LGBT news and popular culture site The Queerness asked me to write an article on David Bowie’s film career, and here it is
My tribute to drummer Dennis Davis, best remembered for his massive contribution to David Bowie’s most celebrated run of albums, who passed away last Thursday, can be read on the Daily Waffle here
My latest blog post is a close look at ‘Top of the Box’, pop culture expert Tim Worthington’s indepth guide to BBC Records’ singles output. As you will find reading the article, it was a wildly eccentric, eclectic range, quite unlike any other commercial label, and Tim was more than happy to discuss the range and his book with me. Click here.
Published this time last week, here’s my essay on ‘Absolute Beginners’
It’s been suggested we do a You and Who style book about David Bowie, a suggestion that’s been greeted with some enthusiasm. What better way to celebrate the life of one of the 20th century’s true and enduring icons? So here it is.
For those of you who are new to the You and Who project, these are a series of themed books (all royalties donated to charity) which are generally as much as, if not more, about the fans themselves as they are the topics. The idea is to submit an essay talking about your connection with David Bowie, rather than simply reviewing his work. Something autobiographical, or anecdotal; a short essay about the time you met him, or an anecdote about a concert. A piece celebrating a particular record, and its place in your life – maybe the story of how you discovered Bowie, the first record of his you bought, or how you felt when you first saw him performing (whether on the television or elsewhere). You get the idea; it’s about you as much as it is about him.
There are no rules regarding who can write what this time; this isn’t the place for rules. So treat the idea with as much or as little conformity as you think appropriate. Be aware, though, that we are not accepting artwork submissions at this time (this will change). And please don’t make your essay about the passing of David Bowie; this will no doubt be a common theme of much of the book, but we’d like the book to celebrate his life rather than simply mark his death.
The completed volume will be available through the Watching Books website as soon as it is finished, hopefully sometime this summer. The initial deadline for essays is March 31st 2016. This may be extended if the editors deem it necessary or appropriate. This book will be edited by Jon Arnold, with James Gent assisting. The editors will have the final say on which essays are included in Me and the Starman; we’d like to include everyone, but that may turn out not to be possible.
For details on submissions, click here
Originally posted on Daily Waffle, August 2013.
The saga of Lou Reed and Metal Machine Music
“They should have put a warning sticker on it… Sounds like: static on a car radio. Recommended cuts: none” – Lou Reed
Rock babylon has seen numerous acts of commercial suicide – from the Beach Boys’
unreleased LSD epic “Smile” (later sanitised and released as “Smiley Smile”) to the ‘this is proper music’ clevercloggery of Radiohead’s contractual obligation albums – but, in terms of a major artist single-handedly destroying his fanbase at the height of his commercial stock, Lou Reed’s “Metal Machine Music” stands head and shoulders above the rest. “Metal Machine Music” is a double album featuring four sides of electronic feedback, each side exactly 16 minutes and 4 seconds long. It is one of those albums many people name-check but hardly anyone has actually heard. Hardly surprising, an exec at Reed’s label RCA described it as “fuckin’ torture music!”
The story of how this beast of a record, the soundtrack to a techno-Sadean nightmare, came to be is one of rock’s most fascinating and fabulous tales of excess and bitterness, an unbeatable act of career sabotage, and the ultimate punk statement.
In 1970, Lou Reed split up the Velvet Underground – although they became one of the most influential alternative rock bands ever, during their short career none of their four groundbreaking albums reached any higher than 199 in the Billboard charts and members dropped like flies with each album. After a period of ‘self-imposed exile’ in Coney Island, and a patchy solo debut album, Reed bounced back with the help from David Bowie, as a glam rock icon with the “Transformer” album and its hit single “Walk On The Wild Side”.
What happened next is a fabulous tale of a modern-day Faustian pact between rock
star and record company. Having reinvented himself as a bona fide solo star, Reed wanted to make the first epic of his career – “Berlin”, an unrelentingly depressing album about a doomed love affair in the then-divided city between a speed freak and a prostitute who kills herself in the bath after her children are taken away. A morbid, unflinchingly harrowing album, “Berlin” was too much for RCA, whose recent bestsellers included “The Sound of Music” and The Archies’ “Sugar Sugar”. It certainly proved too much for the critics, who didn’t write reviews so much as death notices. Try the following for size:-
“A gargantuan slab of maggoty rancour…”, “the most naked exorcism of manic depression ever committed to vinyl”, “a distorted and degraded demimonde of paranoia, schizophrenia, degradation, pill-induced violence and suicide.”
Despite the lack of a teenybop-friendly sequel to “Walk On The Wild Side”, RCA duly released the record, with the provision that he gave the label an ‘FM radio’ album of live favourites and another glam-style studio album. Reed duly complied, becoming the ‘Rock’N’Roll Animal’, donning a S&M leather boy look – black leather, studs, cropped hair – and playing the schlock-rock to the hilt as his band cranked out glam-metal versions of Velvets song. Reed became a grotesque self-parody, some nights so high that his roadies had to carry him on and offstage, simulating shooting up with a mike flex and needle during “Heroin”. The “Rock’n’Roll Animal” album went on heavy rotation on ‘album rock’ radio stations and sold by the shedload, and RCA milked the outtakes for a second LP, “Lou Reed Live” – although Reed cheekily left in the sound of a fan screaming “Lou Reed sucks!” echoing from the speakers in the closing run-off groove.
The following album Reed – or rather his producer, as Reed was too out of it to stand up during the recording sessions – knocked out “Sally Can’t Dance”, a tacky caricature of “Transformer” and a hideous, hilarious self-parody. Tellingly, one of the songs was called “Ennui”. The album was Reed’s only US top ten hit, and received some of his best reviews. Reed could hardly conceal his self-loathing, snarling, “This is fantastic – the worse I am, the more it sells. If I wasn’t on the record at all next time around, it would probably go to number one … I hate that album. Sally Can’t Dance is tedious. Could you imagine putting Sally Can’t Dance with your name on it? Dying my hair and all that shit? That’s what they wanted that’s what they got. Sally Can’t Dance went into the top ten without a single, and I said, ‘Ah, what a piece of shit.’”
By mid-1974, Lou Reed could be found in Max’s Kansas City, cadaver-thin, pallid complexion, sporting cropped blond hair with Iron Crosses shaved into the sides. Journalist Nick Kent recalled, “I’ve never seen a man so utterly paralysed, so completely devoid of life while managing to keep breathing, as Reed had looked that night.” During their conversation, Reed summed up his current situation: “…It depends on boredom… And tension. Getting interested, y’know, in things after you get things settled. Getting involved again… Not being bored. Because when I get bored…uh, funny things happen.”
No question, Lou Reed was bored. And funny things were gonna happen. So it was that he became determined to hammer the last nail into the coffin of the ‘rock’n’roll animal’ and shit on the middle America teenagers that bought “Sally”, the critics that panned “Berlin” and the label that wanted another “Transformer”.
What he created featured no glam-shlock songs about transvestites, junkies and
make-up for thrill-seeking teens to scare their parents with. With a guitar, a bank of effects pedals and a mixing desk, Reed created the most inhuman-sounding album ever made. Exactly sixty-eight minutes of screaming, grating, roaring pure white noise that sounds like World War Three, subtitled ‘The Amine ß Ring – An Electronic Instrumental Composition’, and mischievously packaged in a gatefold sleeve depicting Reed onstage in leathers, shades and peroxide crewcut as if it were the rock’n’roll animal’s latest live offering. The Velvets had dabbled in feedback and noise on “White Light/White Heat”, but they were an underground band with nothing to lose. Reed was currently a solo star at his commercial peak in FM Radio Land.
As an exercise in aural aggravation, it takes no prisoners. In a neat trick previously used on the Velvet Underground flexidisc “Loop”, the final side of the record is cut with a closed groove, meaning the listener has to get up and switch off the record to stop the relentless sonic attack! Reed loved this: “It’s the only record I know that attacks the listener. Even when it gets to the end of the last side it still won’t stop. You have to get up and remove it yourself. It’s impossible to even think when the thing is on. It destroys you. You can’t complete a thought. You can’t even comprehend what it’s doing to you. You’re literally driven to take the miserable thing off. You can’t control that record.”
Interviews on ‘Metal Machine Music’ suggest that creating and releasing this atonal
atrocity was the biggest highlight of his ’70s career, cackling with malevolent glee at having pulled off such an audacious fast one. Lester Bangs: “Just imagine that wired little weasel, marching through the offices of one of the biggest media conglomerates in the world with his machine tapes in his hand, not just confident but downright cocky that what he had here was the greatest masterpiece in musical history. Lou took Metal Machine Music straight to the top, to Kenneth Glancy, President of RCA Records, and worked his way down from there…” Biographer Victor Bockris recounts, “On getting home he told friends he had to run to the men’s room, after presenting this highly unusual product to the RCA people, in order to explode with laughter.”
