Perhaps the most spectacular comeback album of the Eighties, Private Dancer reestablished Tina Turner as one of rock's premier artists. But perhaps the most remarkable thing about the album is that it was made at all.
Turner was playing Las Vegas and selling few records when, in 1982, Martyn Ware and Greg Walsh of the English synth-pop group Heaven 17 recruited her for an album of high-tech covers of their favorite songs sung by their favorite singers. Turner's version of "Ball of Confusion" became a British hit and won her a recording contract. Back with Ware and Walsh, her reworking of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" proved a hit, and Capitol wanted an album fast.
Terry Britten, an Australian songwriter, co-wrote the feisty "Show Some Respect," produced a stark electro-version of Ann Peebles's "I Can't Stand the Rain" and co-wrote the reggae-tinged "What's Love Got to Do With It."
Rupert Hine, known for his work with the Fixx, produced the Holly Knight-penned "Better Be Good to Me." Turner related her life story and her belief in reincarnation to Hine's girlfriend and song-writing partner, Jeanette Obstoj, who then wrote the album's opening track, "I Might Have Been Queen." Lyrics like "I look up to my past/A spirit running free/I look down and I'm there in history/I'm a soul survivor" must have rung true, for as Turner's manager, Roger Davies, says, "she just loved it — I think she almost cried when she read the lyrics."
Mark Knopfler donated "Private Dancer," and British singer Paul Brady wrote the album's hardest rocker, "Steel Claw." Jeff Beck, backed by Dire Straits (minus Knopfler, who had other commitments), contributed electrifying leads to both tracks.
Recording with Britten in London by day and at Hine's country studio by night, Turner cut nine tracks in three weeks. When it was all done, "What's Love Got to Do With It" hit Number One, and "Better Be Good to Me" and "Private Dancer" went Top Ten. Private Dancer went platinum several times over, and Tina Turner's rightful place in pop's pantheon was reaffirmed.