P.P. ARNOLD

12th October 2011

 

 

 

GW: Good afternoon Patricia – lovely to talk to you.

PA: Sorry it’s taken so long. I’m not at home I’m in London.

GW: What are you doing over there?

PA: Some gigs, some recordings and some promotional things – just mad busy. I’m staying here in Willesden Green with some friends. I’ve done about fifteen or twenty gigs here this year. I’m hoping to get to Japan the First Lady and Kafunta albums have recently been re-packaged and re-released there. Actually the first time I was there was with Billy Ocean way back in the 80’s but I’ve been there in recent years a couple of times with Roger Waters – the last time was in 2008 -  but I was on the road with Roger for ten years so I wasn’t really doing my solo thing. Since then I’ve been taking the time to finish my autobiography that I’m writing, put some gigs together, put my band together and all the gigs have been going great. I had a few hiccups at the beginning of this tour working with some agents who were mugs but we’ve got passed that. We just recorded the Jazz Café gig live which sounds really good and I’ve also been finishing some recordings that I needed. Really I’ve just been trying to get everything in place because I have such a large catalogue of music that hasn’t been released including some independent productions I’ve done in recent years. One album I did with Chaz Jankel from The Blockheads is about a CD EP, some stuff I’ve been doing with Tony Remy, there’s about twelve tracks there. I did an album with Dr Robert from the Blow Monkeys called Five In The Afternoon which was doing well and needs to be re-distributed as it was on Curve Records but they went out of business. We’ve just gotten hold of the masters and it hasn’t been re-distributed yet so something needs to be done with that and then of course I’ve got all these 70’s recordings which I’ve finally got after putting a lot of energy into it. There are about nine unreleased productions by Barry Gibb, three from Eric Clapton with the Delany and Bonnie band and some stuff with a guy called Caleb Quaye from a band called Hookfoot.

GW: Going right back to that first audition with Ike and Tina Turner, other than your fear of arriving home late, what are your memories of the audition?

P.A.: That was my beginning. I was stuck in a very abusive teen marriage with two kids so my life was not happening at all. I was working and dealing with it but I had a desire to find a way out of the hell I was living in and I said a prayer one Sunday morning which was answered quite quickly. About an hour later after that prayer I got a phone call from an ex-girlfriend of my brother by the name of Maxine Smith. You may of heard of Maxine as aside from being an Ikette also worked for many years with Joe Cocker. I’ve been trying to locate her but to no joy and I have been told that she might have passed away but it was Gloria Scott who was the other singer who had the connection with Ike and Tina. Now, Ike and Tina had a couple of sets of Ikettes; one who went on the road with the Review and one that went on the road with Dick Clark. Gloria was in the Dick Clark set and so she knew that the other girls were leaving and so anyway I got the call and they convinced me to go to Ike and Tina’s for the audition. I went there thinking I wasn’t going to be working with them because show business wasn’t really my ambition.

GW: On your website, it reads as though you were just filling in for friends at this audition but did you know you could actually sing very well?

PA: Oh yeah I’d been singing all my life! I come from a family of gospel singers and Maxine knew that I could sing. They just needed someone who could fill in as the original girl couldn’t go to the audition and they wanted to get the gig. I had never thought about singing professionally. We did a jam n Dancin’ In The Street and some other things and I just got in there on the harmonies, Tina liked us and wanted me to be in the group.

GW: Was the choice of Ikettes Tina’s or Ike’s decision?

PA: Well Ike and Tina’s but they really liked us because we were very young. It was during the time of the Go-Go girls and the other girls were more mature and we were younger, more like the personification of Motown and a different kind of image for Ike and Tina. So she asked me to go up there and I knew I was going to get in trouble anyway because I had lied to my husband – told him I was doing something else – and Tina said if you’re going to get your ass kicked you may as well get it kicked for a reason. It made sense on that day and then I came home and got my ass kicked! (laughs) 

GW: You toured the Chitlin’ Circuit…

PA: Well that was the circuit that all black artists did.

