single was Set Your Heart.

From 2010s Memphis Blues it’s difficult to single one out, as her collaborators include Allen Toussaint, Charlie Musselwhite, Ann Peebles and B.B. King, but the languid Romance In The Dark is a classic, just eclipsing Just Your Fool with Charlie Musselwhite. Surprisingly, it was the best-selling US blues album of 2010, and her third most successful album (She’s So Unusual and True Colors are ahead in sales). It also helped Cyndi to achieve the deserved recognition as a songwriter and singer. I suspect her colourful hair styles, flamboyant make-up and frocks intimidated many males.

For a YouTube only song, try her version of Strawberry Fields Forever – Yoko Ono is a great friend of hers, and when Cyndi arrived in Japan one Christmas she found a Christmas tree in her room, decorated by Yoko’s brother. She has also covered Working Class Hero and Hey Bulldog.

The Cyndi Lauper website

Cyndi Lauper biography (iTunes)

TopperPost #128

1 Comment

  1. Rick J Leach
    Nov 26, 2013

    Great piece on Cyndi Lauper thanks!

    I got the Blue Angel album when it came out simply because of a totally enthusiastic review in NME by Ray Lowry – for once writing about music rather than drawing cartoons.

    This was before she had any success as a solo artist and it is still one of my favourite albums of all time. Certainly in my Top 10. If you get a chance to hear it you will be in for a treat. What a voice!

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