Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1091

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PP Arnold: Soul special

PP Arnold
PP Arnold

Legendary soul songstress PP Arnold - best known for her string of hit singles while based in London during the mid/late-Sixties, including her original version of the classic ballad âThe First Cut Is The Deepestâ - returns this month with the melodically-shuffling, heartfelt new single âBeautiful Songâ. Which in turn marks the first song to be released from the Band Of Sisters album âIssuesâ - a project masterminded by respected British composer/musician David Mindel and featuring 16 new songs sung âby women about women for womenâ by 15 different female singers of all ages, with subject-matter ranging from friendship, gratitude and strength to loneliness, depression and domestic abuse.

Born Patricia Ann Cole into a family of gospel singers on October 3, 1946 in Los Angeles, California, after enduring the hardships of an abusive teen marriage PPâs first break in music came in the mid-Sixties when she was invited to join The Ikettes - the female singer/dancer troupe that provided vocal and dance accompaniment for the iconic Ike & Tina Turner Revue. Following which, after the Revue arrived in Britain in 1966 to tour with The Rolling Stones, Arnold would - after striking up a close friendship with The Stonesâ superstar frontman Mick Jagger - unexpectedly next find herself agreeing to Mickâs suggestion that she stay in London, a move which in turn would result in her becoming signed as a solo artist to The Stonesâ manager Andrew Loog Oldhamâs newly-founded record-label Immediate.

Meanwhile, with her debut album for the label âThe First Lady Of Immediateâ spawning 1967âs aforementioned hit âThe First Cut Is The Deepestâ - whose success was consolidated in 1968 by the equally-soulful âAngel Of The Morningâ - PP would quickly find herself becoming one of the iconic faces of Londonâs Swinging Sixties before, following the collapse of Immediate Records at the end of the decade, going on to attain success on the West End stage via a leading role alongside Texan-born crooner P.J. Proby in 1970âs groundbreaking âCatch My Soul/Rock Othelloâ, one of the first-ever rock musicals.

Nevertheless, with her feeling increasingly out-of-place on Britainâs rapidly-changing music scene of the mid-Seventies, Patâs next move would see her returning to California, where by 1981 (following the tragic death of her daughter some years earlier) she had made the move to Hollywood - winning minor acting roles in such popular television series as âSt. Elsewhereâ and âKnots Landingâ before returning in 1982 to England. Where in 1984 she would return to the London stage as Belle the Sleeping Car in Andrew Lloyd Webberâs then-new smash musical âStarlight Expressâ while also re-igniting her music career - attaining international success via her vocal contribution to electro-pop outfit Kane Gangâs mid-Eighties cover of The Staple Singersâ âRespect Yourselfâ before collaborating in 1988 with The Beatmasters on their retro-styled hip-house Top 15 hit âBurn It Upâ. Since which time further career highs have included recording and touring with Pink Floydâs Roger Waters, playing Goddess of Love Erzulie in the Olivier Award-winning musical âOnce On This Islandâ, and working extensively with latter-day mod group Ocean Colour Scene.

All of which has ultimately resulted in a remarkably enduring career which - with session credits that read like a âwhoâs whoâ of the last four decades of rockânâroll and pop - has seen the ever-adaptable Ms Arnold over the years collaborate, record, work and tour alongside a truly iconic list of bona fide superstars - ranging from The Rolling Stones, The Small Faces and Jimi Hendrix to Rod Stewart, Barry Gibb and Eric Clapton!

... Cue an instantly-friendly, now-Spanish-based PP meeting up with âBlues & Soulâ Assistant Editor Pete Lewis at the Central London studios of BBC Radio 2. Where, taking time out from Sunday morning rehearsals for her live session on âWeekend Woganâ, she happily discusses her early gospel background; her life on the road as an Ikette; plus her trailblazing time as one of the first-ever British-based female soul singers during Londonâs Swinging Sixties.

