For many years, I was a regular attendee at the Small Faces conventions from their early years based at The Ruskin Arms, in the bands old stomping ground of East Ham. One year, the exact date of which is lost in the midst of my mind, I found myself talking to singer ‘call me Pat’ PP Arnold.
I mainly knew her for the amazing backing vocals she had laid down on the 1968 single ‘Tin Soldier’ and her own songs such as ‘Angel in Morning’, but she kindly took time to mention that she had started out as an ‘Ikette’ backing the legendary Ike and Tina Turner back in the 1960s.
So it’s been great to see she has been getting mentions again recently with news of her forthcoming album ‘The New Adventures of PP Arnold’ which has been produced by Steve Cradock, founder member of Ocean Colour Scene and of course long-time Paul Weller guitar player of choice. Since reading about that, I thought it was high time to have a look at her life and times and celebrate the music from within it.
She was born Patricia Ann Cole in Los Angeles in 1946, into a family of Gospel singers who attended and sang at the Full Gospel Baptist Church situated in the area of Watts.
Aged just 17, she was a mother to two kids, Debbie and Kevin and working two jobs to help provide food for the table. She was also in an abusive marriage.
One fateful day however, she was asked to attend, with two friends, an audition as a backing singer for recording stars Ike and Tina Turner. To her surprise, she was selected and offered the gig as an ‘Ikette’. She was asked to attend a gig that night to see Ike and Tina in concert. A row ensued when she finally got home and that was the catalyst for her then to break away from her controlling husband. Her parents provided childcare support, and she went on the road the Turner Revue Show in 1964.
She ended up touring the UK with that in 1966 just as the classic song ‘River Deep Mountain High’ hit big time here. Whilst out supporting the Rolling Stones, their manager Andrew Log Oldham was convinced by Mick Jagger to sign her for his Immediate record label. It was Photographer Gered Mankowitz who bestowed upon her the name of PP Arnold.
Not long after that, she quit the Ike and Tina show, sent for her children and decided to stay in the UK. Her first album ‘The First Lady of Immediate’ is full of great tracks, such as ‘Everything’s Gonna be Alright’, ‘(if you think you’re) Groovy’ written and produced by Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane of the Small Faces and her hit version of ‘The First Cut is the Deepest’ written by Cat Stevens.
Her second Immediate album ‘Kafunta’ includes a great version of the Bee Gees ‘To Love Somebody’ and an even better rendition of ‘Angel of the Morning.’
As well as her recordings, she also worked with many of the biggest names of the 60s, Clapton, Hendrix, Rod Stewart, The Rolling Stones and as mentioned previously The Small Faces on ‘Itchycoo Park’ as well as the aforementioned ‘Tin Soldier.’
During the early to mid-70s, she moved into working in musical theatre and appeared in the stage show ‘Catch My Soul’ as well as working on the album recording of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar.’ She also sang backing vocals on a personal favourite track of mine ‘Poor Boy’ by Nick Drake on his album ‘Bryter Layter.’
Tragically her daughter Debbie died in a car accident in 1977 and for a while, Pat withdrew from the world.
She made a comeback in the 1980s when she returned to the stage and starred in ‘Starlight Express’ and then toured with singer Billy Ocean as well as working on the track ‘Sledgehammer’ by Peter Gabriel. Poignantly she also worked one last time with former lover Steve Marriott on his album ’30 Seconds to Midnight’ not long before he lost his life in a house fire in 1991.
The 90s found her working with Ocean Colour Scene and Primal Scream and she toured with Roger Waters from 1999 -2008 on three World tours.
2007 saw her hook up with Blow Monkeys frontman Dr Robert on their album ‘Five in the Afternoon.’
2017 saw the release of ‘The Turning Tide’ which included songs from 1968 to 1970 which was released to critical acclaim and that year also saw her working with Paul Weller and Madeline Bell, when together they provided backing vocals for the track ‘Woo Se’ Mama’ from Paul’s 2017 album ‘A Kind Revolution.
And so to August 2019 and the release of the double album ‘The New Adventures of PP Arnold’. Featuring the likes of Paul Weller, The Specials, her songwriter son Kodzo and produced as mentioned by her old sparring partner Steve Cradock at his Kundalini Studio in Devon, it will contain original Weller compositions, ‘When I Was Part Of Your Picture’ and ‘Shoot The Dove,’ along with a song inspired by the death of her daughter Debbie, ‘I’ll Always Remember You.’
She will also tour extensively in October in the UK in support of the release and those dates can be can at www.pparnold.com
The Mumper of SE5