By the time Cher appeared as the frontwoman in a New Wave-style band called Black Rose, many people were not taking the concept – or her – seriously.
Although she had started out 15 years earlier as the flashier half of one of the most popular American music duos of the 60s, Cher’s original rock identity had been eclipsed by Disco-fied albums for Casablanca and by a gossip-fodder marriage with Gregg Allman and a romantic liaison with KISS bassist Gene Simmons.
Facing a rock comeback in 1980, Cher faced considerable scepticism. She tried to keep things low-key (her name didn’t even appear on the Black Rose album cover), but despite her new punkette look – pink leopard-skin dresses and a Chrissie Hynde-like shag haircut – the band behind her seemed more at home with the arena-rock associated with bands like Foreigner and Toto (in fact two members of Toto, Steve Porcaro and David Paich, played on sessions for the LP).
Black Rose guitarist Les Dudek – formerly with Steve Miller and Boz Scaggs – was also Cher’s latest boyfriend.
The group made their debut at a benefit for crippled children in Los Angeles but then found it nearly impossible to get an opening-act slot on a major tour.
The major bands were worried that their audiences would boo Black Rose off the stage.
Hall and Oates finally signed the band on for five dates.
When Black Rose opened for them on 30 August 1980 in New York’s Central Park, the audience’s response was polite and, in the end, even enthusiastic.
Local critics, however, could already be heard unsheathing their carving knives, and the next day’s newspaper reviews were pointedly negative.
Ron “Rocket” Ritchotte