Tina Turner

Tina Turner

 Tina Turner – circa 1993

 “I’ve been thinking about my own protection / It scares me to feel this way” – ’What’s Love Got To Do With It’ (Terry Britten, Graham Lyle)

Tina Turner has been ‘beaten bloody.’  It is July 1976.  The assailant of the African-American singer is her husband, Ike Turner.  Their act, The Ike And Tina Turner Revue, has come to Dallas, Texas, to begin a tour.  The couple travel in the back of a hired car to their motel.  “In the car he was real edgy,” Tina begins.  “And I was holding some chocolates and I made him angry and I was wearing a white suit…So…we started to fight in the car…”  Ike Turner has been physically abusing his wife for the last sixteen years.  This time something is different.  Tina fights back.  “We fought all the way back to the motel.  It was like something came over me.”  Once Ike Turner falls asleep in the motel room, Tina makes her escape.  Wearing sunglasses to conceal her bruised face, she exits with thirty-six cents and a Mobil gasoline credit card in her pocket.  “I had to go out the back way.  I was running,” Tina recounts.  She is given refuge in a nearby Ramada Inn.  From there, she makes her way to Los Angeles, California.  “I’m gone and I’m not going back was the attitude,” says Tina Turner defiantly.

Tina Turner is born Anna Mae Bullock on 26 November 1939 in Haywood Memorial Hospital, Tennessee, U.S.A.  She is raised in the nearby town of Nutbush.  “In Tennessee where I grew up, there were animals, farms, wagons, mules.”  Anna Mae is the child of Floyd Richard Bullock and his wife, Zelma Priscilla Bullock (nee Currie).  “My parents were church people; My father was a deacon in the church.”  The child is raised in the Baptist faith.  Floyd Bullock works as an overseer of sharecroppers.  Anna Mae has an older sister, Ruby Ailene.  Less often mentioned is that Anna Mae has two half-sisters: (i) Mary Ann Buck-White who is taken away when Anna Mae is born; and (ii) a mysterious, unnamed half-sister who dies in a car accident in Ripley, Tennessee, when Anna Mae is 14.  This girl is the ‘oldest sister.’  While her parents are Baptists, young Anna Mae is also exposed to a different brand of spirituality.  “I heard stories from my mother’s mother who was an American Indian…She used to tell me stories of the rivers.”  Anna Mae grows up believing she has ‘significant Native American ancestry’, but a D.N.A. test in 2008 reveals she is only one percent Native American and thirty-three percent European.  Of course, her main genetic background is African-American.

During World War Two, the parents of Anna Mae Bullock (Tina Turner) go to work at the defense plant in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Anna Mae is separated from her older sister, Ruby Ailene, and sent to live with her paternal grandparents.  Her father’s mother is “strict…I was always getting spanked.”  Anna Mae starts to sing in the church choir at Nutbush’s Spring Hill Baptist Church.  While still a pre-teen, she is employed as a domestic worker for the Henderson family.

After the war, the Bullock family is reunited, but Floyd and Zelma have an ‘abusive relationship.’  “My mother and father didn’t love each other so they were always fighting,” Tina Turner remembers.  Zelma runs off when Tina / Anna Mae is 13.  “When a mother leaves, it leaves some kind of loneliness for a girl,” Tina says wistfully.  Floyd Bullock remarries before his daughter turns 14.

The teenage years bring new awareness to Anna Mae Bullock.  “As I grew up, I learned what worked for me.  That’s where the short dresses came from.  And you can’t dance [like I do] in a long dress.”  Despite being only five feet, four inches, the girl notes, “I always had long legs.  When I was young, I used to think, ‘Why do I look like a pony?’”

Anna Mae Bullock graduates from Sumner High School in 1958.  “I’m self-made,” she later says.  “I always wanted to make myself a better person because I was not [highly] educated.  But that was my dream.  To have class.”  Anna Mae Bullock works as a nurse’s aide at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.  She gains her first boyfriend, a fellow named Harry, while living in Brownsville, Tennessee.

With her sister Ruby Ailene, Anna Mae Bullock moves to St Louis, Missouri, in the hope of finding a career as a professional singer.  “After I moved to St Louis, my older sister and I went to see Ike Turner, who was the hottest then.  His music charged me.  I was never attracted to him, but I wanted to sing with his band.”

