“Dark Lady” by Cher (1974)
Release Date: May 1974
Produced by Snuff Garrett
Chart Positions: #69 (US), #33 (Canada), #86 (Australia)
Singles: “Dark Lady” #1 (US, Canada, Sweden), #4 (France, South Africa), #10 (Norway), #15 (Netherlands), #17 (Australia, Holland), #22 (Belgium), #36 (UK), “Train Of Thought” #27 (US), #10 (France), #18 (Canada), #84 (Australia), “I Saw A Man And He Danced With His Wife” #42 (US), #31 (Canada), “Rescue Me” #82 (Canada)
“Dark Lady” is Cher’s eleventh studio album and her fifth (and final) for MCA Records (the first two were on Kapp-MCA). Released the year following “Half Breed”, “Dark Lady” is very similar, like an extension of that album with an inclusion of a rock edge and a dark edge that did not exist on “Half Breed.” The album was produced by Snuff Garrett. He produced four albums for Cher in the 1970s and also produced a few Sonny & Cher albums as well as Bobby Vee, Gary Lewis and the Playboys. One of the biggest hits he produced is Vickie Lawrence’s “The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia.”
After the success of “Half-Breed,” Cher once again chose Snuff Garrett and Al Capps to produce “Dark Lady, her final album for MCA. During that same year, she divorced Sonny Bono, this ended their professional musical ties and television show for a while. Due to the success of previous albums produced by Garrett, “Dark Lady” followed the same narrative ballad style.
"Dark Lady", the album's first single release, reached #1 in the US, Canada and Sweden. The song became Cher's third solo U.S. #1 hit on March 23, 1974, and her last until "Believe" twenty-five years later. It also reached #3 on the US Adult Contemporary chart. "Dark Lady" also charted at #36 in the UK, #4 in France and South Africa, #10 in Norway and the Top 40 in many countries around the world. "Dark Lady" was written and composed by The Ventures' keyboard player, Johnny Durrill. He recalled: "I spent a week in Snuff Garrett's office playing him songs, and Cher ended up recording “Carousel Man.” Later, when I was on tour in Japan with the Ventures, I was writing an interesting song. I telegraphed the unfinished lyrics to Garrett. He said to 'make sure the b#!ch kills him.' Hence, in the song both the lover and fortune teller were killed." Thus, "Dark Lady" may with some accuracy be described as a murder ballad, even though the narrator of its lyrics essentially commits a crime of passion. The "Dark Lady" of the song's title is a gypsy fortune teller in New Orleans with a history of disdain for men (the narrator of the song describes seeing scratches on the inside of the teller's limousine from her previous conquests). The narrator follows the fortune teller's limousine to her lair and pays money for a fortune; as a result of the fortune, she learns that her lover has been unfaithful to her with, "someone else who is very close to you". Advised to leave the fortune teller's shop, never to return, and to forget she has ever seen the fortune teller's face, the narrator returns home in a state of shock, unable to sleep, and then realizes to her horror that she had once smelled, in her own room, the very perfume the fortune teller had been wearing. Sneaking back to the fortune teller's shop with a gun, she catches her lover and the fortune teller "laughing and kissing", and shoots them both to death.
The album’s opening track "Train of Thought," written by Alan O’Day (“Undercover Angel,” Helen Reddy’s “Angie Baby”), was the second single release. Though it was a sizeable hit through various parts of the world it was not quite the hit as “Dark Lady,” the album’s first single. The song is a raw and fast-moving rock track that reached #27 in the US and #9 on the US Adult Contemporary chart.
The third single chart was yet another story song of broken love to make a new love connection. “I Saw A Man and He Danced With His Wife,” a big band styled ballad touches on an emotion Cher was living after her recent divorce from her long-time husband Sonny Bono. The song was even less successful as a single than “Train Of Thought,” just missing the US top 40 making it to #42 and #31 in Canada.
A cover of Fontella Bass’ 1965 #1 hit “Rescue Me,” was a hint at what was ahead for Cher in the late 80s and early 90s. The song contains a timeless vocal and musical arrangement that has aged very well. In the US the song was released as a promotional single and as a single throughout Europe but it did not chart. It did chart at #86 in Canada.
Bob Stone, who wrote her first success of the 1970s, “Gypsys, Tramps and Thieves,” wrote the albums closing track “Apples Don’t Fall Far From The Tree.” “What’ll I Do” is a cover of the theme song from the 1974 film “The Great Gatsby.” “Miss Subway of 1952” is a tribute to Bette Midler as she sings the lyric, “To my idol the divine.”