MAY 1966 (46 YEARS AGO)
Ike & Tina Turner: “River Deep – Mountain High” b/w “I’ll Keep You Happy” (Philles 131) 45 single is released in the US.
“River Deep – Mountain High” is a 1966 single by Ike & Tina Turner. Considered by producer Phil Spector to be his best work, the single entered the lower end of the Billboard 100 and stopped at #88 on the pop charts. Even though it had better fortune in the United Kingdom, peaking at #3 in the singles charts on first release, Spector was so disillusioned that he ceased involvement in the recording industry totally for two years, and only intermittently returned to the studio after that; he effectively became a recluse and began to self-destruct.
Written by Spector, Jeff Barry, and Ellie Greenwich, “River Deep – Mountain High” was among the first recordings that Ike & Tina Turner did for Phil Spector’s Philles Records. “River Deep – Mountain High” compared a woman’s love and loyalty, respectively, to that which that a child feels for a doll, and a puppy has for his master.
Spector was well aware of Ike Turner’s controlling attitude in the studio, and resultantly drew up an unusual contract: the River Deep – Mountain High (album) and single would be credited to “Ike & Tina Turner”, but Ike was paid $20,000 to stay away from the studio, and only Tina Turner’s vocals would be used on record.
The track was recorded using Spector’s “Wall of Sound” production technique, cost a then-unheard of $22,000, and required 21 session musicians and 21 background vocalists. Due to Spector’s perfectionism in the studio, he made Turner sing the song over and over for several hours until he felt was the perfect vocal take for the song. In the magazine Rolling Stone, an article about the song, featured this passage: “I must have sung that 500,000 times,” Tina later said. “I was drenched with sweat. I had to take my shirt off and stand there in my bra to sing.”
Rolling Stone was to put it at #33 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and in 1999, “River Deep – Mountain High” was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame.