Dusty Springfield’s success, both in the UK and US, prompted many other European singers to attempt to capture some of her glory. Although she recorded some of her hits in other languages, the majority remained in English only. This left the door open to singers from across the rest of Europe to cover her songs for their domestic markets.
Inevitably, in their efforts to emulate her – and her success – some succeeded, some failed. After all, Dusty was one of the best singers Britain has ever produced. And her attention to detail is legendary.
Her trademark wigs and panda-eyed make up were part of a costume she donned that allowed her to transform herself from intensely shy Mary O’Brien into Dusty-Springfield-the-singer. Despite – or, arguably, because of – this insecurity, she would record umpteen takes of her songs to capture just the sound she wanted. Her efforts paid off, however, leaving a catalogue of truly great material.
Here, in this tribute special, we celebrate Dusty Springfield by giving you 30 or so of the best cover versions of her classic songs by European female singers of the 1960s. We concentrate on Dusty’s British solo A- and B-sides, plus one American 45, presented in chronological order.
I only want to be with you
If Dusty had worried that record buyers wouldn’t know how to take her musical makeover from The Springfields to solo singer, she needn’t have – her debut 45, I only want to be with you, reached number four in the UK, number 12 in the US and soon ratcheted up global sales of over a million.
Her record company, Philips, was keen to launch her in Germany. Thus, she came to record the song in German as Auf dich nur wart’ ich immerzu, though she clearly struggled with the language.
The Golden Kids would cover it in 1970 with new German lyrics as Wir leben mit dem Sonnenschein, without success, but not before countless other versions had been recorded. Among the best are Les Surfs’ French (À présent tu peux t’en aller), Italian and Spanish takes on the song. Five Spanish acts – including Lita Torelló, Magda and Silvana Velasco – also cut versions of Ahora te puedes marchar, while in Portugal, Paula Ribas issued Se queres ir-te embora, vai. And in Czechosolvakia Helena Vondráćková did the honours with Chytila jsem na pasece motýlka.
Dusty’s self-penned B-side, Once upon a time, also drew attention from no less than Françoise Hardy, who provided the French lyrics for her version, C’est le passé.
Songwriters Mike Hawker and Ivor Raymonde attempted to repeat the formula – and success – of Dusty’s debut with Stay awhile. Their hopes were dashed somewhat, however, when the song stalled at number 13 in the UK charts.
That didn’t prevent fellow Brit girl Grazina Frame from cutting a version, while in Italy, Orietta Berti released the song as Scorderai as a B-side. Dusty also recorded it as Reste encore un instant for release on an EP in France that was later repackaged and issued in the UK too.
Dusty’s self-penned B-side, Something special, had been released as a 45 on Fontana by Irish singer Maisie McDaniel a good eight months before the British star’s version made it to vinyl.
I just don’t know what to do with myself
Dusty took Tommy Hunt’s Bacharach and David-penned I just don’t know what to do with myself from a whine to a wail. Although she had cooled towards the song by the time of its release, she was rewarded with a top three hit in the UK all the same.
In France, yé-yé girl Sheila struggled to match Dusty’s passion – and even some of the higher notes – in her version, Oui, il faut croire. However, she matched its success sale for sale. Issued on her Écoute ce disque EP, the record proved one of the biggest hits of the singer’s career, though this was thanks primarily to Vous les copains, which was also on the disc.
In Germany, plucky Waltraud Dirks cut a version, Wenn ich nur wüßt’, was ich tu’ ohne dich, for her debut release. But hers was not a name of which stars are made, and so it proved. Italian star Patty Pravo would later record the song as Se mi vuoi bene for an LP in 1968.
Dusty’s B-side, My colouring book, was already more or less a standard by the time she cut a version of it, thanks to Kitty Kallen and others. Jackie Trent and Welsh songbird Maureen Evans both also recorded takes on the song, and in Germany, future star Katja Ebstein included a translation, Mein Bilderbuch, on her debut LP. She would have to wait a couple more years before German record buyers showed any interest in her work, however.
Losing you was another big ballad, this time from the pens of Clive Westlake and Dusty’s brother Tom. It gave the singer her third top ten hit in the UK.