PETE: Letâs start by taking it back to the early days of you growing up in Los Angeles, Californiaâ¦

PP: âWell, I was born into a gospel family whoâd migrated to Los Angeles from Texas just before World War II - basically to get away from all the racism of The South, which back in those days was really, really bad. So I grew up a good little Christian girl going to church every Sunday morning, teaching Sunday school, and singing all those well-known congregational songs like âAmazing Graceâ, âJesus, Keep Me Near The Crossâ... But then while in my early years Iâd grown up with really just gospel and blues music all around me, by the time I became a teenager - weâre talking sort of late-Fifties/early-Sixties - my friends and I really started getting into all the new SOUL music that was happening at the time. You know, at Junior High School theyâd have these great lunchtime dances where weâd be dancing and singing to all the latest Motown and Stax hits... So yeah, overall my early/mid teens were great, because I grew up around all that great MUSIC! But then I made a big, big MISTAKE - I got PREGNANT, which meant I had to leave school. And then my father - because in those days a teenage pregnancy was really bad - made me get married⦠So though I was still a teenager I then suddenly became tied to this guy who was older than me and who I barely even KNEW.â

PETE: So how did you come to join The Ike & Tina Turner Revue as one of The Ikettes?

PP: âWell, I was married, I had two kids - and my life was HELL! I was working two jobs, my husband didnât work - it was a NIGHTMARE. So anyway, to make a long story short, one Sunday morning I was doing all my laundry, cleaning the house... And while I was in the laundry-room I prayed to God to show me a way out of this hell that Iâd created for myself - you know, I took full responsibility. Then I went back in the house - and an hour-or-so later the phone rang and an ex-girlfriend of my brother - Maxine Scott - was basically calling to tell me she and her friend Gloria Scott wanted me to help them become IKETTES! You know, theyâd heard that the existing three girls were about to leave and that, because they had a tour coming up, Ike & Tina were needing a new trio of Ikettes like STRAIGHTAWAY... So next thing I know Iâm at Ike & Tinaâs house, doing an audition with Maxine and Gloria to help them get this GIG!... So anyway, we finish the audition - and Tina goes âright girls - you got the gig!â... So then I go to her âOh no, not me - I gotta go home! My husbandâs gonna kick my ARSE!â... You know, I was in a abusive teen marriage. So then Tina says to me âWell, if youâre gonna get your arse kicked for nothing you might as well go with us to Fresno tonight and at least see the show!â. You know, I guess they really wanted me to be a part of this new group of Ikettes because we were young, we knew all the steps⦠I mean, we were basically like the personification of Motown/STAX, which was like a new IMAGE for Ike & Tina⦠So anyway, I guess it was just one of those days in your life when you just sorta go with the flow. I went with them to Fresno, saw the Ike & Tina Revue, which was an absolutely BRILLIANT show⦠Then I got back to LA, put my key in the front door - and BOOM, there it was! My husband HIT me - but at the same time it was actually like he knocked some kinda sense into me! Because I suddenly thought âYou know what? This morning I didnât have a way outta this - but now I DO!â... So I just got my kids ready to take to my mom, pretended I was going to work as usual, and then when I got to my momâs I begged her to help me - âcause I knew the only way I could go on that road would be for my mom to keep my kids... So yeah, thatâs how I ended up going on the road with Ike & Tina!â

PETE: So what are your memories like of touring with Ike & Tina Turner during the early-to-mid-Sixties?

