14
Mar 05

SONNY AND CHER – “I Got You Babe”

Popular23 comments • 3,226 views

#201, 28th August 1965

Devotees of the authentic might expect a love duet between real lovers to be particularly intense, or sincere, or believable. They are no doubt disappointed by “I Got You Babe”, where both singers sound like they’re in a radio play or running an awards show: step to the mic, deep breath, a-ha!. Sonny in particular is ridiculous – his “I guess that’s so” is solid mahogany and his wide-eyed grab at ‘romantic’ on “I got flowers…” a noble but total failure. When he tries gamely to match Cher’s natural dynamics in the coda, I sympathise, wincing.

None of this makes “I Got You Babe” anything other than a fine record. One of the things that makes bubblegum pop so infuriating for its enemies is that almost any flaw is forgiveable, even charming once the hooks have got you. This is also what makes it tough to write in detail about, of course. People complain – justifiably – that “but it’s great pop” is a rhetorical get-out-of-jail card, and sometimes all I can muster is a rueful “yup”. Sonny’s stagey shenanigans might detonate a more considered record, but this one shrugs them off. Maybe it’s the trumpet line, or the music-box keyboards, or Cher’s voice – or maybe it’s just that even Sonny can’t block the surge of goodwill as the song crescendoes to its last chorus, but as the curtain falls I find myself clapping.

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Comments

  1. 1
    Frank Kogan on 14 Mar 2005 #

    Also, it’s maybe the first Dylan imitation that simply doesn’t have clue. Let’s copy “It Ain’t Me Babe.” OK, Cher, he says “babe,” you say “babe”; he leans hard on the “you,” you lean hard on the “you”; and abracadabra! Which is part of the song’s charm. (I always admired Ian Hunter for saying his ambition was to be Sonny Bono.)

  2. 2
    Anonymous on 14 Mar 2005 #

    A deeply felt romantic duet between two lovers is Faith Hill and Tim McGraw’s “It’s Your Love.” I’ll stick with Sonny and Cher.

  3. 3
    Alan Connor on 15 Mar 2005 #

    TS: Hippies Vs Fake HippiesI’ve always thought that the song is also working in the wake of “All I Really Want To Do”. Can’t remember why.

    In a half-effort to write a lyric for a brief period many years ago, I once tried to tease out the ambiguity in “And when I’m sad, you’re a clown / And if I get scared, you’re always around”. I love the idea of a miserable person looking on as their partner gambols about in big shoes with a squirty flower.

    Still not sure what my theory about The Recycling Of ’60s #1s is, especially as Groundhog Day was ’90s, not ’80s, and the use was superb.

  4. 4
    Marcello on 15 Mar 2005 #

    What trumpet line?

  5. 5
    Tom on 15 Mar 2005 #

    Sorry Marcello, I don’t know my brass from my elbow when it comes to identifying noises.

  6. 6
    Anonymous on 15 Mar 2005 #

    isn’t it an oboe? in which case woodwind rather than brass.

    – cis.

  7. 7
    Tom on 15 Mar 2005 #

    Oh god.

    This is why I’m going to feel much more comfortable when synths come in.

  8. 8
    Mark Gamon on 15 Mar 2005 #

    Everything that’s been said about this record is true. Bubblegum. Cheese. Cheap imitation of Dylan. Somehow strangely charming. All correct.

    For me, you missed one thing, and it has nothing to do with the record. I was 13 in 1965, and deeply impressionable. The reason this record always brings a smile to my face is the Top of the Pops performance that went with it.

    It’s laughable now. I admit it. But they looked so COOL.

  9. 9
    Anonymous on 15 Mar 2005 #

    I think this more the dia -positive of ” It Ain’t Me Babe”…( btw a great version by the Turtles maybe soon to appear )

    In Toronto, I remember that this song spawned innumerable couples that used to parade around dressed in the identical mopey, hippie clothes professing, I guess ,that they had it, babe.

    I got jealous , I knew that they were getting it , more frequently than I was. But what a price !

    Brian C

    Brian

  10. 10
    Anonymous on 15 Mar 2005 #

    Wasn’t there a “Ready Steady Go” featuring the Rolling Stones lip-synching to “I Got You Babe”? As I recall, Keith was holding a sousaphone.

  11. 11
    wwolfe on 15 Mar 2005 #

    I hereby renounce my anonymity.

    Just out of curiosity, and given my near-complete lack of knowledge of English politics below Prime Minister, is this record the first one in this survey which features someone who later held elective office in a national legislative body?

