Guide to British Music of the 1960s

July 2022

Book Review: PP Arnold - Soul Survivor

Soul Survivor is an apt title for this long-awaited autobiography. Pat Cole, professionally known as PP Arnold, grew up in LA although she was born in Texas. By the age of 17, she was married with two children. However, this was an abusive marriage and came on top of physical abuse she suffered growing up. A chance encounter gave her a way out. Tina Turner encouraged her to become an Ikette with the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. Tina was herself a victim of domestic abuse. Working as an Ikette was tough. Ike was a hard taskmaster. The drive for perfection resulted in an amazing show (as archive footage shows) but it frequently ventured into abuse, fining band members for minor misdemeanours but it became much worse than that.

Pat joined the Revue for a tour of the UK supporting the Rolling Stones. They were very supportive of her, in particular Ian Stewart and Mick Jagger. She was encouraged the leave the Ike & Tina Turner Revue which was not easy. Not only did she incur the wrath of Ike but she was a young shy black girl with two children back home and she had landed right in the middle of swinging London. She was signed to the Immediate label and soon she became a solo artist as well as adding her soulful vocals to other Immediate artists such as the Small Faces. It was a time of "free love" and drug experimentation and, apart from hard drugs at this stage, Pat enjoyed the attention, the hit singles and the touring as an artist in her own right.

However, a recurring theme throughout the book is that as soon as something starts to go well, there is an event that turns everything upside-down. The Immediate label folded and suddenly Pat was without a record deal or money. The other recurring theme is one of optimism. Whenever things are at a low point, there is an opportunity. Through her second husband Jim, Pat met up with Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees and started to record. Then Gibb was enveloped in Bee Gees politics and the songs were not released until 2017's The Turning Tide. A later opportunity to work with Barry Gibb provided more optimism. However, after a cross-country drive from LA to Miami, the Bee Gees career took off and Gibb had no time to produce Pat and so the opportunity disappeared. This had become a familiar story.

With her career veering between success and freefall she was always looking out for her children. This meant frequent moves between London and LA and, for brief periods, Surrey and the Cotswolds. However, while living in LA her daughter Debbie was killed in a car accident. Also, a longer term relationship failed to work out both professionally and personally and so Pat was still trying to resurrect her career while being a single mother.

Anyone who has met Pat or heard her sing live will now the positive attitude and happiness that she projects despite the incredible problems she has faced in her life. Still touring and playing Glastonbury at the age of 75 her voice has lost none of its power and soul. She has overcome constant personal and professional challenges to maintain a position of one of the most powerful soul voices around.

This book is an easy and excellent read. Pat wrote it herself, starting in 1994, and without the help of a ghostwriter. There is also extensive research into her family origins going back to Texas cotton plantations and native American Indians. This is not just about music although the period with the Ike & Tina Turner Revue is particularly fascinating but it is the life story up to the mid-1980s of a true soul survivor.

Published: 7 July 2022

Nine Eight Books

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