She was the first real live pop star I ever actually went to see, was Dusty Springfield. At the height of her magnificence and for my 13th birthday. Here’s the story.
Something about her had always fascinated me when she’d turn up on our black and white television singing with The Springfields. I’d ignore the men in suits either side of her and focus on her eyes, her singing, her liveliness. I’m about eight years old when she’d be on ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’ singing ‘Island of Dreams’ and it’s one of the first songs I can remember walking round the streets singing to myself. This is before most of us, even in Liverpool, got to know about The Beatles, just to put things in context here.
I’d never heard the phrase ‘going solo’ but I remember being glad when I heard she’d left the group and turned into Dusty Springfield. It never was her real name but we needn’t go into that here. As the middle 1960’s got truly into gear and it seemed like all the records were good, then many of the best were by Dusty Springfield.
I’m particularly remembering all of this now because I’ve recently bought her first solo LP, ‘A Girl Called Dusty’ and it’s so completely brilliant I’ve not been listening to much else these last two high summer weeks. Soul music before most of us knew what soul music was. Pop music of the very highest order. No wonder she had to leave the comfy folksiness of The Springfields behind her. This is one of a very few completely perfect records that I possess.
Not that I possessed it or any other LPs at the time. Music mad children like me saved up our pocket money for singles, while LPs were things that collectors bought, and I didn’t know any. With the possible exception of my friend Barry’s sister Hilary, who got ‘With The Beatles’ for Christmas in 1963, the first LP I was ever allowed to hold in my hands.
Anyway, getting back to Dusty, time went by and I always noticed her. How her records were doing in the Top 20 and watching out for her on the television. In her bigger and bigger hair and eye make-up and wearing her increasingly sparkly dresses. All still in black and white of course, but she shone out more than anyone else.
Then soon before one Christmas, I can check back now and see that it must have been 1966, I’ve noticed an advert in the Liverpool Echo for the Liverpool Empire’s pantomime, which is going to be starring Dusty Springfield. So I’ve got to go.
At this point in my twelve years I’ve never been to a concert and I’m a little bit worried that this won’t be one either. But even if she’s slapping her thighs and chortling “Yo-ho-ho he’s behind you” it’ll still be Dusty Springfield and I’ve got to see her.
She’s not chortling anything. She’s the interval act in a panto I’ve long forgotten, it might have been Puss in Boots, and she’s the full Dusty Springfield. As good as all those things I’ve just written about that first LP and performing with a full pit orchestra.
It’s my 13th birthday that January and this is my present. Sat in the circle in The Empire with my Dad, my brother and my friend Paul. We’re watching Dusty Springfield and I couldn’t be happier. The first pop star I’ve ever seen and everything a pop star should be. We’re nudging and exclaiming to each other as hit follows hit, for a perfect half hour that I know for a fact me and Paul have remembered forever.
Because many years later, when Paul is a writer and Dusty Springfield is older, he interviews her and tells her pretty much this story I’ve just told you now. And she gives him a hug, which Paul says “made the man from Mojo magazine very happy.”
Dusty Springfield has always made me happy. That’s the job of a pop star, really. And she was the first and the best I’ve ever seen.
Here she is.
Thanks to my friend Paul Du Noyer for coming to the pantomime with us back in 1967, for having the taste and good fortune to interview Dusty Springfield so many years later, and for telling her about my 13th birthday. I feel like I almost knew her.