Gimme Some Lovin’: Spencer Davis Group; Ike & Tina Turner; the Blues Brothers

Hello there!  In this week’s blog we consider the song Gimme Some Lovin’.  This is a terrific British Invasion R&B song.  We will start with the original version by the Spencer Davis Group.  We will then discuss covers of that song by Ike & Tina Turner, and The Blues Brothers.

The Spencer Davis Group and Gimme Some Lovin’:

In 1966 I was a graduate student at Oxford University.  Every few years an Oxford college would put on a Commemorative Ball.  These were formal affairs, where the college would erect a large tent in every quadrangle.

Schematic layout of Merton College, Oxford.

Schematic layout of Merton College, Oxford.

At left is an aerial view of the layout of my own college, Merton College.  You can see where the tents would have been located for a Commemorative Ball.

Live music was provided in several of these venues.  As this was the heyday of the British Invasion, colleges went to great lengths to bring in the most popular rock band as a headliner.

In 1966, there were spirited bidding wars between colleges that were holding ‘Commem’ balls to secure the services of the best group.  I was delighted that Merton College successfully landed the hottest group of the moment, the Spencer Davis Group.

Below is a photo of the Spencer Davis Group from 1965.  From L: Spencer Davis; Steve Winwood; Pete York; Muff Winwood.

I can’t remember which college lost out to Merton in this competition, but I remember thinking, ‘Bwa-hahahaha, you wankers.  While we are getting Spencer Davis Group, you losers will have to make do with those also-rans, The Who!’

The Spencer Davis Group were a British-Welsh blues quartet that originated in Birmingham.  They featured Spencer Davis on guitar, Stevie Winwood on keyboards and guitar, Muff Winwood on bass and Pete York on drums.

Although the group was named after Spencer Davis, the group’s star performer was undoubtedly Stevie Winwood.  He was something of a child prodigy.  While still in middle school, he was playing backup when American blues musicians would tour in Britain; at that time, it was standard procedure for American R&B artists on overseas tours to perform with pickup bands made up of local musicians.

Winwood joined the Spencer Davis Group when he was only 14, and he was still 17 at the time of the band’s performance at Merton College.  At the time, he specialized in the blues, having patterned his vocal style after his hero, Ray Charles.

The song Gimme Some Lovin’ was a big hit for the Spencer Davis group, reaching #2 in the UK pop charts, and #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 list.  This song became an immediate blues classic, and has since been covered by dozens of other groups.

The lyrics are quite simple: the singer expresses the heat of his passion for his lover. It is also possible that the song describes a particularly hot music establishment.

Well my temperature’s rising and my feet are on the floor
Twenty people knocking ’cause they’re wanting some more
Let me in baby, I don’t know what you’ve got
But you’d better take it easy, this place is hot

[Chorus:]
I’m so glad we made it, I’m so glad we made it
You’ve gotta gimme some lovin’ (gimme some lovin’)
Gimme some lovin’ (gimme gimme some lovin’), gimme some lovin’ every day

Well I feel so good, everything is sounding hot
Better take it easy ’cause the place is on fire
Been a hard day and I don’t know what to do
We made it baby, and it happened to you

Here is the audio of Gimme Some Lovin’ by the Spencer Davis Group.  The song begins with a bass riff, followed by organ, and then the vocals from Stevie Winwood.

At Oxford, Winwood did not disappoint.  The group set up their instruments in the main tent, and the first song they performed was Gimme Some Lovin’.  When Stevie broke into the initial chords from his Hammond B-3 organ, I thought my eardrums were going to explode.

The group played a terrific set, a very high-energy performance.  I was accustomed to the acoustics in the small, cavernous London rock and roll clubs, where the sound would rebound off the walls in crazy patterns; however I would not have thought one could get such a great sound when performing inside a tent!

And here is live video of the Spencer Davis Group performing Gimme Some Lovin’.

Sorry about the subtitles – they helpfully translate Winwood’s vocals into – I’m darned if I know what, Finnish?  Anyway, it’s nice to see a live performance by the group.

Stevie Winwood had a most appealing vocal style.  He had obviously spent much time listening to American blues, along with other British Invasion blues aficionados such as Mick Jagger, Joe Cocker, and Eric Burdon.

The initial lineup of the Spencer Davis Group continued only until 1967.  At that time Winwood formed the progressive-rock group Traffic.  In late 1968, after the dissolution of the blues power trio Cream, Winwood took a sabbatical from Traffic to join the new band Blind Faith.

