Our correspondent John Altman is perhaps one of the most experienced industry professionals we know, having worked with some of the music industry’s greatest legends. As this post from August demonstrates, he is also one of the most storied professionals we know, and we love reading his incredible anecdotes derived from years of experience. (How many of us have had Tina Turner serve us tea?) Enjoy. -Ed
One of the most enjoyable arrangements I wrote for Trevor Horn was the string chart for Tina Turner’s hit record of In Your Wildest Dreams. The song was written by Mike Chapman and my occasional writing partner Holly Knight. When I first heard the track it was designed to feature Tina with a spoken interlude, and I remember on the session mentioning that it would sound great with someone like Barry White. Shortly thereafter I heard a rough mix featuring the voice of…… Antonio Banderas. Not quite the same vocal effect, particularly as in those days his command of English wasn’t what it is now. Never mind, Tina sounded great and the song was undeniably a hit. In fact the single just reached the UK Top 30 and charted well all over Europe. At the time I was represented by Barry White’s management, so I was surprised and delighted to learn that he’d agreed to turn the record into a duet – the vocal combination of the King and Queen of sultry soul was guaranteed to be something special. I couldn’t help wondering if my prompting had set off that chain of events, but I would imagine that it was in the air already when the thought struck me.
The finished record sounded amazing and the Oscar winning animator Nick Park (Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run etc) was hired to create a claymation video for the record. I’d worked on many commercials with Nick’s company Aardman, and knew they would come up with something off the wall. And they didn’t disappoint……. a hilarious video featuring clay depictions of Tina and Barry suffused with wonderful comic moments from Wallace and Gromit and Antonio Banderas. Everyone loved it……..except for Barry White! He immediately slapped an injunction banning the film – I guess he never saw himself as a large man, and objected to the animation. I think that if he’d had more of a sense of humour about himself the video would have propelled a single to the top of the charts. As it was, the album went double platinum, and Wildest Dreams became a one off collaboration to savour.
Shortly thereafter I attended the New York premiere of Goldeneye, for which I had served as arranger/conductor and also composed the classic tank chase sequence through St. Petersburg. At the afterparty I was looking forward to chatting with Pierce Brosnan as I had unwittingly kick started his movie career (another story for later!) but he was surrounded by fans and back slappers. As I stood waiting my turn I noticed someone standing next to me who looked remarkably like Tina Turner. I introduced myself as the arranger of Wildest Dreams and all thoughts of James Bond vanished as we sought a quiet corner to chat. She asked me if I’d worked on her song in Goldeneye (I hadn’t) and after a few minutes of conversation said ‘I’m going to find a drink, what can I get you?’ I offered to go on her behalf, but she firmly insisted, and who am I to argue with the great Tina Turner? I said, half jokingly ‘Actually, I’d love some tea!’.
Astonishingly I then watched her cross the room to where the tea and coffee urns were standing unmanned, grab a cup and saucer and pour me a cup of tea. She then crossed the room with the tea and a small jug of milk, stopping en route to chat with well wishers but giving them short shrift as she indicated that I was waiting for my cuppa! Tea duly delivered she went off again to get her tipple of choice and was soon engulfed again by seemingly everyone in the room who wanted to seize a moment with this classy lady. And my admiration for her in every respect increased years later when I learned that she adored the video for In Your Wildest Dreams and had saved a copy from destruction, which she then made available on her own website (see below). And she makes a great cup of tea!