Tuesday, April 15, 2008

"Breakfast in Bed" / Dusty Springfield

Dusty Springfield is no role model for little girls. Helplessly addicted to bad relationships, hung up on men who don't deserve her, inclined to jump into bed on carnal impulse -- I'm telling you now, don't let your daughters listen to Dusty Springfield. The next thing you know, they'll be Paramore fans and then where will you be?

On the other hand, Dusty was one of the great female voices of the 20th century, and one of the smartest song stylists ever -- a girl could do worse than cut her musical teeth on this.

Here's a quintessential Dusty track, from her classic 1969 album Dusty in Memphis. For Dusty, going to Memphis was more about recording in the superb Stax studio with Memphis session musicians than it was about going country -- still, "Breakfast in Bed" has a fair amount of twang, despite all the horns and strings. And the story, that's a perfect Dusty tale, featuring her as The Other Woman.

"You've been crying," she starts out, breathy and sympathetic -- I can just see her, standing in her doorway, her blond bouffant hair and mascaraed eyes just a little rumpled. "Your face is a mess / Come in baby / You can dry your tears on my dress." The dress is such a specific detail, I can't help but picture that too, him sinking to his knees at her feet. Yes.

It's not the first time she's laid out this welcome mat: "
Don't be shy, you've been here before / Pull your shoes off, lie down / And I will lock the door." Yeah, we're in the world of secrets and lies, and the way Dusty's voice caresses those lines makes it damn provocative. "And no one has to know you've come here again," she promises, her voice rising and shivering with passion. She is NOT a disinterested party -- she's been counting the days since his last visit. "Darling, it will be like it's always been before." How many times? Best not ask. "Come on over here," she invites him, huskily. I see him sinking onto the mattress with enormous relief.

Just in case there was any doubt about it, the chorus makes it clear just how Dusty plans to comfort this hurt soul. "Breakfast in bed /
And a kiss or three," she offers (love that "or three" -- so who's counting?). The horns are getting nice and blowzy by this point; she's not just a shoulder to cry on, she's woozy with lust. "You don't have to say you love me," she adds, almost shyly (the title of another great Dusty song, by the way). That's pure Dusty, that pathetic refusal to make any demands on this guy. She's such a creature of passion, she can't help herself.

And despite the confident sexuality of the opening, by the last verse Dusty's neediness starts showing. "What's your hurry? / Please don't eat and run / You can let her wait, my darling." He's already pulling away, and she knows it. "It's been so long / Since I've had you here," she moans. "You will come again / Darling it will be / Like it's always been before." And that's the sad thing -- it WILL be like it's always been before; he will still go home to his wife in the end.

Usually I hate The Other Woman. (That Avril Lavigne song, the one about doing it better than your girlfriend, makes me puke.) For Dusty, though, I'll make an exception. Dusty may be The Other Woman, but she's still a love slave and victim, with a throaty shiver to her voice that just won't quit.

Breakfast in Bed sample

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