2016 will be a special year of commemoration for many reasons not least of which, for those of us who dwell on this site, will be the 50th anniversary of the creation of "River Deep Mountain High". Long recognised as one of the greatest mountain anthems, this masterpiece feeds off and magnifies the grand sweeps of recent social history. I refer, in particular, to the gradual eclipse of "manhood" in its classic form, symbolised by the fact that Ike Turner was effectively written out of the script from the off. Phil Spector, who co wrote the piece with Jeff Barry, and Ellie Greenwich, paid Ike Turner $20,000 to stay away from the studio so that only Tina's vocals appeared on the single. I saw the full denouement of this trend at Croke Park in 1996 when Tina performed the song in front of thousands as two begreased male "hunks" were lowered from on high in canary cages while the metrosexual mob that thronged the venue whooped with delight. Were it not for my dedication to Ireland's mountain movement I would have walked out in protest. I gritted my teeth and stayed.
There are so many ironies associated with the piece. Instead of being a world wide number one record, "River Deep Mountain High" topped the charts in Australia only. Everywhere else it merely floated in the Top Ten. How is that possible?
"The track was recorded using Spector's "Wall of Sound" production technique, cost a then-unheard-of $22,000, and required 21 session musicians and 21 background vocalists. Due to Spector's perfectionism in the studio, he made Turner sing the song over and over for several hours until he felt he had the perfect vocal take for the song. Turner recalled, "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."" (Wiki) A consummation devoutly to be wished for, no doubt, by the metrosexy, but what about the God fearing, Daniel O'Donnell lovin', Poem that Rhymes, or Song you can Sing Majority, I ask you??? What about us?
Spector never recovered from the magnificence of his mountain high, and stumbled on for a few years before shooting his girlfriend and ending up in jail.
He delivered the eulogy at Ike's funeral stating that "Ike made Tina the jewel she was. When I went to see Ike play at the Cinegrill in the 90s...there were at least five Tina Turners on the stage performing that night, any one of them could have been Tina Turner."
Phil languishes in jail. The media is full of adverts where men are portrayed as idiots.("Honey did you remember to book the holiday? No I bloody didn't cause I can only do one thing at a time!"). I have been asked to step down as Runai Contae Sleibhe an Mi (to make way for "gender balance").
You know what? When the last of us (men) is being kept prisoner in some remote Artificial Insemination Station I hope our brother will be able to see the mountains through the bars on his window, and notwithstanding Ike's eclipse, he will hear the strains of River Deep Mountain High in the distance. It may symbolise the end of mankind as we know it, but it remains the greatest omage aux montagnes that I know.