Steamy Windows

Album: Foreign Affair (1989)
Charted: 13 39
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Songfacts®:

  • Twenty years after his solo hit "Polk Salad Annie," the Louisiana songwriter Tony Joe White charted again as a composer when Tina Turner recorded "Steamy Windows," which was one of four songs he demoed on a cassette, hoping Turner would record them for her album. Turner recorded three of them: "Steamy Windows," "Undercover Agent for the Blues," and "Foreign Affair," which became the title track of her album.

    The song is about getting intimate in the backseat of a car on a lonely stretch of road. When the windows steam up from the body heat, it creates some natural privacy and makes the setting even more sensual. Typically, it is the guy who sets up the "making out in a car" scenario, using any trick he can think of to make it happen ("We're out of gas..." "There's a great view up here..."). Turner could have sung the song from the perspective of the girl being courted, but instead, she simply transposed the gender and sang about trying to get the guy into the back seat ("there's something about a confrontation on a back road... breaks down the defense"). By flipping the traditional gender role, Turner was asserting her confidence, making it clear that she was the one in charge (and driving the car). This sassy self-assurance was a touchstone of Turner's sensibility in the years following the release of her 1986 autobiography I, Tina, where she detailed her abusive relationship with Ike Turner and the steps she took to re-claim her life and career.
  • The song's writer Tony Joe White released his own version of this song on his 1991 album Closer To The Truth. He recorded it in his folky, unaffected style - the same way he had been performing his whole life. When we asked White if he was ever tempted to sing the song like Turner, he replied: "No, because I had recorded the songs pretty swampy, just my own style, and it stayed that way all through her sessions. She kept the same chord changes and everything. Nobody would be foolish enough to try to sing like Tina Turner."
  • Dan Hartman, who had a solo hit with "I Can Dream About You," produced this track. Tony Joe White played guitar on it.
  • An arresting live number, this was the first song in Turner's set for her Foreign Affair tour, which ran from April-November 1990 throughout Europe. The tour was wildly successful; the Barcelona stop was released on VHS as Tina Turner: Live from Barcelona 1990 (Do You Want Some Action).

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