Greatest Song At This Moment - Cher's "If I Could Turn Back Time"

Dedicated to those songs that I can't stop playing, humming, or thinking about; the 4+ minutes you fall head-over-heels in love with. Past instances have included Beck's "Timebomb," New Order's "Age of Consent," and Black Sabbath's "N.I.B."

What happened to me, reader? I have an iPod Shuffle, so I make very selective choices as to which songs make it in my life: no album filler or novelty B.S. for me. My noise is chalk full of songs specifically chosen to be the most delectable and ear tantalizing of their kind. Since inventing this column nearly nine months ago, I have often kept a mental list of potential GSATM's, and most of them have been from my personally supervised collection. Some songs would pop up often and as my toe would tap, I would think, "Man, writing about 'Dancing With Myself' would be fun." Then there's the Make-A-Wish songs -- songs I've rarely read anything about, so I would appear super cool for writing about it (some day, Frank Zappa's "San Ber'dino," some day...). And then there's the Fraternity of Rock Critics Songs, where the Velvet Underground have made their historical careers.

It could have been "Get Off My Cloud," especially considering the ideal listening setting when I caught it (driving alone, at night, cranking the radio), but it failed to stick. Maybe it wasn't the right time, or maybe it was it's surrounding songs played by Jack FM ("Mixed Emotions" and "Look What the Cat Dragged In". Generally speaking, playing anything from the 60s era surrounded by two post-1977 songs are going to make a mountain when paired with those valleys). I've been humming the old Chicago Cubs fight song "Hey Hey Holy Mackerel", but I refuse to dwell on the song for political reasons. As my week drew to a close I tried and searched and pleaded with myself to find another muse, but every night I would close my eyes and let things get quiet and then that phrase -- you know what phrase -- would ring out, and I'd have to picture that weird crotch-riding black swim suit thing with the sailors around. And I was finished.

I recently asked a friend of mine if you can truly get hooked on songs you don't like. We get irritated at songs all the time, and often times we complain about a tune getting stuck in the head, but the actual annoying aspect of this is less the song itself and more the instituted repetition of the song. Commercial jingles are a classic example, and if I hear the Ross Dress For Less "It's a Brand New Day-aay-AAaay-ayy" song in the wrong moment, watch yourself, but I'd probably be less annoyed if it wasn't played twice a morning during "The Today Show." Its in-escapability is my nemesis, not the song alone.

Assuming this relationship to be true, we can also assume that most of the songs we know well are considered on some level to be "enjoyable," otherwise we would not have bothered committing them to memory. This might seem irrational, because I may be admitting to memorizing any number of Sum 41 songs, but my memory banks are filled with many things I'd consider even less useful. Mediaphiles fixate on strange things, but some things bubble to the top and make their presence known for one reason or the other. And in music, one reason must be (so help me) an element of truth within a song, and that's gotta be the reason why I've been playing, re-playing, and singing "If I Could Turn Back Time".

Mostly singing. I'm a good hipster. I own nothing by Cher and despite my wife's friendly-to-Cher leanings, I've managed to keep it out of her collection as well. I survived the "Believe" battles while admitting how "The Beat Goes On" remains one of those great white R'n'B songs we'll ever experience. In fact, in an attempt to save myself the humiliation of actually writing 800 words on "Turn Back Time", I try in vein to plant "Beat Goes On" into my consciousness, but nothing doing. The sorrow and the pain and the emo-o-o-o-otions I must be feeling at this moment in my life can only be properly underscored with light rock guitars and big drums and that weird man-woman voice Cher uses.

It's a universal theme, and while that might raise some eyebrows from people wondering how diluted that theme might be, it doesn't make it any less powerful. Popularity doesn't make something bad. Popularity is a result, not a force. I don't have the kind of dramatic problems like Cher does in this song -- I didn't say horrible things to my love and she's going nowhere -- but that doesn't mean I can't relate. The manipulation of time is a perfectly interesting fantasy, like super speed or the ability to fly. Besides, the whole idea of the song lends itself so flawlessly to my list of daily complaints. "If I could turn back time I would have not worn button-fly's to the movies." "If I could turn back time I would have biked past that garage sale." "If I could turn back time I would have bought more Crunchy Raisin Brain when it was on sale." It just fit.

But honestly, isn't all the preceding "complaining" just bullshit? And I don't mean the simple premise-of-the-article bullshit I usually employ; I mean isn't it all bullshit because in reality I like (and possibly -- deep down -- love) this song, and all the preceding paragraphs are just my attempts to retain what little shred of cool I might still have? It's all bullshit because I feel compelled to apologize for my feelings. I just want you to like me. Well, if you're gonna like me, then apparently you're gonna have to put up with a little Cher every now and then, so deal with it. It doesn't make me any less cool than that kid from college who claimed he only listened to Morrisey, or any less rockin' than my friend Tony who made fun of anyone playing anything befitting the title "Freedom Rock (Well Turn It Up, Man!)."

Just like it says in the song, I was being proud. That's my fault. I allowed that to happen. I can't believe I'm writing this, but if I really could turn back time, I wouldn't change a thing.


Written By Phillip Mottaz

Greatest Song At This Moment - Cher's "If I Could Turn Back Time"