Blind Faith was essentially “Cream minus Jack Bruce” (the bassist and lead singer for Cream).  The quartet consisted of Stevie Winwood on keyboards and lead vocals, Eric Clapton on guitar, Ric Grech on bass and Ginger Baker on drums.

This group lasted for only one album before they dissolved.  Winwood returned to Traffic, and Eric Clapton meandered on for a while before forming Derek and the Dominos.  However, the group’s only album contained a couple of dynamite songs, and I really enjoyed them.

At this time, back in the late 60s, it seems that every band needing to replace a lead singer was considering Stevie Winwood.  And why not?  He provided a powerful vocal style nurtured by diligent study of American R&B artists.  He was a superb keyboards player, and highly under-rated on guitar.  Plus, Stevie could also play a number of other instruments, including bass, drums, mandolin and violin.

In the late 70s, Winwood became weary of touring and spent a couple of years doing session work.  He then embarked on a very successful solo career.

Steve Winwood has not achieved the super-star status of mates like Eric Clapton.  This is quite likely because his work in Traffic was much more influenced by jazz and psychedelia, and hence more cerebral.  The net result was music that was complex and masterful, but that did not produce the rock anthems churned out by groups such as the Rolling Stones or Cream.

However, over the years Steve Winwood has carved out  a very solid career.  In 2004, Traffic was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  You can find their Hall of Fame bio here

In 2007, Steve Winwood appeared in Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival.  At that time, he and Clapton played a couple of their Blind Faith songs.  Winwood and Clapton later played three sold-out concerts at Madison Square Garden in 2008 and then toured together in 2009.

Winwood and Clapton are one musical act that I would love to see.  I have always regretted the fact that I was unable to see Blind Faith’s first concert in June, 1969 in London’s Hyde Park, which drew an audience estimated as large as 300,000 people.  Dang – I could have experienced Woodstock without the mud!

Ike & Tina Turner and Gimme Some Lovin’:

We previously encountered Ike and Tina Turner with their cover of the Creedence Clearwater Revival hit Proud Mary.  Here we will review their career.

The Ike and Tina Turner Revue was one of the great R&B bands of the 60s and 70s.  Ike Turner was a true rock music pioneer.  Ike Turner and his Kings of Rhythm were one of the great blues bands even in the early 1950s, while Ike was still a teenager.

Ike Turner subsequently moved to St. Louis, where he and his Kings of Rhythm became one of the most famous bands in the area.  Apparently they would play clubs in St. Louis until they closed, and then move to East St. Louis and continue to play until dawn.

In 1958 a nurse’s aide, Anna Mae Bullock, began dating one of Ike Turner’s bandmembers.  After hanging out with the group for some time, Anna asked if she could sing with the band.  When she was given the opportunity, Ike was impressed with both her singing ability and her flamboyant personality.

Below is a photo of Ike and Tina Turner in the good times, around 1970; from the collection of Gilles Petard.

Another break occurred when Ike and his Kings of Rhythm were set to record the song A Fool in Love.  When the lead singer didn’t show up, the band recorded it with Anna on lead vocals.  The song turned out to be a surprise hit, reaching #2 on the R&B charts and 27 on the Billboard pop charts.

Ike Turner recognized that this was a sign of things to come.  He gave Anna the stage name Tina Turner, and re-named his band The Ike and Tina Turner Revue.  Ike then decided to move into the background, and to make Tina’s singing and dancing the centerpiece of their shows.

The Ike and Tina Turner Revue was known for its dynamite live performances.  The band – guitar, bass, drums, and a horn section – was tight and disciplined.  They had a group of sassy backup singers, the Ikettes, who were talented at both singing and dancing. And Tina Turner was an electrifying performer.  With her teeny-tiny miniskirts, the exuberant energy of her dancing, and her rough and powerful vocals, she would rip a song right up.

In 1970, Ike and Tina’s fortunes took off.  They released two albums that were both certified as gold records, and they won a Grammy in the category Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group, for their cover of CCR’s Proud Mary.

Here is the audio of their cover of Gimme Some Lovin’, which was recorded in 1969.

This is a really enjoyable cover of Steve Winwood’s hit.  Featuring prominent bass and organ, the band sets up a heavy, solid beat; and then Tina comes in with her powerful vocals.  The Ikettes chime in on the chorus, and it seems that this soul song was tailor-made for Ike and Tina.

