Walking in The Rain (B Mann/C Weill/P Spector) 1978 and Spend the Night (H Vanda/G Young) – Cheetah 1980
Cheetah were sisters Lyndsay and Chrissie Hammond, London-born and Melbourne-raised, their family having emigrated to Australia in 1956, they became experienced session singers with careers of their own prior to forming Cheetah – Lyndsay with the group Skintight and Chrissie performing the role of Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar and initially as part of Air Supply with Russell Hitchcock and Graham Russell, who had both worked with her in JCS.
As Cheetah they were briefly signed to Philips Records who issued the single Love Ain’t Easy to Come By, which stiffed, they then moved across to Alberts Music and began to impact on the charts.
The Hammond sisters really personified the 1970’s sexy bombshell image, one blonde, the other brunette, skin-tight jeans, big hair, wide-eyed, teetering high heels, pouting lips and big gutsy rock voices, they were the closest the local scene had to sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson of the US hard rock group Heart. Walking in The Rain was a highly polished production effort helmed by Ian Meldrum and at #10 was the biggest hit for Cheetah.
The original version of this song reflected the talents of Brill Building husband and wife songwriting team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill (pictured below), the wall-of-sound production techniques of Phil Spector and the soaring vocals of the Ronettes (#23 US ’64), other covers of this song by the Walker Brothers (’67), the Partridge Family (’72) and Jay and the Americans (’69) failed to chart in Australia.
In 1980 the girls would follow up with the Vanda/Young composition Spend the Night which has become a live performance favorite, with a raunchy theme that Cheetah imbue with great energy and sexual tension, like all good rock sex sirens should do “I want to spend the night with you/ I want to do it right with you…”, clearly a song written by men for women to sing, in essence it was a Vanda/Young wet dream, blending a tough, brassy rock sound with a truck stop hooker submissiveness, it was lifted off the impressive Women in Rock album and charted at #31.
Of Vanda and Young Chrissie Hammond opined “They were tough rockers but decent guys, they saw us as strong women, rather than being the tits, the teeth and the glam, they produced us as rockers, which was very innate. Our lyrics, our stage performance was very much in the male vernacular.” The music video was staged in a set comprised of picture frames with a support band, the girls deliver solid rock chick moves, and apparently embrace during some girl-on-girl action, about midway through the clip, it looked awkward, but the sisters were just having fun.
They were popular in Europe, particularly in Germany, and peaked in 1982 when they performed before an audience of 120,000 at the Reading Festival (UK), but Chrissie’s ill-health derailed a push for international success, the girls then pursued solo careers, Chrissie in starring roles on London’s West End (Cats and Chicago) and Lindsay who returned to her early C&W roots in Australia. The girls subsequently reunited to perform as Cheetah on the Long Way to The Top national tour in 2002, it was an incendiary performance of Spend the Night that ignited the show, the aging cougars were in great form, it was hard to believe that Lyndsay and Chrissie were 48 and 46 respectively at that time.
Over the journey the Hammond sisters were the go-to session vocalists during the seventies and eighties, and sang on recordings by Jo Jo Zep, Jon English, Flash and the Pan, Stevie Wright, Norman Gunstone and Darryl Braithwaite, between 1990-98 Chrissie performed backup vocals for prog rocker Rick Wakeman.