From rockin’ Blue Angel to pint-sized new wave misfit, fashionable Cyndi Lauper stole our hearts

By on September 5, 2017

Night Flight’s “Cyndi Lauper Video Profile” — which originally aired “Night Flight” on April 20, 1985 — featured a handful of her best ’80s-era videos, including “Girls Just Want To Have Fun,” “She Bop,” “Time After Time,” and “Money Changes Everything,” and we’ve also included a couple by her previous band, Blue Angel. Watch it now on Night Flight Plus!

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There had been no one else on the music scene like Cyndi Lauper — another Night Flight favorite — for quite a while when she stole our hearts in 1983, the first woman to score five Top Forty hits from her debut release.

She became one of the more unique, fashionable pop artists of the 1980s, a pint-sized misfit (just 5 ft. 3 inches tall) who also ended up being a style trendsetter, with her wild flaming orange-red hair (with the tic-tac-toe pattern shaved into one side).

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From the age of twelve she had a crazy sense for pairing colorful and clashing recherché retro outfits — including corsets and petticoats and flared skirts from different eras with ton of accessories — giving her oddball look a new wave sensibility.

Read more about Cyndi Lauper’s early career and first videos, leading up to her multi-platinum debut album, below.

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Cyndi Lauper was born June 20, 1953, in Queens, just a few miles from her parents home in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, NY.

She always loved music and joined her first band when she was just eleven, singing Beatles covers.

At age seventeen, she left home and hitchhiked to Canada with her dog Sparkle, then spent a year in a Vermont college studying art, but it wasn’t the creative outlet she’d hoped it would be.

When she returned to New York, she got a job as a secretary, sold karate lessons and walked horses at Belmont Park.

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When she finally decided to focus on singing, she began fronting her first band, Doc West.

For the next three years, they worked the Long Island club circuit, but Lauper ended up frying her vocal cords by screaming raspy Rod Stewart and Janis Joplin songs.

She lost her voice for an entire year, and several doctors told her she wouldn’t be able to sing again, but, after a year of voice training with Katie Agresta, a vocal coach on the Upper West Side, she recovered her singing voice again.

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In 1977, she was singing in dive bars in and around Manhattan when she was introduced to saxophonist and keyboard player John Turi.

They began writing songs together, eventually forming Blue Angel, an eclectic rockabilly-cum-new wave band also featuring Arthur “Rockin’ A” Neilson on guitar, Lee Brovitz on bass, and drummer Johnny “Bullet” Morelli.

Blue Angel ended up putting out an eponymous album on Polydor Records in late December 1980, touring Germany with Joe Jackson, and even appearing on German TV with Hall and Oates. Their album failed to sell in the U.S., though, even though critics generally approved of what they were hearing.

New Musical Express writer Ray Lowry wrote: “If anyone at their record company has any sense they must get behind this band and hype, break legs, threaten, cajole, smash jukeboxes, throw acid and generally raise the pitch of their voices to get them the attention they deserve.”

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Blue Angel lensed a couple of videos, directed by Edd Griles, including “I Had a Love,” which won an International Film & TV of New York award, and a second video was their cover of the Mann/Weil tune “I’m Gonna Be Strong.”

Disagreements between the band and their manager, Steve Massarsky, and their record label led to their splitting up in 1982, playing their final concert that fall at Studio 54.

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Lauper had already by then received offers to go solo, but rebuffed any deal that didn’t include her bandmates.

She ended up singing at a Japanese piano bar and working at an Upper West Side used clothing boutique called Screaming Mimi’s.

It wasn’t too much longer before she met Dave Wolff, who was to become her boyfriend and manager, and he ended up getting her signed to the CBS Portrait imprint — a subsidiary of Epic Records — in the spring of 1983.

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Soon Lauper began recording her debut album, She’s So Unusual, which we’re sure you already know was a huge success when it was released on October 14, 1983.

Lauper’s video for “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” — directed by Edd Griles — was shot in the summer of ’83, mostly at an East Village studio called Mother’s.

Lauper’s mother appeared in the video, and her father was played by wrestler Captain Lou Albano, who she had met when they were sharing a plane flight home from Puerto Rico.

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The video cost just $35,000, largely due to a mostly volunteer cast and the free loan of video equipment.

Some of the dancing scenes were filmed on Gay Street in the West Village, where there were cobblestones like she’d seen in Sophia Loren movies. The fountain scene was shot in front of the Metropolitan Museum. Everyone is wearing Lauper’s own sunglasses.

“Girls Just Want To Have Fun” — a girl power anthem written by a Philadelphia singer/songwriter named Robert Hazard — reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, becoming a worldwide hit throughout late 1983 and early ’84.

Lauper would go on to win the first ever award for Best Female Video at the 1984 MTV Video Music Awards.

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Captain Lou Albano was also in her next Edd Griles-directed video, “Time After Time.”

She’s So Unusual earned Lauper two Grammys, including one for Best New Artist. The album peaked at #4 on the Billboard 200 chart, selling over six million copies in the United States and sixteen million copies worldwide.

Watch our “Cyndi Lauper Video Profile” — and other Video Profiles — over on Night Flight Plus!

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.