Ike Turner (5 November 1931 – 12 December 2007) is born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, U.S.A.  He grows up in an area steeped in blues music.  Ike works as a disc-jockey and forms his own band, The Kings Of Rhythm (a.k.a. The Delta Rhythm Kings).  Ike Turner plays guitar and piano and also acts as a talent scout for the Los Angeles-based record labels Modern and RPM.  In 1951 he plays on ‘Rocket 88’ by Jackie Brenston.  This is one of a handful of contenders for the title of the first rock ‘n’ roll record.  Jackie Brenston is a saxophone player in The Rhythm Kings but, because he takes the lead vocal on ‘Rocket 88’, the song is credited to him on the record label.  Ironically, the sax solo on the track is not played by Brenston but by Raymond Hill, another one of The Kings Of Rhythm.  Ike Turner’s prototypical dirty guitar sound is due to his amplifier having a patchwork repair after it was damaged falling off the truck on the way to the recording session.  After this seminal recording, Ike Turner’s work as a talent scout is attributed with the discovery of such recording artists as Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King and Bobby Bland.

Ike Turner tours with ‘a revue-style show, featuring him on guitar and piano, and spotlighting various vocalists.’  This involves an open-mike section of the show where members of the audience are given an opportunity to sing with The Kings Of Rhythm.  One night in 1958, the future Tina Turner is in the St Louis audience.  “Many times other girls had stood to sing [with Ike] and I knew they couldn’t sing as well as I could,” Tina recalls.  When her turn comes, Anna Mae Bullock turns in an impressive performance.  The 18 year old becomes part of the touring show as a backing vocalist.  She is billed as Little Ann.  She becomes romantically involved with Raymond Hill (the saxophone player who was featured on ‘Rocket 88‘).  Anna Mae Bullock bears him a son, Raymond Craig (born 29 August 1958).  She describes her relationship with Ike Turner in the late 1950s this way: “He was a very nice person at the time and we were really friends, like brother and sister.”  Within a year, Raymond Hill has left Anna Mae Bullock and Ike Turner’s attention turns to her.  “The first time Ike actually touched me, I felt ashamed because he was my friend.”  Nonetheless, in January 1960 she finds herself pregnant by Ike.  Complicating the situation is that Ike Turner is already married to a woman named Lorraine.

In March 1960 Ike Turner and The Kings Of Rhythm prepare to record one of Ike’s songs, ‘A Fool In Love’.  A male vocalist is supposed to sing on the recording session but he fails to turn up at the studio, so Ike turns to Little Ann.  “It was kind of done as a demo,” she says apologetically, but the recording engineer convinces Ike to keep Anna’s vocal.  ‘A Fool In Love’ (US no. 27) is a rough and ready rhythm and blues shake highlighted by a wordless section of pure vocal shouting by the singer – a woman who finds herself renamed Tina Turner.  The record is credited to Ike And Tina Turner.  The Kings Of Rhythm are later renamed The Ike And Tina Turner Revue.  The act is augmented by a trio of female backing vocalists dubbed The Ikettes.  Various ladies pass through the ranks of The Ikettes over the years.

Tina Turner gives birth to a son by Ike, Ronald (born October 1960).  Ike’s estranged wife, Lorraine, leaves them with her children by Ike as well, Ike, Jr. (born 1958) and Michael (born 1959).  With the addition of Raymond Craig, Tina’s son by Raymond Hill, that means the couple have four young sons to raise.  Tina gives birth to Ronald on a Thursday and is back on stage by Saturday night.  Despite his familial responsibilities, Ike Turner is ‘openly carrying on with countless women.’  When Tina protests about these infidelities, she is physically abused.  “That was the first time I had a real beating – with a shoe stretcher [a metal device to push back the heel of a leather shoe to more easily accommodate the wearer’s foot].”  Ike Turner will continue to batter his partner over the course of their lives together.  So why does Tina stay with him and tolerate his violence?  “I had nowhere to go,” she says.  “There was nowhere to go for many years.”

The single ‘A Fool In Love’ is released on the Sue label and it is for that label that Ike And Tina Turner record their earliest albums.  The debut album, ‘The Soul Of Ike & Tina Turner’ (1961) includes ‘A Fool In Love’.  ‘Dance With Ike & Tina Turner’s Kings Of Rhythm’ (1962) is an album of instrumentals.  These discs are followed by ‘Don’t Play Me Cheap’ (1963), ‘Dynamite’ (1963) and ‘It’s Gonna Work Out Fine’ (1963).  Singles from this period are ‘I Idolize You’ (US no. 82) and the ‘hopeful’ ‘It’s Gonna Work Out Fine’ (US no. 14) (both from 1961) and ‘Poor Fool’ (US no. 38), ‘Tra La La La La’ (US no. 50) and ‘You Shoulda Treated Me Right’ (US no. 89) (all from 1962).  Ike Turner has a habit of recycling or re-recording the duo’s hits.  So, for instance, ‘A Fool In Love’ shows up again on ‘Dynamite’‘It’s Gonna Work Out Fine’ includes Tina Turner’s first composition, ‘Tinaroo’.

