Thursday, November 5, 2009

Happy birthday, Ike Turner

Well, it would be if Ike was still with us but he left for the Great Gig in the Sky nearly two years ago, on 12 December 2007.

Even if we allow that Tina Turner’s autobiography might have been a tad biased, he does seem to be been a monster. A great musician, though: his “Rocket 88”, credited to Jackie Brenston, is generally held to be one of the first, if not the actual first, rock and roll songs. He was a hot pianist, a fine guitarist and a brilliant band leader. Here he is with Tina in February 1971 performing “Proud Mary”, a version which features his baritone voice and great guitar work – he was from Mississippi, after all. It’s funny, sexy and great showmanship throughout. The Ikettes are pretty good too – I can’t find their names (many Ikettes went on to stardom of their own, most notably PP Arnold) – but the entire show is on an Eagle Vision DVD called Ike and Tina Turner Live in ’71. It’s all as fantastic as this:

My favourite Ike Turner story concerns another great guitar player who might not have been a very nice man either. Frank Zappa recorded some of his 1973 album Overnite Sensation at the Turners’ studio, Boltic Sound. As Zappa told interviewer Simon Prentis (quoted in Ben Watson’s The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play):
I wanted to put some back-up singers on the thing, and the road manager who was with us at the time checked into it and said, “Well, why don’t you just use the Ikettes?” I said, “I can get the Ikettes?” and he said, “Sure.” But you know what the gimmick was? We had to agree, Ike Turner insisted, that we pay these girls no more than $25 per song, because that’s what he paid them. And no matter how many hours it took, I could not pay them any more than $25 per song per girl, including Tina.

It was so difficult, that one part in the middle of the song “Montana”, that the three girls rehearsed it for a couple of days. Just that one section. You know the part that goes, “I’m pluckin’ the ol’ dennil floss...”? Right in the middle there. And – I can’t remember her name, but one of the harmony singers – she got it first. She came out and sang her part and the other girls had to follow her track. Tina was so pleased that she was able to sing this thing that she went into the next studio where Ike was working and dragged him into the studio to hear the result of her labor. He listened to the tape and he goes, “What is this shit?” and walked out.
Wonderful. Zappa continued:
I don’t know how she managed to stick with that guy for so long. He treated her terribly and she’s a really nice lady. We were recording down there on a Sunday. She wasn’t involved with the session, but she came in on Sunday with a whole pot of stew that she brought for everyone working in the studio. Like out of nowhere, here’s Tina Turner coming in with a rag on her head bringing a pot of stew. It was really nice.
Monitor: Home Paddock

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