When The Heartache Is Over was the first single of Tina Turner’s 1999 album Twenty Four Seven. It was produced by Mark Taylor and Brian Rawling, the same team that was responsible for Cher’s 1998 number 1 single Believe. In this post, we take a closer look at Tina’s single, from its origins to its live performances.
It is well known that Tina Turner and Cher share the same manager, Roger Davies. When Cher had an unexpected number 1 hit with the dance single Believe, also the biggest selling song of 1998, it was only logical that he would try to arrange a similar achievement for Tina.
By 1999, Tina was asked by her record company to record a new album, which would become Twenty Four Seven (her last studio album to date). At this point in her career, Tina was struggling to get radio air-play, especially in the United States; her last top 10 single was I Don’t Wanna Fight back in 1993. When Cher’s turn to dance music was successful beyond all expectations, Roger Davies wanted the same for Tina.
The team responsible for Cher’s new sound was Metro Productions in London, consisting of producers Mark Taylor and Brian Rawling. They did a great job in coming up with a fresh sound for Cher, steering away from her rock power ballads of the eighties and early nineties. Tina was also interested in a new sound, explaining:
“I felt like I wanted something new. I’d like to try to stay as fresh as possible and still have a bit of covers there somehow. And these guys felt right.”
Tina recounts meeting Taylor and Rawling at their London studio in a 1999 promotional interview for her Twenty Four Seven album.
In many ways, the song is a, quite obvious, attempt to duplicate Cher’s Believe, both in terms of lyrics and sound.
Cher’s success might for a large part be contributed to her large gay following, and the song became an anthem in gay clubs. The lyrics of Believe, and When The Heartache Is Over, share a common theme – overcoming heartbreak, and stand in the tradition of that other gay anthem, Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I Will Survive’.
“You’re not welcome anymore” (Gaynor), “I don’t need you anymore” (Cher), “I can live without you” (Tina).
The lyrics to When The Heartache Is Over were written by two British songwriters: Graham Stack (who has written songs for Kylie Minogue, LeAnn Rimes and Take That, among others), and John Reid (frontman of dance group The Nightcrawlers, and songwriter for artists like Rod Stewart, Westlife and Kelly Clarkson).
Once in a lifetime you find
Someone to show you the way
Someone to make your decisions
But I let you lead me astray
Who did you think you were fooling
Said you were missing me blind
But the truth is I knew you were lying
You were using me time after time
When the heartache is over
I know I won’t be missing you
Won’t look over my shoulder
‘Cause I know that I can live without you
Oh live without you
Oh I can live without you
Time to move on with my life now
Leaving the past all behind
I can make my own decisions
It was only a matter of time
Sometimes I look back in anger
Thinking about all the pain
But I know that I’m stronger without you
And that I’ll never need you again
Both Cher and Tina overcame unhappy marriages, and were more successful as solo artists than as duo’s with their husbands. While Tina didn’t realize the parallels of the song’s lyrics to her own life at first, while filming the video, the words began to haunt her. Understanding the meaning of the words, she even had nightmares and asked her manager for reassurance. Later, she focussed on the positive message of the song, and learned to sing it as a victory song.
“It was an up-energy vibe; the concept is just about life!”
With a fresh dance sound, and positive strong lyrics, all that was missing was a video. The video was directed by Paul Boyd, and showed Tina more glamorous than ever. She is dancing on a giant ‘T’, surrounded by dancers, video screens and lights, and looking very elegant. In the clip below, the concept of the video is explained.
In the club
The foundation of the success of Believe was in the nightclubs, where it got a lot of airplay. This was also the strategy for When The Heartache Is Over. The song was remixed by several top DJ’s, including ‘The Metro Boys’ themselves, 7th District Inc., and Hex Hector. Hector is a New York based club DJ, who also achieved fame with his remixes for other Divas, such as Toni Braxton, Aretha Franklin, Madonna, Whitney Houston, Donna Summer and Mary J. Blige.
His remixes where first sent out at the end of 1999, with a double 12″-single of his remix made available in January of 2000, and distributed to all of the trend-setting club DJ’s. At the same time, a 6-track 12″ single was for sale in records stores across the United States at the beginning of 2000, featuring four incarnations of the Hex Hector mix, as well as the UK Metro Mix and 7th District Club Mix. Below, you can listen to the Hex Hector 7″ Vocal Mix, and the Hex Hector Acapella Mix.
Hex Hector 7″ Vocal Mix
Hex Hector Acapella Mix
Despite all the efforts, a ton of promotional appearances, and closely following ‘the Believe scheme’, When The Heartache Is Over was only a minor commercial success. It failed to enter the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and was a top 10 single in only three European countries (no. 10 in the UK, no. 8 in Spain and no. 3 in Finland). However, all the effort that went into getting the song played in nightclubs did lead to some results. The song peaked at number 3 on the Billboard Dance/Club Play chart: “The week’s most popular songs played in dance clubs, compiled from reports from a national sample of club DJs”. This was the highest chart position that Tina ever held in that specific Billboard chart.
Thus, while a minor club hit, the song failed to go ‘mainstream’ from there. Maybe the target audience was still saturated by (or tired from) Cher’s dance revival. Or maybe the dance sound was too far-fetched for Tina’s own fan base. Whatever the reason, Tina’s last big attempt at chart success and radio air-play failed to meet the expectations, and it might even be seen as the final chapter of Tina’s career as a serious recording artist. Later studio recordings for greatest hits compilations were often uninspired and very safe, thus failing to get noticed both by the critical press and record buyers.
Another challenge of the song was playing it live. It was Tina’s first song that used computers/electronics to such an extent, and it proved to be difficult to translate it to a live concert setting. While Tina usually changes the arrangements of her studio recordings dramatically when playing them live (pushing up the tempo and getting the guitars up front) – it was clear that this ‘faster and louder’ tactic just wouldn’t work for this song. Another problem were the vocals, ranging from very low during the verses to very high and powerful in the choruses. Combined with a dance routine, this proved to be very hard work for Tina. The first live performance of the song, on UK TV-show TFI Friday in October of 1999, was a difficult one. Watch the video below to judge for yourself.
Luckily, Tina and her band did get it right in the end. During the Twenty Four Seven tour in 2000, the song developed into a full-fledged sing-along anthem. It became a highlight of the show, and the song would often get extended with a ‘live without you’-duet with the audience. Like many of Tina’s songs, it only achieved its full potential when played live, where Tina has learned to play with the song, feeding off the crowd’s energy. One of the most energetic and festive performances of the song was surely during the final European concert of that tour in Sopot, Poland on August 15. Concluding the post with a video of that performance, please feel free to share your thoughts on this song with us in the comments section below.