AUGUST 27, 2020

ROCKWiRED REWiND: TiNA TURNER - BREAK EVERY RULE (1986) the late spring of 1984 my family had purchased a brand new station wagon. A Peugot station wagon – a now little known French vehicle that wasn't easy to buy parts for. However, this Peugot 505 was assembly line new. We didn't have a ton of money growing up so a new car felt like a big deal. It finally felt like we had finally stepped into the eighties and this was just during out initial test drive. One of the features that the Peugot brand was known for was the sound systems in their vehicles and my dad had the dial on the local R&B station 95 WPGC. I remember the day so clearly because it was a happy moment for our family and ours was a family that had known a little turbulence. I remember a lot of rain and sunshine that day and the resultant rainbow appearing which kind of seemed symbolic of our coming up in the world. It was on that drive and through the speakers of that car that I first heard the voice of TINA TURNER.

I remember my mom turning up the music after the haunting synth line over the first few bars of the light reggae groove of WHAT'S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT had come on. Contrasting what sounded like some rather state-of-the-art pop music was that voice. Clearly this woman was no DIANA ROSS or DENIECE WILLIAMS. This voice was smooth yet rough. Like honey and rock salt. Like a voice that had been through something. I asked my parents who she was. My dad said she was TINA TURNER. I loved the name already. My dad also said that she had been around a long time and that she was probably as old as my grandmother. I learned later that TINA and my dad were only 10 years apart. I was eight going on nine years old and I had no idea what was sexy as I still played with STAR WARS action figures, but this song, WHAT'S LOVE..., gave me a good idea of what it was and this was without visuals. Long after the test drive was over and my dad signed the title to the new car, the voice of TINA TURNER and her new single continued to haunt me.

Before long the song was everywhere. One night, I caught the video on FRIDAY NIGHT VIDEOS. Filmed in vibrant, full color the opening shot is a panoramic view of the New York City skyline along the Hudson River. The camera stops when it focuses on TINA from behind. This was my first time seeing this woman and I was blown away by the crazy, spiky ash blonde hair (which I learned later was a wig), the bright red lipstick and those legs – which I was told by my mom was her trademark. Throughout the video TURNER emerges as a world weary woman reflecting on the uselessness of love and the virtues of protecting yourself from the harm that only love can cause. Dressed in a black miniskirt, a jean jacket, fishnet stocking and high heels, TURNER confidently struts the streets of the Big Apple to the song's galloping groove. In an age when the right music video could set an artist on the trajectory to superstardom, the video for WHAT'S LOVE... made this TINA TURNER a larger than life figure and I was curious to see more. A profound impression was made on me and the rest of the civilized world.

1984 was a good year for my family but it was a much bigger and better one for Ms. TURNER. As most the rock artists on MTV were young and white it was fascinating to see an older black female artist ascend to the top of the charts with WHAT'S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT and her 25x platinum album PRIVATE DANCER. This was the musical comeback that all musical comebacks have been judged by. Forget about ELVIS in '68. TINA TURNER in 1984 showed the whole damned world what survival of the fittest in rock n roll was all about with the release of her fifth solo album PRIVATE DANCER. The singer born ANNA MAE BULLOCK has boasted one of those few musical careers that have reached legendary proportions and had the sort of biblical backstory worthy of CECIL B. DEMILLE's TEN COMMANDMENTS. Forget the Old Testament stuff. The unwanted sharecroppers daughter from the backwoods of Tennessee made her way to St. Louis where she became enthralled with local music star IKE TURNER and his KINGS OF RHYTHM. It turned out the little girl from Nutbush had one hell of a RAY CHARLES growl  and soon found herself at the center of the action. With that voice, BULLOCK cut the single A FOOL IN LOVE and the TINA TURNER (a name inspired by the amazonian heroine SHEENA QUEEN OF THE JUNGLE) persona was born. As a duo, IKE AND TINA TURNER enjoyed sporadic success on the charts with such classics as their high octane rendition of PROUD MARY to the all out ruckus of NUTBUSH CITY LIMITS, but it was their blistering live set that put them in a class all by themselves. And of course there is  the dark matter of the violent marriage that TINA found herself in with IKE. The tumultuous relationship between her and husband and band leader IKE TURNER resulted in a climactic battle in Dallas Texas which according to pop legend had TINA running for her life. The marriage marked by years of physical abuse ended with TINA having to start over from square one but this time, the goal was world domination. The first release from PRIVATE DANCER was a pristine cover of AL GREENE's LET'S STAY TOGETHER but before long, TINA would have the world on its ear with what has come to be her signature solo classic WHAT'S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT – a reggae-fied piece of eighties soul pop marked by TINA's distinctive purr. Other performances include the positively churning BETTER BE GOOD TO ME, a EURYTHMICS-styled cover of the ANN PEEBLES classic I CAN”T STAND THE RAIN, the exquisite jazz rock title track brought to her by MARK KNOPFLER and the all out rock n roll rant STEEL CLAW featuring a fierce JEFF BECK on guitar.

