* May 05, 1975
* Vol. 3
* No. 17
Tina Turner, the New Acid Queen, Turns Down the Voltage for a Solo Career Sans Ike
By Robert Windeler
Only a very dumb honkie dares to share a show anymore with Tina Turner. She has a way of making song-and-dance partners, even the likes of Mick Jagger and Ann-Margret, seem as bland as Nelson Eddy and Jeannette MacDonald. When Tina hits a stage, it is in full scream, amid a flash of strobes, flying wig and gyrating thighs, and it may be as long as 90 minutes before the devil will let her stop.
Between gigs, though, Tina has heretofore always played submissive housewife (and mother of four) to husband and co-star Ike Turner. He was, after all, the creator of the Ike and Tina Turner Revue, and long ruled it with an iron guitar. In fact only now, after a remarkably durable 15-year joint career, has Tina suddenly begun to break out into properties of her own. But if it all sounds like the Sonny-and-Cher saga soul-style, the newly liberated Tina is not busting up either the act or the marriage.
Her splashiest solo venture so far is in the rock-opera movie smash Tommy. Though on screen for less than 10 minutes in the role of the Acid Queen, she did more to reawaken the autistic hero—and most reviewers—than any other of the film's panoply of superstars. Tina's most improbable metamorphosis, however, is in her music. In Tina Turns the Country On, her first album neither backed up nor produced by Ike, she has gone city-billy, crooning the works of Kris Kristofferson, Bob Dylan and Hank Snow. And increasingly, as she hits the TV-talk-and-variety-show circuit as a single, Tina is into ballads and out of her trade-marked go-go gold-meshed miniskirts. "I want to look pretty," she explains, adding improbably for showbiz's No. 1 mover and shaker, "and stand still."
Partially, the changing image is in realistic recognition of her age. Tina claims to be only 35 and explains, "Most people think I'm 50, because I've been in business so long." Originally Annie Mae Bullock of Nutbush, Tenn., Tina migrated in her teens to St. Louis, where she first bumped into Isaac Turner. He was born 43 years ago in Clarksdale, Miss., took up piano at 6 and then moved on to Memphis where he learned the blues from Sonny Boy Williamson and Howlin' Wolf and remembers meeting Elvis Presley when he was still driving trucks. Ike then became a local hit in St. Louis with his formative rhythm-and-blues group, the Kings of Rhythm. Tina began hanging around, and one night, she remembers, "I jumped up on stage, took a mike and started singing along." They produced a quickie hit, A Fool in Love, and at a slower pace four sons: Ike Jr., now 17; Craig, 16; Ronnie, 15; and Michael, 14.
In 1963, Ike and Tina rounded out their roadshow with their first trio of teeny-Tinas, the Ikettes. Tina dismisses reports that the Ikettes, scores of whom have come and swung through the revolving door over the years, are a floating harem for Ike by pointing out that she runs the final audition. "Ike's been the only man in my life since high school," she says, though he has never gone out of his way to issue any flip side of that statement. (If there is any real threat of split between the Turners, it is over his heavy gambling in Vegas.)
During the 1960s, the 15-member Turner revue toured everywhere from roadhouses to Carnegie Hall and cut a half-dozen albums on just as many record labels, while the gifted, hard-driving Ike searched for the right formula. Though their singles like the Phil Spector-produced River Deep, Mountain High were smashes in England, American deejays could not decide where to play them since, as Tina puts it, "We were hitting between R&B and rock." Their big breakthrough came at the end of the decade when the Rolling Stones booked them as a warm-up act. Since then Ike and Tina have reversed the old formula of white pop groups "covering" (cashing in on) black songs. Their classic 12-minute version of Creedence Clearwater Revival's Proud Mary won a Grammy in 1971, and they also scored with Beatles' hits like Come Together.
Ike, the compulsive musicman, hangs out most days and into the night in the recording studio they own in Inglewood, a mile from their suburban L.A. home in View Park. There, Tina says, she lets down her wig, and when the housekeeper's not around, "I clean the house and make a good Creole gumbo." Ruefully she adds that "I'd like to have a couple more children. I didn't raise these four—housekeepers did that. I just gave them birth."
To some extent, Tina regards Ike as her fifth "almost helpless kid. I don't want Ike to feel like I'm leaving him behind," she says. "But I've always been in there helping him and now, in Tommy, I've learned I can do things without him. Ike'll be proud," she figures, "but he's gonna miss me."