In 2012, Tina Turner’s manager Roger Davies turns 60. Today, we will focus on the man who made Tina’s 1984 comeback possible and who also is the manager of some of the biggest names in the music industry.
Continue reading for extracts of interviews with Tina and Roger, talking about their working relationship, and to watch a very nice documentary from 1996.
Born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1952, Roger Davies is the man behind many great singers’ careers. He started as a bass player, then turned to Political Sciences, became a journalist and then a manager for Australian bands such as Daddy Cool or the Sherps.
In 1979 he was working with Lee Kramer when he was first introduced to Tina Turner.
Tina : “I walked in and Lee took me back to meet Roger. Roger’s office was full of stuff. His explanation for that is that you’re a genius when your desk is cluttered. It worries Roger when he walks into someone’s office and their desk is clean. If you know Roger it’s pretty funny. So to make a long story short, the reason I went with Roger was because of his eyes – the way he sat there and looked at us. We were jamming on a demo tape I’d brought in. It sounded very much like Ike’s productions because that’s where I still was and that’s the truth. And Roger did not hear a hit record there or even anything that would get airplay. He just sat there and his eyes said « un-unh . » Now, i don’t like yes men and I don’t want someone to hold my hand. Roger wasn’t overly mushy. He would simply say what he had to say and we’d go on from there. Roger knew that in order to do anything with me, things would have to be changed. And the way Roger communicated that made me feel right.”
Lee Kramer was enthusiastic about signing Tina as a client, but Roger wasn’t convinced yet. He wanted to see what she could do on stage first. Tina was about to start a two-week engagement at the Fairmont Hotel in San Fransisco , and she suggested that they came up and see her there. Lee Kramer and Roger Davies finally made it up to San Fransisco on the last night of her engagement. Davies especially loved what he saw that night. Although the Fairmont Hotel was pretty staid and stiff setting to see an act like Tina’s, he was knocked out by the energy she expelled on stage. He was so impressed that they stayed for the next show as well. They were thrilled to find that she was even better during the second show. They decided to sign her immediately.
There was so much that had to be just right, the right record label, for starters. Tina wanted one that would be willing to go to the limit, as she was. She wanted one that would fight for her. No way was she going to let herself get lost in some big company shuffle. A black woman with a golden-oldie past, looking to switch from R&B to Rock – that kind of woman could get lost in a shuffle or two.
Eventually someone did get exited and willing to take the risk. Some executives from Capitol Records came out to see one of Tina’s New York shows, and according to Tina, they were “blown away”.
The buzz had begun. Roger Davies began pestering Carl Arrington, an editor at People magazine – the arbiter of mainstream pop-cultural importance - for a cover story : « The Return of Tina Turner ». Davies also took note of an impending U.S tour by the Rolling Stones, which was scheduled to kick off in Philadelphia in late September, play its way out to the West Coast, and then wind up with five massive dates in the New York City area in early November. Roger lined up a return engagement at the Ritz for October.
Roger: “In early 1984, because of touring commitments, we only had two weeks to make an album in London. It all fell together. Mark Knopfler had written “Private Dancer”, but didn’t use it with Dire Straits so he gave the song to us. We were running from one studio to another, with no money. It was just Tina, myself and a briefcase, freezing in the back of a taxi at two o’clock in the morning. I look back and it was the best time in my life. We had bonded as friends already but now we were on a mission: I was making my name overseas and Tina had nothing to lose.”
“We’ve been together for 21 years. We’re like a team but we’ve had many disagreements, mostly about songs. In 1980, Steve Kipner wrote “Physical” specially for her. Tina’s reaction was: “I could never sing “Physical”. It’s too sexy, too obvious for me. Give it to Olivia [Newton-John].” It was a worldwide smash. More recently Tina wanted to do Macy Gray’s “I Try”, and I put my foot down. The biggest fight we’ve ever had was at the start of this tour. I was desperate for her to do “Try A Little Tenderness” but she refused. So I got the band to rehearse it, got John Miles to sing it and she agreed to do it as a duet.I never tell Tina how to dance. That’s the one thing I don’t get involved in. She controls the stage, decides on the clothes, how the dancers look.”
“Tina’s my best friend. We’ve always been frank with each other. Before I got married, Tina would always give my girlfriends the look up and down, even check if they had nice shoes. Tina’s very loyal. She honours her commitments. That’s the way she is. It’s rare for an artist and manager to be together after 20 years, to be friends and not talking through lawyers. We’ve never had a contract. It was our word and it still is. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Tina: “Having Roger is like having another eye. When I’m totally involved in something, I can’t see it from the outside but Roger looks at the show, at the running order of an album and makes a lot of good suggestions and changes. We’re almost like family. Roger used to worry about my money, he would go round the shops with me saying: “You shouldn’t buy all those clothes. You can’t have that. You’ve already got enough of those!” Finally, I told him: “It’s my money, I can do what I like with it!” Now that Roger is managing other acts, I don’t have to keep working to support him. I’ve been doing this all my life – travelling, dancing, singing – and we haven’t stopped working for 20 years. I’ve decided to quit while I’m ahead and Roger has been totally supportive of my decision.”