Remembering Sonny Bono and his Inner Views

Monday, January 5, 2015
Remembering Sonny Bono and his Inner Views

For all practical purposes, the Sonny & Cher story came to a conclusion in 1977, the year the duo released their last single (“You’re Not Right for Me”) and saw the curtain brought down on the final incarnation of their TV series (The Sonny & Cher Show), but the possibility of any future reunion between the two singers ended abruptly 17 years ago today, when Sonny Bono – who was, by that point in his life, serving as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from California's 44th district – died in a skiing accident.

The story of Sonny and Cher is pretty well documented at this point, but what’s discussed far less often is Bono’s solo career. Granted, this is mostly because his solo discography was limited to precisely one full-length album, but that album – 1967’s Inner Views – is one worth discussing, if only because it’s an interesting musical artifact and the one time that Bono really had a chance to shine on his own rather than standing in the shadow of his mentor, Phil Spector, or the woman with whom he shared the majority of his commercial success.

It was clear from the very beginning of Inner Views that Bono was either trying to step outside the box creatively or desperately trying to convince his peers that he was one of the cool kids. Otherwise, how else to explain his decision to kick things off with a 12-minute exercise in psychedelia entitled “I Just Sit There”? Unfortunately, most critics weren’t convinced that he was as “with it” as he was attempting to be: Lindsay planer writes on of the song’s “antiquated and jarringly misplaced sitar work,” “the seemingly uncomfortable references to the Beatles' ‘A Day in the Life’ as Bono warbles ‘I read the news today, oh boy"’ with all the finesse of a teenage high-school nark,” and his “unintentional desecration of another '60s icon, as he mocks Bob Dylan's trademark atonal harmonica blows during a self-absorbed and excessive solo.” Ouch.

If you can make it past that epic endeavor, however, you’ll find “I Told My Girl to Go Away” and “I Would Marry You Today,” a pair of tracks that are much easier to digest and far more likely to make you consider that a more substantial Bono back catalog might’ve been rather interesting. “My Best Friend’s Girl Is Out of Sight” is a bit more of a period piece, which you might’ve guessed from the title, but while the closer, “Pammie’s on a Bummer,” seems like it could suffer the same fate, it’s arguably the strongest track on the album and one which – believe it or don’t – you could almost imagine Jim Morrison singing.

While those five tracks were the only ones included on the original release of Inner Views, Rhino Handmade reissued the album a few years back and tacked on 11 bonus tracks. Unfortunately, all 11 tracks aren’t available digitally, but a half-dozen of them are, starting with Bono’s only actual hit single as a solo artist: “Laugh at Me.” Beyond that, there are two instrumentals (“Tony” and “Georgia and John Quetzal”), a toe-tapping number called “The Revolution Kind,” the romantic “Misty Roses,” and – to close things out – the bouncy, horn-driven “Cheryl’s Goin’ Home.”

Listening to Inner Views, is it a surprise that the world never saw another solo album from Sonny Bono? Not so much. Still, in the wake of Sonny and Cher calling it a day, it’s a shame that Bono never decided to find his way back into the studio for Another Inner View. Given everything he’d learned over the course of his career, it might not have shifted mass units, but it’s hard to imagine that it wouldn’t have been something worth hearing.