US-born singer PP Arnold quit the Ikettes for a solo career in the UK, with help from Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham. She is forever associated with her biggest hit, The first cut is the deepest, but also recorded some great R ‘n’ B numbers which have a strong following on the Mod and northern soul scenes. The demise of the Immediate record label saw her carve a niche for herself as a much-in-demand backing singer.
She was born Patricia Cole in Los Angeles, California, on 3 October 1946.
Pat, as she was known, grew up singing gospel songs in the local church. At 15, she became pregnant and went on to marry the child’s father.
The marriage was not a happy one and in 1964, she was offered an audition to become a member of the Ikettes. She won a place in the girl group and promptly left her abusive husband and began touring the US with Ike and Tina Tuner.
As well as supplying backing vocals for the couple, the Ikettes also cut a host of 45s, including Peaches ‘n’ cream (a US hit in 1965) and I’m so thankful.
However, like a number of American girl groups of the day, their membership was somewhat fluid. The Ikettes that people saw on stage or on record sleeves were frequently not the same as those that went into the recording studio. Pat’s time was spent mostly on stage, though she is known to have recorded vocals on the single Whatcha gonna do.
When Ike and Tina Turner’s now-classic River deep, mountain high flopped in the States but became a top-three hit in the UK in the summer of 1966, the husband-and-wife duo and their backing group were offered a slot as support act for the Rolling Stones in Britain.
During the tour, Pat became friendly with Mick Jagger, who arranged a meeting for her with his manager, Andrew Loog Oldham.
Oldham had set up a record label with Tony Calder, Immediate – home to the likes of Vashti and, later, Twinkle – and Pat was signed up with little delay. It was then that she was given the stage name PP Arnold.
Her first duties included supplying backing vocals for Chris Farlowe, but she then also went into the studio to cut her own material.
Everything’s gonna be alright was issued as her debut solo single in February 1967. Written by Oldham and David Skinner, the song was a soul gem and though it failed to chart, its pounding beat has subsequently made it a favourite at northern soul dance all-nighters.
In April 1967, PP also went out on the road as part of a package tour that included Roy Orbison and the Small Faces. While touring, her second single, The first cut is the deepest, hit the shops. The song had been written by Cat Stevens, and it was produced by Mike Hurst, who had previously been part of the Springfields and had also worked with a number of other Brit girls, including Barry St John and Truly Smith. It reached number 18 in the UK charts – arguably, lower than it deserved to. Hurst also penned the B-side of PP’s release, Speak to me, which has become a Mod favourite.
The Nice became PP’s musical backing group for ensuing promotional work, until their success meant that they needed to focus their efforts on their own career and were replaced by TNT.
PP’s follow up, The time has come, issued later that year, fared less well than its predecessor, just scraping into the UK top 50 charts. (It became a big hit in Italy, however, where it was covered by Patty Pravo as Se perdo te.)
(If you think you’re) Groovy was issued as PP’s next single, in January 1968. It had been written by the Small Faces’ Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane, and the group performed the musical backing. Though highly regarded, the release stalled outside the charts, largely due to problems with the Immediate label’s distribution.
An album followed three months later, PP Arnold – The first lady of Immediate, which included her singles to date and a few new tracks, including several PP had written herself, Though it hurts me badly, Treat me like a lady and Am I still dreaming?
In July 1968, PP’s version of Angel of the morning saw her return to the charts. The song had been released as a single the previous year by Brit girl Billie Davis but had flopped. PP’s version should have been huge but, again, distribution problems meant it reached only number 29 in the UK charts and failed altogether upon release in the US. (American singer Merrilee Rush would go on to score a US top ten hit with her cover of the song.)
Nonetheless, a second album, Kafunta, was released in August 1968 on the back of the single’s success. The album was more ambitious than its predecessor but the inclusion of too many cover versions – including takes on the Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby and Yesterday, the Beach Boys’ God only knows and the Bee Gees’ To love somebody, amongst others – misrepresented its ambitions. The LP is notable, however, for the PP composition Dreamin’.
That same month, PP married Jim Morris, a man she had been introduced to by Immediate label mate Rod Stewart.
Surprisingly, Immediate chose to re-release The first cut is the deepest as a single in 1969, but it flopped. By this time, however, the company’s finances were in a complete mess, and it folded in February 1970.
PP then signed to Polydor Records, where Barry Gibb took over production on two singles, Bury me down by the river and Give a hand, take a hand.
She spent much of the 1970s as a backing singer. In the early 1980s, she appeared in a number of TV series, including Dallas spin-off Knot’s landing, and in London’s West End in the musical Starlight express, before touring with Billy Ocean.
In 1988, she made a return to the top 20 of the UK charts with the Beatmasters on Burn it up.
In the 1990s, she recorded with Primal Scream and Ocean Colour Scene, before releasing a solo single, 1997’s Different drum.
She has continued to work throughout the 2000s, including supplying backing vocals for Oasis, releasing an album with Dr Robert (of the Blow Monkeys), duetting with Lee Ryan (of boy band Blue) and appearing at various Mod festivals.