GW: you must have seen some great artists perform; are there any that you recall?

PA: Not really because the Ike and Tina Turner Review really went out on their own most of the time. When we did the east coast theatre circuit like the Apollo in New York, the Uptown in Philly and the Howard Theatre in Washington, that was when we played with other artists. I remember us playing with Booker T and the MG’s, Ben E King, some guys called the Mad Lads but mostly it was Ike and Tina.

GW: Were there ever any white people at the gigs?

PA: At university gigs yes and in Hollywood of course on Sunset Strip but on the Chitlin’ Circuit there wasn’t a lot because there was a lot of racism back then. The mixed audiences were in Hollywood and Vegas but even in Vegas back then we weren’t playing on the strip; we were playing the Soul clubs. This was early Ike and Tina days of course. I came in on the River Deep Mountain High time and that’s when the crossover really started happening for them what with it being a hit in England so we came to England and Europe.

GW: Are you singing on River Deep, Mountain High or did Phil Spector use The Blossoms for the backing vocals?

PA: There was lots of different singers. There was so many singers on that session and we were way in the background because there was that tension between Ike and Phil Spector. Phil didn’t want Ike in the studio while he was working and so the whole deal was that Ike would let Tina work with Phil on a few tracks and then Ike would record the other half of the album. Most of the work that I did was on the stuff that Ike produced on that album.

GW: Aside from Ike and Tina the musicians were  Leon Russell keyboards, Jim Horn Saxophone, Barney Kessel guitar, Glen Campbell guitar, Hal Blaine drums, Earl Palmer drums, Carol Kaye bass.

PA: Absolutely incredible. All of those people and it was such a great time. Those musicians that were there and for me it was really incredible because I was coming from nowhere to suddenly being in the business and for my first professional gig to be with Ike and Tina was pretty mind-blowing.

GW: 1966 The Rolling Stones invited Ike and Tina as well as yourself of course onto their UK tour. That tour also featured The Yardbirds with Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck.

PA: That’s right. Yeah.

GW: What do you recall from it?

PA: I remember it being absolutely amazing. That first night at the Albert Hall was a long way from the Chitlin’ Circuit. It was my first experience and I think the first experience of all of us in the Review of being exposed to that real Rock and Roll pandemonium that was going on – that whole Rock and Roll revolution that was so new and so fresh. When you’re in the States working and touring, it’s such a big place and you’re working all the time so you don’t necessarily go to Rock And Roll concerts, you go to the Soul clubs to check out what’s happening with black music. I was more into black music until I came to England but of course I was aware of Rock and Roll and all of that but I was a Motown and Stax girl so it was amazing to come to England and see all these young musicians playing the Blues and it was quite mind-blowing to see these young white guys that could play the Blues like that.

GW: After the tour Mick Jagger and Andrew Loog Oldham asked you stay and you signed to the Immediate record label.

PA: Yeah. The tour was fun. There was a lot of people on that tour and there was a whole 60’s culture thing happening with the discos and fashion. After the gigs we would go to the discos and hang out and Mick and I became close friends and suddenly they offered me the opportunity of staying in England and being a solo artist. Andrew had Immediate and was a big fan of Phil Spector and the west coast sound and my sound being that, he had this vision and once again it had never crossed my mind to be a solo artist.

GW: What was Andrew like?

PA: Very cool, very quite and very laid back. Super cool.

GW: How about his trusted sidekick – Reg?

PA: Oh yeah those kind of people were around – that was London in the 60’s. There was that whole east end kind of mafia but I didn’t come in that close contact with Reg. I was a little Christian girl that was really shy being exposed to all this stuff and I didn’t know what was going on to be perfectly honest until later. There was a whole music scene happening, I was there on my own after the Review left and I had made this crazy decision to stay in England. My idea was that I was planning on leaving Ike and Tina after we went back and I had spoken to Mick about that because there was a lot of stuff going on and back in those days you didn’t talk about that; nobody knew that Ike used to beat Tina up. In England I was hanging out with Mick and Ike didn’t really have any control over me because I wasn’t one of his women but he was giving me a hard time. He was fining me for everything and he was really jealous that I was a free spirit. Little shy Pat, the one that anybody least expected to do something like that was suddenly hanging out with long-haired hippy white boys (laughs). So when they offered me the opportunity, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I had already left my husband and didn’t want to stay with Ike and Tina because of all the violence that was going on so I spoke to my Mum and asked her if she would look after my kids while I stayed and I put my trust in Mick and Andrew. Then straight away The Stones split from Andrew but everybody kept their word; Mick would produce half of the album and Andrew would produce the other half. Mick encouraged me to write so the first songs I wrote were the ones that Mick produced on the First Lady album. So I stayed and met all these great people that were part of Immediate like The Small Faces. Cat Stevens, the new guy around the corner had that great song that he gave me (First Cut Is The Deepest) which started it all off.

GW: Where The Nice  - or The Nazz as you christened them  - were they only your touring band or are they the musicians on the album?

PA: They were my touring band but they did record on some of the tracks. They played on some of the tracks that Mick produced and then later on some of the stuff on the Kafunta album as well. I’m speaking to Keith shortly actually as there is a big documentary being made about him and they want to film me. I saw Lee Jackson a few weeks ago and he was telling me the tracks that they played on. To Love Somebody they were on but to exactly know which tracks is difficult because there were so many people playing. All of Andrew’s big production themes were session musicians but all the funky stuff was The Nice. Though It Hurts Me Badly, Am I Still Dreaming, Treat Me Like A Lady…

GW: You giving over part of your live set to The Nice and The Nice expanding on that set could give you claim to accidentally inventing Progressive Rock.

PA: (laughs) I wouldn’t go that far! (laughs) Keith already had his dreams in place. I met him through Baz Ward who is a lovely, lovely man and still stays in touch. I named the band, I don’t know where Davy O’List got it from that he named the band but it just came from me hanging out with The Small Faces and The Nazz and the Buckley albums and putting The Nazz and ‘nice one’ together. Of course it was Keith who put the band together and I never had any qualms about them doing their own thing – it was a great unit for them to have their own set. For them to do their thing and then play R & B was a good look and it really worked for them. Then when I went over to get my kids, Andrew stole my band! (laughs) We did that festival where they had the fireworks for the first time (July 23rd 1967 Blenheim Park, Woodstock).

GW: Who suggested your collaboration with The Small Faces?

PA: That was just automatic. We were good mates and I hit it off with Steve straight the way. He was a soul boy and we used to sing and jam together so it was just a natural progression. We had the whole idea of making Immediate like a Motown where all the artists collaborated with each other and we were trying to create that similar vibe and had Immediate not folded when it did, it would have been even more dynamic as we had so much more to do and give together.

GW: Have you seen the cover band, The Small Fakers & TT Arnold?

PA: The lead singer came to one of my gigs and we met and put some stuff up on Facebook recently. I haven’t really heard them and everybody wants me to do things and jam with them but I’m really not into that because I did that with Steve. Mollie Marriot is doing something for the 20th anniversary of his death and she called and wanted to know if I would do Tin Soldier but I’m really not up to recreating things that are sacred to me. She mentioned Kasabian but I’m really not into doing that whole fusion/featuring PP Arnold trip which gives the credibility to other people. You know, with Ocean Colour Scene, I spent so much time working with those guys and we were supposed to be doing my thing but when it came time to do my thing they were away somewhere so I don’t want to do that anymore. At this time in my life I have my credibility and my experience and I want to make sure that I’m being good to myself as well as being good to everybody else, the whole idea of standing in the background, uh-uh. With Roger it’s great. I was supposed to go out and do one tour with Roger who found me just after that whole Ocean Colour Scene thing and I was thinking ‘No more of this, no more collaborations, I’m going to put my own band together’ and I put PP Arnold and the Band of Angels together with Chaz Jankel and Tony Remy and we had a really great band, selling out concerts at the Jazz Café and other places. Then Roger found me. I had been kind of underground putting my head together and wondering where I was going to go from here and of course I had worked with Roger on the Amused To Death album and with him it’s great to work with somebody of that stature and that professionalism, the best band, the best sound and Roger is very generous as well making it easy just to be there with the first-class travelling set. After going through all that blood, sweat and tears it was a great gig to have. I did only intend doing one tour with Roger and it turned into ten years. I was with him from 199 to 2008 so after the last tour I needed to know how I wanted to go out. Do I want to go as a background singer or do I want to capitalize on the forty-five odd years that I have contributed to the industry.

