His arms waving wildly the man sitting at the bar finished the story with which he had been flirtatiously haranguing the tolerant bartender for several minutes “and she just grabbed her shirt and lifted it up to show her big round tummy right there on stage and she said am i showing ?” He laughed but that’s cyndi lauper for you.
The obvious question is since when do guys talk about Cyndi Lauper when they are getting plastered at carson street watering holes? But in this case it is somewhat understandable. Cyndi is opening for Cher this week at Star Lake so naturally she is on some people minds. The more subtle question is “what did the man at the bar mean when he said “Thats cyndi lauper for you” ? He might have just meant that she’s crazy even when she is mondo pregnant. By the time she finished that last tour of hers touting her 1996 album Sisters Of Avalon, she was ready to pop at any moment but that didn’t stop her from hopping around onstage as if it were still 1983.
It’s more likely though that he meant something a little broader namely that Cyndi is at her best when she is surprising people. When She’s So Unusual hit the charts 16 years ago it wasn’t just the albums infectious reggae grooves unforgettable melodies and quirky instrumentals provide by fellow 80’s pop stars. The Hooters moonlighting as Lauper’s backup band as they later would for Joan Osbourne that propelled Cyndi into the cultural spotlight. It was her style that clinched it her irrepressible feminist exuberance that came in the form of multi colored tresses songs about masturbation and lots of eyerolling at the tired old male power structure personified by Captain Lou Albano.
Ultimately Madonna proved a lot more sucessful in seizing upon 80’s America’s need for a post Blondie pop diva with punk attitude. But Cyndi did it first not to mention that she’s always been the better singer of the two.
“That album influenced me in a big way” says Chris Carnevali whose band the fuzzy comets has lately been at the vanguard of Pittsburgh fem pop. “I warped the cassette from over use.”
Through the late 80’s and early 90’s uneven material weighed Cyndi down. True Colors was a hit as was her Goonies soundtrack appearance but her failure to follow her She’s So Unusual with an equally outstanding collection of songs was a misstep that cost her superstardom. 1993’s Hat Full Of Stars had a half dozen great tunes but was marred by a half dozen more that were clunkers as well as by misplaced dancehall style production by Junior Vasquez.
Lately though Cyndi seems to have regained her ability to startle people into paying attention. The aforementioned sight of her swollen belly bouncing to and from onstage throughout 1997 ended up in magazine and newspaper pages across the country from Rolling Stone to the New York Post. Her unexpected cover of Disco Inferno for last year’s A Night At The Roxbury soundtrack has finally garnered her what she has been seeking for years, recognition from the dance club world.
The biggest surprise Cyndi hit us with recently seemed to come from out of left field, she can sing the blues like nothing you’ve ever seen. Appropriately enough this was revealed through a new collaberation with her old partners from She’s So Unusual. Cyndi rejoined the Hooters’ Rob Hyman and Eric Bazilian and their producer Rick Chertoff for the 1998 roots rock epic Largo, an all star album featuring vocal performances by everyone from Joan Osbourne to Taj Mahal. Cyndi’s solo the torchy blues ballad White Man’s Melody is positioned as the centerpiece of the album and when she performed it live at the CD release party in New York, she made damn sure everyone knew why it was the centerpiece.
We already knew she could do betty boop. What we didn’t know was that she could cross betty boop with Ella Fitzgerald drop down to a whisper and send chills washing over us, making us imagine her musical past had been dressed in long white gloves rather than a ton of jangly bracelets.
If she’s smart she’ll be that well, that so unusual more often. It’s hard to ignore someone who gets a standing ovation in the middle of a concert.