Cyndi Lauper — She’s So Unusual

It’s hard to express how big this album was in 1984, how ubiquitous it was, and how long it was on the charts (77 weeks). Released in October 1983, the single “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” was all over the radio and MTV. (It spent some time at #2 on the weekly Billboard charts, never getting over a Van Halen song, “Jump.”) And after that, four more singles were released from the album: “Time After Time,” “She Bop,” “All Through the Night,” and “Money Changes Everything.” (And, in Canada and Japan, “When You Were Mine” was a single as well.) Ultimately the album went 6x platinum. So, yeah, Cyndi Lauper was a presence.

She's So Unusual front cover
She’s So Unusual front cover

This is one of those records I associate completely with our first marriage apartment, the little two-story townhouse at Presidential Plaza in Syracuse. Our furniture then was still largely milk crates – though fancy new ones, meant to be used as shelves, that we purchased at The Door Store, sort of a proto-Ikea. (We still have some of those crates. They were indestructible, despite my very much wanting them out of my life at this point.) We had a lovely clamshell couch and chair that were a wedding gift from my parents, so we did have something more comfortable to sit on than the lawn chairs we’d started the apartment with. We had the art deco dining room set of our dreams, a gorgeous glass-topped table set on beautiful aluminum arches, and swooping arch-backed metal chairs to match, with mauve cushions – the deco expression of what we thought our adult sensibilities would be. They changed, of course, and when we had our first child nine years later it became clear that a tippy glass topped table surrounded by tippy chairs, no matter how lovely, had to go.

We had a tiny black and white TV with very basic cable (we didn’t have a color TV until the early 1990s). Most of our entertainment at home was music, but I do recall that some station, I think it was WSBK out of Boston, ran a lot of late-night Bowery Boys movies on weekends, which I couldn’t get enough of; I remember coming home from a night out and deciding to stay up just a little longer to watch Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall. (How things have changed — in those days, cable had a few dedicated specialty channels like CNN and MTV, but it was also a lot of “superstations” that were just regular broadcast stations that were carried over a wide area, like WSBK, WOR, WGN, and whatever Ted Turner’s Atlanta station was. You saw whatever their regular TV lineup was, which was usually some mix of syndicated reruns and old movies, just like any other local non-network channel.)

So we still had MTV at that point, and I remember what a splash “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” made. I also recall that with the growing influence of cable TV, wrestling was making a surprising comeback, and Cyndi Lauper got herself wrapped up in that weird world of entertainment, which frankly limited my interest in what she did next. Obviously, her career didn’t suffer from my lack of attention, but when her next big album, “True Colors,” came out in 1986, I just wasn’t interested any more. The hits on “She’s So Unusual” were (and are) so overplayed that after a while this didn’t get any listens at home, and it has sat on the shelf for most of those 40 years. Going back and listening to it now, I have to say that I still love her Prince cover, “When You Were Mine,” to which she brings an angsty urgency that is very different from Prince’s detached cool. But it would be 27 years before I’d buy another Cyndi Lauper album, 2010’s “Memphis Blues.”

She's So Unusual back cover
She’s So Unusual back cover
She's So Unusual sleeve
She’s So Unusual sleeve
She's So Unusual sleeve
She’s So Unusual sleeve
She's So Unusual label
She’s So Unusual label

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