P.P. Arnold

TrackAlbum / Single   
What'’cha Gonna DoLondon single HLU 10081
The First Cut Is The DeepestThe First Lady of Immediate
Angel Of The MorningKafunta
To Love SomebodyKafunta
Bury Me Down By The RiverPolydor single, 1969
Different DrumUniversal single, 1998
Be My JudgeFive In The Afternoon
Stay NowFive In The Afternoon
Take Me Awayfree download, 2012
Beautiful SongiTunes 2013

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Contributor: Peter Viney

P.P. (Pat) Arnold was born in America, so we’ll just say for me she was the best British-based singer of her generation. I remember seeing her in Kings Road in 1968 strolling out of a restaurant with full wig on, Dudley Moore in tow, and thinking to myself, ‘Wow! London really is the capital of the universe …’ She’s an artist no one, however stellar, would want to follow on stage.

P.P. Arnold came to England as a member of The Ikettes, backing Ike & Tina Turner, and stayed. Mick Jagger saw her and persuaded Andrew Loog Oldham to sign her with Immediate Records, and she left the Turners. Her live backing band was named by her: P.P. Arnold & The Nice. They took the name with them when they left.

Notable performances were with The Small Faces, singing back up on Tin Soldier and Itchycoo Park. Steve Marriot wrote (If You Think You’re) Groovy for her. He also wrote Afterglow, but took it back. She says: The first time I met the Small Faces, I loved them. We were all the same age, same size and into the same music.

She did sessions with many artists from Nick Drake to Dr John, Freddie King and Eric Burdon, and moved into stage musicals with Jesus Christ Superstar and Catch My Soul.

She returned to the USA, where her daughter was killed in a car accident in 1977. She came back to Britain in 1983 and stage work in Starlight Express. She worked with The Beatmasters, The KLF, Oasis and Ocean Colour Scene, though attempts to do complete albums were continually thwarted. Burn It Up with The Beatmasters, 1988 was a UK #14 hit on the Rhythm King label. Not my style really, but her voice makes it work. She has toured with Roger Waters over ten years.

She eventually did an album with Dr Robert from The Blow Monkeys in 2007, Five In The Afternoon. She has been working for several years to compile and complete unreleased tracks from the late 60s, including productions by Eric Clapton.

The selections:

What’cha Gonna Do (When I Leave You) is The Ikettes single in 1966 on which Pat sang lead, backed by Brenda and Patrice Holloway. This edition of The Ikettes are also on River Deep Mountain High and A Love Like Yours. The single was produced by Ike Turner. It’s on the Northern Soul Dynamite CD, though it’s on iTunes anyway. To be honest, this one pushed The Time Has Come out of the list, because I wanted an Ikettes example.

The First Cut Is The Deepest was her breakthrough single, written by Cat Stevens, whose version sounded nothing like this. There are many covers. I saw P.P. Arnold in 2003, singing a stunning, long version of First Cut Is The Deepest, in which she inserted the words: “Does anyone know the Sheryl Crow version of this? Well tell her … (full power) The First CUT is the deepest And I wanna tell Rod Stewart … the first cut IS the deepest …” and she proved it.

Other tracks (and singles) from The First Lady of Immediate all demand inclusion: The Time Has Come, (If You Think You’re Groovy), Everything’s Gonna Be Alright, but I wanted an overview stretching to 2014 because there is absolutely no decline in quality or power. An outtake from the era which came out decades later was Come On Home, as a duet with Rod Stewart in 1967, with Keith Richards on guitar. The story goes that Come On Home was to be the B-side of a cover of Workin’ In The Coal Mine, produced by Mick Jagger, who fell out with Rod over the vocal, and left the studio with the A-side tapes.

Angel Of The Morning is a Chip Taylor song. Evie Sands recorded the first version for Cameo-Parkway, only to find the company collapsing around her before it got airplay. Billie Davis covered that version in the UK. Then Merilee Rush picked up on it and got an American hit, before P.P. Arnold did the fourth and greatest version. It was also on her album Kafunta. I guess material was in short supply in that this album had covers of God Only Knows, Eleanor Rigby and Yesterday, all songs you need confidence to attack!

To Love Somebody has an odd history. Apparently The Bee Gees, while releasing it themselves, had actually written it for Otis Redding, who died before he could record it. The Bee Gees single is excellent, but P.P. Arnold takes the song apart and puts it back together.

Bury Me Down By The River is a dramatic Gibb brothers song (later on The Bee Gees Cucumber Castle LP) produced by Barry Gibb as a Polydor single in 1969. Give A Hand Take A Hand is the B-side and just as good, so another possible.

Different Drum, a single in 1998, takes the Mike Nesmith pleasant folk-rock song and turns it into a massive soul standard with Ocean Colour Scene backing, sawing strings, backing vocalists and a lead vocal just as powerful and rich as thirty years earlier. Nesmith wrote it in 1965 for The Greenbriar Boys. Linda Ronstadt had a major hit with it in 1967. It’s a rare case of the Universal conglomerate using the parent company name on a single too. Different Drum is one of her best ever performances, which is saying something.

Be My Judge is from the 2007 album Five in The Afternoon and is a duet with Dr Robert. They met at a party in Granada where he was playing acoustic guitar and P.P. Arnold started singing. The album was recorded in Spain.

Stay Now is from the same album. Listen to the interpretation … Your voice on the phone, cut me to the bone … I can hear all the pain in your breathing. The album is highly recommended. Not a dud track on there.

Take Me Away was the Sandy Denny song she sang on The Lady, the Sandy Denny tribute show in 2012. The cast wisely made sure P.P. Arnold closed the show with her three Sandy Denny covers. No one was going to follow her. Take Me Away comes from a period when Sandy was getting interested in soul (and Janis Joplin) and P.P. Arnold gives it what it needs. It’s available as a free download from P.P. Arnold’s website.

Beautiful Song is the current single, in her classic 1960s style, and from a forthcoming album. It was released on iTunes in September 2013. The bass riff is highly reminiscent of Angel In The Morning, but that’s a good thing; a reference, because the song is quite different.

P.P. Arnold website

P.P. Arnold biography (iTunes)

TopperPost #178

2 Comments

  1. Ian Ashleigh
    Jan 26, 2014

    Many thanks Peter, I have been in love with P P Arnold’s voice since I first heard it. It is said that it was her son (then age 5) who speaks at the end of The Nice’s version of America, your posting explains why.

  2. Rob Millis
    Jan 27, 2014

    I did a gig years ago at the Bulls Head, Barnes with my good friend and excellent guitarist Papa George. A black singer got up with us and tore the house down. She introduced herself simply as Pat and it was only chatting after that I realised who she was.

    Apparently, Marriott was head over heels in love with her and Tin Soldier – in my house regarded as the finest UK single bar none – was the tale of his longing for her, his offer of love unrequited. He didn’t get the girl, but her backing vocals make the tune.

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