We spoke with Anita Pointer about her extensive Ever After exhibit at The Hollywood Museum, songs from The Pointer Sisters, A Very Special Christmas, USA for Africa, Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, Cher and listening to Sly Stone on the radio.
By Warren Kurtz
Photo courtesy of thepointersisters.com
THE POINTER SISTERS debuted in The Top 40 as a quartet in 1973 with the song “Yes We Can Can,” with a nostalgic look and sound on the Blue Thumb label, the home of other quirky acts including Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks. Two more Top 40 hits continued in the next two consecutive years, “Fairytale” and “How Long (Betcha’ Got a Chick on the Side).” In 1977, Bonnie Pointer left the quartet and debuted on Motown in 1978. The following year she entered the Top 40 with the Holland-Dozier-Holland composition “Heaven Must Have Sent You.” In 1978, The Pointer Sisters, as a trio of Anita, Ruth, and June, continued with a more contemporary sound and achieved their Top 10 singles debut on Richard Perry’s Planet label with “Fire” and remained in the Top 40 through the end of 1986. June Pointer passed away twenty years later, in 2006.
GOLDMINE: You have sung lead on many of my favorite Pointer Sisters songs. Let’s start with “Telegraph Your Love,” the flip side of “Neutron Dance.” This Andy Goldmark composition, from your biggest hit album, Break Out, is a really nice, keyboard driven song, with a steady dance beat that I like.
ANITA POINTER: I like it too. I haven’t listened to that in years, but it is a good song. There is a lot of good stuff on flip sides that never got radio attention. Then there are singles we wish would have done better like “Could I Be Dreaming,” that I wrote the lyrics for and Trevor Lawrence wrote the music. My God, that recording turned out so great. I saw Cher in Las Vegas and she opened with that song. It made me cry, hearing her sing words that I wrote. What a great feeling for me and a powerful opener for her, and speaking of Cher, I also recorded a version of her ‘70s hit “Take Me Home.”
The Pointer Sisters
Flip side: Telegraph Your Love
A side: Neutron Dance
Top 100 debut: November 24, 1984
Peak Position No. 6
GM:You know, “Could I Be Dreaming” is one of those cases when the record company releases the next single but radio is still playing the prior hit for months. With that 45 stuck between the success of “He’s So Shy” and “Slow Hand” it was just overlooked. Another overlooked 45 was Robert Gordon’s recording of Bruce Springsteen’s composition “Fire” from his second solo album after Robert left the New York punk band Tuff Darts. I was thrilled when you rescued “Fire” and it became a hit.
AP: Really? You’ve got to be kidding. I didn’t know he did it before us. When we heard the demo, it sounded like Elvis and we heard that Bruce intended to send it to Elvis but Elvis died before he could get it to him. I told Richard Perry that there was such a big voice on this song that maybe he wanted Ruthie to sing lead as she had the big voice, but he said, “No. I want you to sing it.” So I did and it became our first gold single and I was just so thrilled. It made a big difference to our career to have a gold single. We had gold albums already but we never had a gold single and “Fire” came out, as our first single from our Energy album, and shook up everything.
GM:That entire Energy album is wonderful. I was selling records at Peaches Records & Tapes in Cleveland and we would play the album over the store’s speakers. I loved how it ended with your version of Sly & The Family Stone’s flip side, “Everybody is a Star.”
AP: Isn’t that a great album? I love “Everybody is a Star.” We took that song to Richard for us to do. We were regrouping after Bonnie left and we were trying to come out with some different sounds and we always loved Sly. We were both from the bay area. He had a radio show in San Francisco and we would listen to him every night that we could get a chance to control the radio, when Mama wasn’t home.
GM:Now we move on to the next decade, the ‘80s, with “I’m So Excited,” certainly living up to its name.
AP: Yes it is exciting and is another one that I wrote with my writing partner Trevor Lawrence. I met him when he played saxophone at some of our sessions. He had a studio in the valley and we began writing together. It was hard getting those songs placed on our records when the producer may have other ideas. I also wrote songs with Allee Willis, the girl who co-wrote “Neutron Dance.”
GM:Let’s talk about “Neutron Dance.” That’s another energetic song.
AP: I know. My God that is such a great song. I love “Neutron Dance” and Ruthie sings her butt off on it too. When the song was in the movie Beverly Hills Cop, that was an unbelievable acclaim for us. We just got so famous all of a sudden from that song being in the movie.
GM:Speaking about movies, years later, Love Actually featured “Jump (For My Love).”
AP: It sure did. Anytime I hear our songs come on, in a movie or on the radio, I get excited. They put “I’m So Excited” in one of the Transformers movies. I didn’t even know it is was in there. I got to the theater, heard it, and almost tore up the theater with excitement. I thought they were going to kick me out when I screamed. It is great to hear your music played and write words that people love, want to hear, and mean something to them. In Love Actually, I love watching that scene with Hugh Grant dancing to “Jump (For My Love).”
GM:My wife Donna does too and when the music is played again as he heads off to the dodgy end of the character Natalie’s street, but the first time it touched our lives came in the spring of 1984. You and David Lee Roth, when Van Halen’s “Jump” and your “Jump (For My Love)” were in the Top 100 simultaneously, taught our one year old daughter Brianna her first word, “Jump!”
