“You know what?” said PP Arnold. “When I decided to write my book, my inspiration was Maya Angelou. It’s like, if I’m going to write my book, I’m going to tell the truth.
On the phone from her rental home in south London, her voice is deep and smoky despite a cold she’s trying to shake off ahead of her first solo show at Glastonbury in four days. This show ended up being a treat, with Arnold’s voice as rich as ever while performing songs from 2019’s The New Adventures of… PP Arnold, peppered with a selection of juicy anecdotes that she teased from her next memoir, Soul Survivor. The memory is a sizzle.
Arnold, now 75, was an Ikette from South Central LA who defected at the age of 19 from Ike and Tina Turner’s British roadshow to work and sometimes sleep with almost anyone who was anyone in the London Swinging Sixties. Among white English male musicians obsessed with American blues and soul, Arnold was the real thing with a gospel-tinged voice that could radiate both pain and joy.
Its first single, a recording of Cat Stevens’ The First Cut is the Deepest, appeared on Summer of Love, 1967. Its follow-up was Angel of the Morning, arranged by pre-Led Zeppelin John Paul Jones and unleashing soulful vocals. powerful unmatched by later covers. She could tip too. A debut album featured input from various Rolling Stones. But her second album, produced by Eric Clapton and Barry Gibb, was engulfed in record label politics and never released. Gradually, she again became a chorister hired by everyone, from KLF to Roger Waters, with whom she toured for 10 years.
Arnold began writing his memoirs in 1994 but could not find a publisher. “When you’re hot, you’re hot and when you’re not, you’re not. No one seemed interested.” Her stock spiked when she released an album of beautiful, long-lost recordings in 2017 , and increased again with The New Adventures Of… When an editor approached, she had her memoirs close at hand.
One of the incentives to write was the feeling that she had been pushed out of history by rock’s gerontocracy. “I just thought, ‘These guys were my friends, but they didn’t even mention me in their books.’ I’m not ashamed I was young, living my life and hey, boom, that’s it.
The biggest booms involve the biggest names. Take Ike Turner. Arnold unflinchingly recalls the time he trapped her in a room and raped her. She has remained silent so far.
” What can I say ? It was horrible. I despised Ike on that level, but I didn’t know how to express myself. I was told that Tina wanted to get rid of me because Ike was after me. If I had run to Tina or called my parents, that would have meant that I would have [had] go home.”
And returning home would have meant returning to her husband’s violence. She and David Arnold had been forced into a forced marriage when an attempted abortion with a sterilized coat hanger failed. She gave birth to her 15-year-old son Kevin. At 17, she had a second child, Debbie.
“David had this deep anger. He never hit me in the face because he didn’t want my parents to know he beat me. I didn’t go to my parents’ house with it. I just took care of it.
She’d had some practice, having been beaten regularly by her late father – an upholsterer; his late mother had been a homemaker – all through her childhood. “Unfortunately, that was how it was back then. I think it has a lot to do with slavery and how it affected the black male psyche.
It was Mick Jagger who persuaded Arnold to leave the Ikettes and try his luck in the UK. She became his lover and his new girlfriend Marianne Faithfull enthusiastically joined. Few details are spared. “Mick was in heaven but Marianne was more interested in me,” she wrote. “I had always been a good kisser and so was she. I tried to let myself go but I was also uncomfortable…eventually it was Mick I was in love with, not her. There was a planting feeling about it, like I was a toy.
When Arnold got pregnant, she and Jagger agreed that she should have an abortion. Jagger sent flowers but did not cut short his vacation in Morocco. She only reveals all this now. (A spokesperson for Jagger declined to comment.)
“I was very private. I never flaunted it in the press. I wasn’t a hustler. I never yelled, ‘Oh, I see Mick Jagger!'” He wrote Brown Sugar about me It never bothered me who he wrote it about because he never said it. Hope Mick knows [the memoir] is not a kiss-and-tell. I hope he understands that.
Then she met Jimi Hendrix and one thing led to another. “It was so wonderful to live around the corner, to have this support system from someone who could relate to what I was going through.”
