213. Dusty Springfield – You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me (1966)

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30 April saw a regular hovercraft service begin over the English Channel. It was ended in 2000 due to competition from the Channel Tunnel. Also that day, Liverpool won the Football League First Division title for the second time in three seasons.

Two days previous, Dusty Springfield went to number 1 with You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me. Despite being one of the biggest stars of the 1960s, and still regarded as one of the country’s finest vocal talents of all time, this was her sole chart-topper.

Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien was born on 16 April 1939 in West Hampstead. She was brought up in High Wycome in Buckinghamshire until the early 50s, when the O’Brien’s moved to Ealing. She earned the nickname ‘Dusty’ from being rather a tomboy and playing football with the boys down her street. Mary and her older brother Dionysius had a comfy, middle-class upbringing, and their parents loved music, in particular their perfectionist father. This passion would be instilled in both siblings, and Mary grew to love singers like Peggy Lee and Jo Stafford (the latter was the first female number 1 artist back in 1953). By the time she left school, Mary and Dion were singing in folk clubs and holiday camps.

In 1958 Mary joined the Lana Sisters, who weren’t sisters. She became known as Shan, stopped wearing glasses and began glamming up for the first time. As a member of the trio she learnt the ropes of pop stardom, even appearing on television and at the Royal Albert Hall. In 1960 she decided to take a different path, forming the Springfields with Dion and Reshad Feild, who had both been in the Kensington Squares. They changed their names to Dusty, Tim and Tom, respectively, and decided on the surname after rehearsing during spring in a field in Somerset. The Springfields successfully melded folk, country, pop and rhythm’n’blues, becoming so big that they were voted Top British Vocal Group in the New Musical Express in 1961 and 1962 (by which point Tom had left to be replaced by Mike Hurst. The Springfields disbanded in October 1963, with Tom becoming top songwriter for The Seekers (number 1 twice in 1965 – I’ll Never Find Another You and The Carnival is Over.)

That November, with Beatlemania rising, Dusty Springfield released her memorable debut, I Only Want to Be With You. With Johnny Franz on production, the song succeeded in capturing the Spector-style girl groups from the US that Springfield admired. It climbed to number four in the UK, and even got her known in the US. Her debut album A Girl Called Dusty was released in April 1964 and also reached the top ten. Springfield’s version of Bacharach and David’s I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself hit the number three spot. With her trademark big, blonde beehive, she was becoming one of the country’s brightest talents, topping the New Musical Express poll for Top Female British Artist for the next four years in a row.

In January 1965 she took part in the Sanremo Festival (the Italian inspiration for the Eurovision Song Contest), where she reached the semi-final. During the competition, she saw Io Che Non Vivo (Senza Te) being performed by co-composer Pino Donaggio and singer Jody Miller, and was moved to tears despite not knowing the meaning of the lyrics. She obtained an acetate but took a year to decide to do anything with it. In March 1966 an instrumental track was recorded, but Springfield still didn’t have any English lyrics to put to it. One night, Dusty’s friend Vicki Wickham (producer of Ready, Steady, Go!) was dining with Simon Napier-Bell (manager of the Yardbirds), and the song came up in conversation. With no songwriting experience, and no undertanding of the Italian lyrics, they began writing an anti-love song called I Don’t Love You, which then became You Don’t Love Me, then You Don’t Have to Love Me, before settling on its final version, You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me. Not bad going, for two mates on a night out.

Despite this being Springfield’s only number 1, opinion has become somewhat divided over the years. It only lasted a week at the top, yet has been covered many times, and I have to confess I assumed it was a Bacharach and David track, such is its fame. But to fans of Springfield who are better acquainted with her ouevre, You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me isn’t regarded as up there with her best material. There’s no doubting her singing, which as always is top-notch – it’s the lyrics which have proved problematic in the main. Springfield was such a tough character on the surface, the character in this song is considered to be too weak. I admit I hadn’t really taken notice of the words before, and when you do, they are pretty unpleasant. Springfield is basically telling her ex-lover he can treat her as shit as long as he doesn’t walk out of her life.

Fans also seem divided on Franz’s production. His overblown orchestration worked wonders on the Walker Brothers, but some find it too much for a bitter song like this. Personally I think the music is fine. Some also wonder if the song had special meaning due to Springfield’s sexuality. I can’t see it myself – the lyrics don’t really reflect the subject if you ask me.

