It’s a topic that needs to be tackled definitively by the cybersleuths of Snopes.com: DID Marc Bolan, in fact, play guitar on Ike & Tina Turner’s classic “Nutbush City Limits” in 1973? Or was it Ike? Or neither of them?
Although many have tried to get to the bottom of it in recent years, no one seems to really know. Allegedly Tina Turner herself confirmed, in a BBC radio interview that it was indeed Marc Bolan playing guitar on the song. But where is that elusive radio interview? Someone has a memory of it. That memory then gets repeated and “quoted” and ultimately once something comes up enough times in a Google search it becomes a “fact.” True. Or at least true enough.
Typical of the period, none of the session musicians who contributed to “Nutbush City Limits” were given specific mention in the song credits. It has been rumored for years that Marc Bolan, frontman for the glam rock band T. Rex, played guitar on the track. Gloria Jones, his girlfriend at the time—who herself provided backing vocals for Ike & Tina Turner during the 1960s—asserted that this was the case in the 2007 BBC4 documentary Marc Bolan: The Final Word. This claim is bolstered by the fact that Bolan toured the U.S. extensively and resided in the Los Angeles area during the mid-1970s, and is also acknowledged to have played on the Ike & Tina Turner singles “Sexy Ida (Part 2)” and “Baby—Get It On.” However, a 2008 Ebony magazine article about Ike Turner’s death identified James “Bino” Lewis, then a member of Ike & Tina’s backing band Kings of Rhythm, as the guitarist. It has also been suggested that James Lewis is the guitarist on “Baby—Get It On.”
In a 2010 interview with record collectors magazine Goldmine, Gloria Jones stated again that it was Bolan on the track:
He played on “City Limits” with Ike and Tina Turner. I’ll never forget. I called Ike and said we’re in town and he said, ‘We’re in the studio; you guys come down.’ Marc took his guitar; Tina and I were listening to the song while Marc and Ike were working out their guitar part. Ike said to Marc, “Play what you feel.” That’s when Marc put that “chink, chink” you hear on there. Ike and Tina also really admired him, and they appreciated a lot of the rock acts.
Gloria Jones ought to know. After all, she was there.
But to make matters a bit murkier, a YouTube commenter named HISATdotCOM posted:
It’s a great story and I wish it were true but I shared this on my Facebook wall and Tony Visconti wrote “It’s not Marc.” he later commented in the same thread “Gloria and Marc visited the session and it is possible that he even suggested the part, it sounds like something he’d play. But that is not his sound or his style of playing. Honestly, I’d love to discover more tracks that Marc played on but this is not one of them.”
It’s long been known that Bolan played on Ike & Tina’s “Sexy Ida (Part 2)” and “Baby—Get It On” so it’s no great leap to come to the conclusion that it’s Marc on “Nutbush City Limits,” too. Far be it from me to question the T.Rexical bona fides of the great Tony Visconti, but to my ears, it sounds the same guitar player on all three tracks.
“Sexy Ida (Part 2)”:
I mean, dig the synthesizer, too. It sounds to me like “Sexy Ida (Part 2)” and “Nutbush City Limits” were recorded in the very same session.
“Baby—Get It On”:
And finally “Nutbush City Limits” being lip synced on German television’s Musikladen. Is Ike strumming along here to chords originally laid down by Marc Bolan? I’m in the “Yes” camp. Ike Turner didn’t need anyone’s help laying down a funky guitar riff, but if I was a betting man, based on the evidence of what we know for sure that Marc Bolan played on around this same time period, I’d wager that this is Marc and not Ike (or anyone else) that we are hearing here.
But I’m not pretending that I know anything. If anyone has any credible information to share on this matter of extreme importance, please do so in the comments.