DAYS OF LOVE SONGS
A month of love songs and nothing from Dusty Springfield? I don’t think so. If it’s thwarted passion and extravagant emotion you want, Dusty’s your go-to gal. I won’t say that her damaged take on love is the last word on it, but let’s get real here, ladies – we all know what it feels like to be a victim, and Dusty fearlessly plumbs the very depths of that for us.
Released in early 1966, this single was Dusty’s biggest hit ever – her only
Dig that melodramatic scribble of strings that underlines her vocal entrance: “When I said I needed you /You said you would always stay.” We know what’s coming – let’s just wait for that other shoe to drop. “It wasn’t me who changed, but you / And now you’ve gone away.” What we have here is a Grievance, girls. And so it follows, as the night the day, she’s going to have to abase herself for love, traipse right after him and track him down, “and beg you / To come home.” (The way Dusty throws her voice into that “beg” is heart-wrenching.)
Pride? That’s for those who don’t really love. Stripping away every last vestige of dignity, Dusty reins in her voice to supplicate, “You don’t have to say you love me / Just be close at hand.” The chord shifts upward, raising the stakes (and the volume): “You don’t have to stay forever / I will understand.” Another shift, and she clenches down, all her passion bursting through: “Believe me, / Believe me, / I can’t help but love you” (her vocal shiver on “can’t” is simply heart-breaking) “But believe me / I’ll never tie you down.” That “tie you down” sounds so frail and tentative, it simply kills me.
There’s a shivering breakdown after that chorus, returning to the second verse: “Left alone with just a memory,” Dusty describes herself, dropping behind the beat as if she’s crippled. “Life seems dead and so unreal,” and her nauseated curl on “dead” cuts to the bone. “All that’s left is loneliness / There’s nothing left to feel.” But somehow we know that there’s a lot more to feel, and Dusty is just about to lay it on us.
“You don’t have to stay forever,” Dusty assures him in the second half of the chorus. Jesus, what are you doing, girl? How can you say that? You’re laying yourself on the road in front of his car for just a few more nights? This is the absolute limit, the furthest love can go without being masochism. (Or maybe it IS masochism.)
You thought you were in love? Hell, no, Dusty is going to show you what love is, even if her vocal cords rupture. It isn’t pretty, but goddamit it’s extraordinary. I’m humbled by her no-holds-barred passion, every time I listen to this track. All you modern soul singers, the Amy Winehouses and Lily Allens and even the Adeles and Duffys of this world – behold the master at the top of her game, and know how far you still have to go.