Ike & Tina Turner
Hey, hey, hey….. It’s Wednesday morning, and I am feeling about as well as anyone whose two-year-old son decided to wake him up at 5:45AM, i.e. I am tired. My eyes feel like two tennis balls, and the urge to crawl under my desk and take a nap is almost impossible to resist. However, the need to remain gainfully employed, and the inner pilot light that ignites my ‘The blog must go on’ impulse is maintaining just enough of a connection between my ears, brain and fingers to get today’s entry typed out. The only remedy, of course, is to open up what beer-swilling, ham-fisted goons normally refer to as a “can of whoopass”, or what I like to call – coincidentally – a “can of whoopass”. This may betray the fact that sometime in my cloudy past I may have aspired to – and achieved – beer-swilling, ham-fisted goon-hood, but that is a risk I must take, because if there is a can of whoopass near enough to grab, it has a label that reads:
Ike and Tina Turner Revue, Handle with Caution!
That’s right chillun. By clicking on today’s MP3 link, you will be unleashing into your computer (and of course your ears) a blast of just over six minutes of absolutely, unrelentingly, spine-twisting, brain-softening, eye-popping soul power. It may have been recorded more than 35 years ago, but like a bottle of ripple, it has only gotten more powerful (maybe even dangerous). I have dropped some Ike and Tina action in this space before, and though I bow to their power without hesitation, it is only fair to say that when it comes to the Turners, I am often conflicted as to what category they and their music should inhabit.
They are certainly soulful, but are they “soul”?
While capable of undeniably funky moments, are they “funk”?
Does anyone but me care about these distinctions? Perhaps not, but I’m gonna keep writing anyway. Ike and Tina Turner, by sheer force of talent and personality, managed to embrace all aspects of black music during their prime, while simultaneously transcending labels. They were purely rhythm and blues, but their sound passed through (and marked) soul, funk and even rock’n’roll.
They managed to create explosive and popular music that while rooted in roadhouses and chittlin’ circuit theaters almost always ended up going in other directions. How much of this power resulted from their famously contentious and violent partnership, is not for me to say. Despite Ike’s obvious talent, he was reportedly a wife-beating asshole, tyrant and all around unpleasant individual, and I can’t imagine this inspiring Tina to do anything other than pack a bag, grab her kids and hit the road (which she eventually did). The only answer – for me, anyway – is that they were both very talented, and they managed to create dynamic music in spite of their problems.
That said, they also managed to put together a shit-hot act, a large part of which was their backing group the Ikettes. Though I can’t say with any certainty which Ikettes are performing on today’s selection, but I can says that over the years their ranks included Clydie King, Vanetta Fields, Jo Armstead, P.P. Arnold and Bonnie Bramlett, and that they managed to crank out some outstanding 45s under their own name (and later as the Mirettes).
Today’s selection(s) hails from a 1969 Minit LP, ‘In Person: Ike and Tina Turner and the Ikettes’. Though by this time the Ike & Tina Turner Revue was playing psychedelic ballrooms and festivals, they were still hitting the supper clubs, and as things open up, the appropriate vibe seems to be in place. The band is vamping on a vague approximation of King Curtis’s ‘Soul Serenade’ and KSOL DJ Herb Campbell – who sounds like he’s chairing the local Kiwanis– is greeted by polite applause as he comes out to introduce the band. He calls out the Ikettes, who take the stage and thank the audience. Then, it happens. Forgetting that they’re in a supper club and not looking out over a sea of muddy hippies, the band turns the volume up to 11, and proceeds to explode into a cover of James Brown’s ‘There Was a Time’. I can only imagine some of the tuxedoed swells in the audience gagging on their cocktail onions as the band tears into the song at about 150 miles per hour. ‘There Was a Time’ is one of my fave JB songs, and I’m here to tell you that the Ikettes more than do it justice. They take the song and turn it into an extended intro – warning? – as Tina is preparing to take the stage. The Ikettes finish up, and Campbell returns to the stage to bring Tina on. ‘The beautiful, talented, Queen of Soul, Miss Tina Turner!’ Tina walks on – I’m assuming, this is after all a record – and the band fires back up and take things at an even faster rate (if that’s possible). There’s an extended vamp, with Ike bending the strings, and the drummer (whoever he was) laying down a hard, fast groove, and you can imagine Tina and the Ikettes doing that frantic Pony-variation that they did so well. Tina drops in and starts things up.
One used to be the Shotgun
Two used to be the bad boogaloo
Three used to be the swingin’ Shingaling
Four used to be the Funky Four Corners
Down on Funky Street
Diggin’ the funky beat
Down on Funky Street Where the grooviest people meet!
OUCH! It like Arthur Conley is there on the stage, his face streaked with tears as Tina and the Ikettes are dancing all over his prone, shattered form. It’s that powerful. And then, after two (very) short verses, the whole affair comes to an abrupt end. The audience sits there, eyelids peeled back, lapels afire, wondering why they gave up a chance to see Robert Goulet to subject themselves to the Ike and Tina Turner Revue, for which they were obviously not prepared. It’s just like that sometimes.
* PS I’m not exactly sure which part of this medley “African Boos” is, unless that’s what Ike decided to call the part of the song where the band is vamping on ‘There Was a Time’, which in all hoesty just should have been called ‘There Was a Time’.