For the latest instalment in Ace Records’ Heard Them Here First compilation series, compiler Mick Patrick has turned to the music that influenced Dusty Springfield. Dusty Heard Them Here First was recently released by Ace Records and features twenty-four tracks. Fittingly, each of these tracks are the US versions. Why is this so fitting? Well American music influenced and inspired Dusty Springfield. This includes the music on Dusty Heard Them Here First,

Dusty Heard Them Here First’s track-listing reads like a who’s who of music. There’s contributions from some of the biggest names in music. Among them are Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, The Miracles, Carla Thomas, Dionne Warwick, Betty Wright and Gladys Knight & The Pips. All of these artists influenced and inspired Dusty Springfield as a singer. So much so, that Dusty covered each of the twenty-four tracks on Dusty Heard Them Here First. Before I pick the highlights of Dusty Heard Them Here First, I’ll tell you about Dusty Springfield.

Dusty Springfield was born Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien, in West Hampstead, North London, in April 1939. She was brought up in a middle class family, that loved music. During her childhood she was exposed to a wide range of music. This included Count Basie, Rogers and Hammerstein, George Gershwin, Count Basie and Glenn Miller. Dusty Springfield loved American jazz vocalists, including Peggy Lee and Jo Stafford. It was her ambition to sound like them. Little wonder that on leaving school she would become a singer, such was her love of music.

Her first job in music was as one of The Lana Sisters. They were already established as a group, and Dusty was recruited in 1958, as a new member. Whilst a member, she received a crash course in the music industry. She recorded with them, appeared on television and in concert. During her time with them, she learned to harmonise and how to use a microphone properly. She left The Lana Sisters in 1960.

Her next venture in music was when she formed a pop-folk trio The Springfields wth her brother Don, and Reshad Field, who would later be replaced by Mike Hurst. It was here that she adopted the stage name Dusty Springfield. The Springfields recorded an album Folk Songs From The Hills, in Nashville, Tennessee. They’d travelled to Nashville intending to record an authentic American album. It was during this trip that Dusty’s musical tastes changed. 

She started to love pop music that had its roots in rhythm and blues music. Although the group were reasonably successful, winning the New Musical Express’ Best Vocal Group award in 1961 and 1962 they split up in 1963. Their final single was Say I Won’t Be There, gave the group their first top five hit. The last concert they played was in October 1963. After that, the group split up. It was now time for Dusty’s solo career to begin.

Now a solo artist, success came quick to Dusty. Her first solo single I Only Want To Be With You, sold over one million copies, and she received a gold disc. Ivor Raymomde’s production on the single owed much to Phil Spector. Having said that, his arrangement was fantastic, featuring vocals that were double-tracked, a horn section and a string section. This single was the perfects start to her solo career.

Her first album A Girl Called Dusty, was released in 1964. It was an album featuring Dusty Springfield covering some of her favourite songs. This album featured her first collaboration with two hugely important songwriting partnerships, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, and Gerry Goffin and Carole King. The latter partnership were a huge influence on Dusty, and she recorded their songs throughout her career.

In 1965 Everything’s Coming Up Dusty was released. The album sold quite well, and Dusty ended up the top selling female singer on her record label Philips Records. Everything’s Coming Up Dusty contained many show tunes, as well as some soul songs. Her next two albums would see Dusty cover a variety of styles.

When Dusty released Where Am I Going in 1967, it wasn’t as successful as her previous two albums. It contained a wide variety of styles of music. Fans and critics liked the album. They enjoyed hearing Dusty singing different styles of music. Where Am I Going was followed up by Dusty…Definitely in 1968. It was the first album that Dusty co-produced with John Franz. The album was split into one side of the album with faster songs, the other with slower songs. On each side the mood is very different. Although Dusty…Definitely marked the end of an era, Dusty’s next album surpassed everything that had preceded it. 

1968 also saw Dusty sign a contract with Atlantic Records for the US. This was to have a huge impact on her career. she ended up heading to Memphis to record Dusty In Memphis with producers Jerry Wexler and Arif Mardin, and engineer Tom Dowd. Dusty in Memphis was an attempt to relaunch her career. After her first two albums had proved successful, Dusty’s career had stalled. By heading to Memphis, it was hoped that her credibility as an artist would receive a boost. She’d never recorded an album of rhythm and blues music before, this would be a first. 

Dusty was joined in the studios with some of Memphis’ best musicians and backing singers. She would be backed by the Memphis Cats, a fantastic group of musicians, and backing vocalists the Sweet Inspirations. This was truly the creme de la creme of the Memphis music scene. She was noted as a perfectionist. Nothing less would suffice. This would prove a huge challenge for produced Jerry Wexler. 

