Cristina – Is That All There Is?

2nd December 2023 · 1980, 1980s, Music

I’ve just discovered that my 12-inch copy of Cristina’s scandalous take on an old classic is a collector’s item. Apparently her new lyrics for a tune about the mundanity of life, and the need to “break out the booze and have a ball – if that’s all there is”, so offended the songwriters, Leiber and Stoller, that they successfully sued to get it withdrawn – at least for a time.

Cristina, who was married to the No Wave label Ze’s co-founder Michael Zilkha – and died of Covid in 2020 – had sung their first single release, Disco Clone, produced by John Cale and released in 1978.

Two years later, Is That All There Is, produced by August Darnell (aka Kid Creole) caught the ear with its waltz-time spoken word intro – just like Peggy Lee’s original hit in 1969 – but it was the words that stuck out.

The first verse, about her house catching fire when she was a child, remains mostly unchanged apart from the fact that it’s her mother who sets the house on fire – “She was like that” – as is the chorus.

The second switches up a childhood trip to the circus to her first visit to a nightclub at the age of 16 where she finds “bored looking bankers dancing with beautiful models, and boys… dancing with each other.”

But it’s the third verse, where she falls in love with “the most beautiful boy in Manhattan,” that probably most offended Messrs Leiber and Stoller.

It starts off much the same, about going for long walks by the river together, and then… well, you’ll just have to listen for yourselves.