PP: âOh, musically-speaking it was FABULOUS! I get chills just thinking about it! I mean, weâd go on like 90-day tours, and out of those 90 days weâd be working 87! You know, it was like one-nighters all over the country and it was fantastic - hard work but at the same time brilliant! Because every night on that bandstand you had all these amazing musicians, many of whom - like the horn-players - had come from the jazz era; Ike was a fantastic bandleader⦠I mean, EVERY NIGHT that bandstand would be smokinâ!... So yeah, that was how I paid my dues - on the road with Ike & Tina and just really learning my craft... But then having said all that, backstage was a very different story - it was actually all quite turbulent. You know, there was a lot of women involved, they were all on the road together... So you had like this harem of women with Ike Turner - and to me Ike was a PIMP! They were his women, they all worked for him, and Tina was the Queen BEE - and thatâs how it WAS! Basically I think everybody was using everybody else. Ike was using Tina, Tina was using Ike... Because no matter what you say about Ike, the fact is that without Ike there would be no Tina! Because while Tina was always good, he was the one who made her great. But then at the same time on a personal level the whole situation for me was very difficult. Because I loved Tina. And so when Iâd see her all bruised and beaten it would just break my heart. Because she was the one that had actually saved ME from all that... But you know, thatâs just how it WAS on the road in those days. The horrible fact is that women had no power WHATSOEVER. Every woman on the road was controlled by some man, and it was an abusive scene going on.â

PETE: And so what was the story behind you leaving the Ike & Tina Revue in 1966 and settling in London as a solo artist?

PP: âWell, we came to the UK to do the Rolling Stones tour. And as luck would have it, the night before we flew to England I caught my boyfriend - who was the trumpet-player in Ike & Tinaâs band and whoâd basically been saving me from Ike - cheating on me with another woman. So I quit him. Which meant when I came to England I was like a free spirit. And then of course when we got here we were just so shocked that the whole scene here was as happening as it WAS. You know, there was this whole hip kinda revolution taking place here at the time with all the fashion, all the music - like I remember our first night opening for The Stones at The Albert Hall and seeing them and all those people like Jeff Beck just absolutely KLLING it!... So yeah, we did the tour, we had a lotta fun - and I became like really close friends with Mick (Jagger). So from that I was approached by Andrew Oldham - The Stonesâ manager - who invited me to stay in England and record for his Immediate label, where Mick would produce half my album and Andrew the other half. And so there it WAS - another opportunity just out of the blue! So once again I called my mom, to see if sheâd keep the kids while Iâd stay in London for a while to see if anything would happen. So we basically agreed that, if things happened within six months Iâd come and get my kids, and if it didnât Iâd come home... And so, because within those six months I had my first big hit with âThe First Cut Is The Deepestâ, I ended up getting my kids and staying in London!â

PETE: So how do you now look back on your solo success in the UK during the mid-to-late-Sixties when you were dubbed âThe First Lady of Immediateâ?

PP: âWell, Andrew was a very creative manager. I mean, he was really tuned IN! Weâd meet, heâd play me material - and while I did have a choice as to what Iâd sing, at the end of the day I largely listened to him because he had great judgement. You know, he really did put a lot of energy into my career, and his concept for me was definitely one that paid off! And while unfortunately the drugs did prove his downfall and by the end of the decade Immediate had crashed, in its day it was a great LABEL! I mean, Iâd be working alongside my label-mates like (chart-topping British pop/rockers) The Small Faces, where Iâd sing on their stuff and theyâd produce tracks for me like â(If You Think Youâre) Groovyâ... You know, it was FABULOUS - going all over Europe, doing all the TV, forming my own band The Nice with Keith Emerson as my musical director, working alongside all those other great acts like Jimi Hendrix, Cream The Kinks, Pink Floyd⦠Because what you have to remember is Madeline Bell, Jimi and myself were actually the first (resident) black American artists here! You know, we go back - thatâs why they canât get rid of us! And so while of course unfortunately Jimi is no longer with us to tell the tale, Madeline and I do still have many, many great stories to tell about our experiences in London during that time!â

PP performs in London as part of Band Of Sisters at the âIssuesâ album launch at The BBC Club, Great Portland Street on October 9 as well as at The Pheasantry, Kings Road October 11 and 12

PPâs single âBeautiful Songâ is released October 7. The Band Of Sisters album âIssuesâ follows November 4, both through Band Of Sisters

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