'Seeing Tina Turner live in concert made me a world-wise man'

·10-min read
Tina Turner <i>(Image: David Giles Press Association)</i>
Tina Turner (Image: David Giles Press Association)

John Smith from Abingdon shares his memories of seeing Tina Turner live in concert and explains how it changed his life.

As I approached my teenage years, trains seemed less important to me, with music and girls starting to loom large on my horizon.

I was soon initiated into the R&B world, following the lead given by the likes of the Beatles, Stones, Georgie Fame, Animals, Spencer Davis Group, the Who, Searchers, Cliff Bennett, Small Faces, Zoot Money and Them.

It wasn't long before I was switching my record buying focus to American acts such as Lee Dorsey, Rufus Thomas, the Velvelettes, the Impressions, Mary Wells, Wilson Pickett, the Miracles, Otis Redding, 4 Tops, Inez & Charlie Foxx Fontella Bass. Major Lance and Marvin Gaye. I joined the local mod crowd, buying a Lambretta and made-to-measure mohair suits.

I was soon attending cutting edge local clubs and planning weekend trips with friends to big cities (Sheffield, London, Leeds & Manchester) to feed my new obsession. TV shows such as 'Ready,Steady,Go' just further fuelled my fanaticism.

Most of the crowd I ran with were a couple of years older and so they were already heading off each Saturday evening to attend clubs like the King Mojo in Sheffield to dance all night to the sounds of soul and to watch the top US acts perform live.

Oxford Mail:
Oxford Mail:

I watched in admiration as that bunch of cutting edge lads and lasses headed for Donny station to catch the late night train to Sheffield. After seeing them off, it was just a late bus back to my home for me (or maybe a lift to a party in some big local house). But summer 1966 saw me leave school and get a 9 to 5 job.

Suddenly the money in my pocket could stretch to buying LP's, Levi jeans, brogue shoes and a decent quality parka. It also allowed me to spread my wings a bit more and to plan to join my older mates on weekend trips away. Along with albums by the likes of Otis Redding and the Impressions, I purchased a compilation package titled 'The Sue Story'. This contained the top dance track of those times (Bob & Earl's “Harlem Shuffle”) plus tracks by Otis Redding, James Brown & Joe Tex. But also mixed in the the assorted cuts on side 1 was Ike & Tina Turners “I Can't Believe What You Say”.

This song hit me like a ton of bricks, Tina attacking the words like a possessed monster.

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The lyrics hit home instantly. I could be that guy who women lusted after but who cast them aside like toys.

I went out looking for other records by Ike & Tina that I could buy.

Singles by them existed on London American, Sue and Warner Brothers but none of the local shops had any of them in stock. A mate had gone to the Mojo the previous Saturday night and he returned clutching a flyer for an upcoming night at the club.

It was to promote an upcoming live show at the club … NEW YORK'S WILDEST GO-GO SHOW; AFTER RSG TV - BEST SHOW OF THE YEAR Ike & Tina Turner and their full show review.

I was suddenly in heaven. Ike & Tina had appeared on RSG at the end of that September and I had witnessed the mayhem that ensued. Now, on 15th October I had the chance to see the dynamic duo live in Sheffield. But it wasn't to be.

When told I'd be going out the following Saturday and travelling across to the local big city to spend all night in a club, my father put his foot down. And instantly, my dreams were dashed. True I had a bit of money these days, but not enough to fund my desired lifestyle if I was to be thrown out of the house. So I missed spending the night in Tina's company.

I was allowed to head off to the Mojo for their (normal hour) Sunday night sessions, so got to see some of the top British R&B groups doing cover versions of the songs I now loved.

Obviously subterfuge was necessary and I was soon spending Saturday nights in Donny town centre and then going back to my mate Tom's house to crash out (well, as far as my parents were aware).

Christmas 66 was spent at the Boulevard in Tadcaster (travelling up there on Tom's Vespa) instead of at the Mojo niter but then 1967 arrived.

Oxford Mail: Tina Turner
Oxford Mail: Tina Turner

We began to join the in-crowd on Saturday nights at the Mojo and life was good. But, horror of horrors, the police and local council were determined to spoil our fun.

They threatened to have the Mojo shut down.

To fend off their actions, Stringfellow staged the 'last niter session' at the club on April 15th. Our illicit sessions dancing to sounds like "Love a go go" by Stevie Wonder, "You've been cheating" (Impressions), "Determination" by The Contours", "365 days" (Donald Height), "Oh baby you turn me on" by Willie Mitchell plus other singles of the time from Jackie Wilson, Homer Banks and Motown stuff was under threat.

No longer would the early Sunday rays of sunlight hit us as we filed out of the all-nighter listening to the Artistics “I’m Gonna Miss You”.

