Tina's Game Was Not Over: The Story of an Iconic Rebirth

Tina’s Game Was Not Over: The Story of an Iconic Rebirth

When in 1983 theCapitol Records A&R John Carterthen a 38-year-old recording talent who had successfully worked on albums by Sammy Hagar, Bob Welch and The Motels, chose to start working with Tina Turner together with her manager Roger Davies, he did it secretly. His bosses they were not at all interested in investing resources and money on a singer who was already 44 years old and who seemed to have said everything she had to say: old and boiled, they branded it.

They weren’t entirely wrong: Tina Turner, born in 1939, made her recording debut in the late 1950s with Ike Turner, who would soon become her husband. With him, she wrote some of the most iconic pages of rhythm and blues in the years between the 1960s and 1970s, even winning a Grammy Award in 1972 with their reinterpretation of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary”. Two years later, Tina, consumed by the physical and psychological abuse she was subjected to away from the spotlight and off the stage that she would only decide to talk about in a heartbreaking autobiography in 1986, had decided she wanted to try to walk on her own two feet, but .Her solo debut “Tina Turns the Country On!” from 1974 wasn’t exactly a success. The sales of the following albums “Acid Queen”, “Rough” and “Love Explosion” also fell short of expectations, prompting overseas critics to write off the former R&B star as done for. Some games, however, never end. And the game of Anna Mae Bullock, this is the real name of the artist, was evidently not over yet..

The record executives at Capitol Records, the same ones who had initially refused to invest in the sessions that, according to John Carter, would have relaunched the singer from Tennessee, realized it as soon as they listened to the nine songs contained in “Private dancer“: there was something magical and supernaturalin those recordings. They exuded an overwhelming strength, energy and grit. And a moving desire for rebirthabove all. “Private dancer” will sell 5 million copies in the United States alone, at a rate of 250 thousand copies per week in the first two months of publicationThe album’s release in 1984 was followed by a triumphal tour, lasting well 177 datesBut how did it achieve that success that left everyone speechless?

John Carter was very good at creating a new image for Tina. Not so much in terms of aesthetics, but above all in terms of sound. He convinced her to move to rock’n’rollan unusual thing, at the time, for a black woman, who was also mature and experienced: “I changed my band and my repertoire. I made my shows more rock ‘n’ roll, I started going to a lot of the clubs on the circuit. The result is that my audience is getting younger and younger – Tina Turner told Billboard in 1984 – I feel more at ease: I feel good vibrations. I don’t want to do r&b right now. I can’t say that one day I won’t go back to that music, because it represents my roots. But now I’m so optimistic”.

Ultimately, rock ‘n’ roll was the genre that most embodied Tina’s desire to put the pieces of her life back together and rise from its ashes after a long period of personal and professional troubles caused by her divorce from Ike in 1978 (she had found the strength to sever that bond in the practice of Buddhism) and by a series of recording failures.Tina understood that to survive she had to reinvent herself.: “There was no point in constantly releasing records that were losers. So I worked to give good performances and to entertain my audience.”

Carter and Davies paired Tina Turner with musicians such as Martyn Ware of the British band Heaven 17, Terry Britten (who had worked with Cliff Richard, Michael Jackson and Olivia Newton-John), Mike Chapman (who instead had accompanied Suzi Quatro and Blondie’s “Heart of Glass”). The sessions were even attended by musicians such as the saxophonist Mel Collins (already in King Crimson, in the Rolling Stones’ “Some girls”, in the Alan Parsons Project and shortly thereafter in Dire Straits), Alan Clark (who in addition to being part of the same Dire Straits played in Bob Dylan’s “Infidels” in 1983) and also Jeff BeckThe former Yardbirds member played guitar on two tracks, “Private Dancer”, “Steel Claw” and the title track, composed by none other than Mark Knopfler. Practically an all-star record, one might say. The album mixed original songs conceived for the powerful and scratchy voice of Tina Turner with covers like Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” and The Beatles’ “Help!”. And then talking about covers is also reductive, because Tina’s are real reinterpretations, with her recognizable stamp and her unmistakable style.

The Capitol bigwigs chose to start with covers, with the promotion of the album. Which culminated in May 1984 with the release of the third single, “What’s love got to do with it”. If they still had any doubts, the success of the song swept away all doubts: “What’s love got to do with it” It shot to number one on the Billboard Hot 100, the weekly chart of best-selling 45 rpm singles in the United States.. AND won three Grammy Awards: the one for “Record of the Year”, the one for “Song of the Year” and the one for “Best Female Pop Vocal Performance”. Tina was finally back on the throne, after having broken every rule of the music biz.

The next album was titled just like that, “Break every rule”. It came out in 1986 and the day after the LP was released, the American magazine Rolling Stone celebrated Tina Turner by dedicating one of its most iconic covers to her. The title chosen for the interview would become from that moment on the nickname of the singer who two years earlier everyone had thought was dead and who instead was more alive than ever: “Queen of rock’n’roll”, “Queen of rock’n’roll”. “I’ve always fought for respect. And I won’t stop until I get it. I may never get it, because my life has been too hard so far. But this success is a taste of what that respect looks like. And I like it.,” he said in that interview.