GW: Well even though you sing backing vocals, there are a lot of people out there that don’t consider you a background singer.

PA: Well the people who buy records don’t but the industry does. This what has encouraged me to do my own thing now because before the internet, if you not with a record label, nobody knew if you were alive or doing something. I’ve really been into the internet for some time. I had my first website in 1998, before I started with Roger. That’s where I was going before I had the Band of Angels. I was starting to record and take the independent route and step out on the faith. So the time with Roger was great because it helped me to survive and put my head together and gave me that global exposure that I hadn’t had before as a result of not being in the industry for a while because the 70’s were like my lost years.

GW: In the latter half of the 1970’s was a dark period for you wasn’t it?

PA: Yeah it was a very dark time and when I came back to the industry it had changed so much. People see you in different ways and that’s when I started doing different things like musical theatre.

GW: You were on TV in Knot’s Landing and St Elsewhere.

PA: Oh yeah but was just a job so I could get some money to get the hell out of L.A.! That was not a serious career move it’s just that I was lost. I had lost my daughter and I found it really hard to leave L.A. and go back to England without Debbie because my kids grew up in England and we were only in L.A. for a short time. We had gone there because I was recording an album with Fuzzy Samuals; we had the Axis Band. So I had taken my kids out of school to go there with me and tragically everything fell apart in L.A. Fuzzy and I split up and two weeks later I lost Debbie so it was a really, really dark time. Then Barry Gibb invited me to Miami to work on and finish the stuff we were working on in the 60’s and just as we started working on it, the Bee Gees split up again! I’ve always worked with producers who are always artists so if something goes wrong in their camp, I get caught up in the politics of what’s going on. It’s just something that I keep doing. The creative energy seems to come direct from the producers who also write. That musicality, the inner vibe, seems to be where a lot of my creativity comes from.

GW: The Barry Gibb stuff you did and the Eric Clapton stuff you did, you now have the rights to those tracks?

PA: Not the rights but the licence to do some things. They’re not going to give me the rights. I wish they would as they’ve been sitting on shelves for years and it’s only now that I’m going to do something with them. They are sounding really good too. I’ve got five tracks that I did that I had even forgot I had recorded! It’s all very precious to me because it really will document that time so the idea is to do like an anthology through the 60’s and 70’s and a lot of stuff I did in the 80’s that was overlooked to a degree.

GW: Are you polishing them at all or are you just putting them out as they were recorded?

PA: Some of them are as they were recorded but some are unfinished and need to be mixed. Some I hadn’t even finished recording, I hadn’t put the vocals to them or it was just a rough vocal so I have do a bit but I don’t want to mess with it too much because I want to keep the authenticity of the time. As a vocalist I’m sure I can doctor what needs doctoring and it’s all me anyway. All the tracks are there and I want everything to sound good so I’m defiantly going to make it sound the best it can.

GW: The In The Flesh tour in Japan was with Katie Kissoon and Linda Lewis. Your three voices together is a phenomenal sound. I wish you could be in the audience sometimes to hear yourselves together.

PA: Wow… Katie and I have been working together for a long time so we have quite a good sound. She has that rich, high soprano and I’ve got the second and Linda was great to but Linda didn’t really enjoy doing the tour. She left right after Japan but it was a great sound. She just missed doing her own thing as well do and had some other things happening but she comes to Japan from time to time doing her own stuff.

