Book Review: Phases and Stages

Sheet Music

Phases and Stages

Dancing With Demons: The Authorized Biography of Dusty Springfield

by Penny Valentine and Vicki Wickham

St. Martin's Press, 320 pp., $24.95

"She wanted to be straight, she wanted to be a good Catholic, and she wanted to be black," a friend said of the greatest soul singer ever produced by Britain. She was none of those. As tragic as Garland or Joplin, Dusty Springfield skyrocketed up the charts in the Sixties with a voice that wrapped the listener in the dark brown velvet of night, laden with heartache and desire. She serenaded countless lovers locked in lethal embraces with such tearjerkers as "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me," "If You Go Away," and "I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten." Her Dusty In Memphis album, featuring "Son of a Preacher Man," regularly places on critics' lists of essential recordings. Yet, for a woman who should have had it all, her accomplishments were bitterly underscored by crippling self-doubt, drug-and-alcohol addiction, and multiple suicide attempts. Written by pioneering music journalist Penny Valentine and Springfield's longtime friend and manager Vicki Wickham, Dancing With Demons lays bare the previously untold story of the private torments of a working-class Irish girl named Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O'Brien, who burst onto the Swinging London scene as a hostess on the famous Ready, Steady, Go! television show. With platinum tresses in elaborate coiffures and eyes ringed with black, and shimmering gowns, she imbued a sophistication to the stage that was lacking in most of her peers. These, however, were devices designed to distance the performer from the unspeakable terrors that haunted her, and yet could not protect her from the relentless roller-coaster ride that was her career. After doing seemingly everything possible to sabotage herself, and perhaps even failing at that, Springfield, who created decades of magic behind a microphone, succumbed to cancer in 1999.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Music Reviews
<i>Me & Mr. Cigar</i>
Me & Mr. Cigar
Butthole Surfers singer Gibby Haynes debuts a deeply weird and wonderful young adult novel.

Alyssa Quiles, Feb. 21, 2020

Revenge of the She-Punks
Revenge of the She-Punks

Rachel Rascoe, Dec. 6, 2019

More by Stephen MacMillan Moser
After a Fashion: A Stitch In Time
After a Fashion: A Stitch In Time
Fort Lonesome will not be lonely for long

July 5, 2013

After a Fashion: The Main Event
After a Fashion: The Main Event
Your Style Avatar would look great sporting these parasols

June 28, 2013

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle