Songs sometimes still become minor obsessions, even here at Farmageddon. One of the present curiosities is "Matchbox," which keeps turning up, most recently on a Carl Perkins set when I was looking for something else. (Snakes, if you must know.) The version to which I keep returning is Ike Turner's Cobra recording. Over the weekend I drove to the big city and bought another Cobra collection which includes three takes of "Matchbox," and I suppose that will have to satisfy me.

We never did a story on Ike Turner, whose pedigree goes back to "Rocket 88," which many wiser heads believe to have been the first rock 'n' roll song. I've yet to hear that original version, but there's time. Ike Turner & The Kings of Rhythm released an album in 2001 titled Here and Now. His publicist for the project offered an interview. I rejected it out of hand because of all the things said of Ike Turner. All the things said that had nothing to do with his music, which, at the time, I was only peripherally aware of. All the things said.

The publicist, who is one of the kindest, most generous, most musical people I've known in the industry, sent me the record anyhow. Assured me Mr. Turner was a gentleman, and probed ever so gently to see if I might budge.

No, I wouldn't.

In the 13 years we published No Depression in its paper form, this was one of two times I consciously declined to pursue a story on what would, I suppose, qualify as moral grounds. Jeremy Spencer had cut a blues album for Blind Pig, and I was all set to interview one of the trio of Elmore James-influenced guitarists (the great Peter Green, and Denny Kirwan) who briefly led Fleetwood Mac. Spencer had left to join the Children of God, resurfacing only occasionally with his guitar. I thought that was an interesting story, and was prepared not to probe too deeply into his religious convictions. And then I googled him. I have a daughter, and it hit me wrong, the things I found. The allegations made. So the day of the interview I cancelled. I don't think the label had read the court records I discovered. But I had read them, and could not do the story.

There were, to be clear, other stories we willingly pursued featuring musicians of questionable character. If that sentence isn't inherently redundant.

So listening to Ike Turner, and Betty Everett sing with him just now, listening to Ike Turner removed from the movie they made and the stories I read, just listening and washing dishes as I always used to...just listening to Ike Turner, I'm wondering if I made a mistake.

At this point in my life I've learned enough not to pick sides in a divorce. As somebody else has already noted, there are at least three sides. And I've long known enough not to judge somebody by their behavior while stoned. Pay attention, yes. But not to judge.

So I'm wondering, if anybody out there is paying attention: Should we have cast aside the allegations of abuse and all the rest and simply talked about the music? I never just wrote about the music, maybe that was my problem.

But Ike Turner, he was one hell of a player.

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Tags: alden, ike, jeremy, spencer, turner

Comment by Easy Ed on June 25, 2014 at 6:45pm

Ike was indeed a helluva player and Phil Spector was a groundbreaking producer who happened to murder a woman after years of pulling out a gun from time to time and threatening others. Jerry Lee married his 13 year old cousin and in an article in Rolling Stone many years ago, was pretty much accused of earning that nickname of "Killer". I flip through the pages of that old magazine you mentioned and there are dopers and drunks and home wreckers and felons and sex fiends and people who served time and people who got away with shit. There's your Jesus freaks and tea people, your armchair liberal and your homophobic. People who love Woody Allen and those who'd never see his films. Cheaters and haters, the misguided and bewildered. Mentally challenged and morally bankrupt. And I haven't even touched the list of folks neither you nor I just don't like.

So's a slippery slope this here topic. I got no solid answer for you other than you go with your gut, your moral compass. The old magazine wasn't a friggin' public service vehicle beholden to a nice marketing person nor to anyone else; it was a reflection of the taste and creativity and decision making of what was interesting and what wasn't by the publishers and editors, and to some extent the writers and readers. If it didn't feel right, you didn't do it. Case closed. From where I sit, y'all did pretty damn good. 

In any event, I miss you. Nice to know you're alive and kickin' down there at the chicken farm.

Comment by Terry Roland on June 26, 2014 at 9:02pm

I was at Sun Studios in Memphis last year. During the tour, they play "Rocket 88."  It was one of the highlights of the tour.  I did a bit of reading on Ike and he was certainly not a 'good' character, nor was he inherently evil as portrayed by the Disney film....Deeply flawed, he may have been bipolar. He was medicated for it in his later years. But, that doesn't excuse anything he did in his life. Most troubling is his apparent like of personal responsibility for the harm he caused Tina.  He was certainly a chronic addict, which  is what took him out according to San Diego coroner's office.  Among the worst charges in the film are that he raped Tina.  Even she denied this. The other is that he stalked her with a gun after a show when he was released from prison.  I remember that scene and how menacing and evil he seemed. Problem is, it never happened. Ike kept his distance and never threatened Tina after their break-up, as far as I can surmise. He was an abusive husband and she certainly needed to get out of that relationship, but he was drawn too darkly for the man he was actually was in the film.   Musically, he probably deserves to be in the R&R Hall of Fame as a solo artist-but that won't happen.  He was one of the creators of R&R. He was gifted and did have a fairly remarkable series of solo albums despite all of the trouble he went through and brought on himself until his death in 2007.  Can't say as I blame you for not doing the interview, Grant. Like Easy Ed said, it's best to go with your gut.  But, its good he gets credit where its due in his contribution to Great American Music. Sadly, I do have to say, I really preferred Tina's music with Ike over her solo career, but good music is too much of a price to pay for what she had to endure.    


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Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.