Another problem was her insecurity, she was a hugely insecure artist, and this wasn’t helped by working with such talented musicians, singers and producers. However, the sessions were fruitful, and produced one of the greatest albums of all time. Dusty In Memphis, which was released in 1969, is widely accepted as a musical masterpiece, and is to be found in any list of the greatest albums of all time. However, little did Dusty realise she’d released the greatest album of her career.

As the 1970s’ dawned, Dusty was still a big name in music. She released her second, and final album for Atlantic Records A Brand New Me in 1970. In the UK, the album was released as From Dusty…With Love. It was recorded at the Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia. M.F.S.B. accompanied Dusty, while Gamble and Huff produced A Brand New. They also wrote many of the songs on A Brand New Me. It only reached number thirty-five in the UK and one hundred and seven in the US. This was to be the start of the decline in her record sales and popularity.

Between 1972 and 1995 Dusty would only record seven further albums, one of which Longing, recorded in 1974, was never released at the time. During that time, her record sales slumped. Although some albums were reasonably well received by critics it seemed Dusty’s career had stalled. During this period, her personal life was scrutinised by the press and media. So Dusty headed to the US, where she lived quietly, away from the spotlight. 

Whenever Dusty made a comeback, and was still popular in concert. The problem was her albums didn’t sell. Dusty it seemed had had her day. She never recovered her midas touch as a solo artist. Then 1987 she collaborated with the Pet Shop Boys on their single What Have I Done To Deserve This? This introduced her to a new generation of fans. Despite this brief resurgence of interest in Dusty’s career, she never recaptured the commercial success of the early years of her career. Sadly, with a new millennia about to dawn, tragedy struck for Dusty.

In March 1999, Dusty Springfield died of cancer. Since her death, she has become something of an icon. There’s been another resurgence of interest in her music. The album that Dusty Springfield is always remembered for in Dusty In Memphis. It’s a classic album and along with A Brand New Me, is part of Dusty Springfield’s musical legacy. Fifteen years after Dusty’s death, Ace Records’ Dusty Heard Them Here First is a fitting tribute to Dusty Springfield.

My first choice from Dusty Heard Them Here First is the opening tracks, The Velvettes’ Needle In A Haystack. It was written by William Stevenson and Norman Whitfield, who produced the track. Released on Motown in 1964, it’s not only instantly recognisable, but a minor Motown classic. A year later, Dusty covered Needle In A Haystack on her 1965 album Everything’s Coming Up Dusty.

While other vocalists have tried to claim Aretha Franklin’s crown, Aretha will forever be known as the Queen Of Soul. Wont’ Be Long marked Aretha’s US Billboard debut. It featured on her 1961 debut album Aretha Franklin With The Ray Bryant Combo. Produced by John Hammond, it’s a fusion soul, gospel and jazz combines. Aretha unleashes a vocal powerhouse that’s needy, sassy and emotive. The result is a tantalising taste of what Aretha was capable of. Again, Dusty covered this track on Everything’s Coming Up Dusty.

Can I Get A Witness is one of the finest singles Marvin Gaye recorded during the sixties. It was penned by Brian Holland, Lamont Dosier and Eddie Holland. Marvin released his version in 1963. Five years later, Dusty covered this classic. It featured on a 1968 E.P. However, Marvin delivers the definitive version. Literally, his vocal oozes emotion and sincerity.

Back in 1962, The Miracles released You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me. Written and produced by Smokey Robinson, it featured on their 1963 album The Fabulous Miracles. That describes The Miracles performance on You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me perfectly. Especially given Smokey’s soul-baring lead vocal which is accompanied by heartfelt harmonies.  This resulted in one The Miracles’ finest moments. Seventeen years later, Dusty released a cover of this track on her 1979 album Living Without Your Love.

Carla Thomas’ Every Ounce Of Strength was released on Stax in 1965. It was the B-Side to Stop! Look What You’re Doing. Written by Steve Cropper, Isaac Hayes and David Porter, it features a vocal powerhouse from Carla. She was now twenty-three and had matured as a singer. She’d come a long way since her 1960 debut single Gee Whiz (Look At His Eyes). One listen to this track and you’ll realise this.

During the sixties, Dionne Warwick was one of the most successful female vocalists. She enjoyed a successful partnership with songwriters Bacharach and David. Just like Dionne, they were enjoying the most successful period of their career. They wrote Another Night, which was released as a single on Specter Records in 1966. Although it wasn’t Dionne’s biggest hit single, it allows her to demonstrate her versatility. Dionne combines power, emotion, anger and frustration. This results in the definitive version of this track. That’s despite Dusty covering Another Night on her 1968 album Dusty….Definitely album.

Betty Wright is one of the most underrated soul singers. That’s depute a career as a singer, songwriter and producer that spans nearly fifty years. The dramatic and emotive opus, Girls Can’t Do What The Guys Do was her first hit single. It was produced by Brad Shapiro and Steve Alaimo and released on Alston Records. Girls Can’t Do What The Guys Do featured on Betty’s 1968 debut album. For anyone yet to discover one of soul’s best kept secrets, this is the perfect starting place.

