Friday Night Music, June 19: The White Queen of Soul, Dusty Springfield, “The Look of Love”

I remember the exact moment I heard Dusty Springfield. I was in a Sears Roebuck, the one on Geary Boulevard in San Francisco that they later turned into a mall with Toys R Us as one of the anchor stores.

Then, Geary wasn’t the boulevard yet. It was 1962. Black Fillmore hadn’t been destroyed as a community yet, although the ground was being well laid–or rather, undermined–by the city fathers. It was a relatively quiet thoroughfare then, with electric trolleys and diesel buses going by like clockwork. Sears was across the street from the S.F. Muni Railway garage.

I was eight. We were in the infants’ section of the children’s department. My mother was buying my baby brother’s first pair of shoes that were not booties or socks. I’m thinking that these sturdy first shoes were purchased so that Kaiser Permanente could remake them into a device to help correct his pigeon toes. The song Dusty was singing was, “I Only Want to Be with You.” It was playing over the PA system, a break from all of the other droning store music.

I was already into The Four Seasons’ “Sherry,” and Ike and Tina’s “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine,” as well as the jazz records in my stepfather’s possession, and my mother’s Broadway tunes that she woke up to on school mornings. But Dusty’s voice seemed to soar above the everyday. She definitely caught my attention; she would have even if I had been bored waiting for my mother to make her decision. She sounded breathy, yet she wasn’t necessarily playing Marilyn Monroe. But she almost sounded like a black woman at the same time, without working too hard at it as some white singers do. In other words, she had a voice that was naturally suited for that kind of tone and range. No wonder she and Aretha Franklin weren’t exactly friends, either.

I remember looking up at the ceiling, and finding the speakers like the top of a salt shaker, pouring and pouring her out. Dusty touched my little heart, so by the time she released, “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me,” when I was 12, I was a fan. Of course, I’d found out that she was part of the first wave of what became The British Invasion.

“The Look of Love” came from the film, Casino Royale. This was the only thing good that came from that stinker, this Burt Bacharach-Hal David collaboration. I’ve only seen the first Casino Royale in bits, and the scenes were just as stupefying and unintelligible as the critics said. It wasn’t even worth one of those Sunday afternoon do-nothing-but-watch-boob-tube-and-eat-potato-chips occasions.

Casino Royale reminded me of Woody Allen’s What’s Up Tiger Lily? for it seemed as if Allen wrote and directed the film in a haze of dope smoke. Too much shit. I think five or six directors were responsible for this fiasco that was supposedly based on a book that was part of the James Bond canon. The result was enough to make Ian Fleming spin in his grave, a disaster that wasn’t rectified until the advent of Daniel Craig.

Anyway, “Look” was recorded by Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66 (as it was known at that time), and I like that rendition as well. They were the ones who sang it during the memorable 1967 Oscar ceremony. (Sidney Poitier is what made it memorable.) But this recording was the original. It is not, however, as arranged on the 45s, or even on her Memphis album or her three-volume hits CD. The version we are used to has the orchestrations woven with her voice.

Dusty herself was quoted in her bio that she had climbed reluctantly out of bed with a lover (likely one of her nameless women lovers) to cut this song early one morning. So the sleepy, sensual aftermath of that previous night was firmly imprinted onto this recording. And, it is what makes “The Look of Love” so memorable in itself.

~ by blksista on June 19, 2009.

One Response to “Friday Night Music, June 19: The White Queen of Soul, Dusty Springfield, “The Look of Love””

  1. Wow – that version sounds live and if so, the mixer put a cassette into the mixing desk – fabulous!


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