Springfield continued to shine throughout the decade with hits such as the sultry The Look of Love for James Bond-spoof Casino Royale (1967). She was instrumental in bringing Motown to a wider audience in the UK, and also had her own series on ITV, called It Must Be Dusty in 1968. That year, with her popularity beginning to decline, she signed with Atlantic Records and recorded the soul-influenced Dusty in Memphis. Its lead single, Son of a Preacher Man is rightly considered among her best and climbed to number ten in the UK. In 1994 its appearance in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction made it popular all over again. While in Memphis, she also persuaded Atlantic to sign Led Zeppelin, as John Paul Jones had performed session work for her. She concluded the 60s with her final series for the BBC, Decidedly Dusty.

Springfield’s sales went into decline further as the 70s began, and Dusty’s dependency on drugs and alcohol worsened. Many biographers see there being two sides to her, with the character of Dusty Springfield allowing the shy Mary O’Brien to indulge in the wilder side of her personality and mask her insecurities, including the worry that her sexuality would ruin her career. She was known for indulging in food fights – something she learnt from her eccentric father growing up, but behind the scenes she would self harm, and she was diagnosed as bieng bipolar. By the mid-70s she had become a recluse and was recording backing vocals for Elton John under her pseudonym Gladys Thong. By the end of the decade though she was releasing her own material once more. She tried several times in the 80s to revive her career, without much look, releasing the new wave-influenced 1982 album White Heat, and appeared on chat show Wogan in 1985.

In 1987 the Pet Shop Boys were searching for a vocalist for What Have I Done to Deserve This?, and someone suggested they use Dusty. Singer Neil Tennant was a fan and the move paid off, with Springfield elevating the tune and also appearing in the video. The single made it to number two, and the trio worked together again, with Tennant and Chros Lowe producing Nothing Has Been Proved for the soundtrack to the 1989 movie chronicling the Profumo affair, Scandal. She was back in the album charts in 1990 with Reputation, again, produced by Pet Shop Boys.

In January 1994, Springfield was recording her album A Very Fine Love when she fell ill. A few months later she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Following months of chemotherapy and radiation treatment her cancer was in remission and she was able to promote her album, but sadly the cancer returned and she died on 2 March 1999. Two weeks later her friend Elton John introduced her to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Despite her demons, or maybe in part, because of them, Dusty Springfield remains one of the UK’s highest-regarded soul singers of all time.

Written by: Vicki Wickham & Simon Napier-Bell/Pino Donaggio & Vito Pallavicini (Io che non vivo (senza te))

Producer: Johnny Franz

Weeks at number 1: 1 (28 April-4 May)

Births:

Cricketer Phil Tufnell – 29 April 

 

5. Perry Como with the Ramblers – Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes (1953)

The first number 1 by an artist I was aware of before taking on this project, US easy listening singer Perry Como was one of the biggest stars of the 50s, and one of the names that really conjures up the era that predates rock’n’roll. After two world wars and economic depression, this is what the people needed. With his baritone croon, his cardigans (Bing Crosby once said Como was ‘the man who invented casual’, so we have him to thank for Alan Partridge) and the general aura of cosiness that he gave off, Como had nearly three decades of huge success from the 40s onwards. Had the UK charts existed earlier he’d have no doubt been number 1 before 1953. Not bad going for a man who began work as a barber as a 10-year-old.

Como was born Pierino Ronald Como, the seventh of 10 children to Italian immigrant parents, in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania on 18 May 1912. His parents owned a second-hand organ, and as a toddler young Como would start learning the ropes of his first instrument. The older he got, the more instruments he would learn, and being a singer wasn’t top of his ambitions. He wanted to be the best barber in the neighbourhood. He had his own shop aged 14.

In 1932 Como made his first appearance on stage in Cleveland while attending a Freddy Carlone show. Carlone invited audience members to perform with him, and a terrified Como was pushed into it by his friends. He was immediately offered a job.

In 1936 he made his first recordings with Ted Weems’s orchestra, where he worked on the smooth singing style that would make his name. But Como had started a family, and missed his wife and young son, so he quit in 1942 to become a barber once more. The offers kept coming though, and in 1943 he signed with RCA Victor, the company he stayed with for the next 44 years. He gained the interest of Frank Sinatra, who sometimes asked him to fill in for him on theatre shows. Como rocketed to stardom.

