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Dancing with Demons: The Authorized Biography of Dusty Springfield

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Dusty Springfield led a tragic yet inspiring life, battling her way to the top of the charts and into the hearts of music fans world-wide. Her signature voice made songs such as, "I Only Want to Be With You," "Son of A Preacher Man," and "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me," international hits. In Dancing With Demons, two of her closest friends, Valentine and Wickham, captu Dusty Springfield led a tragic yet inspiring life, battling her way to the top of the charts and into the hearts of music fans world-wide. Her signature voice made songs such as, "I Only Want to Be With You," "Son of A Preacher Man," and "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me," international hits. In Dancing With Demons, two of her closest friends, Valentine and Wickham, capture, with vivid memories and personal anecdotes, a Dusty most people never glimpsed in this no-holds-barred yet touching portrait of one of the world's true grand dames of popular music.


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Dusty Springfield led a tragic yet inspiring life, battling her way to the top of the charts and into the hearts of music fans world-wide. Her signature voice made songs such as, "I Only Want to Be With You," "Son of A Preacher Man," and "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me," international hits. In Dancing With Demons, two of her closest friends, Valentine and Wickham, captu Dusty Springfield led a tragic yet inspiring life, battling her way to the top of the charts and into the hearts of music fans world-wide. Her signature voice made songs such as, "I Only Want to Be With You," "Son of A Preacher Man," and "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me," international hits. In Dancing With Demons, two of her closest friends, Valentine and Wickham, capture, with vivid memories and personal anecdotes, a Dusty most people never glimpsed in this no-holds-barred yet touching portrait of one of the world's true grand dames of popular music.

30 review for Dancing with Demons: The Authorized Biography of Dusty Springfield

  1. 4 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    I like human voices, the more human the better, which is where these dramatic-melismatic upscale and downscale contemporary singers trip up all over their soft parts, I think - they're all so "good" they become interchangeable, like great engines. They sing their songs to death. Under their lashings and howlings and pitch-perfect ululations what sentiment can survive? Some fine singers of the past got to make one indelible record - Priscilla Paris cooing like the Angel of Complete Sex on "I Love I like human voices, the more human the better, which is where these dramatic-melismatic upscale and downscale contemporary singers trip up all over their soft parts, I think - they're all so "good" they become interchangeable, like great engines. They sing their songs to death. Under their lashings and howlings and pitch-perfect ululations what sentiment can survive? Some fine singers of the past got to make one indelible record - Priscilla Paris cooing like the Angel of Complete Sex on "I Love how you Love Me" or Cathy Jean Giordano's stark and frankly caterwauling doowop psychodrama "Please Love Me Forever", and some great voices get to sing acres of junk and consequently get forgotten (Doris Troy, Maxine Brown, Bessie Banks, Irma Thomas, lots more). But some voices are unstoppable, no matter what unappealing face they emerge from – Roy Orbison, to take an obvious example. By 1960 Roy already looked dead – completely white face, never moved a muscle on stage, never even moved his lips, he was too old, he was too pudgy, in the age of Elvis and Beatles he really should have been sent right back to Wink, Texas, but he opened up his larynx of gold and climbed all the way up to the top of Runnin’ Scared or In Dreams and nothing physical mattered, he became pure spirit, pure pain, pure pleasure. Dusty Springfield was like that – she could ride in on the crest of an orchestral crescendo like the Silver Surfer and then in a heartbeat be whispering right behind your ear. In her ballads she was the poster girl for grace under pressure, in lots of other tunes she sounded like real fun. Which is the opposite of what this biography reveals. Dusty made herself up, literally. She invented her name and she created the famous bouffant-tranny-with-the mad-mascara image, as artificial as a Japanese Noh player, because she knew that without it she was the female Roy Orbison and you might be able to get away with being homely if you’re a man but uh-uh, not if you’re a girl in the swinging 60s. A fan once caught her without make-up on the street one day, and the fan's reaction was enough to make Dusty never ever go out of the house without the panda eyes again. Dusty never sang the Great American Songbook, I would have liked that, she never sang Jacques Brel* – I would have loved that, and she didn’t become a disco diva in the 70s, an obvious move I could have put up with. In fact after 1970 it all went horribly wrong, all the comebacks failed, the sporadic albums were crap, the mental breakdowns got scarier. Sometimes I have those daft fantasies that I go back in time and yell Hey – Buddy!! Get off the damn plane! Now! There’s a terrible storm coming right this way! or Hey! Jeff! Get out the damn river – there’s a bad current about ten feet from right where you are! But you couldn’t shout anything from the future into Dusty Springfield’s life to prevent it becoming the car crash it was. She lived through the time of gay liberation (as it was called back then) and it didn't do a thing for her, she was still petrified about coming out. Hundreds of promoters grovelled at her stilettoed feet casting rubies and pearls about her and she threw glassware at them all until no one dared come within half a mile of her. It wasn't pretty. She was a manic depressive. But records are records and they can’t be unrecorded, and we have those, and we can hope that the voice was, while it sang, sometimes at least, as it is to us fans always, its own justification. This is a decent enough showbiz bio, but I’d advise all Dusty fans to avoid it altogether. You really don’t need to know the details. I’m sorry I read this. * except If you Go Away

