Thursday, September 23, 2010
Dusty- an appreciation
The older I get, the more I appreciate the talent of the rock/pop pioneers. Not for them carefully stage managed events where the "stars" lip synched to their records.
No, the early stars played live. Every night. They learned their craft. They earned their acclaim.
As I write this in the third week of September the producers of the "X factor" have no doubt selected the song that will be this year's Christmas number one. Now all they have to do is choose the person who will sing it. And the winner will have no choice in it. They will do as they are told.
Whoever wins this sorry spectacle of a TV show, you can be sure of one thing. They won't have played many live shows. A handful at most. Ten years ago I read that the average UK chart topping band will have played about 100 shows before they hit the charts, whereas in the US the equivalent act will have played closer to ten times that number. It shows. Boy how it shows.
I grew up with Dusty Springfield. She was an ever present in the charts, from her time with the folk trio The Springfields, to turning solo and taking the pop world by storm with her first solo release.
I watched a programme about her last night. It was broadcast on Sky Arts and as I watched it it brought home to me just how talented she was. As I grew up my tastes changed and I discovered The Stones, then The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Cream and on into rock and folk music (Fairport Convention remain my all time no1 group).
As my tastes became more eclectic, Dusty stayed in the mainstream and so our paths drifted apart.
Looking back over 40 or more years at these clips, I'm amazed at just how good she was. In this first clip of the Springfields singing "Island of Dreams" the band are singing live into one mike with the studio orchestra in the wings. No miming, although the fake American accents are a bit much. The guitarist at the back struggles to play a Bb chord at one part. Still awesome though.
Dusty could sing anything. On this clip she's singing one of her later hits "Son of a preacher man", the original of which was recorded in Memphis with Steve Cropper and the Muscle Shoals session players. This version, once again sung live on TV,is slighty slower than the original, but still brilliant.
There are a couple of clips of her performing at the NME Pollwinners concerts. The Empire Pool at Wembley was an enormous cavern of a place, and from the look of these clips was devoid of a decent PA and lighting as well. However, that didn't matter as Dusty ripped into Inez & Charlie Foxx's "Mockingbird". Note her bass player with his Vox teardrop bass guitar, singing Charlie's part. She knew her soul music, did Dusty, and she could sing as well as any of the US originals. The song is in F, by the way
The following year she was back at Wembley. The bass player has a new Gibson EB2 guitar, and Madeleine Bell is singing backup. This performance of "In the middle of nowhere" is just brilliant. She's having fun and it shows. She has all the vocal chops. Excellent
UPDATE- I've been looking at the clip in more detail. The bass is not a Gibson. I believe it's a Vox Cougar or Lynx bass.I've not seen a picture of a Lynx bass, but the escutcheon plate is identical to that on the Lynx guitar.
Dusty had a primetime TV show in 1967. In it she had a chance to sing some different syles of songs. I'm sorry Cheryl and the rest of you wannabees, but you don't deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Dusty.
As you know, Mary O'Brien (Dusty) was Irish, and like all Irish artists was not embarrassed about her musical heritage. My all time favourite female folk vocalist is Sandy Denny, but on this clip, Dusty runs her very close. This was broadcast in September 1967 and is beautiful
To traditional folk music you can add jazz! Here she sings "Peel me a grape", since covered by Diana Krall, and then "If you go away", sung partly in french!
There are a few artists that are known by their first name alone. I don't mean those artistes who have only one stage name like Beyonce or Rihanna, but artists with two names but who are universally known by just one.
Diana Ross? No. Shirley Bassey? No. Karen Carpenter? No. Dusty? I rest my case.
She was quite simply one of the best, if not the best singer this country has ever produced. She chose her own songs and took charge of her recording sessions. The producer sat back and let her get on with it. She knew what she wanted and her judgement and taste were impeccable.
Unless there's a seismic change in the music industry, there will never be another like her.
To finish with, here's Dusty predating the Blues Brothers by almost fifteen years.
Simply the best.