RCA execs didn’t know what they were supposed to do with the record, except that they were contractually obliged to release it as Lou Reed’s latest album. They tried sneaking it out quietly on their ‘Red Seal’ classical label, but Reed nipped that plan in the bud. A Quadrophonic mix was also released, and it even appeared on eight-track cartridge. Funnily enough, with its four programmes of equal length and on a continous loop, “Metal Machine Music” is the only album custom-made for the 8 Track format.
As mentioned before, the sleeve was designed in the style of a live album. Doubtless this would have led unsuspecting consumers to purchase the album expecting another “Rock’N’Roll Animal” – presumably something Reed intended, as the back cover described the content as “Rock orientation, melodically disguised, i.e. drag.”
Even if the musical content is indigestible, the sleeve continues the album’s raison d’etre as a blatant ‘fuck you’ to its intended targets. More ‘drag’ appeared in the form of pseudo-technical jargon on the credits – which Reed copied from a hi-fi magazine. “I made up the equipment on the back of the album…It’s all bullshit.”
The inside gatefold, an essay entitled ‘Notation’, is worth the purchase price on its own. A hilarious statement-cum-essay providing a few hints as to where Reed’s head was currently at. It begin by reinforcing the ethic behind his work since the Velvets, that had been obscured by the glam posturing -“…my concern was not, as assumed…the exploration of various ‘taboo’ subjects, drugs, sex, violence. Passion – REALISM – realism was the key.” Drug references and the deadpan wit of the speed-freak hinted at Reed’s chemically altered state of mind – the album was aimed at serious users, “for those whom the needle is no more than a toothbrush”, calling it “a gift, if one could call it that, from a part of a certain head, to a few others.” The front cover contained references from Remington’s Pharmaceutical Science and British Pharmacopia. That the record was a reprisal for the commercial failure of “Berlin” was evident in Reed’s wistful comment, “I’d harboured hope that the intelligence that once inhabited novels or films would ingest rock. I was, perhaps, wrong.”, before joking, “This is the reason Sally can’t dance – your rock’n’roll animal.”
Unsurprisingly, the album’s release in Reed’s home country went down like a lead balloon. RCA’s British division didn’t give the album a domestic release, wisely importing a handful of copies. Years later, in Smash Hits, the lead singer of Doctor and the Medics mentioned that it was his rarest album in his record collection but he couldn’t part with as it cost so much to buy in the first place and no bugger would take it off off his hands, so he was stuck with it.
Reed had anticipated the cries of critics and fans being ripped off in the album’s liner notes, with an unapologetic non-disclaimer: “Most of you won’t like this, and I don’t blame you at all. It’s not meant for you… For that matter, off the record, I love it and adore it. I’m sorry, but not especially, if it turns you off.” In interviews after the album’s release, Reed was similarly defiant. “I’m not gonna apologise to anybody! They should be grateful I put that fucking thing out, and if they don’t like it, they can go eat rat shit. I make records for me.”
This echoes Reed’s response, a year earlier, when questioned about the overwrought yet underbought Berlin, he scoffed “My bullshit is other people’s diamonds” but at least that album had some saving graces.
The only other record recorded that year which came anywhere close to capturing the nihilistic fall-out of the glam era was “Metallic KO”, the live album of Iggy and the Stooges’s last show, which ends with the sound of beer glasses being thrown onstage as a bunch of Hells Angels attack the Mighty Pop.
Like “Metallic KO”, “Metal Machine Music” ended one era but bled into the beginning of another. Rather than wiping out his career, this musical suicide note placed him at the vanguard of a new musical movement which owed much of its existance to the Velvet Underground. The magazine which gave its name to the scene – Punk – featured Reed in its first issue, the cover featuring Legs McNeil’s spot-on illustration of Reed as a metallic bug-man, and inside McNeil and editor John Holstrom spoke to Reed about MMM and other things.
The feature saved Reed from obscurity for a new generation. Says Holmstrom, “Metal Machine Music almost ended his career. He could have become another forgotten Elton John kind of person if we hadn’t put him on the cover. Instead, he became the godfather of punk and it resurrected his career.”
