Cristina Monet Zilkha (née Monet-Palaci, January 2, 1959 – April 1, 2020), known during her recording career mononymously as Cristina, was an American singer and writer, best known for her new wave recordings made for ZE Records around 1980 in New York City. A Harvard drop-out and daughter of a French psychoanalyst and an American illustrator-novelist-playwright. She met Michael Zilkha when she was working as a writer, who she later married. Zilkha was heir to England's Mothercare retail empire and was just starting ZE Records with Michel Esteban. Zilkha persuaded her to record "Disco Clone", a song written by Ronald Melrose, an ex classmate of hers at Harvard. The original recording, produced by John Cale, was the first issue on the ZE label. A later version featured the uncredited Kevin Kline on vocals.
"Disco Clone" was a cult success and encouraged ZE to release a full-length album in 1980, which was produced by August Darnell of Kid Creole & The Coconuts. The album was reissued as Doll in the Box. Cristina also issued on a 12" single a cover of Peggy Lee's "Is That All There Is?" with new, satirical lyrics. Its authors Leiber and Stoller sued and successfully got it withdrawn for many years. Later, she released a cover of the Beatles' "Drive My Car" (also released as "Baby You Can Drive My Car"). She released the track "Things Fall Apart", produced by Was (Not Was), on ZE's Christmas Record, in 1981.
Cristina's second album Sleep It Off was produced by Don Was and released in 1984 with a sleeve design by Jean-Paul Goude (a year before he used the same idea for Grace Jones). The lyrics satirized urban decadence with often dry, sarcastic delivery. The record flopped, and Cristina retired to domestic life in Texas. The album was re-released in 2004 with six bonus tracks, two of which were produced (and one co-written) by Robert Palmer.
Monet-Palaci and Zilkha divorced in 1990, and she returned to New York City. She later contributed learned essays and reviews to publications such as London's Times Literary Supplement while battling a debilitating illness. Her two albums for ZE were reissued in 2004. Cristina died on April 1, 2020, at the age of 61 reportedly from the Coronavirus.
Links to Peel
Peel on his 08 November 1978 mentioned that when he first heard Cristina's 'Disco Clone', he thought it was a disco record, but after a day or so, learned it was satirical and thought it should be played on his programme:
"When I first heard this next piece, I thought, oh no! Not a confounded disco record! But then I was told a day or so later that it's actually a hip and satirical disco record, so did one of my celebrated about-turns and here it is."
He continued playing Cristina's early material, including memorable cover versions of 'Is That All There Is?' (originally by Peggy Lee) and 'Baby You Can Drive My Car' (Beatles), although he seemed to lose interest in the singer before her second LP in 1984.
- 04 February 1980: Is That All There Is? (7") Ze
- 07 February 1980: Is That All There Is? (7") Ze
- 26 March 1980: Don't Be Greedy (LP - Cristina) ZE
- 26 June 1980: Baby You Can Drive My Car (7") Ze
- 07 September 1981: Don't Be Greedy (7") Ze
- 17 December 1981: Things Fall Apart (12") ZE
- 24 December 1981: 'Things Fall Apart (7 inch)' (Island)