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I can't believe this day is finally here: the entire (forgotten) Cristina back catalogue on CD! Remastered! I've only been waiting for this for FIVE YEARS.

(Oh god, can that be right?? Yessss ... I think I started my Cristina webpage in 1999 on my Earthlink space. Sad.)

Anyway, the CDs sound great! You should all run out and buy them both right now! If you live in a real city you actually might not have to order it from France like I did. There are even a few unreleased tracks on Sleep It Off, including the superb "Deb Behind Bars" (Bang! Bang! goes the school maîtresse / Here's to good breeding, here's to jeunesse...) and a fabulous cover of Prince's "When U Were Mine" — which, by not switching the sexes around to "suit" a female singer, she transforms from a simple lament into a cross-dressing bisexual love triangle.

♥⇒ When U Were Mine ♥♥

...more here...

† † † † †

The Maddeningly Brief Career of Cristina
By Kurt B. Reighley

"In a sassier, zestier, brighter, funnier world, Cristina would have been Madonna." – Richard Strange

She had a keen mind, biting wit, and a model's beauty. Her career barely lasted a half-decade, yet she worked with movie star Kevin Klein, Grammy Award-winner Don Was (Bonnie Raitt's Nick of Time), The Knack's Doug Fieger, sax radical James Chance, and August Darnell, a k a Kid Creole. Her legacy? Some brilliant singles, two albums, praise from Siouxsie, Blondie, and the fifth estate… and now, these reissues: Doll In A Box and Sleep It Off.

Cristina Monet was destined for greatness before she ever cut a record. She attended Harvard (where she won the History and Literature prize in her sophomore year) and London's Central School of Drama. While working as an apprentice theater critic at the Village Voice, she met her future husband, fellow writer – and heir to the Mothercare fortune – Michael Zilkha.

In 1978, Zilkha was keen on starting a record label that married punk with disco. Towards this end, he had purchased the publishing to "Disco Clone," a ditty by a fellow Harvard undergrad thespian of Cristina's, Ronald Melrose. "When Michael bought 'Disco Clone,' I said, 'That is, without doubt, the worst song I have ever heard,'" recalls Cristina. "'It is so bad that the only way you could record it would be as Brechtian pastiche.' And Michael said, 'Do you want to give it a shot?'"

With her dramatic training, Cristina – multi-tracked into a chorus of cooing clones – easily assumed the role of a Halston-clad disco bimbo. Finding a leering lothario to narrate the tale proved harder. "All the boys turned into pussycats in front of the microphone." Finally, she approached Kevin Klein, then on Broadway in On The Twentieth Century. "I nipped backstage and said, 'How would you like to make some money?'" He agreed.

John Cale produced the track. (It would later be re-recorded by Cristina, Zilkha, and Bob Blank.) Island Records head honcho Chris Blackwell dug it. "Suddenly, I was a solo recording artist, on the newly-formed ZE Records/Island," gasps Cristina. Surprise! "Disco Clone" would go through several incarnations (including "The Ballad of Immoral Manufacture"), prompting Blackwell to dub it "Island's most expensive failure," but its charms didn't escape notice. Melody Maker called the disc "artfully dumb," anointing it Single of the Week.

For an encore, the chanteuse sunk her teeth into Peggy Lee's 1969 hit "Is That All There Is?" Arranged by Darnell, Cristina's rendition reflected her penchant for dark lyrics juxtaposed with jaunty music. When Blondie gave it the thumbs up on a BBC record-rating show, it seems poised to hit the charts… until songwriters Leiber and Stoller stepped in.

Today, Cristina contends that her update, with its reflections on nightclubs full of "bored-looking bankers dancing with beautiful models" – "because nobody in the 1980s could get disillusioned by the circus at the age of twelve" – hewed closer to the Brechtian spirit of the original song than any straight cover. Still, the authors forced ZE to recall all unsold copies. "If I had been richer, I would have fought them on the basis that it was a parody," says Zilkha. "But we didn't have the money, and they were threatening a lawsuit." (Despite its scarcity, "Is That All There Is?" become a favorite of Siouxsie Sioux, who used it as exit music on The Creatures 1999 tour. It was also the most requested single on BBC1 for two years, and cited as one of the funniest records ever made by comedy team Peter Cooke and Dudley Moore.)