Ike and Tina Turner officially marry in Tijuana, Mexico, in 1962.  The marriage is prompted by other women making claims on Ike’s money and, somehow, a legitimate marriage helps ward off these problems.

The mid-1960s are a bewildering period in Ike and Tina Turner’s recording history.  They release material on a variety of labels: Sonja, Innis, Kent, Loma (for whom they cut half a dozen non-charting singles), Warner Bros., United, Tomato, Modern, Tangerine (owned by rhythm and blues legend Ray Charles) and Cenco.  The albums released in these years are: ‘Please Please Please’ (1963), ‘The Ike & Tina Turner Revue Live’ (1964), ‘Live! The Ike & Tina Turner Show’ (1965), ‘Ooh Poo Pah Doo’ (1965), ‘Festival Of Live Performances’ (1965), ‘Ike & Tina Show 2’ (1965), ‘Live! The Ike & Tina Turner Show’ (1966) and ‘Live! The Ike & Tina Turner Show, Vols. 1-2’ (1966).  Their most successful singles in this period are ‘I Can’t Believe What You Say (For Seeing What You Do)’ (US no. 95) in 1964 and ‘Tell Her I’m Not Home’ (US no. 48) in 1965.

Ike and Tina Turner appear in the concert film ‘The Big T.N.T. Show’ (1966) in January.  One of the organisers of this multi-artist showcase is legendary record producer Phil Spector.  The ‘Tycoon of Teen’, Spector has been producing and co-writing pop hits since 1958.  He is best known for his ‘wall of sound’ technique, an extravagant method of multi-tracking with orchestra-size collections of rock music session musicians.  Spector is impressed by Ike and Tina Turner and offers to work with them.  It may be more accurate to say Spector offers to work with Tina since he bans Ike Turner from the studio so there will be no interference with Spector’s own eccentric production techniques.  “He wanted me to not sing from any kind of way I remembered,” says Tina.  “I had never sung like that before.  I worked hard for it.  I wanted it.”  The result is ‘River Deep Mountain High’ (US no. 88, UK no. 3).  “When I was a little girl I had a rag doll / Only doll I’ve ever owned / Now I love you just the way I loved that rag doll / But only now my love has grown,” bellows Tina Turner from within a cavernous sonic construct.  The song is co-written by Phil Spector, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich.  The accompanying album, ‘River Deep Mountain High’ (1966) (US no. 102) is released by A&M and is split between five songs produced by Phil Spector and seven by Ike Turner.  The song ‘River Deep Mountain High’ has mixed fortunes.  Released in May 1966, it doesn’t do very well on the U.S. chart and Spector ‘is so embittered by its failure to hit in America that he goes into seclusion for two years.’  On the other hand, it is very successful in England (“I don’t know if I even knew where England was,” Tina chortles) and is ‘the song that first earns her a loyal legion of European fans.’  On 22 September 1966 The Ike And Tina Turner Revue begins a U.K. tour as a support act to British sensations The Rolling Stones.  The tour continues up to 9 October 1966.

Once again Ike And Tina Turner’s recordings enter a period where they are passed around through multiple record labels.  The record companies include Valiant, Pompeii, Blue Thumb, Minit, Liberty/United Artists and Capitol.  The albums released are: ‘Ike & Tina Turner And The Raelettes’ (1966); ‘Outta Season’ (1968) (US no. 91); ‘So Fine’ (1968); ‘In Person’ (1969) (US no. 142); ‘Fantastic’ (1969); ‘Get It Together’ (1969); ‘Her Man, His Woman’ (1969); ‘The Hunter’ (1969) (US no. 176); ‘Come Together’ (1970) (US no. 130); ‘On Stage’ (1970); ‘Workin’ Together’ (1969) (US no. 25); ‘Live In Paris’ (1971); ‘Nuff Said’ (1971) (US no. 108); ‘Something’s Got A Hold On Me’ (1971); ‘What You Hear Is What You Get’ (1971) (US no. 25) – a live album; ‘Feel Good’ (1972) (US no. 160); ‘Let Me Touch Your Mind’ (1972); ‘Live! The World Of Ike And Tina Turner’ (1973); ‘Nutbush City Limits’ (1973) (US no. 163); ‘Strange Fruit’ (1974); ‘Sweet Rhode Island Red’ (1974); ‘The Gospel According To Ike And Tina’ (1974); ‘The Great Album’ (1974); ‘Delilah’s Power’ (1977); ‘Airwaves’ (1978); and ‘The Edge’ (1980).

The most successful singles for Ike And Tina Turner in the same period include the following: 1966’s ‘A Love Like Yours (Don’t Come Knocking Everyday)’ (UK no. 16) and 1968’s ‘I’ve Done All I Can (To Do Right By My Man)’ (US no. 98).  1969’s ‘I’ve Been Loving You Too Long’ (US no. 68) is a cover version of an Otis Redding song from 1965.  It comes from the album ‘Outta Season’ (1968) on Blue Thumb. It is notable for the way it is performed on stage.  Tina Turner ‘handles the microphone in a raunchy way, Ike makes suggestive pornographic slurping noises…[and] the song ends with Tina having a simulated orgasm.’  This can all be seen in The Rolling Stones’ documentary film ‘Gimme Shelter’ (1970).  (Ike And Tina Turner are the support act on a U.S. tour by The Stones.  It replicates their British tour together in 1966.)  Recalling such performance antics with distaste, Tina Turner comments, “I used to hate my work, hated that sexy image, hated those pictures of me onstage, hated that big raunchy person.”

Increasingly, Tina Turner wants to sing rock songs rather than rhythm and blues songs and this is reflected in Ike And Tina Turner’s singles.  1969’s ‘The Hunter’ (US no. 93) and 1970’s ‘Bold Bold Sister’ (US no. 59) are followed in 1970 by a cover of British rock giants The Beatles’ ‘Come Together’ (US no. 57) from 1969.  After 1970’s ‘I Want To Take You Higher’ (US no. 34), in January 1971 Ike And Tina Turner deliver a horn-infused version of ‘Proud Mary’ (US no. 4), a song that was originally a hit for American rock band Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1969.  This very successful Ike And Tina Turner hit comes from the Liberty album ‘Workin’ Together’ (1971).  Jesse Hill’s ‘Ooh Poo Pah Doo’ (US no. 60) that Ike And Tina Turner first recorded back in 1965 is resurrected in 1971.  ‘Up In Health’ (US no. 83) in 1972 precedes Tina Turner’s best individual song.

‘Nutbush City Limits’ (US no. 22, UK no. 4) is a relentlessly funky hit for Ike And Tina Turner in November 1973.  Like ‘River Deep Mountain High’, it actually does better in Britain than America.  ‘Nutbush City Limits’ is a rare Tina Turner composition.  If it is recalled that Tina was raised in Nutbush, Tennessee, it becomes obvious that it is also an autobiographical song.  “A church house, gin house / A school house, out house / On highway number nineteen / The people keep the city clean / They call it Nutbush,” Tina barks, painting a vivid portrait.  Small town life is detailed in the lyrics, “Go to the store on Friday / You go to church on Sunday / You go to the fields on week days / And have a picnic on Labor Day / You go to town on Saturday / But go to church every Sunday.”  The highly personal tale of the song would, on its own, qualify this as Tina Turner’s definitive work, but its addictive hyperactive shuffle is also irresistible.

Rounding out the singles selection for Ike And Tina Turner are 1974’s ‘Sexy Ida (Part 1)’ (US no. 65) and 1975’s ‘Baby Get It On’ (US no. 88).

The private lives of Ike and Tina Turner are also eventful from 1966 to 1976.  In spring 1968 Tina Turner discovers that Ann Thomas, one of The Ikettes, is pregnant by Ike.  Despairing of this latest show of disrespect from her abusive husband, Tina swallows fifty tranquiliser pills in a suicide attempt.  After being taken to hospital and having her stomach pumped, Tina survives and somehow finds the strength to carry on.  In May 1971 Ike Turner opens his own recording studio, Bolic Sounds.  It coincides with him using cocaine significantly.  Ike is described as a ‘violent, drug-addicted wife-beater.’  In 1971 Tina Turner is introduced to Buddhism by a friend of Ike’s.  She embraces the Eastern religion, saying, “I found that when I would chant the words [of prayer], I felt better.”  Tina doesn’t exactly abandon the faith in which she was raised.  She describes herself as ‘Buddhist-Baptist’.  Predictably, Ike Turner is not impressed with her Buddhist chanting: “He had forbidden me to do it.”  Tina points out, “He was becoming more and more insecure ‘cos he couldn’t get a hit record and I was getting blamed for it.”  This all culminates in Tina walking out on Ike in July 1976, ending both their musical and personal relationship.  The divorce is not finalised until 1978.  A glance at the albums released by Ike And Tina Turner shows that Ike released three albums credited to the duo even after they split, so these are presumably culled from previously unreleased recordings from earlier in their career.

