BetteBack: On Thighs And Whispers

Chronicle Telegram
All innocence, with a touch of dementia
Fri Aug 31 1979

Bette Midler has started writing songs, which she describes as innocent, with a touch of dementia. She says, I don’t write by myself because I’m not an instrument player But I’ve started to write again with Randy Kerber, a keyboards player.

,”My songs always come out off-the-wall They’re r a r e ly straight-ahead l o ve s o n gs They’re mostly whimsical, childlike songs I g u e ss that’s w h at my view of the world is Innocent with a touch of dementia

“I’d like to grow up one of these days I’d like to kick off this childhood I want to be able to deal with the world ”

SHE IS TOLD she looks mature, at 34, in a black dress, stylish unconstructed purple blazer and her hair tight to her head, in rolls at the back “This is my Heidi imitation It m e a ns nothing in t e r ms of maturity.

Beneath this exterior is the heart of a child,

“I like being childlike I don’t like being childish One eventually has to take responsibility for one s life, one’s career That’s what I’m trying to do ”

Six months ago, Miss Midler decided to be her own manager “It’s great, not having a manager It might n ot always be For the time being it is wonderful W h en it isn’t pleasant any m o re I’ll find someone else ”

This summer she finished a new album, her sixth for Atlantic, “Thighs and Whispers ” It’ll be released in November “It is pretty jolly,” she says “It’s got a good deal of disco music on it The form lends itself to lot of theatricality and b ig arrangements and Arif Mardm is a brilliant arranger.

“THERE ARE SONGS on it that caught my ear a few months ago, some ballads, mostly rhythm ‘n’ blues ballads There’s James Taylor‘s song ‘Mill Worker. There is the 1930s song, ‘Big Noise from Wmnetka ‘ Arif had Bob Haggart, who was one of the writers of that song, play bass It turned out great “I used to do songs of that period a lot They kept shoving me into that and I didn’t want to go Now I’m back to loving songs of the period again I was getting stuck in this nostalgia act business, and I didn t want to do that I’m well out of worrying about it now I f igure as long as it’s good music, who cares”

Miss Midler’s recent hit single, ‘Married Men,” will be on the new album So will “Hurricane,” a disco song she wrote with Kerber “I think this is a good album,” she says, “the best I’ve made in a long time I’m happy with the way it sounds and the way I sound It’s very light-hearted and giddy I don’t think I’ve ever been happier with a record ”

Her best selling LP was “The Divine Miss M,” when her image was vivacious camp, dressing like the 1930s and “40s, singing songs of those decades, in her live appearances including some brash “dishing” in her monologues Then the public gaze moved away from the young performer who described herself “trash with flash ”

“WHEN I GOT to the third album, I was m a pretty bad way,’ Miss Midler says “I was f a i r ly depressed about the whole thing I went off in a different direction I think I’m back on the right track now. “Actually, that album, ‘Songs for the New Depression,’ had some wonderful songs on it It was a gentle, whimsical, rather than camp album I didn’t want to be screannng and high camp, so I calmed myself down a bit on the third album.

“I thought everybody would understand what I was doing Unfortunately, I was terrifically mistaken ” A ll careers h a ve their peaks and valleys, Mi ss Midler says, and what you do about that is keep working “At present I’m in a very good- frame of mind, looking forward to the ’80s I don’t think I’ve ever been happier ”

“I’VE KIND OF made my peace with my camp image,” she says “It bothered me for a long time I didn’t want to get thrown into a corner marked camp, so I fought against it.

But now I see that it has a certain value There are camp things on the new album Camp doesn’t embarrass me now If people like it, well, we should all enjoy ourselves’,

L a st summer Mi ss Midler finished shooting the leading role in “The Rose,” a film about a rock star which will be released in November “Originally it was a fictionalized biography of Jams Joplin,” she said, ‘and I wasn’t interested I didn’t think I could impersenate Jams, and I didn’t think there was anybody around who could.

“Still, I liked the idea of singing rock ‘n’ roll and the i d ea of the r a n ge of emotions the character was allowed to play They kept redrafting the script and it got less and less Jams and I thought it got better My manager at the time said I should do it ”

NOW, WILL Miss Midler make a lot of films’ “I think I’m going to start making a lot of albums and never make another film,” she predicts “It’s seven years since the first album, I f i jure after seven years of lean it’s time for the fat to come rolling in.

“I wouldn’t say they were beating down my door with movie scripts There are people who are interested in working with me But they’re not beating a path exactly They’re treading quietly ”

– Mary Campbell

Share A little Divinity

2 thoughts on “BetteBack: On Thighs And Whispers

  1. I love Thighs and Whispers. When I started collecting Bette Midler albums in the early 90’s, this was the last one I received. It contains one of my top 5 favorite Bette songs: Cradle Days. Wanna showcase Bette’s voice to a non-Bette fan… play this song. So much soul and heart. Doesn’t hurt that Luther Vandross is singing back-up 🙂 Other favorites on this album are Hurricane (turn it up loud and close your eyes) and Millworker (hauntingly beautiful).

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