You may not know her name, but I guarantee you’ve heard her voice. When acts as diverse as Graham Nash, Peter Gabriel and KLF are in need of a soulful vocal, PP Arnold has been a top choice. Her voice has graced dozens of songs & albums for over 50 years, though she’s never had a hit under her own name in the US. On this episode, we take a brief look at her career and examine a great lost track, featuring Eric Clapton and the Derek & The Dominos band, recorded in 1970 but didn’t see the light of day until 47 years later.
“Medicated Goo” (Steve Winwood, Jimmy Miller) Copyright 1969 Island Music Ltd, Universal/Island Music Ltd.,F-S-Music Ltd., Kobalt Music Copyrights SARL
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Well, hello there! Come on in, don’t be shy. It’s good to have you here. You’ve found your way to the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast. My name is Brad Page, and each edition of this podcast, I come to you via the Pantheon Podcast Network with another one of my favorite songs to explore and examine, as we attempt to understand what goes into making a great song.
I’m going to start by playing eight short clips from eight different artists, spanning five decades of music. What is it that all of these songs have in common? Let’s start with:
- Ike and Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High”
- The classic 70’s band Humble Pie
- Nick Drake
- New Orleans legend Dr. John
- Roger Waters from Pink Floyd
- and then there’s Oasis
- and Peter Gabriel
All of those songs featured the voice of a woman named P. P. Arnold. She was an American soul artist transplanted to London in the 1960’s, where she was able to carve out a career, though she never cracked the charts in the US.
On this episode, we’re talking about P. P. Arnold and her version of a song called “Medicated Goo”.
Patricia Anne Cole was born in Los Angeles in 1946. She started singing in public when she was just four years old. She came from a family of gospel singers. She got pregnant very young and got married, and may never have pursued a career in the music business; she already had her hands full working two jobs, but a friend convinced her to audition for the gig as one of the Ikettes, the backing singers for Ike and Tina Turner. When she returned home late after that audition, her abusive husband hit her. That was enough for Patricia. She grabbed her two kids, handed them over to her mother and hit the road with Ike & Tina Turner.
In 1965, the Rolling Stones booked Ike & Tina Turner as their opening act for their UK tour. And that’s what brought Patricia to England. She quit the Ikettes in 1966 and stayed in London. Mick Jagger took a liking to Pat. In fact, they supposedly had a fling. But it was the Rolling Stones piano player Ian Stewart who recommended Pat to producer Glenn Johns, who then introduced her to Andrew Oldham, who signed her to his record label, Immediate Records.
It was around this time when her stage name had been changed to “PP Arnold”, a name she didn’t really like. I mean, who wants to be called PP? But it stuck. And she still goes by PP Arnold today.
She wasn’t the first black artist to discover more opportunity and better treatment overseas than in her home country. Actually, the fact that she was a real Black American singer in the gospel tradition, in a country filled with a lot of pretenders and wannabes, may have helped her career. She was a rarity. The real thing.
She released a couple of singles on the Immediate label that didn’t really get off the ground. But in 1967 she had her first hit in England with a song written by Cat Stevens: “The First Cut Is The Deepest”.
She toured opening for the Small Faces. She had an ongoing affair with Steve Marriott for a while, and he wrote the song “Tin Soldier” originally for her, but then decided to keep it for the Small Faces, though she did contribute significant backing vocals to that song. We covered “Tin Soldier” in detail back on Episode 54– if you haven’t heard that episode, go back and check it out.
She recorded a duet with Rod Stewart called “Come Home Baby” that was produced by Mick Jagger, with a band that included Keith Richards, Keith Emerson, Ron Wood and Nicky Hopkins. How’s that for a lineup?
She released her second album, “Kafunta”, in 1968, which featured string arrangements by John Paul Jones. That album was a mix of originals and cover songs, including her version of “Angel of the Morning”. It was Merrilee Rush who had the big hit with that song in the US, but in England, it was PP Arnold’s version that was the hit.
By the end of the 1960’s, Immediate Records imploded. She tried working on a new album with Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees producing, but the project fell apart and only a couple of songs were released. The rest went into the vault.