Next, here is a snippet of a live performance by the Ike and Tina Turner Revue, from a concert at ‘Hits au Go Go’ in Zurich in December, 1973.

The group begins with an instrumental version of Gimme Some Lovin’, featuring some extremely energetic dancing by Tina Turner and the Ikettes; after a while Tina chimes in with vocals to the 1967 Arthur Conley song Sweet Soul Music.  It’s great to catch the Ike and Tina Revue in person, and to see the energy that the group brought to live performance.

For the next six years, Ike and Tina Turner were among the most popular R&B acts.  However, during this time Tina apparently was the victim of rather violent domestic abuse from Ike.

Tina finally left Ike in July 1976.  Their situation was exacerbated by Ike’s serious drug addiction issues.  He was snorting so much cocaine that he had burned a hole in his nasal septum (!), and both Ike and Tina agreed that their final altercation occurred after Ike had been up for five straight days on a cocaine-fueled binge.

Tina received a divorce after a prolonged legal battle with Ike, although she relinquished nearly all financial claims in order to obtain a settlement.  Both of their careers languished for a time following their divorce.  However, in 1984 Tina’s Private Dancer project became one of the best-selling albums of all time.  It re-established her solo career and made her one of the top-grossing rock music tours.

After all she had endured, it’s great that Tina rebounded so strongly.  However, Ike Turner became the poster child for domestic violence, especially following Lawrence Fishburne’s chilling portrayal of Ike in the 1993 movie What’s Love Got To Do With It, the film version of Tina Turner’s autobiography I, Tina.

Not surprisingly, this movie had a serious negative effect on Ike’s subsequent career.  Unfortunately Ike, the sorry bastard, never seemed to come to terms with his violent ways.  I never heard him take responsibility for his behavior, nor did he seem to comprehend how destructive and brutal his actions had been.

He appeared to be in denial right up to his death in 2007 of a cocaine overdose, exacerbated by cardiovascular disease and emphysema.  What a shame, as Ike Turner was one of the great early pioneers of rhythm and blues, and he put together some terrific bands.

Ike and Tina Turner were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.  Alas, Ike was in prison for drug offenses at the time, and Tina did not attend the induction.  Two of their single records, River Deep – Mountain High and Proud Mary, were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

The Blues Brothers and Gimme Some Lovin’:

The Blues Brothers grew out of a Saturday Night Live skit that “went viral.”  In January, 1976, following a “King Bees” sketch, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi, still wearing their “king bees” costumes, performed the Slim Harpo song “I’m a King Bee.”

The song featured Belushi on vocals and Aykroyd on harmonica, with the pair backed by the fictional group “Howard Shore and His All-Bee Band” (Shore was the musical director for the SNL band).

Dan Aykroyd had for a long time been a serious blues fan.  Growing up in Ottawa, Canada, and later as a student at Carleton University, Aykroyd attended many concerts by American blues greats such as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and Buddy Guy.

When he was hired as a cast member for Saturday Night Live, Aykroyd and Belushi would frequent New York blues clubs following their SNL rehearsals.  Following their “King Bee” blues performance in 1976, Aykroyd and Belushi began discussing the idea of forming a blues group featuring themselves as the lead performers.

The “Blues Brothers” appeared in a Saturday Night Live skit in April, 1978.  Following that, with the help of SNL pianist and arranger Paul Shaffer, they assembled an all-star band, for the Blues Brothers Show Band and Revue.

They began with guitarist Steve Cropper and bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn from the great Memphis combo Booker T and the MGs.  They then added musicians drawn from the SNL band plus several other great 60s groups.

Here is a photo of the Blues Brothers in performance.

The Blues Brothers then issued an album in 1978, Briefcase Full of Blues.  Their method of operation was quite simple: Aykroyd and Belushi, backed by their all-star band, found R&B songs that they enjoyed.  They then produced note-for-note reproductions of the original works.

The Blues Brothers took off after Belushi’s 1978 film National Lampoon’s Animal House became a smash hit.   At that point, their album Briefcase Full of Blues also became a runaway best-seller.

Dan Aykroyd wrote a script outline for a film The Blues Brothers, that was based on their SNL skit.  The film was directed by John Landis, who had directed Animal House, and Landis and Aykroyd co-wrote the film’s script.

The premise of the film is that
paroled convict Jake [Belushi] and his brother Elwood [Aykroyd] set out on “a mission from God” to save from foreclosure the Catholic orphanage in which they were raised. To do so, they must reunite their R&B band and organize a performance to earn $5,000 needed to pay the orphanage’s property tax bill.