And there was that time she hit the big screen.

It should be mentioned that TINA TURNER turned down the role of SHUG AVERY in STEVEN SPIELBERG's 1985 OSCAR-nominated film THE COLOR PURPLE in favor of working with director GEORGE MILLER for the third installment of the MAD MAX films. BEYOND THUNDERDOME took the MAD MAX series into uncharted territory with its massive budget. The extra money helped and BEYOND THUNDERDOME was a box office smash where TURNER finally got to show what she was made of as an actress playing the morally ambiguous AUNTIE ENTITY - a villainess with a tremendous sense of fairness. It's been said that director GEORGE MILLER had to talk TINA out of doing her own stunts. The film also gave TURNER the chance to shine musically with two contributions to the film's soundtrack. WE DON'T NEED ANOTHER HERO is the subdued, cynical outlook on a messiah complex that people remember the most with it's pulsating reggae beat a'la WHAT'S LOVE... but the better moment is the HOLLY KNIGHT penned ONE OF THE LIVING. The strident, apocalyptic-themed rocker earned the woman her fifth GRAMMY for BEST FEMALE ROCK PERFORMANCE yet is not available on any greatest hits collection. 

To say that expectations were high following PRIVATE DANCER was an understatement. They were to the moon! Was it possible to capture lighting in a bottle twice? The answer is 'no' but TINA and her producers and songwriters have a lot of fun trying. BREAK EVERY RULE repeats the multiple producer approach of PRIVATE DANCER and boasts songs from rock n roll giants such as DAVID BOWIE and MARK KNOPFLER. Even the sound is more varied this time with some country and western flourishes (WHAT YOU GET IS WHAT YOU SEE). You've even got BRYAN ADAMS pushing TURNER into metal territory with the glorious rocker BACK WHERE YOU STARTED which is probably the album's finest moment.  The introspective title track plays like a sequel to I MIGHT'VE BEEN QUEEN from PRIVATE DANCER and TYPICAL MALE demonstrates the woman's finesse at delivering seamless Adult Contemporary Pop in the vein of WHAT'S LOVE...Like the mid to late eighties, the music on BREAK EVERY RULE is all over the place and thirty years after the fact, that is what makes it such an enjoyable listen.


Songwriters TERRY BRITTEN and GRAHAM LYLE were the tunesmiths behind WHAT'S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT and WE DON'T NEED ANOTHER HERO. Both songs went to #1 and #2 respectively  so perhaps having this duo write half of the songs for BREAK EVERY RULE makes all of the sense in the world. The team was highly capable to providing that "nice and easy" sound for TURNER who instinctively wanted to rock out and that dynamic comes through loud and clear on TYPICAL MALE, the first single from BREAK EVERY RULE. The bouyant number opens with a cold robotic keyboard progression for a couple of measures before a full band kicks featuring PHIL COLLINS on drums and the sweaty sax guy, TIM CAPELLO, punctuating the tune with his signature saxophone riffs and solos. It may not have been the rocker that TURNER would've preferred to sink her teeth into but the song boasts an effervescnce that is only made more exciting by TURNER's growl. After the disillusionment that made up most of PRIVATE DANCER, hearing this kitten being playful for once is exciting to hear. TYPICAL MALE ended up being a #2 hit on the BILLBOARD HOT 100.

BRITTEN and LYLE were responsible for the pop sheen that became characteristic of TURNER's sound in the eighties so it was a bit of a surprise when the duo turned in a country rocker for the woman whom the media had crowned the Queen of Rock. It should be pointed out that TURNER's 1974 debut solo album was in fact a country album called TINA TURNS THE COUNTRY ON so it's no surprise that TURNER sounds right at home here. There are reports that ERIC CLAPTON is responsible for the incendiary guitar on this stomper but a look at the album's liner notes gives no indication of this. WHAT YOU GET IS WHAT YOU SEE is a delightful fracas that predates the country pop of SHANIA TWAIN by over a decade. The major difference between the two is that TINA can sang!!!  