When Eric Clapton went on tour with Delaney and Bonnie, PP Arnold was tapped to open the show. She put together a killer band for that tour that included Steve Howe on guitar and Tony Ashton on keyboards. After the tour, she went back into the studio with Eric Clapton producing and Delaney and Bonnie’s backing band, who Clapton was about to turn into Derek and the Dominos. She cut three tracks with Eric Clapton, but they too weren’t released and those went into the vault too.
Her time in the spotlight seemed to have passed. She did some musical theater and started picking up work as a session vocalist and a backing singer on tours. She moved back to Los Angeles in the mid ‘70’s, and after her daughter was killed in a car accident, she withdrew from public life for a while. And who could blame her?
Eventually she moved back to England. Throughout the ‘80’s & ‘90’s, she continued working as a session vocalist, cutting many tracks, including the ones we heard at the top of the show. In 2001, all of her recordings for Immediate Records were compiled and released on one CD called “The First Cut: The Immediate Anthology”. That’s a great place to start if you’d like to hear all of her early work.
And finally in 2017, after decades of legal wrangling, her recordings with Barry Gibb and those tracks cut with Eric Clapton were finally released– almost 50 years after they were recorded. That album was called “The Turning Tide”, and the song that opens the album is “Medicated Goo”.
“Medicated Goo” was written by Steve Winwood and Jimmy Miller, and originally recorded and released by Traffic as a single in December 1968.
P. P. Arnold’s version was recorded in 1970. It was produced by Eric Clapton and performed by the Derek and The Dominos crew. Check out this band: Eric Clapton on guitar, Carl Radle on bass, Bobby Whitlock on keyboards, Jim Gordon on drums, Bobby Keys on saxophone, Jim Price on trumpet, and Bobby Whitlock and Rita Coolidge on backing vocals. The song opens with the bass and the piano in the center channel, one guitar track on the right doubling the bass part, and another guitar on the left playing some licks. Let’s listen to some of those guitar licks.
Carl Radle and Jim Gordon were a pretty legendary rhythm section. Let’s listen to the groove they’re laying down on the bass and drums.
Now let’s bring in the piano and the organ and see what they add.
And then we’ll bring back the guitar parts. One in the left, one in the right.
All right, let’s hear it in the final mix with the vocals.
Here’s the second verse. This is where the horn section comes in. They’re playing a simple part, but it really adds a lot.
Love how the backing vocals join in for just that one line there. That’s great.
Here’s the next chorus, and this time let’s focus on the vocals, starting with PP Arnold’s lead vocal.
Now let’s listen to just the backing vocals.
After that chorus, they break it down, sort of a repeat of the introduction.
That leads into the third verse. And yes, I get that this song is basically just one chord progression repeated through the whole thing. That may bug some people, but not me. If it’s a good groove, a great feel, and the band is hot, they can work the same part all night, it’s fine with me. Let’s bring up her vocals again for this verse.
And let’s bring up all of the vocals for a minute.
Here’s one last break before the final choruses. I like the piano licks in the background and the way the organ swirls in at the end as they hit the chorus again.
There’s a nice little guitar lick that Eric Clapton plays there. I love how Pat sings that line. And there’s another cool little guitar lick from Clapton in there, too.
“Medicated Goo” by P. P. Arnold
“The Turning Tide” album, which finally brought to light all of these tracks that she originally recorded in 1969 and 1970, came out in 2017, and in 2019 she released her first album of new material in over 50 years. It’s called “The New Adventures of PP Arnold”.
This is a woman who’s seen it all, done it all, and lived to tell the tale. She is a survivor.
Thanks for listening to this edition of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast. New episodes come out on the 1st and the 15th of every month, so I’ll see you back here on the Pantheon Podcast Network in about two weeks. Until then, you’ll find all of our previous episodes on our website, lovethatsongpodcast.com, or on your favorite podcast app.
Your reviews and comments are always welcome. And do me a favor– go tell a friend about this show. Your help in spreading the word is better than any advertising.
Remember to support the artists you love by buying their music, especially independent artists like PP Arnold, who count on fans like us. And thanks again for listening to this PP Arnold episode on that good old fashioned “Medicated Goo”.
Medicated Goo (Traffic song)
Ike and Tina Turner
The Rolling Stones
6— Cat Stevens
John Paul Jones
Derek and the Dominoes
New Adventures of PP Arnold (album)