  2. 5 out of 5

    Leanne

    Heartbreaking but at times very amusing. Lots of hardcore Dusty fans hate this book because they don't like the way it portrays the singer but I think it shows her fun loving side as well as the beautifully talented but extremely troubled part that pretty ,much ruled her life. I hope this is a true recollection of Dusty because, not only did I thoroughly enjoy her story but I also found many parts of the book that I could relate to. Heartbreaking but at times very amusing. Lots of hardcore Dusty fans hate this book because they don't like the way it portrays the singer but I think it shows her fun loving side as well as the beautifully talented but extremely troubled part that pretty ,much ruled her life. I hope this is a true recollection of Dusty because, not only did I thoroughly enjoy her story but I also found many parts of the book that I could relate to.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Leigh Roberts

    Heartbreaking

  4. 5 out of 5

    Blair

    It's hard to believe Dusty Springfield, who was so extremely private and shy, would authorize this. Perhaps at the end of her life, she gave permission under duress or stopped caring what people would think? Either way, the title gives you the tip off that this book focuses on her struggles, not so much her music. I wanted a biography that also gave a full, more critical look at her musical contributions. For that I'll have to go elsewhere. What is touched upon is done in such a frugal manner th It's hard to believe Dusty Springfield, who was so extremely private and shy, would authorize this. Perhaps at the end of her life, she gave permission under duress or stopped caring what people would think? Either way, the title gives you the tip off that this book focuses on her struggles, not so much her music. I wanted a biography that also gave a full, more critical look at her musical contributions. For that I'll have to go elsewhere. What is touched upon is done in such a frugal manner that it seems the music is a mere footnote. Also, I read via Amazon reviews that many of the facts in this book were contested by those close to Dusty. So, I'm taking this all with a grain of salt.

  5. 4 out of 5

    David Stimpson

    I Loved Dusty ..A real Account of Wonderful Singers life ..reading this book i Loved and Disliked Her ...But i will Read it Again one Day ..

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tony Sacre

    Ok

  7. 4 out of 5

    Evil Queen Sf

    OMG this book had me crying on public transportation. LOVED IT LOVED IT!!!!!!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Terri

    A good Dusty Biography that I enjoyed yes I would go see a film about her but not quite yet...

  9. 5 out of 5

    Eoin O'Callaghan

    As I start to review more, I'm going to have to carefully calibrate how I am rating the books. This one is definitely between two and three stars, and perhaps I'm being a little bit harsh giving just two. I actually enjoyed reading this more than a two star review would suggest (mainly because of the subject of the book) but for me the book is let down by the writing, and some obvious mistakes. Firstly, Dusty Springfield is a pretty remarkable personae. I like the image she created - and Dusty S As I start to review more, I'm going to have to carefully calibrate how I am rating the books. This one is definitely between two and three stars, and perhaps I'm being a little bit harsh giving just two. I actually enjoyed reading this more than a two star review would suggest (mainly because of the subject of the book) but for me the book is let down by the writing, and some obvious mistakes. Firstly, Dusty Springfield is a pretty remarkable personae. I like the image she created - and Dusty Springfield was a total creation. I think her public persona was much more appealing than the person which this book describes. She always looked like a star, gave thoughtful interviews, and of course the voice was amazing. She had a long recording career (16 albums) and the book covers each of them at a high level. The accounts of each of the albums touched on one or two standout tracks per album, without trying to analyse everything. That certainly helped fill in some of the gaps I had in her recording career, particularly from the early 70s to the mid 1980s. Where the book falls down is that it doesn't live up to its billing as the 'authorised biography' of Dusty Springfield. Vicki Wickham was a long standing friend of Dusty and was her last manager, and from what I can gather journalist Penny Valentine was also a friend of Dusty's. So the access they had to write this story is any biographer's dream. However, they were not able to capitalise on this opportunity. None of the sources are properly referenced, which is frustrating on a subject of this stature. They often take an annecdotal approach, which can be fine but I often got the sense that the stories were apocryphal, such as the story of a washed out 1980s Dusty being on a bill at the Hippodrome with Fanny the trained dog, and before going onstage seeing Fanny taking a pee against a wall! The authors did make up for this a couple of paragraphs later with the book's best laugh out loud moment. They provide more detail on the Hippodrome performance (Dusty wore a silver suit, purple hair, and appeared onstage in a flurry of dry ice and flashing lights) which led to the Guardian reviewer describing Dusty as looking like "something leftover from the NASA space probe". To be fair to the writers they don't hold back on describing how difficult much of Springfield's life was, especially after the move to California in the early 70s. The book is good on her neurosis, perfectionism and the pressure she felt to keep up appearances, including concealing her lesbianism. It was less clear on getting to the bottom of the problems in Dusty's Childhood. The contrast between this account of Dusty's life and her winning public personal is stark. Watch pretty much any TV interview or live performance from Dusty's career and you would this was a confident happy person. The weakest aspect of the book is the writing. Sentence structure and descriptions are often sloppy and worse there are some obvious mistakes in the book. For example, they describe the Pet Shop Boys collaboration 'What have I done to deserve this?' as Dusty's first hit in over 20 years. Not so. It hit No 2 in 1987. Dusty had two top 10 hits in 1968 and UK chart entries in 1969 and 1970. That's not "more than 20 years". They write "'Nothing has been proved' ...... would give her another top 5 hit and put her firmly back in the headlines herself". Again, not so. I can't see any record of it going Top 5 anywhere. It peaked at number 16 in the UK. How can her manager not get this accurate? All this said, I did enjoy this time spent with Dusty. Unfortunately I feel that overall, this book was a missed opportunity, so soon after Dusty's death to document the definitive biography of this incredible singer.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sasha

