Thursday, December 13, 2007
Ike Turner, 1931-2007
Ike Turner, rock and roll pioneer and dedicated wife beater, dead at the age of 76. He thought his real name was Izear Turner Jr., until very late in life when, applying for a passport, he discovered that he had been christened Ike Wister Turner. When Phil Spector recruited Ike and Tina Turner to perform on "River Deep-Mountain High," which the erstwhile Tycoon of Teen was sure would be his greatest production ever, he instructed Ike to stay away from the studio, while he worked with Tina for six weeks on the vocals. (Glen Campbell, by the way, played guitar on the track.)
That photo above was taken during the "River Deep" sessions by none other than Dennis Hopper, a friend of Spector's whose Hollywood career had fallen on hard times at the moment. Hopper was getting into photography (this was a few years before he would direct Easy Rider), and Spector asked him to shoot the photos for the single's sleeve. That famous shot of Ike at the organ and Tina washing clothes was actually taken in the entryway of Hopper's own home.
Spector might have been better off letting Ike into the studio, since the song was a dud, climbing no higher than No. 88 on the Billboard charts. Ike was a brilliant pianist, guitarist and producer, having been the driving force behind what's come to be called the first rock & roll record, "Rocket 88." Although it was performed by Ike's band, the Kings of Rhythm, and written by Ike himself, for reasons that remain unclear to me, it was credited to Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats (with songwriting credited to Brenston), a band that never actually existed. That's Ike's pumping piano figure supporting Brenston, who was the sax player and sometime vocalist for the Kings of Rhythm.
Ike is of course best known for the Ike and Tina Turner Revue, the band he led for over a decade, and for beating the crap out of Tina, who eventually left him with 36 cents in her pocket. Ever classy, Tina released the following through a member of her camp: "She has not had any contact with him in 35 years. No further comment will be made."