Some records you only have to hear once.
And then you’ve got to hear them again and again and again.
It’s easy to do it just like everybody else. That requires no imagination, no risk. When you fail you shrug your shoulders and say it’s not your fault. When you succeed you smile but you cringe on the inside, you know you’re not worthy, it’s hard walking around as a fake.
But no one believed Tina Turner could come back. Except for Carter.
Hell, she never really made it in the first place. Sure, she sang "Proud Mary" on that Stones tour, but most white folk were clueless and she’d split from Ike and she was too old.
But she could sing.
Marry this with the right song and…
That’s what a great A&R man does.
And when he gets it right, everybody nods his head and no one complains. If you hate Tina Turner I haven’t met you.
It took years to make "Private Dancer". We thought it was a fool’s folly. Then we heard "What’s Love Got To Do With It".
The sneaky intro, with the strings, slick when that was anathema.
And then that sultry vocal. When Tina sings "the touch of your hand makes my pulse react" it’s like she’s put her hand on your shoulder, your arm, you tingle all over.
That’s a hit.
Carter started early. Writing the lyrics for "Incense and Peppermints". Which was only a rumor back before the Internet. Did he really do it?
I saw the Strawberry Alarm Clock…
But I first learned Carter’s name on the back of Sammy Hagar’s "Red" album. And then met him when I was working with W.A.S.P. But we didn’t become close until relatively recently, when the Internet allowed us to interact on a whim and we both had so many miles on us we could laugh. You get old enough and posturing is for pussies.
But it wasn’t only Tina and Sammy. Unlike so many, Carter continued to have success as the years passed by. Paula Cole was successful with him, a stiff without him.
In the old days those with the Big C evaporated. They were alive, but removed, unreachable. But I never believed Carter would die, because he was right there, in my inbox. As recently as April 12th:
"Palm Springs? Give me an hour the next time you are here
I answered that my mother was there for the month of February, and if she was healthy enough to return next year, I’d certainly stop by.
That’s never going to happen.
And although this happens. Especially to those with esophageal cancer. Now that he’s truly gone I just can’t believe it.
Because he was so alive. A teenager in a sexagenarian’s body. With that little soul patch and the twinkle in his eye. He never got old. Unlike so many who put on the suit and went straight, Carter was rock and roll until he died.
I’ve been looking for obituaries online. Maybe I’m just too early, I could only find one, on a music business site.
But in my Googling I came across a page for "Private Dancer".
And I was impressed once again, how great those tracks were and still are.
I pulled up Paul Brady’s original "Steel Claw" in Spotify. This was before he had the success with Bonnie Raitt. But Carter knew how great Paul was. Still, Tina’s take is better.
And the "Centenary Edition" of "Private Dancer" has a bonus version of Eric Burdon and the Animals’ "When I Was Young".
But the song that I couldn’t stop playing was "Better Be Good To Me".
Carter was good to Tina Turner.
Right now I’m listening to the original by Spider. I’ve never heard it before. It’s intriguing, it’s the same song, but it’s not the same record.
It’s quiet in a way Tina’s take is loud.
It’s cerebral in a way Tina’s take is physical.
It’s slow in a way Tina’s take is fast.
It’s controlled in a way Tina’s is loose.
‘Cause I don’t have no use
For what you loosely call the truth
And I don’t have the time
For your overloaded lines
‘Cause you better be good to me
Yes, you better be good
Better be good to me
Carter had no time for phonies. Although he could be a team player, he was always his own man. He was far from sentimental, he was always looking for the next thrill.
It’s not him singing on the records, but he’s there, in the grooves. You can hear him. The swagger. The attitude.
He ran away to play in the rock and roll circus.