When most people think “classic album” and “Dusty Springfield”, it’s usually “Dusty In Memphis” that comes to mind and rightfully so. But Dusty was not a one-album wonder as such outings as “Everything’s Comin’ Up Dusty”, “Cameo” and even “Reputation” prove.
And then there’s “White Heat”, the 1982 album that divides Dusty’s fan base (although most agree that the cover art pictured above is quite magnificent).
Back when I was in the early stages of being a Dusty fan in the late 80s, I was desperately trying to collect all the music she had ever released. Judge G had given me a biography that included a detailed discography from which I had drawn up a list that I carried with me everywhere, crossing off songs/albums as I found them.
The one album that was proving elusive was “White Heat”, her supposedly disco album released on the Casablanca label (home to Donna Summer, Giorgio Moroder, Village People and many other disco acts). The idea of a Dusty disco album was especially appealing to this little gay boy so I just had to have the album. It was hard to find since it was only ever released in North America and there were never that many copies in the first place.
The Judge and I did a big world trip in 1993 and I traipsed around second hand record stores with my trusty list, managing to find “Cameo”, “Sometimes Like Butterflies” (both 7″ and 12″), the Richard Carpenter album with his Dusty song and many other goodies – except for “White Heat” despite looking in record shops across Europe and the US.
One of our last stops was in LA and we had been on the Paramount studio tour. Not far from the studio was a record shop called Record Hunter or Record Locator or something like that. We went in and were amazed at shelves upon shelves of LPs as far as you could see. It was all quite daunting so we asked the guy behind the counter. He just went up to a shelf and pulled out a copy (one of several). I almost passed out since I had more or less given up by this stage so to find not one but several in the one place was all a bit too much. The Judge was worried that I was going to go all gaga, making the guy up the price. But I kept it together surprisingly well even when he said it was only $20 (I would have gladly paid much more). I didn’t let out a girly scream until after we had left the store. Hows that for self control?
The album rapidly became one of my favourites, made even more special by how I had come by it. I was exceptionally proud of this jewel in my collection.
Of course, it’s not really a disco album. The only out-and-out disco song is the single and opening track “Donnez-Moi”, described by Dusty herself as “sort of funky ABBA”. This could have been huge on dance floors if only it got a proper distribution and promotion. There is also a disco influence in mid-tempo numbers like “I Don’t Think We Could Ever Be Friends” (co-written by Sting), “Don’t Call It Love” (also recorded by Kim Carnes and Dolly Parton) and “Gotta Get Used To You”.
Dusty also dabbles in rock. “Blind Sheep” (with a lyrical contribution from Dusty) is one of Dusty’s more bizarre song choices but it really works. “I Am Curious” is also rock. Being Dusty, there are also some stirring ballads to be found.
Dusty recorded a stirring version of the Elvis Costello song “Just A Memory” and is one of my favourite tracks. For some reason, it was decided to call the song “Losing You”, strange because she had already had a hit single in the 60s with the same name.
Another gem is the song that closes the album, “Soft Core” although that phrase is nowhere to be found in the lyrics. It is an intimate, cabaret-style number which is beautifully sung. The song was co-written by Carole Pope (as was “I Am Curious”), Dusty’s one time lover. I can’t help but feel that Carole was a big influence on Dusty at the time and encouraged her to be more herself and more daring at the same time. The result was an eclectic album, more synth pop than disco. There is even a vocoder effect on Dusty’s vocals at times, long before that became fashionable.
“White Heat” is well worth checking out. It was finally released on CD in 2002 and is available on iTunes. It’s time that this album got the recognition that it deserves.
Here is a special clip of Dusty performing “Soft Core” live. Dusty made a guest appearance at Rough Trade’s farewell concert in 1986. Rough Trade was Carole Pope’s band and it’s Carole who introduces Dusty at the beginning of the clip.