Album: All The Best
. . .
Confession time: I’ve never been a huge fan of “Proud Mary.” In any incarnation. I’m not denying that it’s a great song, an American classic, and that Tina & Ike Turner did a dynamite job turning it into what was by far their biggest hit in 1971. I just don’t love it. So that’s why I’m not writing about it, in case you were curious.
Much more my liking was their final hit, 1973’s “Nutbush City Limits,” a weird bouncy semi-autobiographical song written by Tina herself.
A church house gin house
A school house outhouse
On highway number nineteen
The people keep the city clean
“Nutbush City Limits” started off with two distinct guitars over its deceptively simple rhythms, and there is a lot of dispute about who played which. Over in one speaker was a muted wah-wah guitar which basically played leads throughout the entire song. The other guitar was fuzzy, dead centre, and one of the legends surrounding “Nutbush City Limits” is that rhythm guitar was played by none other than Marc Bolan. Maybe, maybe not.
They call it Nutbush
Call it Nutbush city limits
Heh, heh . . . “Nutbush.” But of, course it was a real place, the unincorporated area where Tina grew up, and as it headed out of that first chorus, the guitars and drums were joined by a bass and a clavinet — as was the style at the time — and after the second chorus, a full-blown brass section was singing along with her.
You go to the fields on weekdays
And have a picnic on Labor Day
You go to town on Saturdays
But go to church every Sunday
As it went on, “Nutbush City Limits” just got weirder, keyed by a high-pitched Moog synthesizer from Ike that just fucking comes out of nowhere to take over the song. That synth sticks around, a modern counterpoint to the rural primitivism of the lyrics.
No whiskey for sale
You get caught, no bail
Salt pork and molasses
Is all you get in jail
“Nutbush City Limits” wasn’t as big of a hit in the U.S. for Tina & Ike Turner as “Proud Mary” was, topping out at a very respectable #22 in 1973 — though I don’t really recall it being played very much, if at all, on KYNO — in the U.K. it was a smash, topping out at #4, the first time Tina hit the U.K. top ten over there since “River Deep-Mountain High.” In the 1990s, she recorded an electrodisco version of it which was as perfectly serviceable as it was pointless.
“Nutbush City Limits”
“Nutbush City Limits” Live on the Midnight Special, 1973
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