By Jerry Honigman
February 22, 1980 was smack dab in the middle of a heady time for me.
My band, the Romeos, was wrapping up the recording of our album for the biggest record label in the world at the time (CBS/Columbia Records). The record was being produced by David Paich of Toto along with engineer extraordinaire, Tom Knox. James Newton Howard, along with several other top tier L.A. musicians had lent a helping hand to the process.
A word about James. He would go on to become one of the most accomplished and sought-after film composers in Hollywood, scoring dozens of hit movies including Pretty Woman, The Dark Knight, The Sixth Sense, and The Fugitive. He’s been nominated for 9 Academy Awards, as well as several Emmys and Grammys, and was married to Rosanna Arquette in the late 80s.
But, at this particular time, he was in the Elton John Band where he provided keyboard and synthesizer accompaniment as well as orchestral arrangements to Elton’s songs, as well as Toto’s.
Cher was somewhat dating rock guitarist Les Dudek, and was recording a new album of rock songs she was calling “Black Rose.” This was the name of the band she formed with Les. It was being produced by James Howard with Tom Knox. Paich was also involved. He had been bandleader and arranger for Sonny and Cher years before.
I remember the specific date of this particular night in February because the recording was taking place at Sunset Sound recording studio. Elton was there hanging out, and he and I were on the couch in the studio lounge watching the Winter Olympics and the famous hockey game in which Team USA defeated the Soviet team in what has since been known as the “Miracle on Ice.”
To be a part of this musical community was a true pleasure. Dief, Romeos’ guitarist Dan Diefenderfer, was living at James Howard’s house in Studio City during this period. Cher called him “Beef.”
While watching the hockey game with Elton, I got a tap on the shoulder from Paich who indicated I should follow him. We went into one of the studios where he had set up a mic and headphones for the two of us to do some background vocals on a couple of Cher’s songs. One was called “Never Should’ve Started” in which Cher sang the title line to which David and I would answer “with me, boy.” It’s on YouTube, but I don’t remember the name of the other song.
At the end of the night, as I was preparing to leave, James handed me a cassette. He said it was a backing track of and idea he had written with David Foster. There was no melody, no lyrics, just the music. He asked if I would give a shot at coming up with a song to go with the track. I immediately said of course. It was very flattering.
I took it home and, within a couple of days, I had written the lyrics and melody to the song called “The Enemy.” It was a rocking number about paranoia. I called the guys the next day, and they had me come down to the studio to record the vocal. I did, and it was pretty good, if I do say so myself (and I do).
A day or two later, James called and told me Cher wanted to talk to me about the song. It seems she wanted me to re-record my vocal with more of a toned-down approach. I think she didn’t want to record hers alongside mine for comparison. But that’s just me.
I should mention that, at this time, my ego was more than healthy. In fact, maybe too healthy. I was chock full of confidence. You might say I was a little cocky. Possibly insufferable. Cher, of course, was used to being coddled and catered to by all those around her. I decided to distinguish myself from the rest of the world by specifically not doing that.
When I got to the studio, Cher had me come into the control room. We sat on the sofa, just the two of us.
She said, “Jerry, I’d like to ask you a favor. I love the song, but could you please sing your vocal again but without so much attitude. Just make it plain with the melody simplified so that I can better follow along and learn it?”
I said, “Cher, the song IS attitude! That’s the whole point. And I’ve been listening to you make this record and you’ve got the attitude. You’re singing your dick off, and I know you’ve got this. Now just go in there and go for it!”
Now remember, this was 26 years prior to Amy Winehouse.
Cher asked for me to do a song rehab/ but I said No No No
So, in one fell swoop, I was able to piss off an entertainment icon while simultaneously shooting myself in the foot.
Because, not only did Cher NOT record my song, but I also did not get credit or payment for the work I DID do on the album. So, there you go.