The golden girl
She’s been in the music business for four decades and has sold over thirty million records. She is undoubtedly one of rock’s great survivors. But at the age of 56 can Tina Turner still cut it? Interview by Pierre Perrone. Article by Jonathan Trew.
As rollercoaster careers go. Tina Turner has had one ofthe rougher types of ride. not so much rags to riches as rags to riches to rags and back again. Starting singing on the small-time R & B club circuit in I956. along with Ike. she clawed her way to fame and relative wealth over the next sixteen years. notching up hit after hit in the States. Curiously. her ﬁrst major UK hit and the song which started the mutual love affair between Turner and Europe. the Phil Spector produced ‘River Deep. Mountain High’. which was released in I966. reached No 4 in Britain yet climbed no higher than No 88 in the US.
Thirty years later. Turner has seen her career both peak and trough to the point where she was forced to feed her four children on food stamps directly after she walked out on Ike and his beatings in I976. From her current lofty position on one of the upper rungs of the celebrity ladder the despair of the late 70s must represent the nadir of her showbusiness life.
The ﬁrst turning point came in I980 when Turner found herself a new manager in the form of Roger Davies. a young Australian trying to make it in the
‘lin stage, I give them what I think they want: my legs, the big hairstyle, the red lips and all at that. That’s how I got famous and I care about my image, but, off stage, I’m totally ditterent.’
US music business. According to Turner: ‘Roger is the one with the commercial ear. Way back at the beginning ofthe 80s. he’s the one who advised me to move away from the cabaret circuit and try to appeal to a younger audience and play the arenas and the stadiums. I didn‘t know how it was done. no black people had ever ﬁlled those big venues.’ she pauses. ‘I mean Aretha Franklin. Gladys Knight. The Temptations had had big records and played big auditoriums to a point but not on such a large scale. When I ﬁlled the stadium (the Maracana) in Rio or the grounds of Wobum Abbey. I realised that I had arrived where I’d always wanted to be.’
As well as furthering Tumer’s ambitions on the
Tina Turner: one granny who won’t be getting shoved off any bus
stadium front. Davies also pushed her to use different songs and songwriters from those that she used previously. Through Davies. Heaven l7‘s Martyn Ware and Ian Craig-Marsh along with the British Electric Foundation enticed her to sing a version of The Temptations ‘Ball Of Confusion‘ with an electronic background. Ware and Craig Marsh then went on to produce Tumer’s I983 hit. ‘Let’s Stay Together’, her ﬁrst single for Capitol records and the one that put her back on the musical landscape.
‘Roger also brought “What's Love Got To Do With It?" to my attention and I still didn’t want to record it.’ says Turner. ‘I thought it was too slow and moody; I wanted to do out and out rockers like ‘Hot Legs’ and ‘Hollywood Nights’. Then I realised that I could make it my own. that it spoke to something within me. More and more women were taking charge. were getting liberated and the song became like an anthem for them.’
That was I984 and over the next twelve years Turner has come to appreciate the value of working with other producers. artists and songwriters. She’s duetted with David Bowie. Bryan Adams on ‘It's Only Love‘. Paul McCartney at the Prince's Trust concert in I986 and with Mick Jagger at Live Aid in Philadelphia which resulted in her appearing on the cover of Life magazine. Her choice of recording associates has been no less astute. Her latest album, Wildest Dreams. includes songs written by the Pet Shop Boys, Sheryl Crow. the (i la mode Massive
Attack and the ever reliable Bono and The Edge.
This ability to reproduce an approximation of the musical zeitgeist is coupled with Turner’s highly theatrical stage persona. She is well aware of her fans‘ expectations and of her own transformation before she walks on to the stage. ‘When I’m about to perform. I’m psyching myself up. thinking about the heat. the conditions. the people out there. On stage. I give them what I think they want: my legs. the big hairstyle. the red lips and all of that. That‘s how I got famous and I care about my image. but. off stage. I’m totally different. I don‘t want attention so I very seldom wear dresses and tight clothes.‘
But fame attracts attention and some unwanted publicity came her way recently when a paparazzo managed to snap her in the bathroom at her house in Cap Ferrat from miles away. ‘I thought that from where my house was. that there was no possibility of any photographer getting close but he found a way. Those guys are like cancer.‘ she says contemptuously before mellowing. ‘They want to make money. That‘s what they told (Princess) Diana anyway. That they were only doing their job and trying to feed their kids.‘
Paparazzi apart. Turner now seems to live a ‘charmed life. I now have a certain wisdom. I chant twice a day (she's been a Buddhist for twenty years). I‘ve grown. and that attitude has a lot to do with what I've been through.’ 77an Turner plays Murrayﬁeld. Edinburgh, Sun 30.
The List 28 Jun-ll .lul I996 39