Tina Turner makes rare public appearance and talks of David Bowie & Mick Jagger

How wonderful to see Tina Turner make a brief excursion out of retirement to help promote a new musical stage show based on her life story. If anyone deserves a long and happy twilight it’s the artist formerly known as the hardest working woman in showbusiness.

The icon made a surprise appearance on ITV’s Jonathan Ross show last weekend, to standing ovations on both arrival and exit. What a lady!

Wearing a chic pyjama ensemble, the legendary trailblazer arrived made her entrance with a cool Tina: The Musical tote bag, and opened up about her retirement, her old poker pals David Bowie and Mick Jagger, and of course, the point of the evening, the upcoming musical on her life opening next year in London.

Tina reveals that the story will start all the way back in the cotton fields of Tennessee, being raised by her grandmother in her native Nutbush as well as her debuts in Missouri with the fearsome Ike Turner:

“It starts from Nutbush growing up, all the involvement with the cotton fields, church house, gin house, school house, out house, it really quite old now but it’s still there… It starts with that. It starts with the grandmother raising me and all of the early stages into moving into teenager and then into St. Louis.”

The “Church house, gin house” famously referenced in Tina’s self-penned Nutbush City Limits is definitely still there. This was taken in November 2016 on our way from Memphis to Nashville. Only later when Wiki-checking did we realise it was actually Tina’s 77th birthday

Ross also quizzed Tina on her friendships with Bowie and Jagger, and whether they had been helpful in terms of her career and the choosing of material.

“Yes, very much. They were there. First of all, Mick wanted to do the dance. David was just a gentleman, being there in some kind of way, trying to find out what he wanted to do with Tina. Because they were like brothers or close, close, close friends and then I ended up doing an album with David and a live show. We were dancing, Tonight.”

Ah, mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah!

The television host then plays a clip of the HBO special where The Dame joined the Queen of Rock on her Private Dancer tour at the Birmingham NEC arena in England, the only time he ever performed Tonight without its co-author, Iggy Pop.

Tina concurs that the two of them together on stage was something special (“that was chemistry, that was!”) but, not surprisingly goes all coy about the boy, refusing to reveal what the Thin White One had whispered in her ear during the sax-dominated instrumental break:

“No, I’m not telling ya!” Cue lots of hysterical laughter, hoping Wossy changes the subject sharpish. Of course he doesn’t.

“You know there’s speculation about what he said to you there? You know they’ve had lip readers on that?”

Tina stumbles a little. Clearly embarrassed as hell.

“No… no report on that.” Cue more stumbling for words and nervous laughter. Why so reluctant to spill the beans? Because the night before filming the dirty old Dame spilled his seed all over the Turner highway. You don’t even need to be a professional lipreader to work out that Bowie’s lothario line that made the lioness roar was the immortal “My cock is still sore!” Or was it actually “raw”? Watch it and see for yourself.

Ross then asked Tina if she could remember the last time she’d had contact with Bowie, and the now married singer had some pretty emotional words about her late beau:

“I think I saw him in Brussels and that was the actual last time that I went to his dressing room and said Hello and talked about the show and where he was going. I remember the last thing he said. ‘I love you Tina’ and I said ‘I love you David.’ and that was all.
The next thing I heard he was sick and then after that I saw Iman and asked her how he was and she said “He’s OK”, because they kept it undercover, and then the news came through that he was dying.”

River Deep Mounting High

I’m not entirely which Bowie show Tina is trying to recall, but, unlike most previous European outings, DB skipped the Belgian capital altogether on his final trek, A Reality Tour (2003-2004), opting to play a solitary show in Antwerp instead.

I wonder if Tina’s got her tours slightly mixed up, as although she did indeed catch Bowie in Brussels, that was way back in April 1990 when his Sound +Vision extravaganza parked at the Vorst Nationaal. I have a hard time believing that could have been the last time the two cohorts spoke face to face, especially as they’d known each other since Toni Basil, choreographing TT’s first major tour since leaving Ike, effectively arranged their first hook-up after Tina’s Wild Lady of Rock show thundered into Geneva, Switzerland on 29 April, 1979, not long after Bowie had become Swiss domiciled.

For example, they both appeared at the same two televised events in February 1996 in London: The Brits followed by Top Of The Pops, where Bowie, as the latest recipient of the Outstanding Contribution award, was either duetting with Pet Shop Boys in high heels (David, that is, not Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe.) or having his big night overshadowed by Jarvis Cocker wiggling his bum at Michael Jackson playing Jesus, and Tina was presenting the Best British Female gong to Annie Lennox or plugging her latest Trevor Horn-helmed single, Whatever You Want. And if you don’t know that oft-overlooked barnstormer then you now have no excuse:

Shame the uploader cut it off early. It was only David Bowie and Pet Shop Boys on the opposite stage coming next. Oh, here they are…

Whatever the details, and whatever her audience wants, TT seems blissfully happy in retirement. Unlike many of her contemporaries, she doesn’t crave the spotlight and her Swiss home with new hubby Erwin Bach is where her heart is. Still having a lot of golden years ahead of her, and to conclude with the words of Jonathan Ross: If someone really deserves the best of retirement, that is Tina Turner. God love her.

Steve Pafford

Tina: The Musical opens at London’s Aldwych Theatre in March 2018