In our series of iconic photos of Tina Turner we focus today on a photo which also happens to be the cover photo of the Rio 88 concert release, the show which brought her the world record of the biggest crowd ever assembled for a single performer, namely 182,000 people. It is another live famous shot where you can find all the ingredients that are so famous for her stage persona. Our in-depth analysis will cover everything from head to toe…
Let´s be clear about that: I would say it is not totally insane to expect a woman on stage to be sexy, a little bit more diva-ish, more gracious, more starlet-like and definitely less wild than Tina on that photo. What is it what we get instead? Mouth wide open, eyes closed because no one can open their mouth that wide, nearly as big as the microphone and still have their eyes open, perfectly white teeth, and apparently belting out one word. It could be a signature line like “Nutbush!” or one of the dramatic lines out of “Let´s Stay Together”, maybe even a “Rolling!”. We won´t ever know but it can only be one of these lines which you can only belt out and not really sing.
We have the 80s, big hair was a must. Everyone had it and everyone loved it. But there was were only a few who could pick a fight over their manes with a lion. And out of that small group Tina Turner was surely the best and most successful fighter, a lioness on stage boasting the biggest hair in the business…pardon, in the steppe. Additionally, this photo does not simply allow her to wear her big hair nicely around the face but it towers high above her head with two pinnacles pointing out as if she just finished a quick movement her head and the photo freezing that last fraction of a second.
The photo shows a good example of the famous American shot, a close-up type which shows the motive from the knees on upwards and therefore a little bit more than a medium shot. Therefore, we won´t ever know what kind of shoes she was wearing in that minute. But we don´t care so much about high heels today because the rest is also stunning enough. What is it what we can grasp? American shot, legs both standing firmly on the ground, knees slightly bent, not a frontal shot at all but from her right side. That is why we can see the white shirt through the open suede leather jacket. Suede leather, not a traditional rock jacket in black leather which we had during the 1985 tour but suede leather in 1987/88. A fashion statement like the famous red leather dress from the same tour? Maybe. But what we know for sure: her posture is so catchy because it is not a simple front shot but somewhat from the side while she is directed towards the audience showing them rather her left arm and shoulder while making her point with that imaginary signature line – as if there was only so much time for turning around a bit before the screaming and shouting started in her song.
She could do so much with her hands on a photo on stage. Like opening them to the audience, holding them high above her head in an old diva-pose, but no, we see one hand being clenched around the microphone while the other forms a fist. For a singer, it is not such a big deal to grab a microphone and hold it firmly in one hand, quite common to be honest. But a fist which is then pressed to the leg so as to avoid the energy pouring out of the body in the wrong direction so that the flow of energy has to stop there and is forced back into the microphone? Wow, that is quite something, ain´t it? You can see many women athletes showing their firsts after a good run, jump…or while belting out a signature line.
If you flip over your Rio 88 video cassette, DVD or Laser Disc you can read “Design: Stylorouge”, “Back Photo: Dave Hogan”, and then “Front Photo: JAT”. It is a long time ago, quite sure, but we might find that Dave or maybe even the last remains of a company called Stylorouge (at least a small nail studio around the corner of the local supermarket) but we will surely run into a wall finding a photographer or company named JAT. Just in case you have the Yellow Pages from 88 laying on you coffee table don´t hesitate to look for a photographer advertising his or her services under that name. We should thank him or her for that great shot of Tina Turner on stage, wouldn´t you agree?