For Tina Turner, it was not love at first listen with her signature song.
In the new HBO documentary “Tina,” which premieres Saturday, the rock goddess reveals that she hated “What’s Love Got to Do With It” at first.
“It was terrible. It was awful,” Turner, 81, says in the film. “I was rock ‘n’ roll … This was a pop song.”
Even Terry Britten — who co-wrote “What’s Love Got to Do With It” and produced the track for Turner’s 1984 hit album “Private Dancer” — wasn’t a fan of the tune.
“’What’s Love’ was probably the worst thing I’ve ever done to this date,” he says in the documentary about his original demo, which he describes as “very white, very pop. And nothing remotely would say ‘Tina Turner.’ “
In fact — after it had been offered to British singer Cliff Richard, R&B diva Phyllis Hyman and disco queen Donna Summer — “What’s Love Got to Do With It” was first recorded by English group Bucks Fizz, whose bubblegum synth-pop version was shelved after Turner released hers.
The singer’s then-manager Roger Davies — who helped orchestrate the career turnaround that made her a solo superstar after the Ike & Tina Turner years — heard something special in the tune. “I was convinced that ‘What’s Love’ … could be a big song,” he says in the film. “Tina never really liked it.”
But Davies convinced the Acid Queen to at least meet with Britten in the studio. To help Turner “get her head around it,” Britten came up with a novel idea: “I said to her, ‘Tina, this is a jog.’ And we both stood and jogged.”
After finding that jogging groove, Turner was able to truly Tina-fy the tune. “They weren’t used to a strong voice standing on top of the music,” she says, “but I converted it and made it my own.”
And the rest is history: The song went on to become her first — and only — No. 1 single and won three Grammys, including Record of the Year.
The success of “What’s Love Got to Do With It” also capped her comeback as the tough survivor who had overcome an abusive relationship with Ike Turner.
“She was long overdue … after she had been suppressed for so long by her former husband,” says Kurt Loder, co-author of Turner’s autobiography “I, Tina: My Life and Story,” who is also interviewed in the documentary. “She was really breaking free.”