Holmstrom later said, “I saw Metal Machine Music as the beginning of the punk rock movement. It was the ultimate punk rock album. It was the greatest punk statement ever made. It was fuck you to the record company and everyone who bought it. It was, ‘This is what I want to do the way I want to do it.’ How can you get more punk than that? It was more punk than the Sex Pistols, the Ramones, everything that came out afterward. I think he meant it that way, and we treated it that way.”
Despite being almost completely unlistenable – an opinion that can itself be countered as, if one adheres to the Velvets-esque belief that drone and repetition has its own kind of hypnotic beauty, one may find passages to admire (and just a year earlier, Fripp & Eno’s No Pussyfooting pulled a similar trick with systems music) – “Metal Machine Music” was a spectacular folly that paid off spectacularly. Its nihilistic sound perfectly coincided with the beginnings of punk, and made Reed more relevant than he had been since “Transformer”.
It kick-started an artistic rejuvenation, which reached a kind of peak with the brilliant “Street Hassle”, his most coherent, compelling statement since “Berlin”, with its sha-la-la song cycle of two fucked-up losers, a reimagining of the Velvets outtake Real Good Time Together that starts out with nothing more than shimmering, reverbed looped guitar chords, and ends with some hilariously out-of-sync call and response doo-wop vocals on “Wait”. At the height of this period as ‘Godfather of Punk’, Reed released a brilliant live album “Take No Prisoners”, as close a companion to “Metal Machine Music” as you can get.
As with “Metal Machine Music”, it’s a warts-and-all statement of where Reed was at. “It’s not only the smartest thing I’ve ever done, it’s also as close to Lou Reed as you’re probably going to get, for better or worse.” Comparing “Take No Prisoners” to “Metal Machine Music”, Reed said, “I wanted to make a record that wouldn’t give an inch. If anything, it would push the world back just an inch or two. If Metal Machine Music was just a hello note, Take No Prisoners is the letter that should’ve gone with it.”
There’s an addendum during this period, too. Reed’s one-time producer David Bowie had decamped to Paris and Berlin in 1976 to craft “Low”, an album which with hindsight we know invented the sound of the 1980s, but landed on the laps of RCA executives Christmastime 1976 with the same mixture of bemusement and personal offence that “Metal Machine Music” had been dumped not long before. Word is the corporation’s receipt of Reed’s monster coloured their reception of Bowie’s own abrupt volte face from glam and soul, and that Bowie’s ex-manager Tony DeFries willingly offered Bowie big bucks to dump “Low” and go back to Philadelphia and make “Young Americans II”.
All the above considered, and knowing how closely Bowie watches the highs and lows of his peers and imitators, it is probably not entirely coincidental that when Bowie performed his own act of commercial suicide and rebirth – Tin Machine – the project’s name echoed “Metal Machine Music”.
During the ’80s and ’90s Reed cleaned up his act, got married, briefly reunited with fellow Velvet founder John Cale, and later the other band members, and now lives happily with fellow New York musician Laurie Anderson. There’s been intermittent extreme close-ups of the Reed psyche – “The Blue Mask”, “Magic And Loss” – but these have been few and far between, and the raw intensity of “Metal Machine Music” and “Take No Prisoners” only appears in flashes.
Meanwhile, “Metal Machine Music” – the creature that nearly destroyed Reed’s career, and that his label didn’t even want to release – still casts a long shadow from its obscure corner of rock history. In 2002, RCA released a digitally remastered 25th Anniversary CD, something which must have given Reed a good hard last laugh (not least because the new mix was created by Bob Ludwig, the massively successful engineer responsible for the original unholy mess), and its sonic scream and pure nihilistic rage can be heard in sonic terrorists and noiseniks like Atari Teenage Riot, Waterhouse, Skinny Puppy, Front 242 and Mogwai. Looking back, Reed is as unrepentant as ever about his walk on the wild side: “I’ve probably had more of a chance to make an asshole out of myself than most people, and I realise that. But then not everybody gets a chance to live out their nightmares for the vicarious pleasures of the public.”
In the twenty-first century, is it time to rehabilitate Metal Machine Music? The great thing about that album is, it doesn’t give a fuck. Lou Reed, however, clearly does. As our friend Wikipedia tells us, “Lou Reed never performed Metal Machine Music onstage until March, 2002, when he collaborated with an avant-garde classical ensemble at the MaerzMusik festival in Berlin, Germany. The 10-member group Zeitkratzer performed the original album with Reed in a new arrangement featuring classical string, wind, piano, and accordion. A few years later, he formed a band named the Metal Machine Trio as a noise rock/experimental side project which has since toured extensively to sell-out crowds.”
