Tina Turner Blog Interview: Bob Gruen

A new DVD titled ‘Ike & Tina Turner On The Road: 1971-1972’ will be released on November 20. The movie consists of footage shot by world-renowned rock photographer Bob Gruen and his wife Nadya while touring together with the Ike & Tina Turner revue in the early 1970’s. Bob and Nadya developed a close relationship with the duo, and the DVD will feature many candid on stage and off stage moments. The Tina Turner Blog had an exclusive interview with Bob Gruen about the upcoming movie release as well as his personal relationship with Ike and Tina.

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Bob Gruen is one of the world’s most famous rock photographers, and his photos have graced many album and magazine covers, as well as numerous t-shirts, coffee mugs and placemats. Throughout his incredible career, he made intimate shots of John Lennon, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, Patti Smith and Blondie – just to name a few. Few people however realize that his days as a professional photographer really started when seeing Ike & Tina open for Sam & Dave at New York’s Felt Forum in 1970.

Gruen: “It was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever seen: Tina is unique, she’s not like anybody else. The Ikettes were amazing, but you could always tell which one is Tina: ’cause she’s even better! They were an opening act for Sam & Dave, a really exciting soul act. Tina danced off the stage in a blaze of flashing strobe light, and when Sam & Dave came on, I was still looking at the curtain where Tina had gone off, because I was still totally taken by her. Sam & Dave were OK, I mean they came on and went off, but I was still looking at that curtain hoping Ike & Tina would come back on.”

After that show, Bob decided to follow the Revue to their other gigs in the New York area. It was in a little club in Long Island that he shot one of Tina’s most iconic photographs.

Gruen: “It was at the Honka Monka Club, a small room with just a linoleum floor, the stage was only a foot high. I was right in front, sitting on the floor and at the end, when the strobe light would flash, I only had a few frames left in the camera. I thought I would take a chance and see what would happen if I would open the camera for one second and try to get several of the flashes in one picture. A couple didn’t come out looking good at all, but one of them came out pretty perfectly!”

Tina Turner at the Honka Monka Club in 1970

When Bob went to see Ike & Tina again a few days later in New Jersey, he ran into Ike Turner. A friend persuaded him to show him the photo of Tina: Ike loved it and took Bob backstage to meet Tina. The start of a friendship. They met again a few days later after driving back from the Newport Jazz Festival.

Gruen: “As I drove home from Newport, I stopped to get a cup of coffee. At this moment, two limousines drove up in the parking lot; it was the Ike & Tina band. They invited me for breakfast and that’s how I got to know them.
I saw them play in Central Park opening for the Beach Boys I think, and I recorded a video. Now, this was really the first kind of portable videotape machine that a person could buy. Before that the videotape machines were very big and had to be plugged in. It was very primitive: black & white, it didn’t work very well in the dark, the sound was only mono. Still it was a minor miracle, because you could make a video, and then after the performance you could show it right back. With film, you would have to get it processed, it would take a few days, you would have to get a projector. And with this video you could go to the concert, record a video, and then go right back to a hotel room to watch it. The band loved to see themselves, Tina loved to be able to show the Ikettes the different moves and how to improve. Before that time, they hadn’t really been able to see that.”

Bob and his wife Nadya started following Ike & Tina throughout the country. They not only caught up with them in the New York area, but also went to their home in California. Bob and Nadya shot a lot of footage, both on stage and off stage.

Gruen: “It is amazing, because it’s the only footage that is available that shows them as they are. Since we got to know them personally, we were filming more than just the shows:  we were filming them in the airports and on the planes and we went to California for a while. Ike & Tina recording in the studio, Tina at home frying up dinner for the kids, Ike rehearsing the band. It shows them in a really intimate way.”

And despite all that has been said about the Turner marriage, Bob experienced mostly happy moments with them. Where Tina’s biopic ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’ shows the reasons why Ike & Tina broke up, Gruen’s film shows the reasons why they stayed together for almost twenty years.

Gruen: “They really appeared to love each other, they really were close to each other. It is certainly not your traditional marriage situation. They didn’t really live together much. Ike would spend most of his time in the studio recording, while Tina was pretty much staying at the house and raising the children. But they were a great working couple, they had a lot of good times together. However, I think that when you get too deeply involved in drugs, when you don’t sleep for a couple of weeks, you turn into a very dangerous person. That’s what happened with Ike. But before that, they had a lot of good times and that’s what we show in our video.”

Ike & Tina backstage at Central Park in 1970

Asked about his favorite moments in the film, one very sexy performance of Otis Redding’s ‘I’ve Been Loving You Too Long’ comes up.

Gruen: “She gets pretty sexual with microphone. I know in her personal life she has said that she really didn’t like doing that. For all the sexiness that’s attached to her, in her personal life she’s very conservative. That song is about the sexiest thing that anybody has done on stage, so it is interesting that she was embarrassed by it in a sense. It is funny that she said that she didn’t enjoy it: everybody else was enjoying it and she does it pretty well – I tell you that!”

Bob’s wife Nadya developed a very close relationship with Tina and she was there when Tina began to express her first interests in spirituality.

Gruen: “Tina and my wife Nadya became very good friends. They talked a lot about spiritual ideas together. So, it didn’t surprise when Tina became more spiritual and spent more time doing meditation. Those were the things she talked about with Nadya when meeting in the beginning. They were pretty close: I think Tina even gave her a pair of her red dancing shoes!”

After Ike & Tina separated, Bob remained in contact with both of them.

Gruen: “After Ike & Tina broke up, Tina came back with her own show. That was a very exciting night at the Ritz [in 1983]. And to see Keith [Richards] there really supporting her. Keith is a great guy and really remembers his friends. However, after Tina moved to Switzerland I didn’t really see her much anymore. I see her occasionally when she comes to New York for a TV appearance or something.”

Tina & Keith Richards at The Ritz in 1983

Bob was originally planning on releasing this footage together with Ike, when he passed away.

Gruen: “I went to Ike’s funeral. There were over a thousand people there because everybody knew how much Ike helped people. Ike was a very giving, a very generous person, who helped thousands of artists through his life. Ike was an amazing musician, he was one of the first people who could really play rock & roll. But he was not only a great musician, he was quite an entrepreneur. A really smart  guy: he brought people like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf in for their first recording sessions.”

There are enough reasons to look forward to this upcoming release. And, dare we ask, are there even plans for a sequel?

Gruen: “I don’t know, it depends on how they edit it. With this kind of footage: you just turn the camera on and let it roll. There’s a lot of repetition, there’s a lot of down time. I know you are really intense fans, you want to see it all. For now, we’re just really excited that it’s coming out. It really opens up a view of Ike & Tina for history: so that people can see what they were really like. We loved them, and I thought they were the best act ever!”

Ike & Tina Turner On The Road: 1971-1972 by Bob and Nadya Gruen will be released on November 20 by MVD entertainment. For more information on Bob Gruen and his work, visit his website at www.bobgruen.com

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18 Comments

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18 responses to “Tina Turner Blog Interview: Bob Gruen

  1. mark, U.S.A

    I CANNOT WAIT, I HAVE BEEN A FAN EVER SINCE I WAS 14YRS OLD AND STILL IS. THEIR PERFORMANCES, TINA’S STAGE PRESENCE, THE IKETTES, IKE’S STYLE OF MUSIC AND THE WAY HE PLAYS THE GUITAR, WOW WHAT A POWER HOUSE GROUP, I LOVE EVEN TODAY, AND ALWAYS WILL. THANKS GUYS FOR SHARING THIS WITH US.
    MARK, U.S.A.

  2. MONICA MENDOZA

    WOW!!!! EXCELENTE REPORTAJE!!! ESPERO, PRONTO, TENER EL DVD!!! GRACIAS POR COMPARTIR!!! ABRAZO

  3. Great job! Loved reading it

  4. I like it how can I get the copy

  5. Very interesting! Always cool to read/hear about the good old times. Looking forward to the DVD!

  6. Enrico

    Oh, what a great interview. It is a real pleasure to read. Thanks for that. I am still curious what the footage looks like. It is a shame that the DVD will not be released in Europe before 14th of January 2013 ( according to Amazon UK). But anyway, thanks once again. And when are you guys going to interview Nadya Gruen? I bet she can tell some stories

    • Thanks Enrico! I (Sjef) have it on pre-order from Free Record Shop, and it is still listed as ‘to be released November 19’ so I have good hopes that I will get my copy next week. It is also listed on Bol.com.

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  8. I have the DVD. I loved it. Tina’s country accent is VERY VERY thick! And we even hear her cuss twice LOL. Interesting look behind the scene.

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  11. Vaughn M. Buel

    As a ‘die-hard’ fan of Ike & Tina Turner I enjoyed the DVD thoroughly. Thank you, Mr. And Mrs. Gruen. Perhaps you could put together a DVD featuring Ike & Tina Turner’s career through television. They appeared on so many tv shows through out the 60s and no one seems to know about. .. examples:The Joey Bishop Show, The Della Reese show, Jerry Blavat, Shiverie, Ready,Steady,Go Merv Griffin Show, three (3) appearances on Johnny Carson, three (3) appearances on American Bandstand. ..not just 1min. tease like on documentary but the full Ike & Tina set. Please conside r such a project. It would be so wonderful.

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