Tag Archives: 1960s

The Essentials: Dusty Springfield’s Dusty in Memphis

(As noted in my first Essentials entry, this is an occasional series in which I spotlight albums that, in my estimation, everyone should experience at least once.)

I can say with certainty when I first encountered many LPs and 45s – not because I possess an extraordinary memory, but from my old desk diaries. In mid-1982, not long before I started my senior year of high school, I began charting said purchases – a routine I maintained through much of the next three-and-a-half years. Looking back, though, I wish I’d tracked such things from the get-go, and continued the practice after I stopped – and if I’d been aware that one day I’d be blogging about this stuff, I likely would have.

Anyway, I first met Dusty in Memphis during those pre-1982 years. I have no memory of when or where it happened, though my hunch – because the LP was out-of-print – is the early 1980s at Memory Lane Records, an independent store in Horsham that traded (and still trades) in used vinyl. Why I bought it is yet another question I can’t answer: Did I read about it in a music magazine? In a book? Was it spurred by hearing “Son of a Preacher Man” on the radio?

The story behind the album is easier told: In 1968, Dusty Springfield signed with Atlantic Records and, shortly thereafter, arrived in the hallowed halls of American Studios in Memphis to work with producers Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd and Arif Mardin, and their crack studio crew. She rejected many of the songs they wanted her to sing, and her nerves caused havoc with her voice – as a result, many (if not all) of the final vocals were actually recorded at a later date in New York City. No matter. The final set is simply exquisite, the epitome of “blue-eyed soul” (though Dusty’s actual eye color was a light aqua green).

The 11 songs are sultry, soulful, gritty and sweet, sometimes all at once, and lay down a blueprint that generations of singers have sought (and usually failed) to replicate. Dusty’s vocals reflect and inject her soul into the lyrics; she may not have written the words, but one senses that she lived them.

The tortured “I Don’t Want to Hear It Anymore,” by Randy Newman, is one of the album’s tour de forces:

Another: “Breakfast in Bed.”

And, of course, the now classic “Son of a Preacher Man”:

Yet, despite the presence of a Top 5 hit in “Son of a Preacher Man,” the album didn’t sell well – about 100,000 copies. By year’s end, Dusty moved onto Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia, where she worked with TSOP practitioners Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff (who, in 1971, founded the Philadelphia International label) on A Brand New Me.

The failure of Dusty in Memphis to do well just goes to show that sales don’t always equal quality – a fact many music fans know, but others never seem to get. (That’s a tangent for a future rant from me, I think.)

Rolling Stone ranks the LP at No. 89 in its 500 Greatest Albums All Time list, but I’d rank it higher. It shares space with dozens of others in my mythical Top 10. It’s as perfect an album ever released – so perfect that, through the years, I’ve acquired just about every iteration of it released, including the original CD, the reissues with bonus tracks, high-resolution versions in stereo and mono…and, to close the circle, on vinyl yet again. It sounds as fresh to me today as it ever did.

Here’s the track listing (with the songwriters noted in parentheses):

Side 1:

  1. Just a Little Lovin’ (Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil)
  2. So Much Love (Gerry Goffin & Carole King)
  3. Son of a Preacher Man (John Hurley & Ronnie Wilkins)
  4. I Don’t Want to Hear It Anymore (Randy Newman)
  5. Don’t Forget About Me (Gerry Goffin & Carole King)
  6. Breakfast in Bed (Eddie Hinton & Donnie Fritts)

Side 2:

  1. Just One Smile (Randy Newman)
  2. The Windmills of Your Mind (Alan Bergman, Marilyn Bergman & Michael Legrand)
  3. In the Land of Make Believe (Burt Bacharach & Hal David)
  4. No Easy Way Down (Gerry Goffin & Carole King)
  5. I Can’t Make It Alone (Gerry Goffin & Carole King)

Here it is in full:

Today’s Top 5: July 22, 1967

Fifty years ago today as I write, the Summer of Love was in full bloom. It was, in many ways, a pleasant Delaware Valley Saturday: the temperature topped out at 84 degrees (Fahrenheit) and fell back into the low 70s overnight – far from perfect, but expected. Humidity, always a factor in this neck of the woods, felt like a wet blanket.

On the other side of Pennsylvania, in Allegheny County (home to Pittsburgh and a few other cities), 16-year-old Wendy D. was navigating life’s oft-unexpected highs and lows during what had quickly turned into a personal summer of love. The previous evening, her main beau, Tom, totaled his car. He was shaken up, but not – thankfully – seriously injured. 

I say “main” beau because Wendy was also dating – behind Tom’s back, no less – a college man, Scott, who took her to a stock car race this very night. Vroom, vroom!

Meanwhile, across the country in California, younger Valerie S. had a good day, too: eating watermelon, painting, and making hamburger for dinner.

Here’s the day’s headline in the Chicago Tribune:

On the surface, life was good: unemployment ticked down .1 percent to 3.8 percent; inflation crept up .3 percent to 2.8 percent for the year; and America, as a whole, was intrigued by the Summer of Love headquartered in San Francisco. At the same time, however, large swaths of the nation were peering into the abyss of hopelessness; thus, race riots spread like wildfires that summer through many cities. During early-morning hours of the 23rd, a police raid on an unlicensed bar in Detroit sparked a five-day riot that resulted in 43 deaths, more than 1189 injured and $40-45 million worth of property damage.

On the entertainment front, one of history’s oddest pairings came to an end earlier in the week when the Monkees lost their opening act, Jimi Hendrix.

The No. 1 album in the land was an LP sans a hit single on the charts: the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was in its fourth week in the top spot, and would remain there through October 7th.

