THE FT TOP 100 SONGS
91. Ike And Tina Turner – “River Deep, Mountain High”
At the time, notoriously one of the biggest records ever made. But if there’s one thing the recording industry has worked at since 1966, it’s making its product sound larger. “River Deep” still makes the effort but next to the casual compression on every radio it’s a losing struggle.
But cathedrals aren’t the biggest buildings around these days, either, and it doesn’t make their intricacy and ambition less impressive. There’s detail and passion in the bluster of “River Deep”, even if those things weren’t top of Phil Spector’s mind (or Ike’s or Tina’s) at the time. The scale makes a kind of sense of the song too, the transition from dolls and puppies to the all-or-nothing crash of the chorus drawing some of the sentimental sting. Even so there’s something a little creepy, a little hysterical about the record – as close to tantrum as it is adoration.
Side note: my notebook doesn’t actually say “Ike And Tina Turner”. It says, naturally, “Pike And Tuna Turner”. This was the punchline to the joke in a quiz we did. The rest of the joke is lost. In fact the rest of the joke has to be lost, since, given the answer “Pike And Tuna Turner”, it is very very hard to construct a question which keeps the element of surprise. “Who recorded River Deep, Mountain High… in a river?” Which soul singers… are actually… fish?”