THE DEFINI-SPECIA-LUXE EDITION: CYNDI LAUPER – SHE’S SO UNUSUAL – A 30TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION…

Cyndi-lauper-shes-so-unusual-30th-anniversary

30 and a half years ago, Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual hit the stores. It didn’t burn up the charts right away, but it crept up and when MTV started playing the now famous video for “Girls Just Want To Have Fun”, it started a chain of events and hits that made Cyndi a bonafide pop star. The fact this package comes about a half a year after the initial anniversary isn’t that far off. The album really blew up in 1984. In fact it was around this time that year that “Time After Time”, the album’s second single, was starting to get played on the radio and MTV. The album went on to be one of the most iconic of the era, in the ranks of Prince, Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen and a few others that were not just artists, but *stars* in 1984. Few knew of her musical past, having recorded an album with the band Blue Angel a few years prior. She became one of *the* faces of MTV and 1984. Her look and sound were something new and different, but easy to sing along to. The album generated more hits throughout 1984 like “She Bop” (one of my first 45’s), “All Through The Night” and the MTV hit “Money Changes Everything”. Unfortunately as the 80s went on and Cyndi did her best to stay with her own unique vision in pop music, she wasn’t promoted in the same way Madonna or later Mariah Carey would be. But She’s So Unusual stood the test of time as a blockbuster album.

In front of me I have the deluxe of edition of the album that was released today. The packaging is very nice. The front is a watercolor painting depicting Cyndi in the pose from the original album. It includes a very nice booklet of many pictures from the session that produced the original cover. The package unfolds like a tri-fold LP minus a few inches. This reveals… a Colorforms playset! Those who don’t remember, back in the 80s there were these things called Colorforms that came in a small puzzle-like box and had sheets of vinyl stickers you could build scenes with and then remove. Yeah I know… the world before computers. But here we have one. A big vinyl Cyndi and many outfits and accessories to place in a room scene that replicates the “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” video. Sold yet?

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“But Rob… I don’t care about all that! What’s the content like?” Well for starters there’s the actual album on disc one. This is definitely a different mastering and to my ears seems to have a little better separation and isn’t pushed as far into the red when I compare it with the 2000 Legacy remaster. So far this is definitely the best remastering of the material to date. From the opening kick of “Money Changes Everything” to the final notes of the hard rocking “Yeah Yeah”, the album has never sounded better.

The bonus content starts on disc one after the original album material, almost inexplicably with three 2013 remixes. First “Girls..” by Yolanda Be Cool. Not a bad mix but it breaks the cardinal rule. Why can’t somebody remix this song and keep the verses in it? Why is that so hard? The next remix is the “Nervo Back In Time” remix of “Time After Time”. It *could have* been good, but then when we get to the chorus the chorus isn’t there. What’s a feel-good singalong anthem without the part where you sing along? The production has a lot of promise and then… nothing. The last remix is a second “Time After Time” remix by Bent Collective. Pretty decent. Some edgy dance production. It has more of the song than not. Still seems a bit light on choruses though. I’m sure it’s great for clubs but the casual fan is going to wonder why it was included here.

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On to disc two. The rarities are kind of a mixed bag here. The early demos are just that. These sound like recordings made on a cheap tape recorder during band practice. The early guitar demo of “GJWTHF” is interesting to see how the song started with a jumbled phrasing over a hard rock guitar and a synth that sounds like Flock of Seagulls. There’s even extra unused lines here, but it would never have worked in this form. The demo of “All Through The Night” has lots of false starts and studio chatter, and you can tell Cyndi has this mostly down already while singing to a tinny keyboard presetting. “Rules and Regulations” is next, a demo that was unused, and is very much an outtake. Cyndi wails her heart out on it, but the song itself doesn’t seem to support her voice. The sound quality makes it hard to see what it could have been too. The “Money Changes Everything” demo is slightly slower and set to a drum machine. Otherwise it sounds like a rough version of where it ended, and Cyndi already had this down how it should sound. The second “GJWTHF” demo is closer to the final version, with a few words different and very raw sounding. None of the above are up to the snuff of studio recordings so be warned. This is really more material for the hardcore fans.

Next we finally have the cd debut of the b-side “Right Track Wrong Train”. A nice little track that while it’s good, would have sounded like filler if it had made the album. This is followed by one live track, “Witness” from Boston 1984. A really good version and kind of fitting since the album version was a b-side on two different singles. Next we get the remastered version of the 12″ “She Bop” remix by Arthur Baker. This one is a must. But only one 12″ mix? The final track on disc two is a “work in progress” mix of “Time After Time”. This one is studio quality. About half of the words are finished and about half is murmured na-na-na’s. Definitely cool for a listen or two.

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That leaves the second disc clocking in a 38 minutes. Being that this should be the definitive edition of this album, this is fairly inexplicable to me. Where’s the 12″ mix of “Girls Just Want To Have Fun”? Where’s the 12″ live “video version” of “Money Changes Everything”? Even the 2000 remaster had this as a bonus track, but it was the promo edit instead of the full version. And what about the single mix of “She Bop”? Nope you need to keep 12 Deadly Cyns to have that one. That mix is noticeably different from the 12″ mix and the album version. Maybe add those two live tracks “She Bop” and “All Through The Night” from the 2000 edition? If a couple more exist from that show, throw ’em in too! I don’t even think it would have been out of place to add the 3 tracks from The Goonies soundtrack (including the 12″ mix), since they will probably never get a remaster anywhere else. All that wasted space! But… Colorforms!

