Monday, November 17, 2014


Aw shit, I'd bookmarked a link to a song and made the mistake of revisiting it. The result: tonight's rabbit hole, a single song, but one of the most storied songs in pop music history; "River Deep Mountain High", by Ike and Tina Turner, the last thing Phil Spector produced before his long drawn out descent into wigs. 

The song was written by Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry, and Spector, specifically for Tina Turner to sing. It's a combination of three unfinished songs, one from each co-writer, The record itself, produced by Spector and arranged by Jack Nitzsche, was one of Spector's big ass Wall of Sound recordings, utilizing twenty members of the Wrecking Crew, among them Carol Kaye, Leon Russell, Barney Kessell, Glen Campbell, and Earl Palmer and/or Hal Blaine (both have been credited for the drums). It cost $22,000 to record, and $20,000 went to Ike Turner to stay away from the sessions. Really. Even a crazy pop genius knew to avoid that conflict. Hence, Ike Turner's co-credit as performer, even though he had no participation in it whatsoever.

The cover of the LP that contained the song featured photography by Dennis Hopper. I'd never looked closely, but according to Bob Krasnow, then president of Blue Thumb Records, the background is actually a billboard for a movie, the shot taken at a sign company. 

There's some outtakes from the sessions below, and if you let them roll, you'll hear between take booth talk ("Jack, you don't have a more substantial tambourine out there, do you?"), instruments as they're being added, the surprisingly simple bass lines of Carol Kaye, and cowbell. There's also a later Wall of Sound-less version by Ike and Tina Turner, and a few covers. (Dig the brass band version by the Peace Artistes.) If you still want more there's the promo film from back in the day.

Ike and Tina Turner - River Deep Mountain High mp3 at (?) cleanest rip
Ike and Tina Turner - River Deep Mountain High mp3 at Corky (just in case)
Deep Purple - River Deep Mountain High (streaming) at YouTube Over ten minutes, vocals show up after the four minute mark.

1 comment:

Timmy said...

The inside scoop of this Ike & Tina Turner recording session is that Phil agreed to do the production of this song "River Deep..." ONLY if Ike was to leave the studio, in Hollywood, until it was completed. He insisted that Ike had no actual audio recorded on the song, & in fact was NOT TO BE PRESENT in the studio at all and had NO input for the final mix. He agreed that Ike could take "credit" for being on the record, even though it was a fictional credit. Tina did the whole recording, to PHIL'S satisfaction, in one afternoon. It took hours & she was soaking wet with sweat when it was done.