Wednesday , April 24 2024
...when they were at their peak, they were the hottest band in the world. No one can dispute that – just ask the Rolling Stones.

Music Review: Ike & Tina Turner The Ike & Tina Story: 1960-1975

Debates have raged for years about if artists as people should be separated from their art. There have been some truly reprehensible people throughout history who have also produced some of the most amazing art. The Italian painter Carvagio was a murderer and a whore but painted one of the most famous depictions of Christ carrying the Cross. Salvador Dali lays claim in his autobiography to some horrible acts of torture and sadism but he also was one of the great innovators in 20th century art. (Of course some also say he made up that stuff in his autobiography in order to make himself more of a "character"; he was a surrealist after all)

The poet Ezra Pound embraced fascism and delivered anti-Semitic radio broadcasts during World War Two and was a staunch supporter of Mussolini. Music hasn't been spared its terrible geniuses either, with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart supposedly treating the women of his life horribly and behaving like a spoiled brat continually. The artistic world is littered with drug addicts, wife beaters, philanderers and cheats. Not the sort of people you'd want to know intimately or even casually for that matter.

Should their behavior affect the way we judge their art? Probably the only reason we know about the flaws in their characters is because they became well known for what they produced creatively, otherwise their misdeeds wouldn't have even caused a ripple in the annals of history. In fact, the argument could be made that if they hadn't been so artistically driven they might not have even committed any of the misdeeds that are laid against their name.

Than again, plenty of artistic geniuses didn't beat their wives or act like jerks either, so maybe that's not much of an excuse and is just a means of shirking responsibility. There's only so far the "but I'm an artist" excuse can carry people, before they need to grow up.

Pop music is not without its stars that hid a dark side from the public behind the glare of the footlights in the early days. Most of them have been found out now; due to the proliferation of tell-all books and journalists digging deep to find any sort of crumb that can be used to tarnish a star's brightness. The truly unfortunate thing about finding out truths after the fact is they become what a person is remembered for no matter how creative and talented they might have been.

As part of their Legends Of American Music series Time Life Entertainment has released a three disc set of one the '60s hottest groups, but also one of it's most troubled. The three discs of The Ike & Tina Turner Story: 1960-1975 documents just what an amazing musical experience they were, but the included booklet doesn't mince words when it comes to describing Ike's nastier side or the hell that Tina must have lived through.

Ike Turner had been playing music professionally for ten years before he met his future wife Tina in the late '50s. Her name at the time was Anna Mae Bullock and she was the daughter of a black man and a self described "Black-Indian woman".

They recorded their first hit together, "A Fool In Love" almost by accident as Ike had written it for someone else. When they toured that summer Tina was pregnant with Ike's child, and Ike was married to another woman. Ironically, Ike had only had her change her name to Tina Turner for the sake of the group – he thought she would leave at any time and he wanted a name anyone could use so he could replace her if he had too.

The rest as they say is history; The Ike & Tina Turner Review became one of the most successful crossover R & B pop acts in the '60s. In fact, it was because of them that for two years Billboard simply closed their R & B chart, as Ike & Tina were so dominant they didn't see the point in having both. As they gained exposure, they also started to come into contact with rock and roll acts.

They toured England in 1966, opening for the Rolling Stones (Ike claims that Mick Jagger only started to dance after seeing Tina perform). For Ike it was an eye opener in another way. He could see that these young white guys were using licks they had learned from B B King, him, and other players from the 50s. He figured what's good for the goose etc., and started making arrangements of Rock and Roll songs for the Review to perform.

In many cases they were so successful that their versions of the songs shot higher on the charts then the originals had. In 1969 when they toured again with the Rolling Stones, the Stones refused to go on stage for 45 minutes after Ike & Tina's set had ended. They claimed that nobody had picked them up at the airport, but the reality was they hadn't dared go on stage any sooner because the audience would have ignored them after the performance put on by the Review.

Two of the three discs of The Ike & Tina Turner Story are culled from studio recordings that the producers were able to access (contractual problems forbid the use of some tunes) and the third disc is taken from a live album that was originally recorded and released in 1969 called In Person. Listening to this disc you can understand why Mick Jagger and company wanted to wait for the crowd to calm down before following Tina on stage, (I think it was Mick who said years later, following a duet with Tina, that it was like performing inside a hurricane) the energy level they were able to create and sustain was amazing.

The other two discs are a great musical history of the band starting with their first hit "A Fool In Love" and moving in chronological order to Tina's first solo hit, "The Acid Queen" from Ken Russell's movie version of The Who's Tommy. Shooting for the movie had been in England and Tina discovered two things; she liked acting, and she liked being away from Ike.

After you listen to the three discs of this collection, you can't help but notice that each of them contributed equally to the success of the band. Ike wrote a great deal of their material and knew what was needed to make the band a success both live and on record. He was the one who spotted the opportunity that recording rock songs offered and moved the band in the direction that brought them the most fame.

At the same time you can't imagine anyone else but Tina Turner having that kind of success with the material. Far from being replaceable as Ike first thought, she quickly became indispensable. She was the focal point of the live concerts and the engine that drove both of their careers. Post Ike & Tina she continued to have tremendous success as a singer and performer, while Ike faded away into obscurity again. By then, the dirty linen was flapping in the breeze, and Ike was so deep into cocaine, and eventually crack, that his chances of a successful solo career were minimal.

In spite of his failings as a human being and they were many, after listening to these recordings you have to acknowledge and give credit to Ike for his musical skill and his ability to utilize Tina so that her abilities would be best developed and showed off. You can play what if all you like, but there is no real way of knowing what Tina's career would have been like if she had never met Ike.

What The Ike & Tina Turner Story: 1960-1975 does tell us is that in spite of everything, when they were at their peak, they were the hottest band in the world. No one can dispute that – just ask the Rolling Stones.

About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of three books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion" and "Introduction to Greek Mythology For Kids". Aside from Blogcritics he contributes to and his work has appeared in the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and has been translated into numerous languages in multiple publications.

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