Song of the Day #4,954: ‘Private Dancer’ – Tina Turner

Tina Turner released four solo albums between 1974 and 1979, both before and after her split from the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. Those releases met with tepid results critically and commercially.

That all changed with 1984’s Private Dancer, an album that launched Turner to international superstardom and marked a departure from her R&B roots toward a much poppier sound. Recorded in England with a rotation of producers, the album spent nearly 40 weeks in Billboard’s top ten and went 5X Platinum in the U.S.

I’m quite familiar with the album’s three top ten hits: ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It,’ ‘Better Be Good To Me,’ and ‘Private Dancer.’ Each mines a different style and gives Turner a chance to showcase her emotional vocals. I particularly like the infectious defiance she displays on ‘Better Be Good To Me.’

I was surprised to discover the rest of the album is mostly a collection of odd covers. Turner tries her hand at Al Green’s ‘Let’s Stay Together,’ The Beatles’ ‘Help,’ David Bowie’s ‘1984,’ and Ann Peebles’ ‘I Can’t Stand the Rain.’ Those cuts are the album’s weakest, making me wonder how good this album could have been if Turner has spent more time seeking out original material on par with this album’s hits.

The title track, today’s SOTD, has an interesting backstory. Written by Mark Knopfler for Dire Straits, it was ultimately cut from the band’s 1982 album Love Over Gold because Knopfler didn’t feel the lyrics suited a male vocalist. Turner’s manager acquired the track and initially the plan was for Turner to sing over the existing music.

Rights issues got in the way, however, so Dire Straits band members (minus Knopfler himself) rerecorded the backing track for Turner. Jeff Beck sat in on lead guitar. Knopfler wasn’t a fan of the finished product, saying the song had been ruined by Beck delivering “the world’s second ugliest guitar solo.” (And no, the interviewer didn’t ask him to name the first.)

Sadly, no recording of Knopfler’s version exists publicly, but if you’re interested in how it might have sounded, guitarist Laszlo Buring posted an excellent interpretation on YouTube.

[Verse 1]
Well, the men come in these places
And the men are all the same
You don’t look at their faces
And you don’t ask their names
You don’t think of them as human
You don’t think of them at all
You keep your mind on the money
Keeping your eyes on the wall

[Chorus]
I’m your private dancer
A dancer for money
I’ll do what you want me to do
I’m your private dancer
A dancer for money
And any old music will do

[Verse 2]
I wanna make a million dollars
I wanna live out by the sea
Have a husband and some children
Yeah, I guess I want a family
All the men come in these places
And the men are all the same
You don’t look at their faces
And you don’t ask their names

[Chorus]
I’m your private dancer
A dancer for money
I’ll do what you want me to do
I’m your private dancer
A dancer for money
And any old music will do
I’m your private dancer
A dancer for money
I’ll do what you want me to do
Just a private dancer
A dancer for money
And any old music will do

[Bridge]
Deutsche Marks or dollars
American Express will do nicely, thank you
Let me loosen up your collar
Tell me, do you wanna see me do the shimmy again?

[Instrumental breakdown]

[Chorus]
I’m your private dancer
A dancer for money
Do what you want me to do
Just a private dancer
A dancer for money
And any old music will do

[Verse]
All the men come in these places
And the men are all the same
You don’t look at their faces
And you don’t ask their names
You don’t think of them as human
You don’t think of them at all
You keep your mind on the money
Keeping your eyes on the wall

[Chorus]
I’m your private dancer
A dancer for money
I’ll do what you want me to do
I’m your private dancer
A dancer for money
And any old music will do
I’m your private dancer
A dancer for money
I’ll do what you want me to do
I’m your private dancer
A dancer for money
And any old music will do

I’m your private dancer, a dancer for money
I’m your private dancer, a dancer for money
I’m your private dancer, a dancer for money
Just a private dancer, a dancer for money

2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,954: ‘Private Dancer’ – Tina Turner

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    What a great backstory about this album’s title track! As soon as you mentioned Mark Knopfler was the songwriter, it instantly clicked that, of course, this is his style.

    And while second worst guitar solo is a bit harsh, the solo isn’t very good, especially compared to Knopfler’s smooth guitar sound.

    Thanks for also sharing the link to what the song might have sounded like had it been performed by Knopfler and Dire Straits.

  2. Amy says:

    https://youtu.be/2FFJpt559aU For your listening and viewing pleasure, Noah Reid covering “Simply the Best”

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