Gladys Knight and The Pips covered Ain’t No Sun Since You’ve Been Gone twice. The first time was on their 1967 album Everyone Needs Love. They later gave the track a psychedelic twist on 1969s Nitty Gritty. The version on Dusty Heard Them Here First is the 1967 version. Feisty and sassy describes Gladys’ vocal. Accompanied by a dramatic, stomping beat and harmonies, Gladys Knight and The Pips make the song their own. A year later, Dusty covered the track on 1968s Dusty…Definitely.

Evie Sands her third and final album Suspended Animation in 1979. It was released on RCA Victor. This was sixteen years after she released her debut single. On Suspended Animation was You Can Do It. With a sultry, funky arrangement, Evie’s vocal is sassy and sensual. However, this wasn’t the first time Evie recorded You Can Do It. She released the song in 1976. Since then, other artists had covered this track. One of them, was Dusty, who covered You Can Do It on her 1978 album Living Without Your Love.

Chi Coltrane’s Turn Me Around Chi Coltrane is my final choice from Dusty Heard Them Here First. It featured on Chi’s 1972 eponymous debut album. Her vocal is tender and impassioned, growing power and emotion. The same can be said of the arrangement. With piano and strings at its heart, this is the perfect accompaniment to Chi as she lays bare her soul for all to hear. Two years after Chi recorded this track, Dusty covered it. It was meant to feature on her 1974 album Longing. Sadly, the album was abandoned and Dusty’s version wasn’t heard until it featured on a compilation released in 2001. However, Chi’s version is the definitive version of this beautiful paean.

Whilst I’ve only picked my top ten tracks from Dusty Heard Them Here First, there’s plenty more quality music. I could’ve just as easily have mentioned contributions from The Chiffons, Baby Washington, Garnet Mimms, Norma Tanega, The 5th Dimension or Barbara Acklin. Quite simply, Dusty Heard Them Here First, which recently released by Ace Records, is all killer no filler. It’s a very welcome addition to the Heard Them Here First series. No wonder. Compiler Mick Patrick has chosen well. He’s dug deep into the vaults of labels like Atlantic, Alston, Motown, RCA Victor, Specter, Stax and Tamla. Having dug deep, he’s chosen a mixture of old friends and hidden gems.

Many of these tracks on Dusty Heard Them Here First were recorded by some of the biggest names in soul music. Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, The Miracles, Carla Thomas, Dionne Warwick, Betty Wright and Gladys Knight and The Pips. They were musical giants, capable of making a song come alive. That’s the case here. Time and time again, spine-tingling music toys with your emotions. They’ve all one thing in common. Each track was covered by Dusty Springfield during her long career. 

Often, Dusty covered the track not long after it had originally been a hit. It was as if she was hoping some of the success would rub off. No wonder. Dusty didn’t enjoy prolonged success. It was a fleeting visitor. Her first two albums, 1964s A Girl Called Dusty and 1965s Everything’s Coming Up Dusty were successful. Then 1968s Dusty In Memphis proved to be the highlight of her career. That’s despite only reaching number ninety-nine in the US Billboard 200 Charts. After that, Dusty’s career stalled. 

Even with Gamble and Huff producing 1970s A Brand New Me, which was Dusty’s final album for Atlantic Records, success continued to elude Dusty. It only reached number thirty-five in the UK and 107 in the US Billboard 200. After that, none of Dusty’s albums charted in America. Things got so bad that Dusty’s 1974 Longing album was abandoned. For the next twenty-five years, Dusty was more popular live. Her albums never sold in great amounts. Only three albums, 1978s It Begins Again, 1980s Reputation and 1995s A Very Fine Love charted in the UK. However, despite her lack of chart success during the latter part of her career, Dusty Springfield is still perceived as a musical legend.

With six top twenty-singles in the US Billboard 100 and sixteen UK hit singles, Dusty Springfield is one of Britain’s most successful female vocalists. The sixties were Dusty’s heyday. She was a musical icon and part of British popular culture. Now nearly fifteen years after her death, Dusty Springfield’s music is still popular. With each passing year, more and more music lovers discover her music. Dusty Heard Them Here First will allow the same music lovers to hear the music that inspired and influenced Dusty. She covered the twenty-four songs on Dusty Heard Them Here First. The songs on Dusty Heard Them Here First are part of Dusty Springfield’s rich musical legacy. They’re part of the life and times of Dusty Springfield and are where Dusty Heard Them Here First. Standout Tracks: Marvin Gaye Can I Get A Witness, The Miracles You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me, Betty Wright Betty Wright and Evie Sands You Can Do It.


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