GW: Yeah I think she was at Billboard a year or so ago. They bring in artists like Linda, Ben E King and hopefully yourself.

PA: Yeah that’s what I heard from my bass player Ernie McCone. He goes there with…whose the woman who sings (sings) Yoooooooung heeeeaaaarts…ruuun freeee…(Candi Staton). He works with her and he’s always telling me about Billboard.

GW: It’s a great venue. How are your live shows these days?

PA: What I’ve been basically is making sure I have my act together. The thing with me is that I have so much music and I have so many things to do and I don’t like doing the same tour all the time but I always keep the classics in. I’ve updated them a bit groove-wise but I always stay true to the melodies and the things that people want to hear but have changed the groove a little bit to show that PP Arnold is a woman now and not a little girl. I think they’re better and the reaction from the audience has been fantastic. I’m doing a couple of the Chas tunes, one of the songs from the Dr Robert album…

GW: I heard you like the UK stuff, Dr. Robert, Paul Weller, Oasis, etc.

PA: They like me! (laughs) No I don’t go out and buy Paul Weller and I didn’t really know who the Blow Monkeys were. I met Dr Robert where we both live in Spain. I went to a party and they were playing at the party and they asked me to come up and jam. We had a really good jam and we thought ‘wow’ and maybe we should get together and do something. I didn’t know or was not a Blow Monkeys fan. Paul Weller…you know, Steve Marriot, that’s my heart...all of those guys… Paul has written some good stuff. Ocean Colour Scene, those guys are good, they do what they do, the whole new indie thing it’s cool but for me it’s the more authentic Small Faces.

GW: When’s your book coming out?

PA: Real soon. We’re just wrapping it up. A guy called Richard Havers is coming in who is a great writer. He’s done a lot of stuff with Bill Wyman and Tony Visconti and he’s going to do the editing and helping me put it all together. It’s my voice though; he’s just helping me get it out there. The problem is that the more I write, the more I find to write.

GW: Well you’ve got a lot to write about.

PA: It’s just so much. It’s just so much to write about. My theme now is where to end this book. It has to be roots, Ike and Tina, the 60’s and 70’s and the rise and fall…

GW: You’ve got to come right up to date.

PA: Yeah that’s what everybody’s been saying lately especially with the anthology because on that I’m going to try and have everything up to date. Right now though I’m just finishing these gigs in the UK.

GW: I must say you do look terrific. You obviously keep yourself in good shape and look after yourself.

PA: Thank you. I’m into alternative healing and regeneration and nutrition. I am a Reiki master and o I do try to stay fit. Health is wealth!

GW: Patricia, I could go on for hours about your career because there is so much we haven’t covered. We haven’t even mentioned The Beatles…

PA: I didn’t really know them that well but I’ve just revisited Eleanor Rigby. I’ve just done another recording of it that is just…even if I do say so myself. I did Eleanor Rigby and Yesterday on the Kafunta album of course but I felt now was just the time for this song. It’s a really heartfelt version that I think relates to the times. Anyway, I didn’t know them closely. I met Paul and I did the Delany and Bonnie tour that George Harrison and Billy Preston were on. George was such a lovely man. 

GW: You did that 1969 tour?

PA: Yeah I opened that tour! I was the opening act and I had Steve Howe (Yes), Tony Ashton, Kim Gardner and Roy Dyke (Ashton, Gardner and Dyke) as my backing band.

GW: Amazing!

PA: After that tour that’s when we went straight into the studio with all the guys from the Delany and Bonnie band and when Eric (Clapton) produced my tracks. That was done right after that tour.

GW: I’ve got to hear those tracks.

PA: Yeah they’re rockin’! I’m not touching those vocals. I’ve got Rita Coolidge, Doris Troy  and Bobby Whitlock on backing vocals. It’s just great! Really good stuff.

GW: Patricia, I don’t think there’s any way I can follow that. Delightful stuff and this has been a real personal pleasure. Thank you very much

PA: Thanks from me too Glenn and hopefully we can make it over to Japan.