Tina Turner’s first solo recordings predate her split with Ike Turner.  ‘Tina Turns The Country On!’ (1974), her debut disc, is released in August 1974.  It is the first of four albums she records for United Artists / EMI.  Produced by Tom Thacker, as the name implies, ‘Tina Turns The Country On!’ is a collection of country music-oriented cover versions.  Tina Turner plays the part of the Acid Queen in the movie ‘Tommy’ (1975), adapted from the rock opera of the same name created by British rock group The Who.  Tina’s second solo album, ‘Acid Queen’ (1975) (US no. 115, AUS no. 75), exploits this connection.  As well as her rendition of ‘Acid Queen’, the album consists mainly of cover versions of rock songs by The Who and The Rolling Stones.  However the same album also serves up the proto-disco song ‘Baby Get It On’ which, when released as a single, is credited to Ike And Tina Turner (since Ike produces that track).

‘Rough’ (1978) is Tina Turner’s first album after her break up with Ike Turner.  Produced by Bob Monaco, the album includes the songs ‘Viva La Money’ and ‘Root Toot Indisputable Rock ‘N’ Roller’ as well as cover versions of the 1978 Dan Hill song ‘Sometimes When We Touch’ and the 1957 Nappy Brown song ‘The Night Time Is The Right Time’.  ‘Love Explosion’ (1979) is a more disco-oriented work, produced by Alec R. Constandios.  Songs on this set include ‘Music Keeps Me Dancin’’, ‘Love Explosion’ and a re-working of the O’Jays ‘Backstabbers’ from 1972.

After the breakdown of her marriage, Tina Turner finds television appearances to be a good way of earning enough money to keep afloat herself and the four kids in her care.  Her live shows veer towards cabaret, all ‘glitter, glitz and high kicks.’  Tina says, “In the beginning I wanted to be like [actress, singer and dancer] Ann-Margret [who also starred in ‘Tommy’]…[Las] Vegas…I wanted the Bob Mackie dresses…tuxedo suits, glitter suits, feather boas…”  One of the television appearances Tina Turner makes is on ‘Olivia Newton-John: Hollywood Nights’ in 1980.  Tina seeks out Roger Davies, the manager of Olivia Newton-John, in the hope that he will also take her on as a client.  The blonde pop singer’s manager agrees to consider the possibility but is aghast when he takes in one of Tina’s cabaret-influenced live shows.  Davies will only consent to managing Tina Turner if she gives her image a makeover.  With Davies assistance, Tina Turner is brought to the attention of John Carter, a staff producer at Capitol Records.  Carter champions Tina Turner with the record label and she is signed to a recording contract with Capitol.  With Roger Davies and John Carter’s input, Tina Turner is set to move into a new era.

Despite being over 40 years old, Tina Turner’s career is really only starting.  With Ike Turner, Tina recorded primarily rhythm and blues material (e.g. ‘A Fool In Love’), though she seemed to press for more rock songs (e.g. ‘Proud Mary’).  In the 1960s the main forces in African-American popular music were the black pop of Motown Records and the gospel-influenced soul music of labels like Stax.  Ike And Tina Turner didn’t really fit in either camp.  Perhaps because Ike Turner was present at rock music’s (arguable) birth with ‘Rocket 88’ in 1951, he seemed to feel free to hew a more individualistic path.  The general allegiance to rhythm and blues appears to be an economic necessity for African-American performers when American society (and music) is still in the process of transitioning from a form of racial segregation to a more ethnically integrated state.

The relatively rare instances of white performers operating in the field of soul music gives rise to the somewhat left-handed designation of ‘blue-eyed soul’ (i.e. white singers performing black music).  Tina Turner is an example of a flow in the opposite direction.  For want of a better description, she performs ‘brown-eyed rock’; she is a black singer performing white music.  “I never had that thing about being black,” says Tina Turner.  She has never been a poster child for black rights or Afro-American consciousness.  Yet she subtly reverses the expected path for a black singer.

A large part of Tina Turner’s image is her sex appeal.  “I didn’t plan to be sexy because I didn’t think I was sexy,” she says defensively.  ‘I didn’t think I was pretty.  It wasn’t a plan of mine to be a sex symbol because in those times [in the early part of my career] it was kind of disrespectful as a Baptist girl to be a sex symbol.”  Ike Turner certainly made use of his partner’s sex appeal.  Given the microphone fondling of ‘I’ve Been Loving You Too Long’ and Tina’s response to it (“[I] hated that sexy image”], it could be contended that Ike exploited her.  That point is diluted somewhat by Tina Turner, as a solo artist, continuing to emphasise her own sensuality.  Even when seemingly in charge of her own destiny, Tina maintains a raw physicality.

