Simply the best thing about Tina Turner is that all of the tributes have focussed on completely different things, different songs, different outfits, different tours, but each and every one paints a picture of one of music’s great survivors, slash ‘just’ one of music’s greats.
My earliest memories of the powerhouse that was Tina (you could use the single name, people knew who you meant) come from two places. Visiting my grandma in Swindon, when she heard that I loved music at a young age, she got her old cassette player out of the cupboard and the handful of tapes that she owned and left me to discover them for myself. One was some strange The Beatles compilation covering the early years and the other was River Deep Mountain High by Ike And Tina Turner. It took me to a much older age to appreciate those early Beatles tunes, ironically I started with the more complex records as a kid and grew into the simple brilliance of She Loves You, but it only took one listen to hear the majesty at work with River Deep Mountain High. Something within those rhythms was so simple and hypnotic that you could not help getting lost in them, I played that record to death and it was years before I uncovered the majesty of Spector and learned that I already knew one of his masterpieces, inside and out.
The other place was the VHS of The Who’s Tommy that Mike who owned the video store was playing one day when I walked in. Sure that might sound strange in 2023, but in those days you never knew what you were going to stumble into just going to grab some cartoons. That day I strolled in as the Acid Queen sequence began and it was love/horror at first sight. I’ve been terrified of that part of the movie since that day, although tbh, the whole thing is nightmare fuel, but Tommy turning to a skeleton with worms crawling around inside him while Tina screams through the best version of the song remains as powerful today as when lil Kendall first saw it. The version of the album my parents had on 8 track had Merry Clayton singing the song but it is always Tina’s version that I return to.
Then the eighties arrived and like all of the best icons, Tina was reinvented, thanks to Bucks Fizz album track What’s Love Got To Do With It? and Mark Knopfler’s Private Dancer. She was no second hand Suzie though, these songs were made her own and now you cannot imagine anyone else being in charge of them. And Private Dancer even had Jeff Beck on guitar, thank goodness that Dire Straits never released it on the Love Over Gold album as intended, I wonder how history would have been changed, but I am sure Tina would have found another piece of gold just around the corner and still been the 80’s pop queen that she was.
Want more? I also love We Don’t Need Another Hero, which I owned on 7″ (alright grandpa!) when I was still too young to see Tina’s breathtaking performance in the third Mad Max film, but I soon remedied that when the VHS arrived. I loved that series as a kid and here was Tina, larger than life once again, whatever arena (literally in this case) she was in, she stuck her head up and rocked the fucking joint out. Incredible.
Sure, I could point you to her live joyous work with David Bowie, her great documentary where she lays herself bare or, in an Alan Partridge way, just to her Best Of for an overview of a musical great. My best idea would be to go over to YouTube and look for those early frantic magical performances. One of a kind. Also, just this week, one of the coolest bands in the world Ghost has released their version of that Thunderdome classic, even in death, Tina is a top ten icon.
Godspeed, Acid Queen, pay before you start. ❤