FIRST CUTS ARE THE DEEPEST
Revealed at last – P.P. Arnold’s lost album made with Barry Gibb and Eric Clapton!
“WORKING WITH BARRY I THOUGHT, MAYBE I’M AS GOOD AS THEY SAY I AM!”
To have your career scuppered once by the Bee Gees’ feuding might be deemed a misfortune; for it to happen twice seems like carelessness. Yet the ’70s solo career of P.P. Arnold, who found late ’60s fame as the Small Faces’ backing vocalist and with her own recordings for Andrew Oldham’s Immediate label, is more complex than that. Her tale of triumph and tragedy is to be told via a fascinating new album, The Turning Tide, which collects unreleased material from the period produced by Barry Gibb, Eric Clapton and guitarist Caleb Quaye. Eight tracks date from late 1969, when she first hooked up with Gibb, then at a loose end after the Bee Gees’ first major bust-up. “Both Barry and I were at a crossroads,” says the Los Angeles-raised P.P., who now lives in Spain. “I was totally lost after [the demise of] Immediate. Barry had heard my version of To Love Somebody [on her second LP, Kafunta] and he liked it. So we started work on an album. I didn’t have much confidence in myself back then, but while working with Barry I thought, Maybe I’m as good as they say I am!” But after nailing several covers and superlative Gibb originals – including Born, Happiness, Bury Me Down By The River and The Turning Tide – at London’s IBC studios, Bee Gees manager Robert Stigwood pressured Barry into rejoining the group. Her album on hold, Stigwood compensated Arnold by securing her a support slot that December on the UK and European legs of the Delaney & Bonnie & Friends tour – the ‘Friends’ famously including George Harrison and Eric Clapton. This led, in May 1970, to a session at Advision studios with Arnold backed by a group featuring Clapton plus drummer Jim Gordon, bassist Carl Radle and keyboardist Bobby Whitlock. “Those were in effect the first recordings by Derek And The Dominos,” laughs Arnold. “We did Traffic’s Medicated Goo, Van Morrison’s Brand New Day and the Stones’ You Can’t Always Get What You Want. They sounded really good.” So good, in fact, that Derek And The Dominos started work on their own album instead. Moving back to LA, Arnold then suffered the loss of her daughter, Debbie, in a car accident, which “messed me up real bad. I didn’t know what I was doing.” Help came in 1978 in the form of none other than Barry Gibb, who invited her to the LA premiere of the Bee Gees’ ill-starred Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band movie. But again, despite travelling to Miami to finish recording with Gibb, Arnold’s chance to complete her solo album once again ebbed away. Legal complexities and, says Arnold, “politics” have previously prevented the material being released, but with the singer’s help Ocean Colour Scene/Paul Weller guitarist Steve Cradock and his wife Sally secured it for their Kundalini label, with Weller’s engineer Charles Rees mixing the original tapes. Later this year Arnold will also publish an autobiography, named for her 1967 hit, The First Cut Is The Deepest, while Cradock is producing her new album for release next year. “Writing my book taught me that destiny is my manager,” she says. “There was never a plan. I went where life took me.” The Turning Tide is released on Kundalini Music on October 6.
Stepping up: (left) P.P. Arnold in her hitmaking years; (above) producer and Bee Gee Barry Gibb in the Cucumber Castle movie, 1970; (below left) Eric Clapton, playing Dominos, 1970; (below) P.P.’s album and (bottom) at a CND rally in London, 1969.