Ike Turner observes that Tina’s “voice was kind of raspy.  It didn’t sound high-pitched like a girl’s.”  This is true, but Tina Turner’s vocal style is also brash and leonine.  In the latter part of her career a certain world-weary resignation also seeps in.  It never sounds like indifference; it is just that Tina’s vocal inflection reflects the tumultuous life she has led.

Tina Turner is not really a songwriter – despite the odd exception like ‘Nutbush City Limits’.  Most of the material she records in her 1980s solo career is furnished by professional songwriters like Terry Britten, Albert Hammond, Holly Knight and Graham Lyle.

The first step in the rebirth of Tina Turner’s career takes place in October 1981 when she is the opening act on a U.S. tour by U.K. pop star Rod Stewart.  This leads to Tina appearing in Rod’s satellite broadcast show from the Los Angeles Forum on 18 December 1981.  Rod Stewart and Tina Turner duet on ‘Hot Legs’, ‘Stay With Me’ and ‘Get Back’.

Next, Tina Turner performs a cover version of The Temptations’ 1970 hit ‘Ball Of Confusion’ for the album ‘Music Of Quality And Distinction’ (1982) on Virgin Records.  This is a project attributed to The British Electric Foundation.  Ian Marsh and Martyn Ware were formerly half of the ‘electropop experimentalists’, The Human League.  Now, in this new guise, they mastermind a clutch of singers performing notable songs from years past.  Tina Turner’s contribution to the disc is perhaps the most famous and successful.

Tina Turner has a romantic relationship with James Ralston in 1982-1983.

The Tina Turner renaissance really takes off with her first solo album for Capitol Records, ‘Private Dancer’ (1984) (US no. 3, UK no. 2, AUS no. 7).  This turns out to be the singer’s all-time best album.  ‘Private Dancer’ is assembled from multiple recording sessions with different producers.  Such a method could lead to a disastrous mix of clashing styles but Tina Turner’s larger-than-life persona manages to unite all the sounds.  This multi-producer approach is used for most of her subsequent albums.  The first single from this disc is a sexy and smooth rendition of Al Green’s 1971 soul hit ‘Let’s Stay Together’ (US no. 26, UK no. 6, AUS no. 19).  This is overseen by Martyn Ware from The British Electric Foundation.  The real turning point is ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’ (US no. 1, UK no. 3, AUS no. 1), co-written by Terry Britten and Graham Lyle.  “I hated it,” admits Tina Turner, confessing that she only recorded the song at the urging of her manager, Roger Davies.  The song has a sullen, yet sauntering, mood, offset by a flute-like synthesiser part.  It is very easy to transpose the travails of Tina Turner’s personal life with the lyrics: “What’s love got to do, got to do with it? / What’s love but a second-hand emotion? / What’s love got to do, got to do with it? / Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?”  Terry Britten produces this track as well as Tina’s techno-fied cover of ‘I Can’t Stand The Rain’ (UK no. 57), first recorded by Ann Peebles in 1973 and notably covered by Eruption in 1978.  Rupert Hine is the producer for ‘Better Be Good To Me’ (US no. 5, UK no. 45, AUS no. 28), co-written by Holly Knight, Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman.  While the backing sounds like mechanical pistons, Tina Turner growls in a scorching tone, “Oh yes, I’m touched by this show of emotion / Should I be fractured by your lack of devotion? / Should I?!”  The title track, ‘Private Dancer’ (US no. 7, UK no. 26, AUS no. 21), is contributed by Mark Knopfler of British rock band Dire Straits.  The rest of Dire Straits act as backing musicians for the song but, surprisingly, the guitar solo is played by 1960s guitar hero Jeff Beck – even though Knopfler is also acknowledged for his guitar prowess.  In the song, Tina plays the part of a “Private dancer / A dancer for money” (ahem!) with a fitting mix of class, weariness and allure: “Well the men come in these places and the men are all the same / You don’t look at their faces and you don’t ask their names.”  John Carter produces the song ‘Private Dancer’.  “I had my own songs,” asserts Tina Turner, summing up the appeal of this album.  Although she is not the songwriter, the material sounds tailored for her life and experiences.  This element of truthfulness distinguishes the project.

Tina Turner appears at the charity concert Live Aid on 13 July 1985.  She duets with Mick Jagger, lead vocalist from The Rolling Stones, on ‘It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll’ and ‘State Of Shock’.  However, the performance is memorable chiefly because ‘during their duet on “It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll” Mick Jagger accidentally rips away part of Tina Turner’s dress, leaving her to finish the song in what was, effectively, a leotard.’  The term ‘accidentally’ is used very loosely since there is a strong suspicion that it is ‘a planned wardrobe malfunction.’  “Mick is just naughty, you know?” Tina Turner laughs.  “It wasn’t as if some guy pulled off my skirt; it was like this boy I knew did it.”