And, with that, here’s today’s Top 5: July 22, 1967, based on the charts at Weekly Top 40.

1) The Association – “Windy.” Enjoying its fourth week at No. 1 is this breezy song.

2) Frankie Valli – “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You.” A years-long effort by Valli, Bob Gaudio and Bob Crewe to launch a successful solo career culminated with this classic, which hit No. 2 in the pop charts this week.

3) The Doors – “Light My Fire.” Rising to No. 3 (from 8) is the debut single by Jim Morrison & Co. This performance is from the Jonathan Winters Show.

4) The 5th Dimension – “Up, Up and Away.” Holding steady at No. 7 is this Jimmy Webb-penned tune, which was the first Top 10 hit by Marilyn McCoo, Billy Davis Jr. & friends.

5) Janis Ian – “Society’s Child.” Also this week, Janis Ian’s debut single – written when she was 13 and released when she was 15 – celebrated its second week at No. 14. This spot, on a Leonard Bernstein TV special, was its introduction to a wide audience.

And a few bonus tracks…

6) The Hollies – “Carrie Anne.” This infectious single from the Manchester-born pop group, which was on its way to the Top 10, rises to No. 23 (from 28).

7) The Bee Gees – “To Love Somebody.” One of the week’s power plays is this now-classic song, which jumped from No. 79 to 42.

8) and 9) The Monkees – “Pleasant Valley Sunday” and “Words.” The Prefab Four click on all cylinders with Goffin-King’s “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” which enters the charts at No. 51. The flip side, the Boyce-Hart ode “Words,” notched its own spot at No. 78.

10) Dusty Springfield – “The Look of Love.” And, finally – entering the charts at No. 98 is this Dusty Springfield gem, which was penned by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

Today’s Top 3: Monterey Pop

June 16th, 1967 was a momentous day in the world of rock ’n’ roll: the three-day Monterey International Pop Music Festival kicked off.

Wikipedia provides the specifics for the now-legendary event, so I’ll skip listing each and every act that partook in the weekend. Among them, however, were such stalwarts as Simon & Garfunkel, Big Brother and the Holding Company, the Byrds, Laura Nyro, Jefferson Airplane, Otis Redding, Buffalo Springfield, the Who, Jimi Hendrix, and the Mamas & the Papas.

(I say “stalwarts” but, of course, several of those acts wouldn’t have been described as such at the time. And no act was considered legendary. “Legendary” and “rock ‘n’ roll” weren’t believed to go together.)

In any event, D.A. Pennebacker filmed the festivities for what became the beloved Monterey Pop concert doc. Big Brother’s manager didn’t want the unknown group filmed without getting paid, so ordered the crew to turn off the cameras; Janis Joplin, their lead singer, so wowed the crowd on Saturday afternoon, however, that she and the group were talked into returning the next day and performing for the cameras.

It was also an inexpensive proposition. How much would a similar three-day fest set you back today? According to the Inflation Calculator, the top ticket ($6.50) should now cost $47.63 – but that’s before the Ticketmaster/Live Nation overlords, and unfettered greed, play their part. In reality, it’d likely set you back $150-$200 a night.

All in all, the weekend was – in a word – groovy; and in two words, really groovy. 

So, with that in mind, here’s today’s Top 3: Monterey Pop. As in, highlights from each of the three days…

1) Friday:

Eric Burdon and the Animals – “Paint It Black.” Burdon & Co. cover the Stones.

Simon & Garfunkel – “The Sound of Silence.” Why this stupendous rendition of this timeless song wasn’t included in the movie proper, who knows? (It’s now a bonus on the DVD/blu-ray release.)

2) Saturday:

The Byrds – “He Was a Friend of Mine.” David Crosby’s impromptu rap in this clip supposedly ruffled the feathers of Mssrs. McGuinn and Hillman. And the set was the last time he performed with them…

Laura Nyro – “Wedding Bell Blues/Poverty Train.” The lore surrounding Laura Nyro’s appearance is that she was booed…but it was less being booed and more being ignored for reasons that had little to do with her. No one knew who she was, as was the case for other acts, but she was backed by a band she’d rehearsed with just once – and, as a result, her delicate music became something of a sludge hammer. That said, the bonus clips on the DVD/blu-ray are well worth watching – the camera picked up the magic that the audience missed.

Jefferson Airplane – “Somebody to Love.” The Airplane was flying high this pre-summer’s night thanks to the success of this song, which soared to No. 5 on the charts this weekend.

Otis Redding – “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long.” Another timeless performance.

3) Sunday:

Big Brother and the Holding Company – “Ball & Chain.” Does it get any better than this? The band’s performance is raw and ragged, but backing that voice…as Mama Cass says at the end, “wow.”

Buffalo Springfield – “For What It’s Worth.” David Crosby substituted for an AWOL Neil Young in the Springfield’s set, which didn’t sit well with his fellow Byrds…

The Who – “My Generation.” So the Who and Jimi Hendrix flipped a coin to see who followed who… and the Who lost. The poor Grateful Dead were stuck between them – and made to seem all the more boring my comparison.

Jimi Hendrix – “Hey Joe.” Well…a full performance on YouTube of Hendrix’s infamous “Wild Thing,” which culminated with him lighting his guitar on fire, isn’t to be found. This incendiary rendition of “Hey Joe” is, however.

The Mamas & the Papas – “California Dreamin’.” The Mamas & the Papas following Hendrix, the Dead and the Who just seems…weird in the context of what we now know. But at the time? They were the hippie kings and queens of the Monterey Pop castle to three acts few were aware of.