Darnell wrote and produced Cristina's eponymous 1980 LP, featuring the West Coast cult hit "Jungle Love." Although she concedes that Darnell used Cristina's sophisticated disco-cum-big band arrangements, so well-suited to the budding Kid Creole and the Coconuts, as a platform to showcase his own strengths, she retains affection for it. "It was the first cinematic, theatrical, nostalgic disco record, at a time when there wasn't a lot of humor in disco." In a similar vein, the team also conjured up a swing rendition of the Beatles' "Drive My Car" (arranged by Darnell's brother, Stony Browder, alias Dr. Buzzard), with Cristina mimicking Marilyn Monroe to the last gasp.

Before starting her next album, Cristina ventured to the Bahamas, for sessions with singer Robert Palmer acting as producer/arranger. "I spent most of my time at Compass Point cooking, cluttering up the studio with casserole dishes," she cracks. Of the surviving recordings, which include "You Rented A Space," she is especially fond of her deadpan reading of Prince's "When You Were Mine." "It's got this decadent, Gidget-goes-trisexual vibe."

The singer fared better with her next collaborator, Don Was. "It's completely in keeping with the ZE philosophy to put two extremely disparate elements together, and see what happens," says the producer. A 1981 Christmas single, "Things Fall Apart," proved they clicked. It also revealed Cristina as a razor-sharp wordsmith. "I'd always written little, Dorothy Parker-esque pastiches, but at that point, I started to keep a notebook of lyrics." Thus armed, she set out for the Motor City, to make her second album.

Cristina liked Was (Not Was): "Their music was extraordinary." But were Was (Not Was) ready for Cristina? "We didn't have girls like her in Detroit," recalls Was. "I went to dinner with her, and I remember feeling intellectually dwarfed." They were assisted by an all-star cast, including Chance, Fieger, guitarist Barry Reynolds, and bassist Ben Brierley, who proved the ideal vocal foil on another duet: "The Ballard of Immoral Earnings" from Threepenny Opera.

"Adapting that song to something connected to rock and roll was not easy," recalls Was. "I remember everyone really considering every note that was played, every single line." Sleep It Off was months in the making. "I didn't work that hard with Bob Dylan, and he's my hero," he adds proudly. Along with the ten tracks of the final album, the team also recorded "Smile" (later to resurface, sung by Fieger, on the Was (Not Was) LP, Born To Laugh At Tornadoes) and "Deb Behind Bars." "That title is a bit camp," says Cristina, "but I like it, because alliteratively, all those B's, jabbing at the ear, sound like bullets."

Sleep It Off was a masterpiece, from its unsettling Jean Paul Goude cover, to the haunting acoustic ballad "He Dines Out on Death." In between, Cristina snarled the Sex Pistols-ish "Don't Mutilate My Mink" ("We should've given John Lydon a writing credit," says Was), the electro-funk of "Ticket to the Tropics," and a raucous romp through Van Morrison's "Blue Money." Her rendition of "She Can't Say That Anymore" proved so sublime, hardly anyone realized it was a reinterpretation of 1980 country hit; "I found the song very evocative of screen doors, mosquitoes and sweat, Deep South depravity."

Zilkha thought "Mink" an ideal single; Cristina favored "What's A Girl To Do." But Mercury Records, Cristina's new U.S. distributor, opted for "Tropics," since it was a co-write with Fieger, who had scored a #1 with "My Sharona." Alas, it didn't ignite the airwaves. "I still think that song is a hit," contends Fieger; he recently submitted it to No Doubt's Gwen Stefani, as a candidate for inclusion on her solo album.

"The one thing that pop music has lost lately is its sense of irony," Cristina lamented when Sleep It Off dropped in 1984. "People either write dumb-funny novelty songs or dead-earnest serious songs. There's nothing around that combines elements of both. There's none of the real wit and self-humor of anyone from a Bertolt Brecht to a Cole Porter or an early Dylan." On Sleep It Off, Cristina did. Yet while Rolling Stone gave the album a glowing, three-and-a-half star review, and The Face cited it in their year-end Top 20, it barely saw U.S. release.

