On 3 December 1969, The Sensational Ike And Tina Turner Revue appeared on the Hugh Hefner’s Playboy After Dark TV show. They performed I Want To Take You Higher, Come Together, Proud Mary and Honky Tonk Woman.
Hosted by Hefner, the show was aired from 1969 to 1970. It was taped at CBS Television City in Los Angeles and followed much the same style as Hefner’s earlier show, Playboy’s Penthouse. The concept was that you’d been invited to a party at Hefner’s place, to get dizzy in the revolving bed, have the Playboy Playmates stroke your ego and listen to celebrities including Joe Cocker, Sammy Davis Jr., The Grateful Dead, Deep Purple, Fleetwood Mac and James Brown.
Ike & Tina Turner appeared in the seventh episode of the second season with live performances and an interview with Hefner and a jam with Doug Kershaw on Honky Tonk Women. The show aired in February 1970.
Hefner knew he’d be getting a mesmerising show when he booked Tina.
Ike and Tina had been performing as the Ike & Tina Turner Revue since the early 1960s, doing countless television appearances in the US. They’d hit it big overseas when in 1966 they’d teamed up with producer Phil Spector (December 26, 1939 – January 16, 2021) and husband and wife writing team Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich (they scored hits with songs such as Be My Baby and Baby, I Love You (The Ronettes), and Then He Kissed Me and Da Doo Ron Ron (The Crystals)) for the song River Deep, Mountain High.
For the recording, Spector made Tina sing the song over and over for several hours until he felt he had the perfect vocal take for the song. “I must have sung that 500,000 times,” she recalled. “I was drenched with sweat. I had to take my shirt off and stand there in my bra to sing.” As Tina put it, the experience was akin to “carving furniture”.
The Rolling Stones booked the Revue to open a dozen shows for them during their British tour that same year. But the song was a flop on the US, peaking at 88 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart. The studio album for which the song was the title track was shelved in the US. Spector was upset. He withdrew from woking in the recording industry for two years, and only intermittently returned to the studio after that.
Ike Turner, Tina’s infamously abusive husband, remarked that “if Phil had released the record and put anybody else’s name on it, it would have been a huge hit. But because Tina Turner’s name was on it, the white stations classified it an R&B record and wouldn’t play it. The white stations say it was too black, and the black stations say it was too white, so that record didn’t have a home.”
Times change. Spector was ahead of his. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame added it to the list of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll. The song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.
The Revue had pretty much yet to have a hit in the US. But they kept recording.
The above image is from their 1968 album Outta Season. The album art was said to be a response to the exploitations of black artists by the white-run music industry. The album features the duo’s cover of Otis Redding’s I’ve Been Loving You Too Long. Lest you fail to appreciate the sexy undertones, the live version made is plain.
This clip of Tina performing the song at Madison Square Garden is from Gimme Shelter, a 1970 American documentary film directed by Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin chronicling the last weeks of The Rolling Stones’ 1969 US tour which culminated in the disastrous Altamont Free Concert.
In May 1969, Ike and the Kings of Rhythm released the album A Black Man’s Soul on Pompeii Records. The album earned Ike his first solo Grammy nomination for Best R&B Instrumental Performance at the 12th Annual Grammy Awards.
In August 1969, Ike and Tina headlined at International Hotel’s Casino Theatre in Las Vegas. It was in Vegas that Ike, who up to that point had lived a drug and alcohol free life, began using cocaine. He later recalled that he was introduced to the drug by “two famous Las Vegas headliners”.
In September 1969, A&M Records reissued the album River Deep Mountain High, and for the first time it was issued in the US. This time it reached No. 28 on the R&B albums chart.
The next month saw the release of The Hunter. The album earned Tina a Grammy nomination for her vocals on the title track. Ike was also nominated Grammy in the Best Rhythm & Blues Instrumental Performance category for his record A Black Man’s Soul while leading his other band, Ike Turner & The Kings of Rhythm. At the end of 1969, the Revue was once more touring with The Rolling Stones as the opening act of their American tour in November 1969.
Here they are backstage.
Tina Turner (born Anna Mae Bullock; November 26, 1939 – May 24, 2023).
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