Dusty Springfield is one of those singers I really should know more about. Her records, however, were not among those in the collections of any members of my extended family and the only songs I got to know, as I grew up, were those that were staples of the Golden Hour segments or request shows – I Only Want To Be With You, I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself, and You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me being the ones that come to memory.
The problem, however, is that two of those are ballads and the teenage me didn’t have any time for such slush. Dusty Springfield, in my mind, was just another 60s singer of as much relevance in the post-punk world as Cilla Black, Sandie Shaw and Petula Clark, all of whom had been just as ever-present on those radio shows.
It was astounding, therefore, to read that the Pet Shop Boys were huge fans as indeed were a number of other bands who were emerging in the 80s (Sandie Shaw had, of course, already been championed and had her career revived by The Smiths). It was only then that I came to realise there was much more to Dusty Springfield than well-known ballads and that she had, in fact been something of a pioneer in bringing soul and Motown to the wider attentions of UK audiences. It therefore made perfect sense for the pioneers of modern era electronic dance music to suggest a hook up, which they did to great effect in 1987:-
mp3 : Pet Shop Boys (featuring Dusty Springfield) – What Have I Done To Deserve This?
It’s one of those rare PSB numbers in which Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe called on some outside help with its writing. The co-credit sits with Ailee Willis, someone who, through a friend of a friend, had been commissioned to do some artwork of the band. As they posed and chatted with the painter, they were delighted and astonished to learn that Ailee Willis was the same ‘A.Willis’ who had helped write some of the Earth Wind & Fire songs, not least the majestic Boogie Wonderland and the poptastic September. The minute the painting commission was complete, the boys asked her to work with them and the result was the song they would later present to Dusty Springfield as a suggested collaboration.