Saturday, 6 April 2013

Tina Turner 'What's Love Got To Do With It'

Chart Peak: 3


It wouldn't be quite right to say this song was the start of her solo career, but it's perhaps the start of her real solo stardom. After 'Let's Stay Together' had put her back on the map (and granted her a slot on the very first Now album of course), the follow up was a cover of the Lennon/McCartney standard 'Help!' in an odd ballad style, which only made the very bottom rung of the Top 40, and was swiftly forgotten. It was this third single from her comeback album that established her as a star in her own right, not just somebody who got lucky with a cover version. Though this isn't a cover version as would conventionally be understood, this was not Turner's own composition, but a song from jobbing songwriters which had been rejected by Cliff Richard. Bucks Fizz got as far as recording a version but were gazumped by this hit and didn't release it at the time.

It seems fair to say that it's hard to imagine either of those acts singing it now. In its finished incarnation, the song seems a perfect fit for Turner, with its deliberate pace and complex lyrical message. As much as the protagonist is dismissing the appeal of love, you can tell she's trying hard to resist it, even before she admits in the middle eight that she's "thinking of my own protection" and "it scares me to feel this way". To sound convincing in that role means projecting a combination of strength and vulnerability that's none too easy to carry off, but she manages it superbly here - the fact that this might in some way fit her personal history is at best incidental. The production works surprisingly well too, even though obviously of its time now (synthesised harmonica never really caught on) because it sounds as if it knows its place, supporting the singer rather than trying to hit you over the head itself. I don't think I understood all this at the time, but I liked the track a lot then, even trying to learn some of the words; and at the time I had no idea she had any previous career at all, let alone one that stretched into previous decades. In fact, at the age of 44 she was at the time the oldest woman to top the US singles chart, though over here she fought hard in the crowded charts of summer 1984 and had to settle for Number 3, which means this was ultimately outcharted by Warren G's cover version. Writers Britten and Lyle got a lot of repeat business from Turner, most of which proved to be decidedly bland, but at least for these four minutes it worked.

Also appearing on: Now 1, 4, 6, 16, 17, 18, 21, 25, 26, 32, 34, 44
Available on: Simply The Best

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