She had already cut a French version, Je ne peux pas t’en vouloir, before recording the song in English. The flip, Summer is over, from the same writers, was just as beautiful, and Dusty also cut the song in French, as L’été est fini. In Turkey, Füsun Önal stepped in to record Seninle aşkımız.
Wishin’ and hopin’
Philips decided to release Dusty’s Wishin’ and hopin’ as a single in the US in late 1964. It reached number six in America’s Billboard chart. The song had already given Britain’s Merseybeats a top 20 UK hit that summer, so there was little point in Dusty issuing it as a 45 in the UK.
The song was one of the few that Dusty also recorded in Italian, becoming Stupido stupido and issued as the B-side to Tanto so che poi mi passa. She also released a German version, Warten und hoffen, also as a B-side.
Dusty’s B-side, Do re mi, originally by Lee Dorsey, was also cut in Spanish by ye-yé yo-yo girl Kinita.
In the middle of nowhere
After the failure of Your hurtin’ kinda love, Dusty headed off to New York in search of a song that would give her a sure-fire hit. The rollicking In the middle of nowhere proved just such a song, returning the singer to the UK top ten in the summer of 1965.
Spanish singer Sonia gave the song her best shot too, and her Al final de la calle remains one of her finest – and most sought-after – recordings.
Little by little
After scoring a big hit with Gerry Goffin and Carole King’s sumptuous Some of your lovin’, Dusty figured fans would want a lively follow up. Little by little was a blatant attempt to repeat the romping In the middle of nowhere and had been penned by the same writers. It wasn’t as good – even Dusty dismissed it as “a sustainer, a pot-boiler” – but it gave her a UK top 20 hit all the same.
In Czechoslovakia, Helena Vondráćková recorded a version, Málo, jen málo, in 1969.
You don’t have to say you love me
Famously, Dusty heard this song at Italy’s San Remo song festival in 1965. But she wasn’t the first woman to record a version of it. At that time, the practice at San Remo was to have two singers – one Italian and one international – perform each entry. Thus, both the song’s writer, Pino Donaggio, and America’s Jody Miller performed Io che non vivo (senza te) at the contest. Donaggio enjoyed a number one hit with his version, while Jodie’s 45 soon landed in the bargain bins.
Dusty’s take on the song topped the UK charts and became a classic worldwide. Inevitably, it spawned numerous cover versions. In Spain, Renata had already cut a version in Catalan, Jo no puc viure sense tu, while record buyers in Sweden were treated to Marianne Kock’s Vackra sagor är så korta. Yugoslavia saw rival versions issued by Croatian girl group Sanjalice (Nemoj reći da me voliš) and Serbian singer Nada Knežević (Moju ljubav nisi hteo). Kiki Dee – who often recorded backing vocals for Dusty – would later cut a version for her 1970 debut LP for Motown.
The B-side, Every ounce of strength, was also reworked by sisters Sue & Sunny.
Polish-born Goldie (Genya Zelkowitz) formed Goldie and the Gingerbreads in New York. The group came to London in the mid-1960s and signed with the Decca label. Goldie recorded Goin’ back – another Goffin and King composition – first, but a dispute with the writers after she changed some of the lyrics saw her version withdrawn. Carole King then offered the song to Dusty. It wasn’t an obvious follow up to her chart topper and some thought it a brave move. However, the beauty of Dusty’s delivery won through and she took it into the UK top ten in the summer of 1966.
Fellow Brit girl Jackie Trent also cut a credible version in 1969.
Dusty composed the melody of the B-side, I’m gonna leave you, while Madeline Bell and Lesley Duncan provided the lyrics. Madeline also recorded the song for her Bell’s a poppin’ LP. In Czechoslovakia, Marta Kubišová cut a version, as Neni to laska.
All I see is you
When songwriter Clive Westlake presented Dusty with All I see is you, she urged him to give it a re-write. Her instincts paid off. Issued as a single in September 1966, the song – very much in the style of some of her Italian hits – gave her another top ten hit.
It was an understandable choice for cover versions in mainland Europe. In Italy, Rita Monico obliged with Sere vuote. Inexplicably, her version was consigned to a B-side. In Spain, Gelu did the honours. She had been the country’s best-selling female singer of the early 1960s, but by the time she came to release Te veo a ti, her career had reached its sell-by date. Perhaps ironically, the song proved most popular in Sweden, where Marianne Kock’s En dag ska hela världen mot oss le remains one of her best-known releases.
