Lorraine Wilson

WHEN Immediate Records imploded spectacularly in 1970, PP Arnold was without a label and entered what she calls her “lost years”. It shouldn’t have been the case. She was after all The First Lady of Immediate, as the album title appointed her.

There had been several huge hits from that and the Kafunta album, and at 24 she was an intrinsic part of the British music scene.

The next step would be the one to elevate her even further. Barry Gibb was on something of a battling brother-fuelled hiatus from the Bee Gees and, in a forerunner to what he would do later in his career with the likes of Dionne Warwick and Barbra Streisand, he went about writing and producing an album of songs for the 24-year old PP Arnold.

“The opportunity to work with Barry Gibb at that point was huge,” says Pat (the P in the PP). “Songs just poured out of him. I needed that direction too, because I was searching then. The Immediate years were great but it had all taken me by surprise.

“But then the recordings were shelved and haven’t seen the light of day until now, with this album, The Turning Tide. I was caught up in family feuding and management stuff. Robert Stigwood managed them and sort of managed me and did not want Barry doing this. He wanted him back with the brothers. So, he did and I was left hanging.”

The preceding few years had been intense, with a solo career she never planned for and a place at the top table of the British Mod explosion.

Pat arrived in London in 1966 as a teenage Ikette, to play the Royal Albert Hall with Ike and Tina Turner, who were supporting The Rolling Stones. At 19, the past four years had brought two children and an abusive husband. He had convinced her to ditch her high school music appreciation class one day, but delivered extra homework in the shape of a baby at 15 and a shotgun wedding.

“When I joined Ike and Tina I was just 17. I was a baby making babies – I had two by that time. One Sunday, after I had been at church, my friends Maxine and Gloria called me and said ‘You gotta help us at this audition!’ I only went to help them - and to get out of the house… but then I was an Ikette and my teenage life was gone.”

She went on the road, kicking her husband to the kerb and leaving her two children with family until she could come and get them.

“Originally I was so naive that I thought that becoming an Ikette would save my marriage. That 250 dollars that Ike was paying us, that we had to pay all our hotels and food out of, would help us to buy a house…

“I had to let him go though. Before I left I was being beat for being ugly. On the road as an Ikette I had gone from ugly duckling to swan, so then I was getting beat for being good-looking.

“I met a guy on the road, he was good for protecting me from Ike, but the night before we came to London I found him messing about with another girl, so he was out of there! I arrived in London free!”

Coming from mid-1960s Los Angeles to London opened her eyes to a new way of living. “We were so used to being segregated. The only time we played white venues was in Hollywood and maybe universities but mostly it was the Chitlin’ Circuit – the all-black clubs in the south and East Coast theatres like the Apollo in Harlem.

“London at that time though, oh man. The clubs and the fashion and the shopping and the music. I came straight out of the civil rights revolution and into the rock’n’roll revolution.”

Having only listened to black radio stations, Pat had no idea who Mick Jagger was. At the Albert Hall, she and her fellow Ikettes helped him with his dance moves as he tried to emulate Tina’s famous “pony”. In the end, Pat says, Tina ended up doing Mick’s version.

Jagger took her under his wing and convinced her to stay, introducing her to Andrew Loog Oldham as a signing for the Immediate Label. As soon as she had enough money, she brought her children from LA.

“I had my short teenage time in London,” she says. “Then it was just work and looking after my babies. But then I met my musical brothers…”

These were the Small Faces, her most enduring collaboration and the one that crowned her as Mod Queen to Steve Marriott’s king. “They really were like my brothers… and we were all the same height (5ft 4),” she laughs. “It’s weird, what you guys called Mod, we called Ivy League. How Mods dressed was how we went to school.”

“Steve and I were lovers for a while, but we were more soul brother and sister. We believed in one another and we worked well together. I really, really miss him.”

Marriott died in a house fire in 1991 at the age of 44. “If Steve was still alive I’m sure we would still be working together. I think that if he had been around during the real rough times, Steve would always have had my back.”

And there have been many rough times. The loss of her daughter Debbie in a mid-1970s car accident, her own 1980s car accident which crushed her legs, bankruptcy, and being hung out to dry by a succession of music industry types.

There has been an enduring demand for her voice, however. As a backing vocalist, touring for many years with Roger Waters, on hits such as Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer, still working with Paul Weller, and many more. There has also been theatre work. There are far too many highs and lows to detail here, but all will be featured in her long-awaited autobiography, which is now in the editing stages. The words “soul” and “survivor” have never been more appropriate.

Her resurgence came through the love of the Mods, with Steve Cradock’s Ocean Colour Scene keen to work with her in the 1990s. It didn’t happen then, but there is an album of new material recorded with Cradock for release next year.

It was Cradock’s wife Sally (now Pat’s manager) and Bill Levenson who went about bringing the Gibb recordings to life, along with a few recorded later with Eric Clapton as producer.

“I had been trying to get someone to help with them for so long… they could have just given them to me it was clear that no one really cared about them.”

At her home in southern Spain, the 70-year-old has been preparing for the tour with vocal coaching sessions on Skype. “Well, I might be an old woman, but that doesn’t mean I need to sound like an old woman! No sir!”. There’s little chance of that.

The Turning Tide is released by Kundalini Music on Friday, October 6.

As part of her 50th Anniversary tour, PP Arnold plays King Tut’s in Glasgow on Thursday, October 19; Pleasance Theatre in Edinburgh on Friday, October 20; Assembly Room in Aberdeen on Saturday, October 21.