The show must go on for Cyndi Lauper. In more ways than one. The quirky singer-actor with the Technicolor hair, known for mid-80’s hits Girls Just Want To Have Fun, She Bop and True Colors, lately has been feeling as green as her frizzy locks.
At 45, Lauper is three months pregnant with her first child – and showing – and that bane of new motherhood, morning sickness, could not come at a more inopportune time. Lauper is in the middle of an important tour, opening for Tina Turner.
As with Madonna, who found she was pregnant while shooting her dream project Evita, Lauper has something to prove. Somehow, she needs to showcase her remarkable new album, Sisters of Avalon. Radio is not doing it.
Lauper badly needs the tour exposure: Her bold 1993 album Hat Full of Stars declared that she had left behind the perky fluff of Girls Just Want To Have Fun for a more thoughtful, substantive role in pop, but she has not had a Top-40 hit since 1989’s I Drove All Night.
Lauper is talking from a Denver hotel where she is registered under the name Holiday Sunshine. She likes being paged as Miss Sunshine, but these days, she feels like she ought to change it to Large Marge. Her performances have not suffered from her pregnancy, although she is not jumping around as much on stage.
In her 45 minute warm-up for Turner, she has time for a few old songs but is concentrating on Sisters of Avalon material. “This is perfect for me because I can’t do a two hour show”, Lauper says. “I can’t take the long bus rides, I have to take a B-6 so I don’t get sick, and I still get morning sickness”. This discomfort will pay off if the public discovers Sisters of Avalon.
“This kind of music needs to come through the back door”, Lauper says. “The people that would really like this record aren’t getting to hear it, so we have to move through different avenues”.
The record is a revelation. Lauper deftly mixes her trademark pop with blistering industrial rock, folk, Eastern textures, introspective ballads, electro-reggae and clubby music comprising tape loops (repetitive rhythm tracks) recorded on a vintage soundboard. It is leagues above the music coming from the crop of Alanis Morissette clones.
But Lauper has come up against industry executives who refuse to accept the idea that she has to grow beyond her ’80s image.
After all, this was an artist who titled her first album She’s So Unusual and became the toast of the industry for being precisely that. She won the 1984 “Best New Artist” Grammy on the strength of that album. Yet Hat Full of Stars and Sisters of Avalon are plenty unusual too. Why are people holding it against her now ?
“I had a lot of battles just trying to make the kind of music, stylistically, I wanted. I was defined as a singer, even though I’m a songwriter. It’s the loops – they didn’t understand the loops and they say it didn’t mix with R&B – but this isn’t R&B. It’s also frustrating because when you do it and everyone looks at you cross-eyed…” Lauper says, her voice trailing off. “… and then after Alanis Morissette started using tape loops – poor thing, I don’t mean to single her out – her success encouraged me, it validated what I was doing”.
“The song Sisters of Avalon is a real journey about what it feels to be a woman. What am I going to write about, being a man ?”