July 1989: Cher Rocks the Charts with "If I Could Turn Back Time"

CHER IICTBT video shoot
Photo Credit
(Cher/YouTube)

Legendary songwriter Diane Warren knows hits, and she knew she had a hit when she finished writing "If I Could Turn Back Time." She also knew that Cher and to sing it, and resorted to desperate measures when the singer turned her nose up at the tune.

"The song she really hated was 'If I Could Turn Back Time,' but I held her leg down during a session and said, 'You have to record it!'," Warren told The Hollywood Reporter in 2014. Cher's response to Warren? "F— you, bitch! You're hurting my leg! OK, I'll try it."

After running through the tune, Cher had a change of heart: "She gave me this look like, 'You were right'," Warren revealed triumphantly. 

Released on July 1, 1989, "If I Could Turn Back Time" was a smash hit, powering her nineteenth studio album, Heart of Stone, to multi-platinum sales and a top 10 showing on the Billboard 200. The song peaked at #3 on the Hot 100 for the week of September 23, 1989. The #1 song in America that week: Milli Vanilli's "Girl I'm Gonna Miss You."

"If I Could Turn Back Time" is legendary for its grandiose  and racy music video, featuring Cher in a revealing body stocking cavorting in front of a bunch of Navy sailors on battleship the USS Missouri while it was stationed at the former Long Beach Naval Shipyard at Pier D. The Navy granted permission for the video shoot in hopes of the clip boosting Navy recruitment. Those same officials were shocked when Cher emerged in the now-famous barely-there outfit, instead of the jumpsuit they'd been sold on in meetings. Lieutenant Commander Steve Honda from the Navy's Hollywood Liaison office even jumped in and stopped the shoot, demanding that Cher change into the jumpsuit. Both Cher and the video director Marty Callner refused, and the shoot carried on.

"On the 'If I Could Turn Back Time' video, we shot for days," Cher remembered to Q magazine. "There was a whole story -- I climbed up stuff, I was running away from a lover, I was in a cage, in a speedboat... And when the director got to the edit, he just said, 'F*ck this, here's the money [shot]'... me on the battleship with the sailors. They were real sailors, too. They were funny. They kept calling me 'ma'am.'"

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