Review: “Private Dancer” by Tina Turner (Vinyl, 1984)

Today’s Pop Rescue from a fate unknown is the 1984 fifth solo album Private Dancer by the legendary American-Swiss singer, Tina Turner. Will this album make you loosen up your collar, or will you need Help? Read on…

Tina Turner - Private Dancer (1984) album
Tina Turner – Private Dancer (1984) album

This 10 track LP bursts opens with guitars, synths, and crashing percussion of I Might Have Been Queen. This sounds wonderfully early 1980s, and Tina is soon in on the mic. Musically the track builds perfectly from verse to chorus and back again, but unfortunately whilst Tina has the vocal power for the song, the lyrics in the chorus aren’t really catchy, resulting in a somewhat mediocre start for a song that sounds by its title that it will deliver all the goods with Queen Tina.

That’s followed by the huge hit What’s Love Got To Do With It, a song that can instantly be recalled when mentioning Tina’s songs. The whispery start sets the softer and slower pace before throwing in a reggae style for the chorus. This song allows Tina’s voice to show off how it can handle the warmer and richer sound, and switch between soft and big vocals for the chorus. This is a great track, and the lyrics give a wonderfully pessimistic tone yet are laden with catchiness. The track rightly gave her another hit, reaching #3 when released as the second UK single.

Show Some Respect is next with chugging guitars and synths. This almost creates an instant catchy foot-tapper. Tina comes in strong with the rock vocals and some punchy rebellious vocals. She’s booming here – in almost a Michael Jackson meets James Brown style… but distinctly Tina. The track flows perfectly along thanks to that chugging sound, and as a result of this energy, it might have been better as the album’s opener. The track was released as the final US single, where it gave her a top 40 position.

Then it’s time for I Can’t Stand The Rain with a simple percussive rain sound and vocal, before a synth joins in alongside Tina’s vocals. This is very 1980’s in its choice of sounds, and instrumental sections, which takes it some distance from its original 1973 version by Ann Peebles. The song builds slowly, but doesn’t evolve a great deal. Tina also released this track as a single – the album’s 6th, and it got stuck at #57 in the UK.

Side One closes with the titular track and huge hit Private Dancer – a track written by Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits, who partially recorded and then ditched it from their album. Knopfler didn’t fancy singing a song about being a ‘private dancer’, which is just as well as Tina picked it up and expertly wielded it with some sultry sexually charged vocals. I can’t imagine him doing the shimmy or breathless ‘uggghhh’ sounds anyway. She released it as the album’s fifth single, with choreography from Arlene Phillips. Instead of Knopfler, Jeff Beck gets the guitar duties, and the song flitters between mellow and roaring music and vocals. The track stalled at #26 in the UK, which is odd given just how brilliant it is, and the status amongst Tina’s songs it is now given.

Side Two opens with lead single Let’s Stay Together which gave Tina a #6 UK hit. This is of course a cover of Al Green’s hit song (of which he was a co-writer), and it really works well with Tina’s vocals. She can hit those same notes with perfection, albeit a different perfection as Tina. The track is given a more modern flourish of brass (including Gary Barnacle on sax) and backing vocals. On the producer credits here we have Martyn Ware from Heaven 17, and his fellow bandmate Glenn Gregory joins him on backing vocals. Towards the song they are notably present, with a vocal and instrument style that reminds me them.

Better Be Good To Me is next, opening with mysterious synth pads, and almost metallic sounds like someone is shaking the cutlery tray. A synth almost sounds like it’s about to deliver a hymn, before giving way to a nice ploddy bass line, electric guitar, and Tina arrives with some big rocky vocals. It’s a nice mid-tempo track with Tina singing about how she’s fed up with lies, and it’s a song about power with power. Halfway through the cutlery tray seems to be back again with random pots and pans being struck, and it kind of works in the background, as Tina and a chorus of backing vocalists take us into the final act. Here Tina has charged up and she’s setting out the boundaries of this new relationship.

Then it’s Steel Claw, and we’re into ‘the story of the steel claw’, and this really pitches Tina against a roaring electric guitar and she belts it out at quite a pace. This is rock Tina, and it works very well vocally, and that’s clearly the main focus here as the music seems a bit second fiddle, apart from the lead guitar that gets a great big solo in the middle of the track. There’s echoes here of what you might have expected from Meatloaf or Bonnie Tyler, but Tina very clearly owns this, and I can only begin to imagine how rawkus this might have been when performed live. The abrupt ending works perfectly, and you’re left wanting more.

That’s followed by another cover version – this time Help by The Beatles. In this version, which is a stark contrast to the previous song, it opens with piano and is more heartfelt and mellow than The Beatles version. Throughout the intro I find myself wanting to hear Tina let rip into a really fast belting version, but instead it’s a ballad. Tina’s vocals do get to show off though, as she gives a truly emphatic performance, flanked by some well placed female backing vocalists, and a nice crisp sounding snare. There’s a nice saxophone solo mid-way through, but even that feels like it’s been reigned in too. When released as the album’s second single, the track stalled at #40 in the UK singles chart. An injection of energy really would have done this a lot of favours.

The album aptly closes with 1984 – the year of the album’s release, but instead of it being a timely crafted song, it’s actually a cover of one written by David Bowie, who I had expected to turn up in the musician credits – but no. Instead, this cover is in the safe hands of Ware and it carries a strong sound of Heaven 17 here, and also occasionally a sound that reminds me a bit of what was to come from Michael Jackson. There’s some wonderful, but perhaps overpowering backing vocals from Heaven 17, as Tina seems to struggle for volume. The synth strings work really well, as well as the piano, but at times the vocals sound a little lost for a melody. It’s a nice exhibit of early 1980’s music with a slightly sinister Orson Wells undertone. Tina heads to the fade, and the album comes to a close.

Tina Turner’s lead single ‘Let’s Stay Together’ (1983).


Over all, this album is somewhat of a collection of Tinas – Rock Tina, Pop Tina, and Ballad Tina.

I hadn’t appreciated this album’s reliance on cover versions until it was time to listen to it, but then Tina is not really known as a song writer. Instead, this album is a collection of tracks that flit from rock to ballad in style, along with a few very 1980’s upbeat rock-pop tracks. Tina is of course glorious throughout – and as you’d expect, she can handle these contrasting styles with seeming effortlessness. When she lets rip, she really goes for it and you can feel the energy bursting out. Then, she takes the softer songs in her stride too.

Highlights here are very much Private Dancer despite its moderate singles chart success, the hit What’s Love Got To Do With It, Let’s Stay Together, and Show Some Respect. Help does have some great vocals, but the placing of the track here amongst the other songs, feels a bit off.

There’s no bad songs here, just a couple of ‘meh’ songs that could probably have done with a bit more arrangement, or input from Martyn Ware, but if you’re here for the legend that is Tina, then you won’t be disappointed at all. She delivers each song with 100% Tina Turner style. Definitely give this a listen.

Rated 4 stars - You're missing a treat!
  • 1984 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: #2, certified 3x Platinum by the BPI.
  • POP RESCUE COST: £3.95 from a seller.

Based on all of the Tina Turner albums that we have reviewed so far, we are able to calculate her average album review score as 4 out of 5.

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