It was Mick Jagger who convinced Patrica Cole – better known as soul singer P.P. Arnold – that she had the voice to pursue a solo career.
And he reckoned she should do it in London, rather than her home town of Los Angeles.
The year was 1966 and Arnold was touring the UK with the Ike and Tina Turner Revue. They were riding high on their hit song River Deep – Mountain High and opening for the Rolling Stones each night.
Arnold was 20, had two children and had left her husband – and an unhappy marriage – back in LA.
“Mick and I became close friends, which was a shock to everyone as I was the young, shy, inhibited Ikette. Anyway, Ike Turner was not happy about my friendship with Mick and was giving me a real hard time on that tour. He was trying to control me and I was frightened of him,” Arnold tells Weekender.
“I mentioned to Mick that I thought it was time for me to leave the Revue. On a very rare day off Mick invited me to his flat near Regents Park. We took a walk in the park and I was surprised when he told me that he and his manager Andrew Loog Oldham would like me to stay in the UK and sign to Andrew’s Immediate Record label to record an LP.
“I’d never had any ambition to be in the music industry at all – becoming an Ikette had been a way out of a very abusive teen marriage and a way to support my two young children. I felt that it would be an opportunity for me to turn my life around as I’d not had a normal teen life and I hadn’t finished my education.
“You’d have to understand the challenges that a young girl like myself faced with two young children on my own.
“My gift was to sing and I wanted to do something that would give me a chance to support my children and give us a better life. I felt that I had nothing to lose and after speaking with my parents I accepted Mick’s proposition.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
Arnold is best known for her mid-to-late-’60s hits The First Cut Is The Deepest, (If You Think You’re) Groovy and Angel of the Morning, as well as the powerful chorus of the Small Faces’ iconic hit Tin Soldier. She became so identifiable with that era that she appeared alongside Marianne Faithful in the final episode of the original series of Absolutely Fabulous.
“When I came to England everybody was influenced by the American blues, R’n’B and soul artists,” she explains.
“As I was an authentic singer with that gospel-tinged sound that everybody loved I was in demand as a backing vocalist as well as having become a popular solo artist.
“Looking back, working with Tina Turner was like going to finishing school. It was hard work and I learned my craft working with all of those amazing musicians and singers despite the domestic horrors that were going on [behind the scenes]. I was personally and emotionally affected by that.”
Tina Turner has spoken publicly of the abuse she suffered at the hands of her late husband Ike.
Arnold’s latest album, The New Adventures of PP Arnold, was produced by Steve Cradock and appropriately titled. She is in demand and touring Australia with a band featuring Tim Rogers, Andy Kent and Russell Hopkinson of You Am I, Talei and Eliza Wolfgramm, and James Black. She will be backed by the Rockwiz Orchestra at several gigs and appear as a guest panelist on the Rockwiz Revue Tour. She toured here with Roger Waters’ band in 2002 and 2008 however her first stand-alone concert tour of Australia was in May this year.
“The New Adventures of PP Arnold is a collection of original songs that I’ve written on my own, a couple with my son, Kodzo (Kojo) Samuel, a couple of Steve Cradock tunes, a couple of Paul Weller compositions, some nice tunes written by a couple of young indie writers and a few other surprises,” she says.
“The Turning Tide, released last year, is a compilation of unreleased recordings that I recorded over 50 years ago that were written and produced by Barry Gibb, some great covers produced by Eric Clapton along with a couple of tunes that I wrote and produced with a guitarist from that time named Caleb Quaye. I fought for the license for the recordings that had been left on the shelf.”
Singing is her passion. Arnold describes it has “a gift that God gave me to share”.
“And I’ve spent the majority of my life doing just that,” she says, laughing.
“I feel blessed that people still want to hear me sing after all of this time. It’s an absolute joy to have a gift that uplifts people and makes them happy. Music is a healer and I consider myself a healer. I don’t open my mouth to sing without asking God to let his light shine in, through and all around me and help me to touch the hearts and souls of everybody in the audience.
“And how lucky am I to be invited back to Australia so soon? Tim [Rogers] and I have a special energy on stage that reminds me of the energy that Steve Marriott and I had together.”
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