  12. 12
    Anonymous on 15 Mar 2005 #

    What is often elided in assessments of Sonny and Cher is that they really weren’t something-new-under-the-sun in their pseudo-hippie equipage. Rather, they were the evolutionary product of the girl-group genre that went into decline once the British Invasion hit the US. (Remember, by this time the last grand girl-group epic, “The Leader of the Pack,” is already in past tense.) Both Sonny and Cher were alumni of the Phil Spector studio, Sonny a drummer and Cher a backing vocalist who augmented the recordings of the Crystals/Darlene Love and the Blossoms and the Ronettes. The lyrics here (“They say we’re young,” “Won’t find out until we grow,” “You to wear my ring,” etc., etc., etc.) are all recyclings of the basic concepts common to the vast majority of Spector girl group songs.

    The sonic “muddiness” of the Wall of Sound is missing here, but the WoS concept remains, in this case was an incredible array of instrumentation, some rarely heard on pop recordings. (You’re right, Tom–that trumpet line that is not a trumpet is perhaps the most compelling bit of the whole thing.) Perhaps what saves it from abject cheesy-ness is the perversity of such trite and banal lyrics set to the pseudo-grandiosity of the arrangement. The same, though, can often be said of opera, which, in his way, Spector was trying to emulate in the most demotic way possible. Would it be so dreadful for me to say that, all in all, it’s just another brick in the Wall of Sound?

    Doctor Mod

  13. 13
    Robin on 16 Mar 2005 #

    It’s not the first song at least partially *written* by such a person, of course (check “It’s All In The Game”, for that) but unless I’m very much mistaken none of the UK artists to have made number one ever became MPs (the highest level of the establishment reached by any of them is probably a knighthood, as received by one singer, one singer/bass player and one producer of the first 13 years’ number ones).

  14. 14
    Marcello on 16 Mar 2005 #

    And one singer/songwriter/pianist.

  15. 15
    Alan Connor on 16 Mar 2005 #

    Straying away from “I Got You Babe” entirely, I once had the pleasure of an exchange with Peter Kilfoyle, who was apparently in a Merseybeat band called the Hungry Is. There’s no mention of them in Sam Leach’s The Rocking City, though.

    But let’s not linger here, as the pictures of Our Laughing Leader from the current issue of Word are coming back into my mind.

  16. 16
    Dan M. on 15 Nov 2007 #

    I bought S&C’s greatest hits album at the age of 8 or 9 — the first non-Beatles album I ever bought, or maybe the first, period. But when I was about 20, and just learning to re-appreciate music that had been embarrassing in my teens — and also about irony — “I Got You Babe” came on the oldies station in the car and a friend said “it sounds like Velvet Underground,” instantly giving vintage bubble-gum the hip validity of, well, Velvet Underground. So now I hear Velvet Underground when I hear “I Got You Babe” (even before I think of “Groundhog Day,” which is saying something!)

  17. 17
    Marcello Carlin on 15 Nov 2007 #

    I haven’t seen much talk on FT about the Sonny And Cher Show tribute on ITV last Saturday – does anyone else think that Kylie took that brief a little too literally?

  18. 18
    Lena on 15 Nov 2007 #

    I hope Ian Hunter has a better end than Sonny Bono did.

  19. 19
    crag on 14 Apr 2011 #

    DESERT ISLAND DISCS WATCH:

    Sir Paul Nurse, Director-General of Science at Cancer Research UK, Scientist, Nobel Prize winner(2002).

  20. 20
    Billy Smart on 3 Dec 2011 #

    TOTPWatch: Sonny & Cher performed I Got You Babe on Top Of The Pops on 12 August 1965. Also in the studio that week were; Horst Jankowski, Jonathan King, The Byrds, The Shadows and The Walker Brothers. Pete Murray was the host, plus The Go Jo’s interpretation of ‘Zorba’s Dance’. No copy survives.

  21. 21
    lonepilgrim on 3 Feb 2012 #

    This also got to Number 1 in the USA, as noted here:

    http://nohardchords.wordpress.com/2012/02/02/142-sonny-and-cher-i-got-you-babe/

  22. 22
    Erithian on 25 Feb 2014 #

    Where better to say RIP to Harold Ramis, director of Groundhog Day?

  23. 23
    hectorthebat on 15 Apr 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010)
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Dave Marsh (USA) – The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made (1989) 228
    RIAA and NEA (USA) – 365 Songs of the Century (2001) 254
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (2004) 444
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (Updated 2010) 451
    Q (UK) – The 1001 Best Songs Ever (2003) 674
    Q (UK) – The 1010 Songs You Must Own (2004)
    The Guardian (UK) – 1000 Songs Everyone Must Hear (2009)
    Gilles Verlant and Thomas Caussé (France) – 3000 Rock Classics (2009)
    Rolling Stone (France) – The 100 Best Singles of the Last 25 Years (1988) 43
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

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