AP: Ha ha ha-ha ha! Are you kidding me? When theirs came out, I screamed, “No!” Theirs was great too. I love Van Halen’s song but we wanted ours to be the No. 1 “Jump” song. We knew we had a good one. We didn’t write “Jump,” but it’s still a great song. Due to Van Halen, who released their single weeks before ours, we had to re-title our song as “Jump (For My Love)” to not confuse it with their song, but we did alright with our song too.
1983 Dutch picture sleeve
GM:A couple of years ago, Donna and I heard noise outside of our back porch one morning during Thanksgiving weekend. Our neighbor behind us, Sandra, had a holiday gathering and their female voices were bouncing off of our house. Donna asked, “What is that?” I opened the back sliding glass door, listened and said, “It sounds like The Pointer Sisters to me,” remembering the opening sixteen seconds of lively studio chatter that kicked off the A Very Special Christmas album with your fun version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”
AP: What? I remember that beginning with a group talking thing and then we go into the song. Like at your neighbor’s house, that is what it used to be like at holiday gatherings, too, at our home when we were younger. Loud! We all lived in the same town in Oakland with our mom and all the church people that we grew up with. It would always be a big deal for holidays. As we grew older and moved to separate places and different cities, we do the best we can. I used to wonder, who is going to do this when Mama’s gone? I swear to God I would think about that. My mother was the best cook in the world. She went to school for nutrition and she loved to cook and bake. She was so good at it. Every holiday was filled with pies. There was chocolate pie, German chocolate cake, strawberry cake, pineapple upside down cake, and she even made her own bread. Our generation doesn’t do that. It has kind of faded away, so that is missing from the holidays, and has meaning to me in my memories.
GM:Another song with a different meaning to me, writing for Goldmine, is your final Top 40 hit single, “Goldmine.” You and your sisters sing, “He’s a goldmine.”
AP: In preparing for today, you inspired me to watch the “Goldmine” video for the first time in twenty-something years. Paula Abdul choreographed the video for us. We told her at the beginning, “We can’t dance like Janet Jackson so don’t be giving us too many complex moves. We are not Janet. We love Janet, but we can’t do the moves Janet does.” Paula was very nice. I love her and she did a great job on the video. It is really fun to see it and the clothes we had on. I think I still have the skirt, I may have the earrings, but I don’t have the jacket.
Ever After exhibit at The Hollywood Museum, courtesy of Harlan Boll
GM:And you have a lot of clothing on display at your Ever After exhibit at The Hollywood Museum, with a thousand items there. What are you most happy with, that is included in the exhibit?
AP: Ooh. One of the things that I love is my autograph collection from “We Are the World,” from the night that we sang and recorded the song. I went around with my sheet music and had everyone in sign it, and I had it framed. I wasn’t going to put it in there because it is a very valuable piece to me. LaToya Jackson was standing right by me and so was Sheila E. There were so many of us in our USA For Africa group, including Bruce Springsteen, Ray Charles, Billy Joel, and Tina Turner, who I loved hanging out with that night.
GM:Her powerful song, “Total Control,” is one of my favorite songs that was donated for the USA For Africa We Are the World album. Your steady dance song, “Just a Little Closer,” is another favorite which precedes a live version of Jimmy Cliff’s “Trapped” by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, a Springsteen fan favorite. Speaking of live music, who is on The Pointer Sisters tour?
AP: It is Ruth with her daughter Issa Pointer and her granddaughter Sadako Pointer Johnson.
Left to right: Sadako, Ruth and Issa, courtesy of thepointersisters.com
GM:Wow! Three generations of Pointer women.
AP: And they are doing some great shows and have been all over the world, without me. I worked with Issa and Sadako, so they got a good feel for what I do until I had somewhat of a forced retirement, due to health reasons, but Ruthie can still sing so strongly and loves it. She couldn’t make it to the opening of the exhibit, due to knee surgery, but she will be out later this year. Bonnie was with me and I feel like I have a whole new career going on with this exhibit.
Left to right: Anita and Bonnie, courtesy of Harlan Boll
GM:And you get to stay in southern California.
AP: Right. I am on not traveling to all the hotels. I get to stay home. I love that Donelle Dadigan, who is the President and Founder of The Hollywood Museum, offered this to me. I thank her so much.
Anita, Bonnie and Donelle Dadigan, courtesy of Harlan Boll
GM:Not only me but my whole family thanks you so much for your music.
AP: Oh, thank you and thank your family. I really do appreciate it. This has been a wonderful career. I didn’t plan any of this. I was planning on continuing to being a secretary in a law office, like I was doing, when I heard Bonnie and June singing in the Northern California State Youth Choir, performing “Oh Happy Day,” with Edwin Hawkins and Dorothy Morrison, and I just loved it. So I quit my job and said that I had to this this too. I hope that Goldmine readers can get to the Hollywood Museum and see and enjoy the exhibit.
Warren Kurtz is a Contributing Editor at Goldmine. “Warren’s Fabulous Flip Sides” can be heard most Saturday mornings, in the 9 a.m. hour, Eastern time, as part of “Moments to Remember” at wvcr.com or iHeart Radio – search WVCR.