My own relationship with Dusty Springfield tailed off a bit
in the late Sixties and early Seventies, only to be rekindled by a chance encounter
with her in a second hand shop in 1979.

The minute both of my sisters had married and left home our radio
was re-tuned to the Light Programme (as it was then) before you could say ‘Easy
Listening’. Plus the record player had gone too. Even the weekly flirtation
with the Top Twenty run down featured less and less Dusty which should have
been a clue as to where she was heading, despite having had four very
successful television series between 1966 and 1969.

Revisiting old clips, once you get past the HRH Princess
Anne empire line fashion tips, and take in the array of guests ( Tom Jones,
Jimmy Hendrix etc) that turned up just to sing with her you do wonder what evil
quirk of programming also lined Dusty up with Spike Milligan and Warren
Mitchell and a spirited rendition of ‘Cock-eyed Optimist’. Why would you do
that unless it was thought that too much soul wasn’t good for you?

I wondered that too in 1979, having come once more face to
face with Dusty after all those years. Only this time she wasn’t a panda eyed
Mod Princess. She was a tatty album titled ‘A Girl Called Dusty’ which was so
warped I had to stick coins on the business end of the record arm to stop it
bouncing. Still punk was over, Bowie had gone AWOL, Blondie had gone disco and until
that moment I thought Dusty had gone Greatest Hits on me. Yet here was track
after track of amazing covers from a singer last seen doing ‘hits from the
musicals’. Three Bacharach / David compositions and a Carole King, to name but
four and Dusty and I were bosom buddies again. Why I wondered wasn’t Dusty
Springfield buffed, cherished and loved as our very own Aretha Franklin?

The real wonder of this album (later re-mastered and
extended) is not only the breadth of music covered (‘You Don’t Own Me’ to ‘When
The Love Light Starts…
’) but that Dusty stamps an authority on each track that
in many cases puts her version beyond the reach of the originals.

Now whether Dionne Warwick really did say of ‘Anyone Who Had
a Heart,’ that, ‘the others recorded it but I sang it,’ I don’t know. However play
the two together and you’ll see the difference. Dionne sang it like it was a
hic-cup and she’d live to fight another day. Then listen to Dusty. There is a
girl who has been devastated and betrayed beyond belief.

Gene Pitney may have only been twenty four hours from Tulsa
when he lost his heart to a road-side diner floosie, but you get the impression
she had bigger breasts than the girl he was only a day away from or did
something sexual the girl back home wouldn’t do. Dusty’s voice on the other
hand echoes the full shock of her whole life being turned upside down by one
careless moment of longing. Anybody male or female hearing that voice would
have begged borrowed or stolen anything with wheels and an engine and driven
off to bring her safely home. So why didn’t we?

Click link in post to hear ‘When The Love Light Starts…’

Tomorrow – ‘The Curse of the Big Number’.