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Cher - If I Could Turn Back Time (1989)

  • Video Views 1,049,498
  • 80's Score80's Score 80's score: 2.09
  • Find this song on: Music Stack

“If I Could Turn Back Time” is a song recorded by American singer and actress Cher for her nineteenth studio ...

“If I Could Turn Back Time” is a song recorded by American singer and actress Cher for her nineteenth studio album Heart of Stone (1989). It was released on July 1, 1989, by Geffen Records as the album’s lead single. The song was written especially for Cher by Diane Warren, who produced it with Guy Roche. Cher initially disliked the track after listening to a demo tape sung by Warren, but subsequently changed her opinion after Warren convinced her to record it.

Highly successful around the globe, “If I Could Turn Back Time” was seen as a major comeback for Cher in the late 1980s. It charted at number one in Australia and Norway, as well as reaching number three in the United States and number six in the United Kingdom. It also became Cher’s second consecutive solo number-one hit on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart. The track was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for the sales of 500,000 copies. In November 2011, Billboard reported the digital sales of “If I Could Turn Back Time” to be 394,000 in the US.

Critical reception

Gary Hill of AllMusic retrospectively wrote that the song “has a crunchy texture to it, albeit in a poppy, ’80s Starship sort of arrangement.” Music & Media described it as “a well-produced FM sing-along.”

Music video

The music video for “If I Could Turn Back Time”, directed by American television director Marty Callner, takes place on board the battleship USS Missouri. It depicts Cher and her band performing a concert for the ship’s crew. The video was filmed in Los Angeles on Friday night, June 30, 1989, while the ship was stationed at the former Long Beach Naval Shipyard at Pier D. In the video, the band plays on the foredeck, and the ship is rigged with spotlights, light racks and strobes. Cher’s son, Elijah Blue Allman, 12 at the time, appears as one of the band’s guitarists (he wears dark glasses and a Jimi Hendrix T-shirt).

The Department of the Navy had granted permission for the music video shoot because of its potential for boosting Navy recruitment: the Navy did not have a budget for TV ads in 1989. The Navy initially selected the battleship USS New Jersey for the video. However, New Jersey was out to sea when Callner needed to do an initial site survey, so he toured its sister ship, Missouri, instead. During Callner’s visit, Missouri’s public affairs officer, Lieutenant Mark Walker, convinced him to change the filming location to Missouri.

Cher’s outfit for the original video, a fishnet body stocking under a black one-piece bathing suit that left most of her buttocks (and a tattoo of a butterfly) exposed, proved very controversial, and many television networks refused to show the video. MTV first banned the video, and later played it only after 9 PM. A second version of the video was made, including new scenes and less overtly sexual content than the original. The outfit and risque nature of the video were a complete surprise to the Navy, who expected Cher to wear a jumpsuit for the concert, as presented on storyboards during original discussions with producers. The sailors were already in place and the band had begun playing when Cher emerged in her outfit. Lieutenant Commander Steve Honda from the Navy’s Hollywood Liaison office requested Callner briefly suspend shooting and convince Cher to change into more conservative attire, but Callner refused.

The Navy received criticism for allowing the video shoot, especially from World War II veterans who saw it as a desecration of a national historic site that should be treated with reverence: USS Missouri was the site of the Empire of Japan’s surrender on September 2, 1945, thus ending World War II.

No Navy officials were disciplined for their role in supporting the video, although reportedly the Secretary of the Navy briefly considered firing the captain of USS Missouri.

In 2003, Cher released her Living Proof: Farewell Tour concert on DVD which included an official “If I Could Turn Back Time” remix video.

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