Music: Return of the First Lady of Immediate

The legendary PP Arnold, who Tina and Ike Turner picked out for stardom in the Sixties, is making a comeback. Glyn Brown talked to the Beautiful Thing

"I recently saw a cutting of my first interview. Boy, was I naive!" The legendary PP Arnold, Sixties diva and one-time supersonic boomer with the Ike and Tina Turner Revue, uses a gold-fingernailed hand to emphasise. "The journalist asked how it'd been, working on the Revue, and I said, great, but that I felt sorry for Tina. I didn't say it, like ... y'know, who was I to feel sorry for Tina? She gave me everything. But in those days, you just did not talk about that stuff, and the way they printed it, I looked like I was ego-trippin'. So it got back to Ike and Tina, and I don't think Tina has really spoken to me since that time."

Could you write to her? "I did, last year when she was at Wembley. Her assistant called, said did I want to see the show? And that show - even sitting down for an acoustic set she was animated. I was touched, because I feel music the same way."

Think about one of the hippest, most exotic things you could be in London in the swinging Sixties; that was PP Arnold in her mid-twenties. Having just quit shaking tail feathers with the Turners, she had a record deal and a couple of achingly great singles - "Angel of the Morning" and the Cat Stevens-penned "The First Cut is the Deepest". She was also black, Nefertiti-beautiful and dating Mick Jagger. Thirty years on, she's a happening babe all over again. Looking half her age, which is 52, she's just finished a tour with Ocean Colour Scene; "It's a Beautiful Thing", her duet with Simon Fowler, is half-way up the charts; she has a groovy single. "Different Drum", due next month, and is working on her first LP for years, while her two key Sixties albums, First Lady of Immediate and Kafunta, are about to be re-released.

"I'm a Libran," she tells me, "and we work hard. We play hard, too, though I don't get to play much lately - but my work is play, so how lucky am I?"

Arnold wasn't always that lucky, but her early days gave her a kind of strength to fall back on when times were hard. She was born in LA's South Central - then the black ghetto of Watts - where her family were the backbone of the local church. "I still remember my first solo, at the age of four. I'll sing it for you, I'm gon' sing it in my li'l baby voice." In fact, she sings alto for this sweet, walking blues: "My mother was a soldier, her hands on the gospel plan ... ba-duh, ba-duh [keeping time with a foot, clicking her fingers] ... one day she got old, she couldn't fight no more, but she said [voice reaching a climax] I'm gon' stand up, and fight on anyhow!" Booming laugh. "When I did that, the church just went wild. And I thought, so this is what you do to make everyone happy."

Shy and retiring - well, so she says - the then Pat Cole made the mistake of falling in love at 15. "It was at the record hop, and all the girls noticed David Arnold. He was the business, twisting to Chubby Checker. Well, he asked me to dance. And I think we twisted a little bit too much." Which means, a few months later Arnold got pregnant. A shotgun wedding, then another child. It wasn't bliss - David refused to work, though he was apparently handy with his fists, and at 16, a mother of two, Arnold was holding down a day and a night job. Fortunately, two friends had an audition for the Ikettes, and Arnold went along. "Tina loved us, because we were little girls and we had a Motowny look. She wanted us to see her in Fresno that night. I said, I can't go - my husband is already going to kill me for being out this late. And Tina said, girl, if you're gonna get in trouble, you may as well really get into trouble." Arnold saw the show, getting home at 6am. "I walked in the door, and pow!" She shrugs, "But y'know, maybe that time, he knocked some sense into my head."

So she packed her bags, left the kids with her parents and took off on the tour, becoming, in Tina's Svengali-like hands, the requisite glamour puss. Tina showed her how to apply make-up, and took the girls for wig fittings. These pricey falls of real hair, pinned on tight, became a nightmare, too. "It was a self-esteem thing. Black people have kinky hair; European hair seemed better." She grimaces. "And, when I married an Englishman, I even slept in the wig - he saw me as this woman with the hair and the miniskirt; it was my image." One day, she tore off the wig and threw it into a rubbish bin. Her own hair didn't grow back for seven years.

In 1966, having just added her vocals to "River Deep, Mountain High", produced by Phil Spector, Arnold and the team arrived in the UK to support the Rolling Stones.

How was that? "I'll tell you - when I first saw Mick dancing on stage, I just cracked. I said, what kinda dance is that? He'd laugh at us too, shakin' our butts. But we started showing him steps, helping him get his dance goin'."

The relationship blossomed, much to Ike's tight-lipped chagrin. "He didn't like it one bit. Especially when limos came to pick up the Ikettes, and he and Tina were driving round in an old Zephyr."

When Ike got upset he would extort fines - $25 for a stocking run, $25 for being late. Eventually, Arnold could take it no more, so Jagger introduced her to his manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, who signed her up and put out the two landmark singles. She formed a backing band, the Nice, wrote with the Small Faces' Steve Marriott, and collaborated with the Bee Gees and Eric Clapton.

In the late Seventies her pop career dried, so she got into musicals, and, when things were really bad, sang jingles to extol the virtues of Vortex bleach and Finesse shampoo. The Eighties dance explosion saw her embraced by the likes of the Beatmasters and KLF, but the approach of Ocean Colour Scene was the true turning-point. The Sixties-flavoured rockers appeared at her dressing-room door two years ago with bouquets of flowers, and their adoration hasn't waned; the band's Steve Craddock will produce her new album.

And here she is, a soul survivor, enthused to the max. A story from her early days says her voice was so loud that when she hit a high note, she had to be put in another studio.

Arnold laughs about it. "Yeah, that's true, but I've learned. I'm happy to say I have a lot more control now."

PP Arnold's key Sixties albums `First Lady of Immediate' and `Kafunta', are released this week on one CD by Castle. `Different Drum' is to be released in May on Universal. An album will follow later in the summer.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Marketing Manager

    £17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An experienced marketeer is req...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager - Enterprise, M2M & IOT Hardware

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager - Enterprise, M2M & IOT Hardware

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting to join a s...

    Recruitment Genius: Food Production / Operations Manager

    £40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a large and well ...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas