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River Deep - Mountain High by Ike & Tina Turner

Album: River Deep - Mountain HighReleased: 1966Charted:
88
3
  • This was written by Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry, and Phil Spector. Greenwich and Barry were married from 1962-1965 but kept working together after their divorce. They were one of the most successful songwriting teams of the '60s, with a string of hits that included "Do Wah Diddy Diddy" and "Leader of the Pack." Spector was a legendary producer famous for his "Wall Of Sound" recording technique, which he had used with great success on other songs he worked on with Greenwich and Barry, including hits by The Ronettes and The Crystals. Greenwich, Barry and Spector each had separate ideas for songs which they combined to form "River Deep - Mountain High." The melody is a composite of three different unfinished songs.
  • It had been over a year since Phil Spector produced a hit record, and he went all out on this one. When it flopped in America, he was shocked and very upset. He announced his retirement, went into seclusion and stopped working until 1970, when he returned to the studio to work on The Beatles Let It Be album and produce solo works by George Harrison and John Lennon.
  • This was written specifically for Tina Turner to sing. Phil Spector made very dense recordings that required a strong vocalist to cut through, and he knew Turner and her flamethrower voice could handle it.
  • Although this is credited to Ike And Tina Turner, Ike had no part in the recording process. Phil Spector wanted his own people to record this, and made sure Ike was not in the studio during the sessions.

    Bob Krasnow, the then president of the Blue Thumb label, for whom Ike and Tina recorded in the late 1960s, was interviewed in Rolling Stone magazine (issue 93) in 1971. He recalled how Phil Spector, who had been won over by Ike and Tina's work as a substitute act in the rock and roll film T'N'T Show, hooked up with the Turners: "Spector had just lost The Righteous Brothers, and at the same time, Ike was unhappy (having switched to Kent Records). Spector's attorney Joey Cooper called and said Phil wanted to produce Tina - and that he was willing to pay $20,000 in front to do it! So Mike Maitland [then president at Warners] gave them their release, and they signed with Philles (Phil Spector's record label.)"
  • Spector offered $20,000 upfront to Ike Turner in exchange for total control over the production. Ike happily counted the money and agreed to stay away from the sessions, even though his name still appeared on the record. When it flopped in America, though Spector was distraught, Ike wasn't, as it meant the end of their association and put him back in charge.
  • In Rolling Stone magazine's Top 500 Songs, Tina Turner is quoted as saying of the recording of this, "I must have sung that 500,000 times. I was drenched with sweat. I had to take my shirt off and stand there in my bra to sing."
  • Spector used over 20 top session musicians for the recording, including Hal Blaine, Leon Russell and Glen Campbell. The completed record cost around $22,000, at the time an unbelievable price tag for a single. On bass for these sessions was Carol Kaye, who told us, "It felt like another thing that was going to be a hit, but to walk in the booth and there's a ton of people in the booth and there's a ton of us out in the studio, it almost felt like a party. And you know that something that feels like a party is not going to be a hit record. It's not the feeling of sitting down and cutting a record, which is business. You've got to take care of business.

    But the arrangement was nice and the feeling was good and Tina was there to sing. I'm sure that they put her voice on again after that. So I thought it was going to be another hit, but that's the feeling that was on the date to me. It didn't quite feel like a normal record date." (Here's our full interview with Carol Kaye.)
  • In 1995, Spector agreed to produce a version of this with Celine Dion. The sessions were a disaster, and her version from these sessions was never released.
  • Other versions have been recorded by The Animals, Deep Purple, and Neil Diamond. Darlene Love recorded a version in 2004 for a Tina Turner tribute album called What's Love.
  • The actor Dennis Hopper did the photo for the cover of the River Deep - Mountain High album. Krasnow recalled in the same Rolling Stone interview: "Dennis Hopper did the cover on that LP. He was broke on his ass in Hollywood and trying photography. He said he'd like to do the cover. He took us to this sign company, where there was this 70-foot high sign for a movie, with one of those sex stars - Boccaccio '70 or something. And he shot them in front of that big teardrop. Then the gas company had a big sign, and Hopper took them there and shot them in front of a big burner."
  • The Supremes and Four Tops recorded this for the 1970 album The Magnificent 7, their version charting at #14 in the US. It was produced by the husband-and-wife songwriting team of Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson. It was the first hit that the Supremes had with the Four Tops, a pairing inspired by the Supremes success with the Temptations before Diana Ross went solo. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Jerro - New Alexandria, PA
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Comments: 29

On May 22nd 1966, "River Deep - Mountain High" by Ike and Tina Turner entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #98; the next week it was at #94, then to #93, and on its 4th and final week on the chart it peaked at #88...
Between 1960 and 1975 the duo had twenty Top 100 records; with one making the Top 10, a covered version of "Proud Mary" which peaked at #4 in 1971...
They had better success on the Billboard R&B Singles chart; on that chart they had six Top 10 records with two reaching #2, "A Fool in Love" in 1960 and "It's Gonna Work Out Fine" in 1961.
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
Fantastic song with the great vocals of Tina Turner. I cannot understand why this wasn't a hit in the US while it became a big hit in the UK and other countries. I wasn't born when it was released in '66, but I heard of it later on. It was on a CD compilation of hits produced by Phil Spector & I went absolutely bazookas over it! The production was top quality by Spector. It's puzzling why it wasn't a hit in the USA, unless it was sabotaged by Spector's music business enemies. Perhaps? What a great sounding ending too!Randy - Fayettevile, Ar
In 1966, I was working in L.A. and heard this grand song and loved it right away. I loved Spector's Wall of Sound records anyway! But my relatives back home in Memphis told me they never heard it on the radio station in the area in '66, even though Spector's records back then were normally popular there. Then, I heard that Spector's recording industry enemies had something to do with influencing radio stations not to play the record. I never learned whether this was true or not. I do know that Phil had a reputation of being very difficult in the music industry. But his production work genius usually balanced things out. In the early 1980's, I got a cassette compilation "Phil Spector's Greatest Hits" on International Records, London, England that contained this song. It sure brought back good memories of 1966 and Los Angeles' music scene! Since then, I hear that Rolling Stone magazine voted the song by Tina Turner as #32 on their 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Fantastic. This song gets in your blood because of the intense build-up and then the climactic ending. WOW!Bubblesk - Memphis, Tn
I still love this song from 1966. In 1969, while with the US Army in Vietnam, I had my R&R in Singapore & bought a cassette of "Phil Spector's Greatest Hits" released on a British label and it included this song. It was on chrome tape & sounded absolutely fantastic and had crisp sound (considering it was mono) that just brought out the Wall of Sound like I've never heard before. Tina's powerful vocals were spine-chilling! I still have the cassette,but it has been retired to my memorabilia boxes. It was much later that I learned that the sad reason this song didn't chart higher in the USA was due to the self-centered, corrupt DJs across the USA who, for their own reasons, held grudges against Phil Spector so they either refused to play it or played it very little in 1966. The radio DJs from the Sixties ranged from good to damned rotten disgraces. I loved Tina's work released earlier in the Sixties on Sue Records (A Fool In Love, It's Gonna Work Out Fine) and her fantastic work on Liberty Records in the 1970s just sent me to the moon. What a woman! Shut mah mouth..........Elmer H - Westville, Ok
It's scary to think that this song was relegated to the garbage heap while junk like "Wild Thing" and "Hanky Panky" soared to the top. Whatever you think of Phil Spector personally (then or now), there is no doubt this was an audacious, dynamic production and deserved to be heard. The reason it bombed is because DJ's refused to pay it, either 'cause they hated Spector or because they weren't being paid to promote it. Either way, it just shows that hits were picked not by the public, but by the guys in the backrooms. A shame. George Harrison loved it.Matthew - Toronto, On
