Sonny Bono

Inner Views

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Sonny Bono is among rock & roll's most depreciated and ironic figures. He was a multi-talented artist, producer, songwriter, and performer as well as unapologetically conservative in both his personal and political bents. The sole solo long-player of Bono's two-decade musical career, 1967's Inner Views has a title that fittingly describes its contents, which reflect the artist's sensibilities. Perhaps unintentionally, the album reinforces why Bono let his then professional partner and wife, Cher, take the vocals. The five-track collection was issued during the fall following 1967's "Summer of Love," and the pseudo-psychedelia of the 12-plus minute opening drone, "I Just Sit There," reveals that Bono was caught up in the mass-media hype that generally surrounded and subsequently misrepresented the youth-driven counterculture. His observations are spot-on, although undeniably contrived. Examples abound, such as the simplistic "Inside, outside, upside down/Everything is turning 'round/Backwards, forwards, which is right?/Black is day and white is night" and "Ring around the rosey/Your daddy's getting nosey/Mother's cooking sturgeon/Your sister's still a virgin." While no specific credits are given, conspicuously present are Hal Blaine (drums) and additional Los Angeles-based session heavies. In fact, it is probable that many of the musicians served alongside Bono earlier in the decade as part of the infamous Wrecking Crew, whose clientele included Phil Spector, Brian Wilson, Lou Adler, et al. But even they can't overcome the antiquated and jarringly misplaced sitar work or the seemingly uncomfortable references to the Beatles' "A Day in the Life" as Bono warbles "I read the news today, oh boy" with all the finesse of a teenage high-school nark. Bono then outdoes himself with the unintentional desecration of another '60s icon, as he mocks Bob Dylan's trademark atonal harmonica blows during a self-absorbed and excessive solo. The Young Fresh Fellows' send-up on the 1991 tribute disc Bonograph: Sonny Gets His Share is worth getting for the sheer kitsch factor alone. More convincing are Inner Views' two ballads. "I Told My Girl to Go Away" is an ambiguous protest number with a simple and childlike melody contrasting the heady lyrics "I overheard her mom and dad/I heard them say that they'd be glad/When she'd start dating her own kind." Interestingly, monaural pressings of the album edited that verse out of the song, but the words remained printed on the back of the LP jacket. While the similarities to Janis Ian's groundbreaking "Society's Child" are undeniable, Bono's straight-arrow political correctness makes no direct allusions as to the nature of the parental disapproval, be it racial, religious, or social. The dramatic instrumental score embodies a larger-than-life "Wall of Sound" arrangement, proving Bono and company had learned a thing or two during their tenure with Spector. "I Would Marry You Today" is a straightforward love song, which may be why the endearing and easily accessible tune was chosen as a B-side to not one but two different 45s -- "Circus," properly crediting it to Sonny, as well as "You're a Friend of Mine," under the nom de plume Sonny & Cher. The ragtime rhythm that drives the tale of jealousy on "My Best Friend's Girl Is Out of Sight" has all the cachet of the New Vaudeville Band and comes off just as hopelessly antediluvian. Given the subject matter of "Pammie's on a Bummer," the presumption is that it is supposed to be the aural equivalent of a bad trip, also explaining why it is likewise more appealing than the rest of Inner Views. The selection commences with an extended introduction that recalls the Doors' "The End" (no lie!) and the Strawberry Alarm Clock's "World's On Fire." Once again, Bono's naïveté of the underground shows, with the moral of the story being that marijuana and LSD lead to prostitution. Luckily, the free love generation didn't charge for their encounters and, even better, Pammie seems to have been the exception as the vast majority of those who experimented with consciousness-expanding chemicals weren't led down the same path of personal destruction. [Rhino HandMade's 1999 edition includes 11 supplementary tracks, in effect gathering all of Bono's recordings on Atco during the 1960s, while Collectors' Choice Music's 2005 pressing offers up a no-frills standard reissue.]

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