My complaint about much of TURNER's post-PRIVATE DANCER output was that alot of the pristine material given to her never really allowed her to get "nice and rough." When we get to side b of the album, TURNER reunites with many of the songwriters and producers that made PRIVATE DANCER such a joyous affair. Specifically it is producer BRYAN ADAMS and songwriter JACK VALLANCE who provide the Queen with BACK WHERE YOU STARTED which finally kicks the album off into fifth gear. Why it wasn't introduced sooner in the track listing is a mystery. The track begins deceptively with a melancholy, minor progression of a Hammond b3 until the drums kick in with some fiery guitar riffs. TURNER wails of a love that couldn't go the distance and has left the other in a state of  self-pity with no one to reach out to. The unrelenting rocker builds to a mighty bridge where TURNER asks the ex-lover "Who's gonna through you a lifeline?" This hard rock/heavy metal approach should've been exploited more on this album and some of TURNER's future releases. Powerful and dramatic, BACK WHERE YOU STARTED is the finest moment on BREAK EVERY RULE. 

A fantastic retelling of TURNER's biography was provided in the opening track of PRIVATE DANCER called I MIGHT'VE BEEN QUEEN by songwriters JEANETTE OBSTOJ, RUPERT HINE and JAMIE WEST-ORAM. It set the pace for the narrative of the album to come. This time the songwriting team submitted what would become the title track for TURNER's approval and instead of a song about destiny and overcoming struggle, BREAK EVERY RULE is a swaying, winsome tune about doing whatever you have to do to be with that special someone. Funny one can't see TINA being a "slave or a fool" given what we know of her past with IKE TURNER. The song may not have the bite that I  MIGHT'VE BEEN QUEEN had but BREAK EVERY RULE sums up the more bouyant mood of the album that it is named after.

The songwriting and production talent that TURNER was able to rely on in this most successful period of her career truly had her best musical interests at heart. It was a bit strange how these mostly white English writers were able to pen material that seemed to be taken from this woman's life. MARK KNOPFLER was able to do this with the title track of TURNER's previous album and on BREAK EVERY RULE he gives her OVERNIGHT SENSATION - a quirky, punchy rock-a-billy tune that could've just as easily found its way onto the DIRE STRAITS' BROTHER IN ARMS album. The song tells the story of a world weary rock n roll life that has come with accolades but very little rest. Backed by KNOPFLER on guitar, a handy rhythm section and DIRE STRAITS' GUY FLETCHER on keyboards, OVERNIGHT SENSATION ain't a million miles away from NUTBUSH CITY LIMITS and TURNER's old gut bucket vocal delivery truly comes in handy.

Irish rocker PAUL BRADY contributed the rock n roll raucous of STEEL CLAW to the PRIVATE DANCER proceedings. The song's themes of classism and phoney politics was at odds with an album  that was all about matters of the heart and personal ambitions, but thanks to TURNER's one-of-a-kind interpretive sense she ended up nailing it. Why it didn't go on to be a crowd favorite I have no idea. BRADY's PARADISE IS HERE electrifies in a different way. The soul-stirring ballad opens with a moody saxophone solo by BRANFORD MARSALIS. Airy and atmospheric it gives no hint of the song to come. An insistent  rhythm guitar gets the pace going as TURNER tells a daydreamer to stop looking ahead and looking to all that is around him - notably her. With this song it feels like the peace of mind that the singer was looking for in PRIVATE DANCER is finally found and the listener is right there with her. BREAK EVERY RULE should've ended with this track.

*** the United States, BREAK EVERY RULE would go platinum with a million copies in sales, which paled in comparison to the five million copies sold of PRIVATE DANCER in the U.S. but when totaled with the sales from overseas, BREAK EVERY RULE sold over twelve million copies so the woman had another hit on her hands. She even managed to cinch another GRAMMY award for BEST FEMALE ROCK VOCAL PERFORMANCE on the strength of the single BACK WHERE YOU STARTED, a song that has not managed to find itself on any greatest hits package. Sales and airplay were good and critical consensus was kind yet many felt that the sixth album from TURNER was anything but rule breaking.

