Jack, you don’t have a more substantial tambourine out there, do ya?

So says Phil Spector to (presumably) Jack Nitzsche during take 5 of Ike & Tina Turner‘s ‘River Deep, Mountain High’. In this post you’ll find more studio gold than you can shake a tail feather at. Sadly no master tapes, but nonetheless a nice couple of Phil Spector studio outtakes.

“Check out the wig!” “Laugh all you want Turner, but you ain’t gettin’ anywhere near an instrument!”

Known for his painstaking attention to detail (listen to him drive Ronnie and the Ronettes into sonic overdrive here) Spector had at least 18 goes of producing ‘River Deep, Mountain High’. I have 11 of them and to be honest, it’s nigh impossible to spot any sonic differences from one to the next. Take 14’s a wee bit fast. Or was that take 15? Or was that the take where Tina’s phrasing is slightly different? After a while, it’s all a bit of a blur. Of course, they’re essential to any discerning collector. That almost goes without saying. The two takes I’m posting here are:

Take 18, where the focus is on the hysterical, Wagnerian backing vocals

Take 19, where Tina joins the newly whipped-into-shape backing singers for what turned out to be the perfect dress rehearsal before putting the song on vinyl.

Interestingly, Ike Turner (himself no slouch when it came to control freakery) wasn’t allowed anywhere near the studio. Although credited to Ike & Tina Turner, only Tina’s vocals are on the track. Ike didn’t even get to shake a maraca in the fade-out. Spector loved ‘River Deep, Mountain High’. In fact, he even went so far as to say this single was his best work, and, given the canon of his output, that’s no mean claim. So he probably felt vindicated when the single peaked at Number 3 in the UK. In the States, where everything has to be compartmentalised, it was considered too black for white radio and too white for black radio and subsequently hit the dizzy heights of number 88. Shame on you, America! Oh, and close your eyes everyone……….did you know that Sting lost his virginity to the song? Gads!

Sting, you don’t have a more substantial tambourine out there, do ya?