06 November 2012

When the day is dawning

‘Just a Little Lovin’ is the perfect opening track to the perfect album, Dusty in Memphis. Written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, it works like an overture to the 40-minute emotional opera that is Dusty Springfield’s 1969 classic.

Dusty and guitarIronically, Dusty never really recorded in Memphis. While the backing tracks were put down in Memphis at the American Studios of Chips Moman, Springfield herself was intimidated by the setting. A tormented perfectionist, she found she couldn’t record with musicians who played by ear, not using charts. Always insecure, she had her headphones turned up extremely high, as if to drown out her own voice. In 1990 Springfield told me (in an interview for Rip It Up) that hearing the producer Jerry Wexler and engineer Tom Dowd tell her, “Stand there – that’s where Aretha stood” just unnerved her. (I’ve since realised of course that Aretha never recorded at Memphis: her two classic Southern tracks, ‘I Never Loved a Man’ and ‘Do Right Woman’ were actually recorded at nearby Muscle Shoals.) So – oddly, like Aretha after her unhappy experience at Muscle Shoals – she bailed out, and recorded the final vocal tracks in New York.

But what a brilliant song, recently revived by Shelby Lynn for her Springfield tribute album, Just a Little Lovin’. Is there a better opening than, “Just a little lovin’, early in the morning / beats a cup of coffee, for starting off the day…”

This is all a preamble to a discovery recently made, of 60s bombshell Elke Sommer performing the song with a charming accent on The Dean Martin Show. Not so charming is the bibulous host, who undercuts any message the song has by donning his tuxedo and fleeing. Martin did have issues.

Martin himself recorded a song called ‘Just a Little Lovin’ but it wasn’t the same song. Written by Eddy Arnold, it had the sub-title “Will Go a Long Way”, and was also recorded by Ray Charles. After Springfield released the Mann/Weil classic, though, it was later recorded by Sarah Vaughan and Carmen McRae. Now there’s a vote of confidence in a song – and a performance.