Deep Eighties grooves assessed and analysed: time to go 'full cheese'

Here at BP, we don’t attempt to stay ahead of the curve. Far from it – we like to celebrate the cheesy and the tacky as much as the awe-inspiring when it comes to the low end. This month we’re doffing the hat to the mighty Cher (or Cherilyn Sarkisian, as literally no-one calls her, not even her poodle), always a harbinger of tack, and what’s more we’re not bothering to examine her earlier career, when her music actually did possess some vestiges of cool. The Sonny & Cher material was OK if you squinted a bit and tried not to think about it too hard, especially after seeing Groundhog Day for the eighteenth time.

No, for today's dose of Cher we’re heading straight to the motherlode of cheese – the late 80s, when basses were placed at nipple height, effects meant a load of nauseating chorus all over your tone and the Hipshot detuner was, like, totally new and awesome, dude. Heart Of Stone was where Cher got most heinously kitsch in that modernist, brushed-concrete, duvet-with-a-diagonal-stripe-on-it kind of way, and specifically with ‘If I Could Turn Back Time’. This lighters-aloft rock anthem (no iPhones in those days, sonny) featured a fully-leaded bass-line that gives this fairly feeble tune a powerful boost. Session ace John Pierce threw in slides and cheeky upper-register notes to liven up what was otherwise a meat-and-potatoes fingerstyle: indeed, it’s his passing notes and fills that make the line worth listening to. Pierce did a similar job on many other pop-rock hits of the day, including the amazing ‘Leave A Light On For Me’ by Belinda Carlisle, which is that rare thing – a song that everybody on the planet professes to hate, but which we all sing loudly after a few sherries.

Joking apart, this song and many, many others is, of course, a powerful indicator of the amazing capabilities of the Aria Pro II, Pierce’s chosen bass for this particular gig. Readers of a certain age will recall how prevalent this instrument was in the 1980s, whether wielded by Jack Bruce, John Taylor of Duran Duran or the late Cliff Burton of Metallica. The immense frequency range of this highly playable bass was responsible for its popularity – that and its relatively wallet-friendly price point, of course.

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