Tina Turner/Martin Amis


Having spent twenty years writing and delivering obituaries for various outlets, I’m not inclined to continue the habit here; bear this in mind if you’re planning on kicking the bucket soon. But while I was working out the FAQ section for this website, my thoughts drifted to a couple of big cultural names that we lost last week; although they never worked together to my knowledge, it’s worth a few lines to reflect on the very different memories of Tina Turner and Martin Amis.

I was a callow teenager when I went to The Other Record Shop in Glasgow’s Union Street and bought a ticket for Tina Turner’s Break Every Rule tour. At twenty quid, it was a big investment for 1987, but Turner had completed an enviable comeback with her Private Dancer album, and a live performance promised a greatest hits to savour; check out that ridiculous set-list here. Turner had navigated a difficult career move by acknowledging that she’d been a victim of some horrendous domestic abuse, but that only seemed to solidify her determination to make it as a solo artist. I’ve covered Turner’s occasional movie appearances elsewhere, but as a live music proposition, she was absolutely electric, and set a high bar for gigs that few other artists have come close to since.

Martin Amis was another influence, specifically for his non-fiction writing; his The War Against Cliché is still a highly recommendable book, particularly enjoyable when he’s savaging other authors for sport. His semi-autobiography Experience is also a phenomenal read, anything but the usual sentimental name-dropping, it’s a book that, amongst other things, asks difficult and personal questions that arose from the murder of his cousin by a serial killer. I was never a reader of his fiction, and his cinematic influence is negligible, but Amis had a gift for avoiding, subverting and attacking cliché; his description of his younger self and his brother being given money by a one of his father’s guests, never having known fortune so sweet, is one that sticks with me as capturing the vitality of youth.

Back in the days before the war on the poor, when you could drive an actual car into Glasgow city centre, I went along to see Amis talk at the Royal Concert Hall, and enjoyed his pen portrait of his friend Salman Rushdie, ‘like a vulture peering through a Venetian blind’. Back in the day, such incisive talents seemed more commonplace; today, they’re few and far between, and it’s worth remembering and recommending their best work as a sincere pass-it-forwards. Anyway, here’s Tina and a song I was greatly annoyed she didn’t play, Steel Claw, a monumental dystopia freak-out that illustrates the kind of miserable hard-scrabble life that lay in wait for me in the decades ahead.


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  1. I was lucky enough to be around when Amis’s first novels appeared and he was being hailed as the next best thing. I’ve read most of his stuff and he deserves all the plaudits.

    • I was hoping that everyone I know would hang around specifically so they don’t have to read my obituary of them! But we shouldn’t have to wait for death to give us the heads up; you are a critic of great renown! Let’s all stay alive for as long as possible; at least these two left some great work behind…

    • PS I reckon the Smithsonian will do a great tribute to you once your valuable reviews have been collected for a permanent exhibit there…

  2. Never had the opportunity to see Tina Turner live, and that’s my loss. What’s Love Got to Do With It was a really impactful movie for me.

    Don’t know as much about Martin Amis.

    But the sun is shining a little less bright this week without them.

    • What’s Love was great, saw that opening night, must write it up. The point is that Tina did more than her bit to show that no man can keep a woman down, and set a great example of success through perseverance and block rocking talent.

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