Also in July the soundtrack to the film ‘Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome’ (1985) (US no. 39) is released.  As well as co-starring in the film in the role of Aunty Entity, Tina Turner sings two songs on the soundtrack: “We Don’t Need Another Hero’ (US no. 2, UK no. 3, AUS no. 1) (written by Terry Britten and Graham Lyle) and ‘One Of The Living’ (US no. 15, UK no. 55, AUS no. 34) (written by Holly Knight).  Both blur the line between Tina Turner’s own persona and the Aunty Entity role in the sci-fi desert-set movie.

In 1985 Tina Turner meets German music executive Erwin Bach who becomes her long-term boyfriend.

Tina Turner’s autobiography ‘I, Tina’ (1986) is published in January 1986.  For the first time, the details of her tumultuous marriage to Ike Turner become public knowledge.

In many ways, ‘Break Every Rule’ (1986) (US no. 2, UK no. 2, AUS no. 11) in September is an attempt to recreate the formula of ‘Private Dancer’.  Most of the album is co-written by Terry Britten and Graham Lyle and produced by Terry Britten.  This applies to the album’s best known tracks, ‘Typical Male’ and ‘What You Get Is What You See’.  ‘Typical Male’ (US no. 2, UK no. 33, AUS no. 20) casts Tina as a love-struck client trying to charm an attorney: “Tell me, lawyer, what to do / I think I’m fallin’ in love with you…I confess I’m a fool for a man with a clever mind / But your intellect ain’t no match for this heart of mine.”  The song deploys throaty synths and bold rhythms, and some of the credit for the latter must go to guest drummer Phil Collins, a pop star in his own right, who started out as a drummer in the British band Genesis.  ‘Typical Male’ also features a hot saxophone solo from Tim Cappello who, due to his body-builder physique, is the most recognisable of Tina Turner’s regular backing musicians.  On ‘What You Get Is What You See’ (US no. 13, UK no. 30, AUS no. 15), Tina Turner sounds like a cowgirl kicking up the dust: “What you get is what you see / Ain’t nothin’ more to it / And if you wanna love a woman like me / It takes a man to do it.”

The concert recording ‘Tina Live In Europe’ (1988) (US no. 86, UK no. 30, AUS no. 15) is most notable for its grinding, metallic take on Robert Palmer’s 1986 hit ‘Addicted To Love’.  Also in 1988 Tina Turner makes it into the Guinness Book of Records for a concert in Brazil that year where one hundred and eighty-two thousand fans – the largest paying crowd for a solo artist in history – cram into the Maracana Soccer Stadium to see her show.

‘Foreign Affair’ (1989) (US no. 31, UK no. 1, AUS no. 15) completes the trilogy of studio albums (together with ‘Private Dancer’ and ‘Break Every Rule’) that define Tina Turner in the 1980s – and beyond.  Dan Hartman produces most of the best tracks on ‘Foreign Affair’.  ‘Look Me In The Heart’ (UK no. 31) is a mid-tempo song composed by Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg.  More interesting is the swamp rock of Tony Joe White’s ‘Steamy Windows’ (US no. 39, UK no. 13, AUS no. 34), given a glossy finish with poppin’ bass and a hot and funky groove.  “We was snuggled up in the back seat / Making up for lost time,” confides Tina saucily, adding, “Steamy windows / Coming from the body heat.”  Tina Turner shares production credit with Dan Hartman on the disc’s biggest hit, ‘The Best’ (US no. 15, UK no. 5, AUS no. 4).  The song is co-written by Holly Knight and Mike Chapman.  Holly Knight has revealed that, although the song has become closely identified with Tina Turner, it was originally written for British pop singer Paul Young who passed on recording it.  From pouting verses, the song bursts into a technicolour chorus as Tina whoops, “You’re simply the best / Better than all the rest / Better than anyone / Anyone I ever met.”  The other notable track on ‘Foreign Affair’ is ‘I Don’t Wanna Lose You’ (UK no. 8, AUS no. 53).  It is co-written by Albert Hammond and Graham Lyle and that duo act as producers for the song in conjunction with Roger Davies.  ‘I Don’t Wanna Lose You’ appears to be another bespoke creation, as Tina fittingly sings, “Women of a certain age they learn to relax and judge all his responses.”

The compilation album ‘Simply The Best’ (1991) (US no. 113, UK no. 2, AUS no. 12) adds a trio of new songs from Tina Turner’s frequent songwriters.  The coquettish ‘I Want You Near Me’ (UK no. 22) (Terry Britten and Graham Lyle), the high-rent ballad ‘Way Of The World’ (UK no. 13) (Albert Hammond and Graham Lyle) and the full-on metal of ‘Love Thing’ (UK no. 29) (Holly Knight and Albert Hammond).