And then? Nothing. "I always had this guilt complex, that I was just a dilettante who'd fallen into music because of Michael's trust fund," she confesses. "Then, at a point when I was very insecure, that point was driven home to me." So she retired. Michael and Cristina divorced in 1990. Today, she divides her time between New York, London, and Paris. But recently, contemporary artists, including Ursula 1000 and Ladytron (who included "What's A Girl To Do" on their 2003 mix CD, Softcore Jukebox), have expressed interest in collaborations. "Yesterday's kitsch is tomorrow's antique," jokes Cristina, but the possibility of new recordings, she hints, is no laughing matter.

20 years later, Sleep It Off's producer, Don Was, still holds Cristina in the highest esteem. "I didn't fully realize it at the time, but she achieved a certain artistic ideal. Sleep It Off is an incredibly honest representation of what she was about. Twenty years later, I've learned that that's what you want to do when you produce an album: Take a snapshot of somebody. Certainly, there were exaggerations – everyone is more complex than they can express in a three-minute song – but Sleep It Off is as accurate a portrait as Nick of Time."</center>


Dec. 10th, 2004 10:23 am (UTC)
there's more to come...
Fellow rabid Cristina fans:

a) There's a previously impossible-to-find Don Was remix of "What's A Girl To Do" on the just-released expaned ZE Mutant Disco 3 album;

b) The entirety of my interview with Cristina Monet (lightly edited) will be published in my annual Christmas zine, Festive!, this winter.

c) Ursula 1000 confirms that he and Cristina have finished collaboration on a brand new track, "Nervous/Anxious," slated for inclusion on his next album.

Kurt B. Reighley, liner notes author
Dec. 10th, 2004 03:01 pm (UTC)
Re: there's more to come...
Oh, excellent news! Thank you so much for commenting! (You may have reached each and every rabid Cristina fan* by doing so.) Anyway, I was going to e-mail Michel and ask him about the hinted-at collaborations; I guess now I don't have to.

How can I (and others) get a copy of your zine?

I hope you don't mind that I posted your writing in my journal.

*although casual fans seem to be growing by leaps & bounds; my v. sad <a href="http://redoverwhite.org/cristina>Cristina page</a> has been getting astounding traffic of late...</a>
Dec. 10th, 2004 03:47 pm (UTC)
Re: there's more to come...
I don't mind you posting my work at all - Lord knows, I used your site while searching for research materials. E-mail your mailing address to me via my kurt@thestranger.com address, and I'll make sure you get a copy of my zine - I also have some Cristina press that's not on your site, like the 1984 Face feature, the Rolling Stone review of the first album, and the New York magazine piece on the Zilkhas, if you want copies.

Ursula just sent me a mp3 of "Anxious/Nervous" today and it's damn good. He sez Cristina claims she's going to be working on a new album in France next year. Hurrah!
Oct. 20th, 2005 07:43 am (UTC)
Re: there's more to come...
Cristina is my best friends mother. She's an amazing woman, and I'm quite amused by her singing career which I've only relaly discovered since going to college. Growing up, she always said she used to be a discotheque singer but that was about it. i highly doubt she will be recording anything soon. and she and Michael are no longer married. I might be able to answer questions if you still have them.
Oct. 22nd, 2005 05:37 am (UTC)
Re: there's more to come...
Oh, how fun! I still think she's great; I even sent her a Christmas card last year. I heard a rumor that she was having health problems, and obviously I hope she is doing well. Other than that—even including that, actually—I don't mean to pry. She did record a new song last year, though, and it was great!

If you want to hear any of her old songs I have most of them on mp3, and they were all reissued last year by ZE Records. (The Z is for Zilkha.) I also made what was FOR SURE the first Cristina site on the web, as seen here.

I'll bet her daughter is awesome!


cape &amp; merc.
Love's True Bluish Light.

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