His first UK chart-topper, Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes shares similarities to Jo Stafford’s number 1, You Belong to Me. Her song featured a woman hoping that her partner would remember who he should be thinking of while he was away,  Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes is about an absent man asking his lover not to stray. I quite like that title, it’s more oblique than the other number 1s that preceded it.

The tune gallops along at a fair rate (well, by 50s standards) but ultimately, it hasn’t aged well. It was written by Winston L. Moore, who was better known as the disc jockey Slim Willet, and had been covered several times before Como, but predictably enough, his was the best known and most successful, staying at number one for five weeks. He would once again reach number 1 in 1958 with the much more memorable Magic Moments.

Amusingly, Willet co-wrote a response song with Tommy Hill, to be performed by his sister Goldie Hill, with the less cryptic title I Let the Stars Get in My Eyes, in which Hill basically sings that, oops, she did exactly what she was told not to do and fell for someone else. Charming.

Written by: Slim Willet

Producer: Eli Oberstein

Weeks at number 1: 5 (6 February-12 March)

Births

Comedian Norman Pace – 17 February

Meanwhile…

5 February: To the delight of children, and many adults, the government ended rationing on sweets. 

2. Jo Stafford with Paul Weston & His Orchestra – You Belong to Me (1953)

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US singer Jo Stafford’s cover of You Belong to Me featured in the very first UK singles chart on 14 November 1952. When Al Martino’s Here in My Heart finally lost its grip on the top slot, Stafford became the first female solo artist to be number 1 on 16 January 1953.

Stafford, born 12 November 1917 in Coalinga, California, caught the music bug from a young age, thanks to her mother’s love of folk music and banjo playing. She began performing at the tender age of 12 and her mother had high hopes for her. For a while she had voice lessons and ambitions to be an opera singer, but the Great Depression put paid to that. While at high school she teamed up with her elder siblings and they were known, obviously enough, as the Stafford Sisters.

They had some success on radio and in film, and it was in 1938 that Stafford met the singing group the Pied Pipers and became their lead singer. The following year, bandleader Tommy Dorsey hired them to provide backing vocals for his orchestra, and they helped propel Frank Sinatra to stardom. Dorsey eventually shone the spotlight on Stafford and awarded her solo performances. In 1944, she left the group and became the first solo artist to sign with Capitol Records.

Like Martino, Stafford’s vocal range was operatic, but there was more to her than that. Among her contemporaries she was considered one of the most versatile vocalists of the 50s and had several hit duets with Frankie Laine.

She had earned the nickname ‘GI Jo’ during World War Two, performing for soldiers stationed in the US, and like Martino’s track, You Belong to Me clearly touched a nerve for those who had suffered through the war.

This romantic ballad was credited to Pee Wee King, Chilton Price and Redd Stewart, but Price wrote the first draft. Originally entitled Hurry Home to Me, he envisaged it as being from the viewpoint of a woman missing her soldier sweetheart during the war. King and Stewart made alterations and made it less specific, providing the song with more of a universal appeal. After all, the war was seven years in the past by this point.

You Belong to Me holds up better than Here in My Heart, and I think the lyrics can be interpreted in more than one way…

‘See the pyramids along the Nile
Watch the sun rise on a tropic isle
But just remember, darling, all the while
You belong to me’

Sounds sweet and lovely at first, doesn’t it, but could these be the words of a worried, paranoid control freak? Could she be issuing a threat to her partner to behave himself while he’s away? Or am I alone in thinking this?!

Despite only topping the charts for one week, its appeal has stood the test of time – Bob Dylan and Tori Amos are among the notable artists to release cover versions.

As for Stafford, she continued to record with her husband Paul Weston (they had wed in 1952), the famous orchestra leader and producer on this track. In 1954, she became the second artist after Bing Crosby to sell 25 million records for Columbia. But by the end of the decade she and her husband were mostly performing comedy songs, which seems like a waste of a great voice to me.

Stafford was offered a contract to perform in Las Vegas in 1959, but she declined and went into semi-retirement soon after to concentrate on her family. In 1977 she and Weston released a cover of the Bee Gees’ Stayin’ Alive.

Weston died in 1996, and Stafford passed away due to heart failure on 16 July 2008, aged 90.

Written by: Pee Wee King, Chilton Price & Redd Stewart

Producer: Paul Weston

Weeks at number 1: 1 (16-22 January)