Psychedelic Skeletons in the Closet–Sonny Bono
Psychedelic Skeletons in the Closet–Sonny Bono
Everybody who made a record before 1967 has at least one bad psychedelic moment and this week you’d better sit down, kids. Sonny Bono’s Psychedelic Skelton in the Closet wants to bum you out.
As teenyboppers’ newborn king and queen, Sonny and Cher were red hot in 1965. So hot that the pair’s success even afforded Sonny, who had a voice like the horn on a Hyundai, the chance to bleat on a solo hit of his own: the lovable “why-pick-on-li’l-ol’- long-haired-me” anthem “Laugh At Me”. When an insecure and equally unsure-voiced Ian Hunter auditioned for Mott the Hoople, he sang both “Like a Rolling Stone” AND “Laugh At Me”. High praise indeed!
Since Sonny was an outspoken opponent of drugs at this time, one can only assume he’s on a natural low.
For some unexplained reason, Sonny cut an entire album by himself in 1967, two years after “Laugh at Me” hit and its follow-up “The Revolution Kind” flopped. If I hadn’t seen it on the dust sleeve of an old Cream album, I would never have known Inner Views even existed. Its cover is a hideous etching of Sonny sitting peacefully with a smokey genie of Cher billowing next to him, touching her heart and his to assure the remaining fans this is no declaration of independence. The back is even scarier; it prints the lyrics! This belies the notion that, at the time of issue, Inner Views was every bit the important statement to Sonny that “Laugh at Me” had been earlier.
In Sonny’s autobiography And The Beat Goes On, he admits, “I tried chasing the newer sound for awhile but could never get a handle on it. The LP Inner Views was my attempt at psychedelic music. Occasionally, I’ll hear some radio station playing “Pammie’s On a Bummer”, a moody, contrived song, and I’ll ask, “God, is that really me?” Pammie may have been on a bummer, but she’s like a canister of Silly String compared to somber Sonny in this set. Since Sonny was an outspoken opponent of drugs at this time, one can only assume he’s on a natural low. Because Sonny understands the requirements of this new music (to take drugs and do everything to excess) but stubbornly refuses to follow through with those requirements (by doing everything to excess stone cold sober), Inner Views is a most fascinating psychedelic skeleton in the closet.
Release Date In Relation to Sgt. Pepper: Five months after
Suspicious Psychedelic Instrumentation: There aren’t two grooves pressed together on the whole first side that escape contamination from squiggly sitar runs. Like the dull droning buzz of a dying bee or the hum of a faulty air conditioner, it runs constant through side one’s two songs. Yes, you read right. TWO SONGS!
Psychedelic Crutch Words: “outasight,” “uptight, “bummer,” “bugged,” “tripping,” “smoking pot” and “oh, wow.”
Psychedelic Enabler: You could blame it on Cher taking too long at the grocery stores and supermarkets leaving Sonny all this dangerous free time, but the real culprit might be The Vanilla Fudge’s cover of Sonny & Cher’s “Bang Bang” with its incorporation of “Ring Around the Rosey” at the beginning for no good reason (see last Psychedelic Skeleton). This clearly encouraged Bono to also quote “Ring Around The Rosey” for no good reason in “I Just Sit There”.
Worst Lyrical Moment: All of “I Just Sit There,” which does just that–for about twelve interminable minutes. About six minutes into this ditty, after Sonny’s quoted “Ring Around the Rosey” and rhymed “sturgeon” with “virgin”, he favors us with a snatch of “Glory Glory Hallelujah” and leaves us this with this elevated observation: “I wonder why we want to fly/ The closer we get to the sky / The less we see with the naked eye/
The world looks like a little ball/ And people don’t exist at all/ Oh wow!” There’s a painfully wretched harmonica solo that must be Sonny exorcising all his Dylan demons in 246 wheezy huffs and puffs. And then, when you think you’re out of the woods once the printed lyrics for “I Just Sit There” run out but after the harmonica solo, he starts right in again at the top of the song, only this time he’s suddenly emotionally committed to the work, barking out the lyrics and instructions to the band like he’s whipping a team of Alaskan Huskies. Yah! HuuunnnhhhYah! And yes, even the harmonica solo isn’t exempt from Sonny’s deja-voodoo.
Obvious Sgt. Pepper Pinch: “The driver’s digging everything/ And he joins in while four cats sing I read the news today, oh boy/ I just sit there” Give Sonny credit for some progressive thought. He quotes “A Day In the Life” seven years before Bowie does the same thing in “Young Americans”. And if you skip over to track two, the verses of “I Told My Girl To Go Away” are the exact same melody as “I read the news today, oh boy.”–at a dirge-like speed, no less!
What’s it Sound Like: For the height of ear confounding, skip over to the album’s downbeat seven-minute finale, “Pammie’s On a Bummer.” It begins with a two-minute freak-out jam that sounds like the band trying to break into an instrument shop without a flashlight. By the time Inner Views was released, Sonny and Cher were deemed passe with the under-thirty crowd. Claims to the contrary in the teen mags, Sonny was thirty when he and Cher first said they were young and they don’t know. Well over thirty by the time Inner Views was underway, he’d already stopped trusting himself and his grasp of youth culture. And now the stage was set for Bono to influence the Vanilla Fudge’s The Beat Goes On album, easily THE worst psychedelic album of all time. Inner Views is a close second.