Imagine This Power Duo Together Again: 'Ike & Tina: On the Road: 1971-72'

Gruen and Beck's film functions as a revisionist look at this legendary duo's stormy relationship.

Ike & Tina: On the Road: 1971-72

Cast: Ike Turner, Tina Turner
Directors: Bob Gruen/Nadya Beck
Studio: MVD Visual
Length: 81 min
Year: 2012
Release date: 2012-11-20

In the opening scene from the new DVD Ike & Tina: On the Road: 1971-72, Ike and a sassy, earthier Tina bicker in a limo’s back seat, nothing harsher than you’d get from Ward and June Cleaver, yet you’re waiting for Ike to explode into the violent rageaholic we’ve been taught to expect. Turner may have been precisely that, but it’s not even hinted at in this documentary. In fact, Ike & Tina seems to function as a revisionist look at this famous duo’s stormy relationship. As celebrated rock photographer Bob Gruen – who assembled the film with his wife/partner Nadya Beck – states, “What’s Love Got To Do With It” shows why Ike and Tina Turner broke up. This film shows why they were together for twenty years before that”.

When I think of Tina Turner, nee Anna Mae Bullock, an MTV light bulb unfailingly flashes above my head. Her shadowy silhouette perched on a stool, as the camera slowly zooms in, while she tucks into Al Green’s warm “Let’s Stay Together”, or more vivdly, the Queen of Rock sashaying down a sidewalk in a snug leather skirt, hear hair teased into a flamboyant punk ‘do. This was the revitalized Turner, risen Phoenix-like from the ashes of an abusive marriage and embarrassing shtick on The Brady Bunch Variety Hour.

Gruen and Beck’s 81-minute reality piece compiles footage from Ike and Tina’s 1971-72 American jaunt, and that was a propitious year for the duo. Their gospel-inflected cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary” cracked the national Top 10, and with all due respect to John Fogerty’s magnificent quartet, the Turners’ rendition remains the definitive one. Of course, it’s included here, alongside other chestnuts like “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”, “A Love Like Yours”, and Phil Spector’s glorious disappointment “River Deep, Mountain High”, which sounds painfully screechy in mono.

“Ike & Tina” takes us backstage as well as under the klieg lights, though few would argue that the exciting moments – and there aren’t many – are primarily onstage. A lengthy sequence early on shows Tina at home with her brood, a prototypical suburban ranch house, with multiple cars in the driveway and a Great Dane tolerant of Family Circus-like shenanigans. It’s an oddly domestic image of Tina; the popular imagination places her in outsize movie roles (The Acid Queen or desert Dragon Lady-cyberpunk Auntie Entity), massive concerts (Rio or bumpin’ and grindin’ with Mick at Live Aid), or cavorting with younger male rockers in elaborate videos. We don't imagine her dusting the furniture or making potato salad. It’s unfortunate that the footage is often grainy black-and-white, especially as this ‘reality show outtake’ goes on longer than necessary.

In fact, most of the film’s sequences aren’t in color, but it’s a foregone conclusion that Gruen and Beck weren’t necessarily planning a film at the time, so color was likely eschewed for that reason. Needless to say, black & white is often a viable artistic choice for a movie, and I cringe reflecting on the colorization battles of the '80s, but I don’t think it serves any aesthetic function here, particularly during the blurry clip from The Tonight Show. A low-tech, patched-together feeling reigns throughout, as Gruen admits in the accompanying booklet (the only extra in the DVD release), which may appeal to certain cinematic Luddites, but no one will be reminded of Italian Neorealism or the Nouvelle Vague.

As might be expected, Tina figures most prominently in the performance clips, an unrepentant extrovert and a soul and blues belter for the ages. Lord knows what her voice sounds like now, but in her heyday – and this film presents that period – few could touch her. Many songs here exist only in snippets, but they’re sufficient to remind the clueless of her talent. It’s fashionable to claim that such a vocal style represents a union of the sacred and the profane, as some have said of the late Marvin Gaye, but her gospel high notes and corrosive shouting suggest exactly that. This potent combination is evident in any tune we hear in the film.

It’s easy to focus too much attention on Tina, and perhaps smugly satisfying to do so, considering her travails with Ike, but we forget her late husband’s seminal contributions to rock 'n' roll. At Memphis’ legendary Sun Studios, Ike penned and recorded “Rocket 88”, a frequent candidate for the first rock tune. On the duo’s '50s Southern tours, he demanded integrated audiences, and later opened a recording studio, Bolic Sound, which was patronized by some of the music world’s brightest lights. Not for naught have Johnny Otis and the irrepressible Little Richard deemed him one of rock’s great innovators, and the Rolling Stones probably felt similarly, when they invited the duo onto their 1966 world tour. If Tina’s forceful charisma hogs the spotlight through most of the film, Ike responds by serving up some mean, bluesy guitar chops on “I Smell Trouble”.

Ike Turner certainly recognized raw talent when he stumbled across it, and he knew Anna Mae was something special. Putting aside her windstorm of a voice, Tina also emanated a potent aura of sex, one that channeled Hollywood’s white screen sirens of the '30s, '40s, and '50s. The voluptuous, full-figured, curvy gal that elevated male blood pressure before Twiggy made it “in’ to be thin. Tina has always possessed a pair of legs to keep Mary Hart awake nights, and perhaps her live performances of ZZ Top’s '80s smash “Legs” are a sly self-reference from a woman unafraid to flaunt what she’s got.

Ike & Tina: On the Road: 1971-72 is the antithesis of MTV’s flash and filigree, and whether or not that’s a good thing depends on one’s frame of reference. If Tina fashioned a glittery new demimonde with the 20 million-selling Private Dancer and its attendant promo videos, then Ike & Tina can be read as a gritty prequel to the spectacular comeback she would revel in. Far from slick or pristine, the film is seldom eye-pleasing, but may interest hardcore Turner devotees and rock history geeks.

As for Ike Turner, his reputation remains a troubling one. When Phil Spector worked with Tina, he reportedly paid her husband $25,000 to steer clear of the studio, possibly because Spector, ironically, feared Ike. Even more disturbing, Ike also once pulled a gun on Stevie Wonder, claims journalist Barney Hoskyns, in his muckraking social history of L.A.’s music scene, Waiting for the Sun. Ike passed in 2007, before this film could be released, but whatever mixed feelings I may have about Ike & Tina: On the Road: 1971-72 as compelling entertainment... oh, to have been in a room with the Turners as they watched this footage, reminiscing, recriminating, and dare I say... reconciling?


From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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