Below we show a clip from The Blues Brothers film.  At this point, Jake and Elwood have re-constituted the band.  After Jake’s attempt to book a performance is unsuccessful, the group drives to a country & western bar, Bob’s Country Bunker.

There, the Blues Brothers assure the manager that they are the band that was booked for the evening.  Once the band realize that they don’t know any country songs, they break into their normal blues opener, Gimme Some Lovin’.

The Blues Brothers were crude and lewd, but also extremely enjoyable.  Although John Belushi’s vocal talent was limited, he had genuine enthusiasm for these blues classics, and he was an exceptionally good mimic.  As a result, many of their songs sound remarkably like the originals.

The Blues Brothers’ cover of Gimme Some Lovin’ was released as a single in 1980, and made it to #18 on the Billboard Pop Charts.

After Gimme Some Lovin’, which is punctuated by angry patrons at Bob’s Country Bunker flinging beer bottles and cans at the band, there is a clip of the final performance of The Blues Brothers from this movie.

There, the emcee is the great Cab Calloway.  I greatly enjoy the scenes that show Belushi and Aykroyd dancing.  Despite his considerable bulk, Belushi was remarkably acrobatic; his ability to do backflips and cartwheels was featured in this film.  Aykroyd is also a fine dancer, and is also extremely talented on blues harmonica.

The filming of the Blues Brothers movie was somewhat of a disaster.  An effort was made to produce the film quickly, to capitalize on Belushi’s notoriety from Animal House.  However, it took Dan Aykroyd several months to produce an initial script, which then required major rewrites.

Filming was delayed by Belushi’s partying and drug use while on location in Chicago, and in addition the movie featured a number of spectacular car crashes that were both costly and time-consuming – up to that point, there were more car crashes in this movie than any in history.

Production costs spiraled out of control.  Universal Studios began to worry that they might be responsible for an incredibly expensive dud; as a result, both the initial release of the film and the publicity were quite limited.

Universal need not have worried.  The film eventually grossed more than $100 million, and became the first Hollywood movie to earn more in overseas sales than domestic revenue.  The combination of Belushi and Aykroyd playing R&B classics while backed by an all-star band, plus a host of big-name guest artists (e.g., Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Chaka Khan, and John Lee Hooker) proved to be irresistible.

The great R&B music, combined with a number of genuinely wacky side-plots, produced a cult classic.  Belushi, Aykroyd, and Landis were riding high.  It appeared that the Blues Brothers movie would likely kick-start a series of films and albums.

Alas, all this was blown to bits when John Belushi died in March, 1982 after being injected with a “speedball,” a mixture of heroin and cocaine.  For some time, Belushi had been notorious for his excessive drug use.  Friends and family had been unable to stop him, and in retrospect his life at that time appears to have been a train wreck waiting to happen.

Aykroyd and John Goodman teamed up with director John Landis in a film sequel, Blues Brothers 2000.  Despite the fact that the film assembled a dynamite cast of R&B artists, and like the original featured a significant number of car crashes, the sequel was both a critical and commercial disaster.

Dan Aykroyd continues to make occasional appearances as one of the Blues Brothers, Elwood Blues, frequently accompanied by John Belushi’s brother Jim.  The “Blues Brothers” (Aykroyd, Goodman and Jim Belushi) were half-time headliners at football’s Super Bowl in 1997.

Source Material:

Wikipedia, Gimme Some Lovin’
Wikipedia, The SpencerDavis Group
Wikipedia, Steve Winwood
Wikipedia, Ike and Tina Turner
Wikipedia, The Blues Brothers
Wikipedia, The Blues Brothers (film)
Wikipedia, John Belushi
Wikipedia, Dan Aykroyd

About Tim Londergan

Tim Londergan is professor emeritus of theoretical physics at Indiana University-Bloomington. He studies the properties of the quarks and gluons that form the internal structure of protons and neutrons. He also writes a blog "Tim's Cover Story" that compares covers of important songs in rock music history. He and his wife share their college-town life with two delightful cats. He is also interested in tennis and ornithology.
This entry was posted in Pop Music, Rhythm and blues, Rock and roll, Soul music and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Gimme Some Lovin’: Spencer Davis Group; Ike & Tina Turner; the Blues Brothers

  1. Pingback: Feelin’ Alright? Traffic (Dave Mason); Joe Cocker; The Osmonds with Isaac Hayes | Tim's Cover Story

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