Really, this tells us about nothing more than Lou Reed’s intense desire to be taken absolutely seriously as an artist. The Wiki entry reeks suspiciously of someone desperate to be treated as an ARTIST. I mean, classical ensemble, woodwind, string and piano? The present-day Lou Reed who signs up Debbie Harry and Chris Walken to contribute to an rock opera album of Edgar Allen Poe’s verse as if this automatically gives it more credence than the fact that thirty years ago he wrote the lyrics for Kiss’ concept album The Elder.
By exalting this ugly monolith, which stands and falls by its own merits (or lack thereof), and being so protective of his legacy, it’s arguable that Lou Reed has diminished the integrity of his most uncompromising statement. Lester Bangs said it best: “As classical music it adds nothing to a genre that may well be depleted. As rock ‘n’ roll it’s interesting garage electronic rock ‘n’ roll. As a statement it’s great, as a giant FUCK YOU it shows integrity—a sick, twisted, dunced-out, malevolent, perverted, psychopathic integrity, but integrity nevertheless.”
Kill your sons.
An appreciation of Dusty Springfield from “Memphis” and beyond, originally posted on Daily Waffle, June 2013.
When you think of Dusty Springfield, I daresay you see many faces. The girl with the panda kohl eyes and bouffant beehive driving a glitter-festooned juggernaut of camp through the parochially Anglo-Saxon sixties ‘hit parade’ with melodramatic European ballads and blue-eyed soul chanteuse, singing the blues as only a good Catholic girl could. The Pet Shop Boys’ secret weapon during their imperial age with their stunning ‘What Have I Done To Deserve This’ or latterly her smoky soulful voice providing some cultural dissonance against Uma Thurman’s drug-fucked ennui in Pulp Fiction with her smooth vintage rendition of ‘Son of a Preacher Man’…
Therein lies the rub. Everyone knows who Dusty Springfield but her cultural presence is mostly defined through a handful of cultural cameos generations apart. You could almost say that she’s the girl that never was. In her foremost incarnation, she had her own songbook which crossed the generational divide between Frank Sinatra’s moods indigo, Petula Clark’s cabaret nous and Julie Driscoll’s discordant Northern Soul, with her riveting takes on European chanson (she was pole position with Scott Walker in terms of bringing Brel to the peanut gallery), early ‘60s beat (that foot-tapping backbeat on Saint Etienne’s Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us is lifted straight from I Can’t Wait Until I See My Baby’s Face), popularising Bacharach & David (her takes on the songbook are more familiar than Dionne Warwick’s and less rough than Cilla Black’s) and the dissonant, woozy Spooky.
If she has any credence at all beyond pop fads and fancies it’s based upon one singular album, Dusty In Memphis, and surprisingly even the most seasoned listeners don’t pay much heed to what went after. This is disappointing, but a rich vein of untapped potential for you there reading now. Pulp Fiction did indeed yield Son Of A Preacher Man, which gave Dusty a fresh validation and authenticity for a whole generation of students, cinema buffs and hipsters beyond their parents’ record collections, but four years later she would be dead. Tragically, despite having a fascinatingly inconsistent but never less than intriguing back catalogue, it remains the fact that she’s less than the sum of her greatest moments.
Dusty In Memphis often occupies top spots in classic album charts, and as such her status could be considered similar to that of her sometime Philips labelmate Scott Walker, in as much as her most accomplished albums didn’t translate to commercial success. An absolutely top-drawer interpreter of gifted people’s material, all too often squeezed into a conservative market by her promoters and a certain malleability on her part due to being reluctant to play the fame game and having no real masterplan. In short, the kind of act in short supply today, less driven and micro-managed by Svengalis and the press, but no poorer for having left some fascinating documents of forgotten new directions along the way.
Dusty In Memphis, despite being a music monthlies’ favourite, did not sell that well, although it received high praise. But she went back into the studio to tape From Dusty With Love and cut a whole album penned by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. If those names don’t mean anything to you, you’ll recognise their musical imprint. Laidback grooves, sultry swings, songs of loving and loss, Gamble and Huff defined ‘the sound of Philadelphia’ in the mid 1970s, providing hits for the Jacksons, O’Jays, the Three Degrees and single handedly influencing David Bowie’s calculated move into blue-eyed soul with Young Americans in 1975. This short and sweet album drips like honey with sweet soulful music, perfectly matched to that vulnerable, heartbroken voice of Mary O’Brien’s, and still sounds timeless now. Doubtless, small succour when the album failed in both continents and saw her return to the chicken and basket circuit. Nevertheless if you want to hear the roots of ‘70s soul and its mutant cousin, disco and funk, it’s here in understated, delicate form.
