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>Ike & Tina Turner – Hold On Baby

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>I don’t believe a song unless I sense some urgency – if you don’t care about making the song, then I don’t care to listen. And I can always tell. But there are some Ike & Tina Turner jams that have so much damn urgency I need a warm towel and some smelling salts after a listen – these two lovebirds were holding on for dear life. From “Make ‘Em Wait”, about a a father (played by Ike, no doubt) who commands his daughter to save herself for marriage and keep it away from all those boys “who will call you Queen” when she turns 18, to, more famously, “A Fool in Love”, where Ike lays out a case for Tina to stay with someone who, even though “treats you like he do, [is] such a good man”. You think Phil Spector is fucked up? He ain’t got shit on this husband & wife. In our personality obsessed age, the cultural and personal politics of Ike & Tina’s greatest hits are, to say the least, fucked.

None more so than “Hold On Baby”, written and produced by who else but the Angel of Sonic Death Sir Phil Spector. Find me a song more fucked then this and I’ll buy you a 7-inch: Phil has Tina pleading her boyfriend (Ike) to hold on for dear life against the adversity of people trying to break them up. The nameless “THEY” are the enemy – “They try to tear us apart, you know, they try to break our hearts, They won’t be leaving us alone, until they break our happy home”. Poor Ike, having to deal with the annoying clattering of worrying-for-Tina family and friends! Of course, he finds a sympathetic ear, and recording studio, in Phillie baby. And Phil does have Ike’s back in this case, turning the aural drama up to a fever pitch. Did we just enter rock ‘n roll church? You half expect some spirit-embodied shining light to come down from the heavens and bless poor Tina when this little number comes on. With reverb on as high as it can go, each instrument and voice, especially those Ikettes in the back, reach from bottom to top of each note. This Wall of Sound extends from Heaven all the way down to Hell – there’s no getting through this one!

Tina sounds crazed too, even more so than usual. There’s an aesthetic necessity for her panic. As each “HOLD ON” gets higher and higher, the song structure forces her to strain. And he might be a dick, but Phil knows music, because just like Levi Stubbs of the Four Tops, Tina soumds best when she sounds like she’s working so hard her lungs might jump out of her body. Tina’s running a marathon in this one. I’m sure it’s not one take, but aesthetically the song never stops, so the audience gets the illusion that Tina is gasping for air.

Have you heard a song more claustrophobic or suffocating than this? And no, its not just the studio environment. Phil reportedly paid Ike $20,000 to keep his mouth shut during their recording session, so that studio was probably as much fun as a date with Dick Cheney. But the song itself holds the real oppression. Phil could make his songs ethereal or domineering – there’s nothing in between with him; you know which one he picked on this one. Its aggressive, haunting, and chilling, and Phil and Tina never sounded better.


Written by alexgfrank

November 11, 2008 at 10:16 pm