But since I have so much Cyndi in my collection, I felt a need to get this anyways. I just feel like it could have been a more complete experience for the $35+ asking price. However, this is a classic album, the bonus tracks are cool to have, and no I’m not giving mine away anytime soon. But I’m hanging onto the 2000 remaster and my Japanese cd The Best Mixes until that perfect version finally comes along in 2039 on plasma chip.

You can get your very own deluxe set HERE or the clear ink-splatter vinyl of the remastered album HERE

Check out the classic videos from the album:

“Girls Just Want To Have Fun”:

“Time After Time”:

“All Through The Night” (Solid Gold 1984):

“She Bop”:

“Money Changes Everything”:

“When You Were Mine” (Live on the AMAs 1985):

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3 comments

  1. hi from Belgium
    Thank you for the review. I enjoyed reading it.
    I received this rarity last week and your opinion is actually what I also think, and other people think about it : missing tracks. But I love the colorforms!! 🙂 I was very happy to discover more pictures taken from the photo session but I was really surprised that the original picture used for the LP is not included in these pages … nowhere, even not as a thumbnail. I thought it’s a bit weird, because the original album cover is part of the history.
    Here is a useful link with 2 locations where pictures were taken for 2 Cyndi album in NY.
    is http://www.popspotsnyc.com/forthcoming_new_york/

    1. I was surprised by this too! The original pic is nowhere to be found. It is only represented by the painting on the front. It makes for another reason I have to hold onto my Legacy remaster since it contains the original art.
      Thanks for writing!

  2. Frazer Caird · · Reply

    Hi mate. I love reading these types of reviews – great work! And very interesting take on this collection. I am kind of late in responding to this but thought I would anyway. Hope you don’t mind a bit of a ramble but I just feel like I should put some contextual info out there, as it not only sets the scene from my perspective but it also kind of illustrates the importance of this artist to me personally. I kind of became a massive Cyndi Lauper fan back in 1989 when I happened across her video ‘Live on Paris’ playing on late night TV one Saturday night on BBC1 here in the UK. I was aware of her of course via some of her big hit singles from earlier years and I had also, somewhat randomly, seen her appear on a TV documentary about wrestling where I recall finding her to be a proper good laugh. But it was that ‘Live in Paris’ concert film which totally blew me away. I was 17 at that time and was basically a Rush fan who had frankly lost sight of how much fun pop music proper could be. This concert was a wake-up call to me and began a sea change in my approach to music. Pop could be exciting, pop could…rock! I had to wait an agonising whole week before I could get to a shop to buy the video and albums for myself. Because, of course, back in those days it’s quite easy to forget that not only were there no shops open on a Sunday and late-night shopping was a concept of the future but seeing as there was no such thing as the internet, there was literally no way for me to even know what the albums were called far less know what songs were on them. Like everyone else at the time, you had to physically pop into the shop to discover these details; which of course, while it made the process much less efficient than we have now, it did make it more satisfying and, dare I say it, mysterious. Anyway I think I am sort of digressing pretty seriously here but the upshot is that I recall very specifically the moment I was waiting for my train in Glasgow Queen Street station to go back home with my newly purchased items, I popped in the cassette of ‘She’s So Unusual’ into my Walkman and Money Changes Everything literally blasted into my world. I’ll never forget how amazing that sounded at that time on that day back in the summer of ’89. This was a single which did no business here in the UK (it seems we collectively had a bit of a blind spot when it came to Cyndi Lauper if chart placings are anything to go by), so the song was new to me and was only the second time I had heard it after the blistering live version from the ‘Paris’ video I had heard but one week earlier. I listened to that album on the journey home and loved it instantly – the fact it was six years old then just made no difference and I became a massive Lauper geek for some time thereafter. As the 90’s wore on, although I retained the fondness for her, I listened to her less as indie and electronica took over and the sounds of the 80’s receded for me. It was only this year when I made an 80’s music page on Facebook that I began to listen to those old records properly for the first time in a while and watched those live shows again and, in the process, have rediscovered my love of this artist in a manner that has sort of surprised and delighted me.

    I purchased the extra tracks for this 30th anniversary edition (didn’t bother with the modern remixes, which to me seem pointless) and have to say that I thought they offered a lot to a hard-core fan of this album in particular. I think the Girls and Money demos are all very good. The rougher nature of them adding something good and worthwhile, with the guitar-heavy early Girls demo being most interesting in that it resembles the Hazard demo so much but shows the difference that a proper singer makes. I thought it was shame that there only was a rehearsal version of Rules and Regulations, as to these ears at least, this is a song that sounded like a potential cracker – such a shame Cyndi never re-recorded it properly later in her career. Right Train, Wrong Track is a great addition too obviously – a song that would have admittedly been filler if it had made the final cut of the album but, like Witness, I’ll Kiss You and Yeah Yeah, it would have been QUALITY filler! The live version of Witness was nice – live versions are always welcome from such a bravura performer as Lauper; while the remix of She Bop was highly welcome seeing as it was the best CL remix of its era for sure. It’s true that the rough versions of All Through the Night and Time After Time are ones solely for Lauper geeks really, but given that is what I am, I am okay with that! The criticisms of the re-release not including the other remixes, instrumental versions and professionally recorded live tracks of the era is a very valid one though, as this is an expensive collection and it was a golden chance to have those versions put out there properly. Kind of disappointing that Epic could not see sense on this and went with filling space with modern remixes. I think all in all though, the material on disc two makes for terrific stuff if you love this record. A record and artist who practically never gets the due respect it and they deserve.

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