On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…
Ike & Tina Turner – River Deep – Mountain High (1966)
We’re heading back to the US today, dear reader, and why not? It’s probably time I bought a property here to be honest. Yesterday was all about The Beatles while today is all about the Turners. By Turners I am, of course, talking about Tina and Ike Turner. Much has been written and depicted about this duo over the decades, their music, their marriage, drug abuse and domestic violence as well. Amidst such painful stories emerged beautiful music, a lot of soul early on before reinterpretations of classic rock numbers made their names. Today, 1001 Songs has gone with one the duo’s most famous songs – River Deep – Mountain High. The song is credited to Ike and Tina Turner but it is actually just Tina that is really involved. More on that later.
River Deep – Mountain High sees Turner take on a narrator who is singing about a man that she loves and, oh boy, she really loves this guy. She uses analogies of childhood to compare the love that she feels. She talks of a doll she owned as a girl and how her love for that doll has now been eclipsed by how she feels about this man. She imagines that when her lover was a boy he may have had a puppy, a loyal companion that followed him everywhere, and she now promises that she too will always be with him as well. The title of the song conveys the extent to how big her love is. Mountain high is impressive but river deep only? Not an ocean? Come on, Tina, you have to do better than that, if you’re going to impress me!
River Deep – Mountain High is considered to be one of Phil Spector’s greatest productions. He was so keen to have creative control in the studio that he paid Ike Turner $20,000 for the privilege of working with Tina uninterrupted. Ike’s name was credited on the song but it is Tina Turner that deserves the only plaudits here. The supporting band deliver music that near lifts you to a higher plain while Turner’s powerful vocals offer an early glimpse of the huge star she would become after she and Ike separated in 1976. The song wasn’t a big success on initial release, so much so that Phil Spector withdrew from the music industry, returning only periodically in the years that followed and beginning a reclusive life; that is until 2009 when he was sentenced to prison for the 2003 murder of Lana Clarkson and where he remains to this day. While Tina Turner became a mega star, starting in the 1980s, Ike Turner’s career would suffer with revelations of domestic violence he inflicted on his ex-wife and drug addiction. For all of Ike’s talents, it’s quite clear which of the duo was destined to become a music legend. Hats off to Tina Turner.
Favourite songs so far:
Ben E. King – Stand By Me (1961)
The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)
The Mamas & The Papas – California Dreamin’ (1965)
Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)
The Righteous Brothers – Unchained Melody (1965)
The Who – Substitute (1966)
The Kinks – Sunny Afternoon (1966)
The Rolling Stones – Paint It Black (1966)
The Beach Boys – God Only Knows (1966)
The Beatles – Eleanor Rigby (1966)