Like Hendrix, she was considered an exotic figure when she moved here. “Coming here was amazing for me, but it was also a very difficult time, integrating into a cosmopolitan, white society. It was through music and the love of music that I was accepted. They had never known a black woman, and for me to come with the credibility to work with Ike and Tina, they didn’t know that I had no idea what I was doing. I just loved to sing. That’s which saved my life Most 18-19 year olds – they don’t face coming out of an abused marriage and having kids It wasn’t easy for me to to be a normal young woman.
She had an affair with Steve Marriott, leader of the Small Faces with whom she recorded Tin Soldier. He was the first Englishman to invite her to his home to meet his family.
As for the young Rod Stewart, she had fallen in love with him when they recorded a duet. “The sex was cool,” she wrote, “but he was also extremely arrogant and could be a spoiled brat if things didn’t go his way.”
“I mean, really, I have bones to settle with him,” says Arnold, who writes in her memoir that she was caught in bed with Stewart after a drug bust in her apartment.
For the record, others who might give Soul Survivor a large following include Lulu (“very negative energy”), John Cougar Mellencamp (“rude attitude towards black women”) and Ronnie Wood’s first wife Krissy (“lazy and not very generous”). What will Marianne Faithfull say? “Marianne is probably cool about it,” she laughs. “I’ve seen her for the past few years. She knew I was going to write a book.
With her children now joining her, Arnold signed to Immediate Records, founded by Andrew Loog Oldham shortly before being sacked as manager of the Stones. Her debut album was titled The First Lady of Immediate, a nickname she much preferred to “Chocolate Button” given to her by a music critic.
“Andrew gave me really good creative management,” she says wistfully. “He had a vision for me. It’s a shame what happened. »
What happened was that Immediate mysteriously ran out of money. She did not come out any better when, at the request of Barry Gibb, she was hired by Robert Stigwood to produce a second album. The reality is that Britain was probably not ready for such a pioneer, but why was it so unlucky?
“Because I didn’t know anything about the music industry. I was getting closer to a whole development of myself as an artist. Barry, all those beautiful ballads. Eric with all those Dominoes guys, they really hit that gospel funk side of me that had never been heard. Stigwood wasn’t in there. He wasn’t into me at all. I think my life would definitely have been different if this album had come out.
Her second marriage, to Stigwood chauffeur Jim Morris, fell apart shortly before he went into hiding – apparently to avoid arrest for smuggling cocaine into the US in sprawling compounds . In 1971, she had a third child — a son, Kojo — with Calvin “Fuzz” Samuel, who played bass for Manassas and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. He was offered a contract to record an album in Los Angeles produced by him but the material was never released.
“That was the start of my downward spiral. I made a lot of bad choices after that as a young parent. I wasn’t even 30 and had two teenagers.” Her main regret, she says, was taking her children away from “a beautiful, safe environment” in the Cotswolds and moving to North Hollywood, in search of a record deal. “Because when the family has problems, it affects the children.
Her great tragedy, which she approaches bluntly, is the death in 1977 of her 13-year-old daughter Debbie. She was killed in a car accident as she and friends skipped school and hitchhiked to the beach.
“He was a very special spirit. I haven’t had a serious relationship at all since my daughter died. It’s very hard to find a good man just in normal situations. But, you know, it’s not it’s not over until it’s over.
Her memoir ends in 1984 with her roller-skating around the London stage after Andrew Lloyd Webber cast her for the original Starlight Express. Since then, his remarkable story has, very slowly, progressed towards redemption. Following the unearthed album and impressive new release in 2019, a box set packed with unreleased material is promised and the musician divides her time between London and a home in sunny southern Spain. Does Arnold finally feel like he has a happy ending?
“Well, I could do with one. What’s important is where I am right now. How can I take all these years of experience and do something really great?”
Soul Survivor: The Autobiography by PP Arnold is published by Nine Eight Books on July 7, RRP £22. To purchase a copy for £20 from Telegraph Books, click here
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