But Sunday dayer sessions immediately replaced our beloved niters, so life carried on as (almost) normal.

A bunch summer holiday was planned and booked, last year Yarmouth had been up there as a destination of choice. So we booked for a week in Yarmouth, the last week in July. But the mod crowd had moved on, Newquay was the resort of choice in 67.

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We spent a couple of boring nights in Yarmouth and then gravitated to Norwich, where the local soulsters made us welcome. Of course we missed our Saturday night jaunts and so we were soon heading for Leicester and the Nite Owl there.

Sunday morning would now see us on the train north to Sheffield and thence a bus would take us up to the Mojo dayer session. But the magistrates still had there way and we lost the Mojo after Sunday 8th October.

The Nite Owl was our new home but we also got to head back to Sheffield for the odd night – Tuesday 31st October being one such trip – to see Sam & Dave at the City Hall. But then the Nite Owl was also closed down (after 2nd December session).

So now, by default, it would be off to Manchester on Saturday nights to attend the Wheel. The 14th October had been our first visit to the club, but it had been the live act (Jnr Walker) that had been the draw rather than the club itself.

That soon changed, a great night was enjoyed there on 25th November (Ben E King) and that was followed on 16th December by another enjoyable session to see the Vibrations. 1968 soon dawned and the Wheel was now our only real niter option.

Lots of US acts were booked to appear there, so it became our regular weekend hang out. THEN, JOY UNBOUNDED … another UK tour was announced for IKE & TINA. The music press listed the entourage's upcoming gigs ....  28 March – 3 April 1968 - Ike and Tina Turner at Phelps Lounge, Detroit, MI (their last US shows before they jetted over the Atlantic).

19 April 1968 - Ike and Tina Turner; California Ballroom, Dunstable, UK
20 April 1968 - Ike and Tina Turner; Middle Earth - London, UK
20 April 1968 - Ike and Tina Turner; Gliderdrome - Boston, UK
24 April 1968 - Ike and Tina Turner; Locarno - London, UK
26 April 1968 - Ike and Tina Turner; Royal Theatre - Tottenham, UK
27 April 1968 - Ike and Tina Turner; Twisted Wheel Club, Manchester, UK

1 May 1968 - Ike and Tina Turner; Mistrale Club, Kent, UK
5 May 1968 - Ike and Tina Turner; Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
back to the US then for a concert on 14 May 1968 at the Club Imperial, St. Louis, MO.

I would finally get to witness Ike & Tina perform live and at a Twisted wheel niter session to boot.

Their UK record company had pulled out all the stops and released a new 45. In the US the Innis label had put out a new single by them and London (Decca) followed suit here.

So in mid April the coupling of “So Fine / So Blue Over You” hit the shelves of British record shops. Saturday 27th April dawned & the day was spent in our coffee shop haunt round the back of the Gaumont.

The evening finally arrived and it was off to catch the train to Manchester. A swift exit from Piccadilly station was executed and we dashed into Whitworth Street to join the queue outside the club.

The doors opened and in we went.

A couple of hours were spent dancing and then we forced our way into the downstairs back room and up towards the low stage area.

Oxford Mail: Tina Turner
Oxford Mail: Tina Turner

Ike & Tina's complete entourage ran to around 11 people, so how all the equipment and people would fit onto the small stage soon occupied our minds.

Before long, we had to wonder no longer. The records stopped, the act was announced and out came Ike and the musicians.

Next up was the three strong Ikettes and finally Tina hit the stage.

I was still a bit 'wet behind the ears', being just a 19 year old lad from Yorkshire (not that I'd ever let on to that fact back then).

The whirlwind of energy from Nutbush via St Louis was about to open my eyes to the ways of the world. Tina possessed a power to enthral her audience that was instant.

Her wild gyrations, screams of joy and strength of voice was simply overpowering, The Ikettes, in micro mini skirts were dancing just inches away from my face but all I could do (most of the time) was just watch Tina.

The act went through the entire live show in fine style. Despite the lack of space, no one fell off the stage and the crowd were soon yelling for more. An encore followed but then the spectacle was over. The rest of the night was spent talking and dancing.

Occasional trips over to the DJ cage were made to ask what the last record played had been (we were still learning what new singles we should be chasing copies of). But eventually the night ended.

The crowd spilled out of the back of the club, up the embankment and onto the car park area.

I had entered the Wheel that night as a lad.

But I emerged from the place the next morning as a world-wise man.

Such was the effect Tina Turner had on me.

John Smith


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About the author 

Andy is the Trade and Tourism reporter for the Oxford Mail and you can sign up to his newsletters for free here. 

He joined the team more than 20 years ago and he covers community news across Oxfordshire.

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