Tina Turner’s forgotten hit in Norway: The start of the revival

NORWAY FRIEND: Tina Turner on stage at the Oslo Concert Hall on 31 October 1983 – one week before she released the first of seven singles from the “Private Dancer” album. Photo: Bo Mathisen/VG

With the album “Private Dancer” (1984), Turner became one of the world’s biggest artists and gained the star status by which she is referred to now. The way there was via a song that became a big hit in just one country.

  • Tina Turner (83) has passed away and leaves behind a long career with many hits
  • Her career recovery after some difficult years started in Norway when her single “Ball Of Confusion” became popular in 1982
  • The collaboration with the British Electric Foundation (BEF) was crucial for her comeback
  • The song reinvented Turner’s career and laid the foundation for her success with the album Private Dancer in 1984
  • Norwegian Tina Turner fan club leader believes the song’s popularity in Norway may have had a connection with Turner’s openness about her marriage to Ike Turner

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On Wednesday, it became known that the American rock icon Tina Turner (83) has passed away.

The death is already one of the most talked about in recent times – as it should be for one of the biggest hit machines of the eighties and nineties.

In the early eighties, however, Turner’s career was not at its peak.

Replaced James Brown

She did tour diligently, and enjoyed a reputation as a vocalist and stage personality – a status built up in the duo collaboration with her husband Ike Turner throughout the sixties and seventies.

But her time as a sought-after item in the record stores seemed to be over.

However, this was to change drastically. And that changed only in Norway.

FIRST TIME: In 1987, Tina Turner became the first artist to hold a concert at Valle Hovin in Oslo, with space for approx. 40,000 spectators. Photo: Tor Lindseth/VG

In 1982, British music producer Martyn Ware was looking for a vocalist to sing the last song on an album project he was almost finished with.

The record was to be released under the artist name British Electric Foundation (BEF), and consisted of well-known songs covered by well-known vocalists – in a heavy and contemporary electronic soundscape.

The plan was for James Brown to take the last song. However, according to Martyn Ware, Brown, via his lawyer, demanded all rights to all album, so the collaboration was shelved.

ON TV: Tina Turner with, among others, BEF on the British music program The Tube in autumn 1983. Martyn Ware at the microphone on the right. Photo: ITV/REX/Shutterstock editorial/NTB

However, BEF had recently seen Tina Turner perform live, and thought she might be a good card.

They thought she was a terrific vocalist, and struggled to understand that she was currently without a record deal.

Turner came to London, and provided vocals on the BEF’s version of the Motown song “Ball Of Confusion” – a big hit for soul group The Temptations in 1970.

Door opener

Ware has recounted how Turner and her manager came to the studio wondering where the band was.

Whereupon he pointed to his Fairlight synthesizer; the main vehicle for heaps of eighties synthpop. “There it is!”

– They just stood there with their mouths open. It was absolutely crazy. Regardless, she made an incredible effort, Ware told SuperDeluxeEdition in 2014.

The BEF/Turner version of “Ball Of Confusion” has few, if any, peers in the Turner catalog genre-wise.

It features BEF’s synth-based style, also known from the producers’ groups The Human League and Heaven 17.

The single caused some stir; it was reportedly popular in European clubs, and the video had some rotation on the then fledgling MTV – in 1982, black female artists were a rare sight on the channel.

But one country pressed it hard to its chest: In Norway, “Ball Of Confusion” went all the way to fifth place on the VG-lista, where it was in the Top 20 for six weeks.

As far as VG knows, the single did not enter any other country’s official charts.

The song was just as much a door opener for Tina Turner.

The BBC now refers to the collaboration with BEF as “a defining moment” for Turner’s comeback.

The Guardian wrote in March that the song “reinvented Tina’s career”, ranking it as her eighth best song of all time.

No “master plan”

After “Ball Of Confusion”, Turner signed a contract with the record company EMI.

The first single to come out of it was also a cover of a famous seventies soul hit, Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together”. And as with “Ball Of Confusion”, BEF was responsible for the production.

On the eve of 1983, Turner’s version of “Let’s Stay Together” became a Top 20 hit in a number of countries, her first international hit in ten years.

Martyn Ware said in 2014 that in retrospect this may look like a “master plan” that simply went its way – but that it was not like that at all.

GRAMMY WHOLESALE: Tina Turner in 1985. Photo: Nick Ut/AP/NTB

– You often get indications that the public out there has developed an appetite for something. Here, “Let’s Stay Together” was obviously the first big indication. And suddenly EMI was all “oh my god, this could be really hard”.

EMI was right: “Let’s Stay Together” became the first of seven singles from the 1984 album “Private Dancer”.

It sold tens of millions of copies, earned Turner four Grammy Awards, and featured “What’s Love Got To Do With It” — which made Turner the superstar she is now remembered as after her death.

Skin braided ex-husband

But why did “Ball Of Confusion” become so popular in Norway?

Aleksander Torgersen Arnesen is a leader in the Norwegian Tina Turner fan club. He believes that the Norwegian public had become more aware of Turner after she opened up about her marriage to Ike Turner in the American magazine People in 1981.

– I was absolutely terrified of that man, she said there, and elaborated with details about violence and mental abuse.

POP COUPLE: Ike and Tina Turner broke through as a duo in the early sixties. Photo: Anonymous/AP/NTB

– That was perhaps why the enthusiasm for her grew bigger, the story became more interesting, we got to know things about Tina Turner in a completely different way, says the fan club leader to VG.

– Now people sit and laugh at the TV all the time, but at the time this was unusual.

Ike and Tina Turner divorced in 1976. He died in 2007.

DROPPED THE HIT: Tina Turner pictured during her visit to Norway in August 1982. Photo: Bjørn Sigurdsøn/NTB

“Ball Of Confusion” ravaged the VG list in late summer 1982.

Along the way, Turner performed at the popular Momarkedet festival near Mysen – but without playing the hit, which, according to Aleksander Torgersen Arnesen, was not usually performed live.

He is a big fan of the song, which can be said to be atypical for the artist – but the vocal effort never leaves any doubt as to who you are dealing with.

– Not to disparage The Temptations, but I would say that that song takes on a completely different dimension in her version. It was completely atypical of everything she had done before, it didn’t reflect Tina Turner at all, yet it has become so, says Torgersen Arnesen.

FAN: Aleksander Torgersen Arnesen, here with the original “Ball Of Confusion” vinyl single. Photo: Private

He thinks that Norway can pat itself on the back for having been at the forefront of recognizing Turner again, just before everyone else did.

– We saw something the others didn’t see, says the fan club leader.


Published: 25/05/23 at 19:42

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The article is in Norwegian

Tags: Tina Turners forgotten hit Norway start revival


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