The B-side, Go ahead on, was another song that Dusty had co-written, again with Madeline Bell. Both singers cut versions of the song and provided backing vocals on each other’s recordings.
I’ll try anything
I’ll try anything stalled outside the UK top ten after its release in early 1967. Some blame Dusty for this. She had taken over production on the song and the result is said to be less commanding than another version already in the can.
The song was overlooked by Dusty’s fellow Europeans, though French and Portuguese versions were recorded further afield. In Canada, Renée Martell cut a version for her Liverpool LP, retitled J’aurai mon tour de chance. Meanwhile in Brazil, Maritza Fabiani, who had already recorded a take on I only want to be with you (Não me deixe só), issued Quero um Beatle de presente.
Give me time
Another pleading ballad, Give me time found Dusty in fine form. The song was a cover of an Italian tune, L’amore se ne va, which had been performed by two singers – Luisa Casali and Carmelo Pagano – at the 1966 Rose festival. The song won the contest but, surprisingly, neither singer scored a chart hit with it. Dusty’s version, with exceptionally good lyrics from Peter Callander, went on to become the best-known take on the song.
What’s it gonna be
Her version of US singer Susan Barratt’s What’s it gonna be gave Dusty her lowest UK chart placing to date, failing even to reach the top 50. This came despite the song’s impeccable credentials, with backing vocals from Carole King, Nikolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, among others. It would later find favour, however, on Britain’s northern soul scene.
In Yugoslavia, Serbia’s Seka Kojadinović transformed the song into Šta će biti sad.
I close my eyes and count to ten
Dusty was known to be a perfectionist and would experiment with her vocals, trying out the sounds of various unusual places. The vocals for I close my eyes and count to ten were recorded in Philips’ studio corridor with the microphone hanging from some rope. Her attention to detail brought dividends, however, and the song swept into the top five in Britain in the late summer of 1968.
In France, little-known Séverine was looking for a chart breakthrough. But her Je ferme les yeux, je compte dix, tucked away on a B-side, wasn’t it – and she would have to wait a couple of years when a win at the Eurovision song contest launched her internationally. Dusty managed only one week at number 40 in the German charts with I close my eyes and count to ten, while a translated version by Heidi Brühl, Ich schließe meine Augen, fared even worse. In Yugoslavia, Serbian singer Lola Jovanović re-recorded the song as Zaklopim oči i brojim. Sweden’s Anni-Frid Lyngstad – better known as the redhead in ABBA – would record a version in 1970, Du var främling här igår.
Son-of-a preacher man
Son-of-a preacher man returned Dusty to both the UK and US top ten. It was issued as the first single from her acclaimed Dusty in Memphis LP. The singer had felt so intimidated by the musicians in Tennessee that her master vocals were, in fact, recorded later in New York.
In France, Nicoletta covered the song as Le grand amour, and in Germany, Joyce Suma cut it as Wenn ein Mann mit der Liebe spielt in 1970. In Scandinavia, it became Den flotteste fyr i byen for Denmark’s Birthe Kjær and En lärling på våran gård for Sweden’s Sylvia Vrethammar (who, to her probable shame, remains better known for her later kitsch classic, Y viva España). A version by Swiss comedienne Lisa Fitz, retitled Song vom Hilfsarbeiter and issued under the name Lisa Bauer in 1971, is best overlooked.
In communist Yugoslavia, singing about a preacher wouldn’t have been allowed, so Berta Ambrož had to opt for the next best thing in the social pecking order... Thus her Dimnikarjev sin is an ode to the son of a chimneysweep.
Dusty’s later career
Am I the same girl and Brand new me rounded off Dusty’s UK singles for the decade. Interestingly, in 1970, she released a version of The Young Rascals’ How can I be sure in the style of version by French chanteuse Nicoletta, Je ne pense qu’à t’aimer, from 1968.
The 1970s saw Dusty’s career tail off until she teamed up with the Pet Shop Boys in 1987. What have I done to deserve this proved a magnificent comeback, reaching number two in the UK and US and giving her a big hit in much of mainland Europe. It led to a clutch of further hit singles, including Nothing has been proved (from the film Scandal) and In private, and several albums.
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