Ike Turner in the Rear View Mirror
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.