Ike and Tina Turner: Olympia, Paris
Geoffrey Cannon, Los Angeles Times, 30 May 1971
Author's note, 2018. The piece below describes the Ike and Tina Turner concert at the Olympia, Paris, in May 1971. I prefer Ike and Tina Turner to Tina Turner. Because the way Ike treated Tina we are not supposed to admit this, and yes, 'River deep, mountain high' is very wonderful. (See the 1966 promo video for the song, which is on YouTube. In cutaway shots Ike, who Phil Spector would not allow in the recording studio, looks baleful).
This brings me to Phil Spector himself. His achievements are now put down because of his crazed behaviour, well observed by Tom Wolfe in his 1964 story 'The first tycoon of teen', and he is now likely to remain in prison until he is dead or 88 years old because he shot a woman. But suppose his genius was because he is crazy? We are also supposed to tut-tut at 'He hit me (and it felt like a kiss)', released in 1963, now rarely played, which is also on YouTube. It is sung by the all-girl group the Crystals, arranged by Phil Spector and written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, who were married.
These thoughts apply elsewhere, as for example to the movie directors Woody Allen, Roman Polanski and Mel Gibson, and actors Johnny Depp, Kevin Spacey and Morgan Freeman, among others, mostly accused of violence against or abuse of other and often vulnerable people. Of course all this is wrong, just like Ike Turner beating Tina up, and Phil Spector pulling guns on people and eventually killing one, was wrong. But returning to the show I saw and heard in Paris, and solely judging performance, I maintain that Ike and Tina Turner in concert were magnificent not despite of but because of Ike's control and menace.
After all, the quality of the best Beatles numbers is owing to the Lennon-McCartney aggravation, CNSY were far better than CSN because of the antagonism between Steve Stills and Neil Young, and Fleetwood Mac were at their best when various band members were betraying and hating one another.
Great rock albums, like great movies – and great other creative work, like theatre, painting, and poetry – include darkness. That's life. They are not just light pop music. And to convey darkness authentically, the author has to access dark places, in imagination and also action. This is dangerous. It is why so many creative people abuse alcohol and are violent, or cocaine and are manic, or heroin and are oblivious, and are likely to go crazy or die young, as Ike did. (Tip: prefer ayahuasca).
Now, after reading my rave review, access Ike and Tina Turner in the same year, 1971, from Caesar's Palace, on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88V3qRGLs-Q This includes an interview with Tina with Ike present where she lovingly celebrates Ike's presence, quality and ability, and they play and sing 'Proud Mary' together.
Total word count of piece: 1843