I feel RIVER DEEP bombed in the US precisely BECAUSE of Tina Turner's overwhelming vocals and guttural style. YES, a great rendition, but to be accepted when released in '66 it needed more of a POLISHED delivery, the kind that the RONETTES used. If the RONETTES had released RIVER DEEP I think it would have been the hit Phil Spector wanted!Bruce - Dallas, Tx
Phil believed very strongly in this song and part of his dispair/depression when it only hit #88 had to do with his already having presssed a few of the River deep Mountain high lps on his own Philles label that he was going to send out to his favorite radio stations and then release commercially once this 45 took off as he was sure it would!!!of course when it tanked in the US he cancelled production of an lp cover and apparently destroyed all but a couple of the lps...hard for his ego to accept this failureJack Taylor - Maumee, Oh
Surely the best song of the songwriting team of Phil Spector, Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry. When Ellie died on August 26? I felt very sad. Thank you for all your beautiful songs. R.I.P.Teresa - Mechelen, Belgium
Message to Kristin : normal that the original version of Ike and Tina Turner only arrived at place 88, they didn't want to play this song on the radio. In the UK, the Netherlands, the Flanders(the north of Belgium where people speak Dutch) we could hear it all the time; that's why in the UK it went up to the 3th place. It's just a great song from super producer Phil Spector.Teresa - Mechelen, Belgium
Even though I have never heard much of the Ike and Tina Turner version, The(New)Supremes and the Four Tops charted better with their version, reaching #14 on the Hot 100 in 1970-1971 - Ike and Tina Turner's version only made it to number 88 in mid 1966.Kristin - Bessemer, Al
Yes, he's an eccentric, crazy guy but you can't deny Phil Spector's genius in the studio....Madison - Norway, Me
Right Susan, it's "I love you baby like a robin loves to sing"; a very good song with strong lyrics.Teresa - Mechelen, Belgium
Wrong bird mentioned in these lyrics--It's a robin loves to sing, not a bluebirdSusan - New York, Ny
The late George Harrison once described this song as "a perfect record from start to finish."David - Youngstown, Oh
I can't understand this song flopped in the US, in Europe it was a superhit; never heard a better song than this. Phil Spector can be proud of his masterpeace, he just did it, it's super, it's Spector, it's Spectorcular!!!!!!Teresa - Mechelen, Belgium
On the 1998 album Absolutely The Best there is a new version of this. Anyone knows when this was made?Elias - Oost-souburg, Netherlands
Although his song is listed as Ike and Tina Turner, Ike had nothing to do with the song. Phil Spector specifically wanted Tina. Ike had a hidden jealousy about this.Lisa - Alabaska, Al
Jimmy Barnes does a fantastic version of this song on his Soul Deep album. Tina and him should do a duet. It would rock.Maxi - Gold Coast
The Supremes & The Four Tops' version of this song in 1971 charted at #14 on the Pop charts in the U.S. It charted higher than the original version by Tina Turner.Brad - Cleveland, Oh
CÃ?line Dion did well record this song, anyway for France. But no other interpretation can equal this from Tina Turner. This is one of the best songs ever recorded.Justine - Paris, France
I heard this song done by Erasure off The Innocents album, which is a great musical experience. I was unaware who originally did it until now. Interesting to say the least, but I will always know it as an Erasure tune.Dee - Indianapolis, In
This is #32 in Rolling Stone's list of 500 greatest songs.Ross - Independence, Mo
Although I love all the songs of Phil Spector,
"River deep, mountain high" can be considered his masterpiece. It's a great song, a perfect harmony between Tina Turner's voice and Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound". I already liked the song in 1966, but I was too young to appreciate its real value. I just love it, it's very perfect, very Spector. Waaah!
Teresa - Mechelen, Belgium
My personal favorite version of this is by Bob Seger from his 1970 album Mongrel. One of his best performances. As the CD is out of print and is ridiculously expensive to buy, you'll probably have to download the song (legally, of course :D).Chris - Bluffton, Sc
Of all the people that have ever sung this song, you cannot beat Tina Turner. With the exception of Jimmy Barnes.Mel - Hokitika, New Zealand
Harry Nilsson recorded this on his album "Pandamonium Shadow ShowKirsty - Glasgow, Scotland
Erasure covered this on the 1988 album "The Innocents".Dave - Cardiff, Wales
That would be: I love you like a schoolboy loves his piePiggy - Ns, Canada
I love you baby like a school boy loves his??????Gayle - Sydney, Australia
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