Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)

December 19, 2009

Sonny Bono wrote at least three killer songs. I prefer “I Got You Babe” and “Needles and Pins” in cover versions, but when it comes to “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down),” I’ll take the original, by his then-wife Cher.

Cher’s melodramaticism is both the reason for her success and the reason she’s never really gotten respect. I understand both, but maintain that the world is a better place because “Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves” exists. Your opinion may differ, and I’m not inclined to put my reputation as a big-shot music critic on the line to argue. Regardless, she certainly had her moments, and “Bang Bang” may be the greatest of them.

(“He didn’t take the time to lie.” Now, that, my friends, is a lyric.)

Quentin Tarantino clearly loves the song as much as I do, but let’s face it, in hipster world, admitting you like Cher is not cool, not cool at all. So he used the then-obscure Nancy Sinatra version, released the same year as Cher’s, for Kill Bill. It works brilliantly in the context of the movie, but absent the anticipation of the beginning of a violent film, it’s a bit boring despite a nice vocal.

It’s OK, though. Now you have an excuse to admit you like a Sonny and Cher song.

This brings us to cult musician Terry Reid. I will probably write more on Terry Reid later, but for now I’ll briefly recap the legend. Terry Reid was asked by Jimmy Page to take vocals in Page’s new project. Reid declined, and suggested Page check out a fellow named Robert Plant instead. Page clearly knew exactly what he was looking for, because Reid is without question the proto-Plant.

Terry Reid’s version of “Bang Bang” is from his first long player, Bang, Bang, You’re Terry Reid. It has lots of guitar.

Jack White performs the song as well, in his Raconteurs guise. This take is more likely than not informed by the Terry Reid version. Unfortunately, Mr. White can’t stop himself from a cheap, obvious, and easy tweaking of the lyrics, and so turns the song into interracial homo cowboy kind of love, as the Reverend Horton Heat put it. This somewhat spoils an otherwise good interpretation, which is too damn bad. Playing it straight (no pun intended) would have been a much better call. Jack–when Cher is more subtle than you, there’s a problem.

On Deaf Ears™ is always delighted to tell you more than you ever really needed to know.