Tina Turner performs Sam Cooke’s 1964 song ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ on The British Electric Foundation’s ‘Music Of Quality And Distinction – Volume Two’ (1991).

Tina Turner’s life story is dramatized in the movie ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’ (1993).  Angela Bassett plays the part of Tina Turner, but mimes to Tina’s own singing voice.  The ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It – Soundtrack’ (1993) (US no. 17, UK no. 1, AUS no. 30) includes three new songs, ‘I Don’t Want To Fight’ (US no. 9, UK no. 7, AUS no. 39), ‘Stay Awhile’ and ‘Why Must We Wait Until Tonight’, together with a new cover version of The Trammps’ 1976 song ‘Disco Inferno’ (UK no. 12, AUS no. 56).

In 1994 Tina Turner takes up residence in Zurich, Switzerland, with her partner, Erwin Bach.

‘Wildest Dreams’ (1996) (US no. 64, UK no. 4, AUS no. 14) is produced by Trevor Horn and Terry Britten.  After this album, her first for Parlophone, Tina Turner ‘allegedly retires.’

‘Twenty Four Seven’ (1999) (US no. 21, UK no. 9) proves the notice of retirement may have been a little premature.  This multi-producer disc is followed by the singer’s last major tour.

On 12 December 2007 Ike Turner, Tina’s ex, passes away.  The cause of death is a cocaine overdose but Ike Turner also had advanced emphysema.

‘Tina Live’ (2009) (US no. 169, UK no. 43) is a concert recording.

In July 2013 Tina Turner weds her long-time partner Erwin Bach in a civil ceremony.

Tina Turner’s journey from battered wife to independent woman was inspiring.  It was accompanied by a less recognised growth in her singing career and recording persona.  From a raw rhythm and blues shouter, she progressed to a vocalist of wider range and subtlety without losing an ounce of her power.  Tina Turner was ‘the most dynamic soul singer in the history of the music’ and was ‘a unique and enduring star.’

Sources:

  1. ‘Simply The Best’ – Anonymous sleeve notes (Festival Records Pty. Ltd. Australia, 1999) p. 5, 6, 9
  2. ‘O – The Oprah Winfrey Magazine’ – Tina Turner interview conducted by Oprah Winfrey (October 2003) (reproduced on oprah.com)
  3. ‘VH1 – Behind The Music – Tina Turner’ (U.S. television program, VH1 Cable Network) – Narrated by Jim Forbes (2006)
  4. ‘The Illustrated New Musical Express Encyclopedia of Rock’ by Nick Logan, Bob Woffinden (Salamander Books, 1978) p. 215, 216, 234, 235
  5. Internet movie database imdb.com as at 12 July 2014
  6. wikipedia.org as at 12 May 2014
  7. Notable names database – nndb.com – as at 12 May 2014
  8. brainyquote.com as at 30 June 2014
  9. wikianswers.com as at 13 July 2014
  10. ‘The Rolling Stone Illustrated History Of Rock ‘N’ Roll’, ‘Rock Begins’ by Robert Palmer (Plexus Publishing, 1992), p. 12
  11. ‘The Illustrated Rock Handbook’ edited by Roxanne Streeter, Ray Bonds (Salamander Books, 1983) p. 216
  12. allmusic.com, ‘Tina Turner’ by John Bush as at 16 June 2014
  13. lyricsfreak.com as at 9 July 2014
  14. ‘Tina Turner – What’s Love? Tour ’93 – Concert programme’ – Anonymous text, p. 3
  15. ‘Rolling Stone Rock Almanac’ by the Editors of ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine (Papermac, 1984) p. 116, 120, 318, 335
  16. tinaturnerfanclub.eu/biography.html by Pierre Raiche (?) as at 13 July 2014
  17. whosdatedwho.com as at 30 June 2014
  18. popmatters.com – ‘Tina Turner: Tina Live!’ review by Steve Leftridge (30 November 2009)
  19. ‘The Virgin Encyclopedia Of Eighties Music’ – Edited by Colin Larkin (Virgin Books, 1997) p. 447

Song lyrics copyright Rondor/Warner/Chappell with the exceptions of ‘River Deep Mountain High’ (Belinda); ‘Nutbush City Limits’ (EMI Catalogue); ‘Better Be Good To Me’ (BMG Music); ‘Private Dancer’ (Rondor); ‘Steamy Windows’ (EMI Songs); and ‘The Best’ (Warner/Chappell)

Last revised 29 July 2014

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