    Re-visit to the book I originally bought at the time of publishing. Back than, I was mortified with what I perceived as indiscrete and too revealing. Now, two decades later, I read it from completely different perspective and found it as affectionate portrait written by two close friends who also happen to be music industry insiders and quite important in their own right. Both Valentine and Wickham were there in the swinging sixties, shoulder to shoulder not just with Springfield but to everybod Re-visit to the book I originally bought at the time of publishing. Back than, I was mortified with what I perceived as indiscrete and too revealing. Now, two decades later, I read it from completely different perspective and found it as affectionate portrait written by two close friends who also happen to be music industry insiders and quite important in their own right. Both Valentine and Wickham were there in the swinging sixties, shoulder to shoulder not just with Springfield but to everybody who was part of the Ready, Steady, Go! and trans-Atlantic exchange between The British Invasion and Motown. So while in the future we might get different authors writing about Springfield, we can't get better witnesses than these two who were actually there every step of the way. While authors admit that privately Springfield could have been occasionally exhausting, they loved her enough to support her trough thick and thin - the reader gets impression that it took a lot of patience to be around her and contrary to idea of "suffering diva" I think that long-suffering secretary and the army of other fans and supporters deserve medal for their support.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Alina Karina

    This book has a pretty bad rap among fans, but I can’t see why. Aside from the title being a tad dramatic, it seemed a fairly affectionate portrait of a prodigiously talented and fascinating person. She had some rough patches and the author doesn’t shy away from them, but it didn’t read to me as exploitative or judgmental of her. I would have liked for the book to be longer and detail more of her albums and their making, but luckily Paul Howes covered us with his gloriously nerdy song-by-song de This book has a pretty bad rap among fans, but I can’t see why. Aside from the title being a tad dramatic, it seemed a fairly affectionate portrait of a prodigiously talented and fascinating person. She had some rough patches and the author doesn’t shy away from them, but it didn’t read to me as exploitative or judgmental of her. I would have liked for the book to be longer and detail more of her albums and their making, but luckily Paul Howes covered us with his gloriously nerdy song-by-song detail in The Complete Dusty Springfield. Also, her younger years and earlier career were detailed a little better in Lucy O’Brien’s Dusty: The Classic Biography and Karen Bartlett’s Dusty: An Intimate Portrait of a Musical Legend. Read them all!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Cara Patel

    I'm very interested in reading more about the story of Dusty Springfield, but this is not really holding my attention. It felt like we were dropped into the story and it too me a while to find my footing with the story. The fact that it was not written by Dusty herself really comes through, but there were quite a few instances where it felt like they were putting words in her mouth. I just didn't find it particularly well written. I'm very interested in reading more about the story of Dusty Springfield, but this is not really holding my attention. It felt like we were dropped into the story and it too me a while to find my footing with the story. The fact that it was not written by Dusty herself really comes through, but there were quite a few instances where it felt like they were putting words in her mouth. I just didn't find it particularly well written.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Cat

    Dusty’s life is fascinating in any form and this is heavy on the torment/mental health/sexuality issues, with a bit of her music as well. That said, it’s not particularly engagingly written (sometimes the prose is outright awkward), so it’s hard to give it more than 3 stars.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Gail

    She was amazing

  15. 5 out of 5

    Shaun Hand

    Quite disappointed by this, particularly the editing. Things would appear but not explained for several pages, meaning I’d wonder if I’d missed something and have to keep checking back.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Anton

  17. 5 out of 5

    Meg Armstrong

  18. 5 out of 5

    Alyssa Banotai

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

  20. 4 out of 5

    Caroline Hamer

  21. 5 out of 5

    Paula Hemmerick

  22. 4 out of 5

    Carol Keenan

  23. 4 out of 5

    Skye

  24. 4 out of 5

    Erin

  25. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

  26. 5 out of 5

    lynsey hughes

  27. 5 out of 5

    Marcus Collins

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kimberley Jo

  29. 4 out of 5

    Emma

  30. 4 out of 5

    Dennis Ford

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