All I Really Want to Do is the debut solo album by American singer and actress Cher and was released on October 16, 1965 by Imperial Records. The album was produced for Cher by her husband and singing partner, Sonny Bono, with contributions from arranger Harold Battiste. The album is by-and-large a collection of cover versions but does contain three songs written by Bono. Upon its release, the album was well received by critics and garnered positive reviews. The album was Cher's first and most successful album of the 1960s, both in the UK and the U.S.
At the same time that the duo Sonny & Cher were debuting on Atco Records, Sonny Bono arranged a solo deal for Cher on the Imperial label. After the success of Sonny & Cher's "I Got You Babe" single, Bono decided to promote his wife as a solo act, producing her first full-length album himself. The album was Cher's first solo project since the release of her two unsuccessful 1964 singles, "Ringo, I Love You" and "Dream Baby", released under the pseudonyms Bonnie Jo Mason and Cherylin respectively. All I Really Want to Do, like the debut album by Sonny & Cher, Look at Us, contains many covers. The album includes recordings of contemporary, uptempo rock songs, but it also has a somewhat folky slant to it, in order to differentiate it from the musical style of Sonny & Cher's records.
All I Really Want to Do has received positive reviews from music critics, with Tim Sendra, of the Allmusic website, giving the album four stars. Sendra also noted that the album features Sonny Bono "using his Spector-derived production skills to create rich, chiming backgrounds for Cher to sing over", and described the record as "one of the stronger folk-pop records of the era." Sendra went on to note that "Cher isn't the most subtle singer, but she sounds young and full of life on these tracks, like she really believes in what she is singing (a feeling you don't always get on her more lightweight material)."
In 1992, All I Really Want to Do and Cher's follow-up solo album, The Sonny Side of Chér, were reissued on one CD by EMI Records. Later, in 1995, EMI released a collection titled The Originals, which included All I Really Want to Do, The Sonny Side of Chér and Cher's third solo album, Cher. The album was again reissued on one CD with The Sonny Side of Chér by BGO Records in 2005 in the UK only. The original twelve track All I Really Want to Do album has never been issued on Compact Disc on its own.
All I Really Want to Do was a success on the Billboard 200 album chart, peaking at #16. The album entered the chart while the debut album by Sonny & Cher, Look at Us, was still at #2. The album also entered the UK Albums Chart, debuting at #20 in early October 1965 and peaking at #7 two weeks later. The album remained in the UK chart for nine weeks between early October and late November. Although All I Really Want to Do reached the UK Album Chart, it failed to chart in Europe.
The song "All I Really Want to Do" was the only single to be taken from the album and reached #15 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #9 on the UK singles chart. The song also entered the Canadian, Dutch and Swedish single charts. "All I Really Want to Do" was the first single to be released by Cher under that name and was also her first solo hit. The album also contained the Bono-penned song, "Dream Baby", which had been released as a single in 1964 by Cher, under the pseudonym of Cherylin.
The initial idea to cover "All I Really Want to Do" came when Cher heard the Los Angeles folk rockband, The Byrds, perform it during their pre-fame residency at Ciro'snightclub on the Sunset Strip in March 1965. A minor controversy between Cher and The Byrds ensued when it was alleged by Columbia Records (The Byrds' record label) that Cher and Sonny Bono had taped one of The Byrds' appearances at Ciro's without permission, in order to use some of the band's repertoire ("All I Really Want to Do" and "The Bells of Rhymney") on Cher's own album. Although The Byrds planned to issue "All I Really Want to Do" as a single themselves, they were largely unconcerned with the imminent release of Cher's recording, feeling that there was enough room in the charts for both versions. In a retaliatory attempt to bury Cher's version, Columbia rush-released The Byrds' "All I Really Want to Do" single and both versions entered the Billboard Hot 100 during the same week. A chart battle ensued, largely instigated by Columbia Records and the music press, but ultimately The Byrds' version stalled at #40 on the U.S. charts, while Cher's cover reached #15. In the UK, however, both versions reached the top 10, The Byrds' version reached #4 and Cher's recording peaked at #9.