Lost is, for my money, one of the slickest album openers ever, all confident brass and nifty guitar licks, and staccato on-off beats before a belting chorus – it’s a real anthem – and when Dusty sings about A Bad Case of the Blues, she makes it feel like the sweetest kind of melancholy, whilst the British pressing’s title song, A Brand New Me, is a real gentle toe-tapper that soon builds into a punchy chorus before relaxing into cool smooth verses; it’s the epitome of ‘blue eyed soul’, a deceptively complex and tricky genre to emulate effectively.
There was a period of inactivity prior to her next album release, See All Her Faces, and this was primarily due to insecurity about her musical direction, and a certain amount of fannying around between her UK and US record labels. As a result, as the album title implies, there’s a lack of overall coherence, but track by track it’s a compelling listen. It’s a mishmash of tracks recorded between 1969 during the Dusty In Memphis sessions (Willie Mae and Laurie Jones, That Old Sweet Old Roll, both now found on fancier versions of that CD album), tracks cut for Atlantic with Arif Mardin, who soon found a great collaborator with Bette Midler (which in retrospect feels like a passing of the torch, since the Divine Miss M’s fine line in camp melodrama, and ability to switch seamlessly between bittersweet chanson and raucous toe-tappers, made her a glam-era Dusty) and a whole chunk of tracks recorded in London’s famous Trident studios all banked on side one.
There are many pleasures to be found here. The Dusty In Memphis outtakes have outlived their parent album’s longevity, thanks to carefully programmes hits compilations and reissues, Mixed Up Girl kicks off with a breakbeat that any number of 90s turntable artists would hock their nearest Blue Note LP for, Let Me Down Easy just oozes the kind of Bacharach-inspired languorous eunnui that Barbra Streisand spent the best part of the 1970s trying to effortlessly emulate, and Crumbs off the Table has the kind of fat bass, overprocessed horns and chicken scratch guitar defines the kind of post-Joplin whitebread swamp rock funk that Ike & Tina Turner, post-Tanx Bolan, Elkie Brooks’ Vinegar Joe and post-Vegas Elvis were working towards into the mid-‘70s.
This brings us to the last of Dusty Springfield’s underestimated soul trilogy, Cameo. Shrouded in an appalling pale blue album sleeve and released on the unprepossessing-sounding ‘ABC Dunhill Records’ label, it nevertheless kicks off in fine style with a smooth cover of Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey. The goodwill the opening track evokes is somewhat dissipated by the harsh-sounding analogue keyboard stabs and general sluggishness of Who Gets Your Love, but all is redeemed with the sexy, slinky Easy Evil, which anticipates the textures of Ann Peebles’ I Can’t Stand The Rain and is one of Dusty’s most sensual, downhome grooves. Elsewhere, Mama’s Little Girl has all the effervescence of the less careworn, more hopeful Dusty of the Ivor Raymonde years, and the delightful I Just Wanna Be There captures an euphoric, toe-tapping, happy go lucky swagger that puts one in mind of the Jacksons’ finest Motown 45s… So the Gamble & Huff influence was clearly two-way!
Cameo’s reception was as underbought as its realisation was overwrought, but word is that latterly it’s been received as one of Dusty’s best albums, even – some may say – standing tall with the mighty Dusty In Memphis. I’d leave that to your own subjective opinion, as all three of these post-Memphis albums yield career highs of Ms Springfield’s talents that have fairly been left unsung, even amongst the cognoscenti.
As anyone who’s read Penny Valentine’s Dancing With Demons will know, the 1970s was a most troubled decade for ‘Rusty Springboard’ (as Terry Wogan memorably coined her during his heyday) but for anyone intrigued enough by those fantastic singles and the enigma of this most unknowable and iconic of ‘sixties girl singers legends, you may well find a treasure trove of hidden gems. She’s the Sinatra of blues and soul – even if no one was buying these records, she’s singing to you and only you, with blood, sweat and tears. Hear her out.
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