ROBERT CHRISTGAU of THE VILLAGE VOICE had this to say about TURNER's latest album:

"Charges that Tina has betrayed her precious heritage come twenty years too late--not since she and Ike reeled off five straight r&b top-tens between 1960 and 1962 has she pursued the black audience with any notable passion. Her benefactors of the late '60s were Phil Spector, Bob Krasnow, the Rolling Stones, and the Las Vegas International Hotel, where she and Ike were fixtures at the time of Elvis's comeback; their big numbers of the early '70s were the totemic rock anthems "Come Together" and "Proud Mary." That she should now realize the pop fabrications of white svengalis is just a couple more steps down the same appointed path, and she's damned good at it, even an innovator--Private Dancer remains the archetypal all-singles all-hits multiproducer crossover, and Whitney Houston should be so soulful. Unfortunately, the follow-up musters no archetypal crossover singles, and no totemic rock anthems either (Bryan Adams induces her to go metal, which is more than Bowie or Knopfler can claim). Fortunately, ranking svengali Terry Britten gets his own state-of-the-pop-art side. If he and Tina can't convince you that rich people have feelings too, you're some kind of bigot for sure."

ROLLING STONE noted something similar but their summation wasn't as cogent as CHRISTGAU's summation.

TURNER's iconography was never in doubt and her standing as a leggy, rock n roll queen has endured to this day. Other albums followed such as 1989's FOREIGN AFFAIR, 1996's WILDEST DREAMS and 2000's TINA but platinum success would be limited to the overseas market. However up until 2009, TURNER had managed to continue selling out arenas.

Oh and there is that life story of hers finding its way onto the big screen with the release of 1993's WHAT'S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT which further cemented the woman's Homeric pop odyssey and earned its stars ANGELA BASSETT and LAURENCE FISHBURNE Oscar nominations for their performances as TINA and IKE. Even the soundtrack to the film, featuring TURNER and her band re-recording some classic IKE AND TINA performances managed to reach platinum sales. Maybe music for film was the thing now. Two years later in 1995 she would lend her pipes to the JAMES BOND film GOLDENEYE - a grand SHIRLEY BASSEY inspired opus penned by  BONO of U2. 

So great is the woman's influence in the firmament of pop culture that her life story found its way onto the stage of both the West End and Broadway. TINA - THE MUSICAL was a massive hit on London's West End  when it premiered in 2018. The show came to Broadway at the end of 2019 and was an immediate hit  until the COVID-19 pandemic put a freeze on the Great White Way and society in general.  In a time when pop luminaries  such as  CHER have enticed audiences with news of a never-ending farewell tour, TINA truly bowed out in 2009 at the age of seventy. Since that time, she has revoked her U.S. citizenship, settled in Switzerland and got hitched to her longtime boyfriend ERWIN BACH. In 2018, she released another autobiography MY LOVE STORY - a sequel to 1986's I, TINA.

At this point in her life, many expected calmer seas for this venerable icon, but the new book recounts other instances of abuse at the hands of IKE as well as some frightening illnesses. Weeks after her marriage to BACH, TURNER suffered a stroke which rendered her immobile. There was also a bout of instestinal cancer and kidney failure which resulted in dialysis. Her husband BACH stepped in an donated his kidney, but there have been issues with her body rejecting the kidney. Despite these challenges, TURNER has soldiered on in recent interviews, demonstrating the very strength that has become her brand. In July of this year, that strength would be tested by the suicide of her first born son CRAIG.

In a life filled with ups and downs, triumphs and tragedies and vitality and illness, TURNER's legendary survival skill set is something to be envied and sought after, especially now with a global pandemic and civil unrest. I'm not sure such a trait is all that imitable but the woman's fierceness and determination have made for some great music along the way. Even if sheis in retirement, the musical legacy  lives on and in frightening and uncertain times as this, that is a major comfort.

FOR MORE iNFORMATiON GO TO: Lush is a music industry professional and entrepreneur. In 2005 he launched the online music site to help promote new music artists in conjunction with the weekly radio show Rockwired Live which aired on KTSTFM.COM from 2005 - 2009. In 2010 He launched the daily podcast series Rockwired Radio Profiles which features exclusive interviews and music. He has also developed and produced the online radio shows Jazzed and Blue - Profiles in Blues and Jazz, Aboriginal Sounds - A Celebration of American Indian and First Nations Music, The Rockwired Rock N Roll Mixtape Show and The Rockwired Artist of the Month Showcase. In 2012, Brian Lush and his company Rockwired Media LLC launched the monthly digital online publication Rockwired Magazine. The magazine attracts over 75,000 readers a month and shows no signs of stopping. Rockwired Magazine also bares the distinction of being the first American Indian-owned rock magazine. Brian Lush is an enrolled member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe. Brian Lush's background in music journalism, radio and podcast hosting, podcast production, web design, publicity, advertising sales, social media and online marketing, strategic editorial planning and branding have all made Rockwired a name that is trusted and respected throughout the independent music industry.