Aug 05

DUSTY SPRINGFIELD – “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me”

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#213, 30th April 1966

How to deal with a great voice? It’s a pleasant problem for an arranger, but a problem all the same. Nowadays the answer is often tied up in a wider question – how do you market a voice as great? For every imaginative answer there’s a boutique of off-the-peg settings to choose from – the ‘Nelson Riddle’, the ‘Muscle Shoals’ – which can reinforce the claims of a new voice as inheritor of past genius.

But that was now, and this is 1966, and a voice like Dusty Springfield’s finds itself not in the care of a pop heritage industry, but in the hands of Scott Walker’s hitmaking arrangers, who know just what it takes to get a ballad to the top. Strings, volume, and then more strings, and greater volume. And it worked. But does it work?

When I sat down to write this I thought that maybe vulnerability was a speciality of Dusty Springfield’s. (And I’m no expert, by the way – a hits album, Dusty in Memphis, a handful of lovely MP3s, those Pet Shop collaborations…I’m not on first name terms.) “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” is a vulnerable song, alright – in fact, it’s abject. Treat me however you like, it says, my love for you is unconditional. But I don’t like the song. I appreciate it, I could fumble towards an analysis of Dusty Springfield’s impeccable performance, and yes, she sells the song. But it lacks…. what, exactly?

The song brings to mind another Dusty Springfield song I know, “Breakfast In Bed”, where she sings “Breakfast in bed, and a kiss or three / You don’t have to say you love me”. Same words, different weight: despite being a cheater’s song, it’s healthier, more joyful, more intimate. And it makes me realise that it’s intimacy, not vulnerability, that I prize in Dusty Springfield songs. Moments of contemplation, stillness, the solitude of one or two. “Windmills of Your Mind”, of course, but also the still-life “I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today” and her marvellous interruption in “What Have I Done To Deserve This?”

There’s no intimacy in “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me”. There can’t be: intimacy is the very concession the singer is having to make, the thing she is offering to give up for the sake of simple presence. But there’s also no room for intimacy – the production, all effect and bluster, makes sure of that. It’s a curious decision – in a song about powerlessness, demand power from your singer. Dusty Springfield could do powerful, of course, but it’s a shame she had to this time.



  1. 1
    Marcello on 17 Aug 2005 #

    An ocean of sound (remember that Ivor Raymonde was the father of Simon) to mask a quiet, meek (or should that be Meek?) plea for the singer’s own surrender. Today this would be sung in a muted, agreeable manner by Dido with tasteful sub-post-trip hop beats and perhaps an off-the-peg whale music/Northumbrian pipes sample to stand for “humanity.”

    In 1966, however, “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” stood as the Blanche Hudson to “You’re My World”‘s Baby Jane. Vulnerability is important here, since Cilla’s performance – in a song which is all about vulnerability, in the same way that the North Sea is all around Redlands – is too strident, making us wanting to run a mile from her instead of hugging her. Yet it’s hard to miss the attendant irony, not only in Tom Springfield beating Dusty to the number one slot (as composer/lyricist for the Seekers), but also in Dusty having her only number one single with her most submissive song (“Stay Awhile” was always more about seduction than submission).

    As with “You’re My World,” this was an imported Italian Eurovision/San Remo-style showstopping tearjerker with hastily scribbled English lyrics – in Dusty’s case, by her quick-buck carpetbagging managers (but weren’t/aren’t they all?) Simon Napier-Bell and Vicki Wickham

    (but manager writing credits in the ’60s were not always to be trusted – for instance, the phenomenal Piccadilly (1965) double whammy of Nita Rossi’s “Untrue Unfaithful (That Was You)” and “Something To Give” may or may not have been authored by Gordon Mills; given Gilbert O’Sullivan’s subsequent lengthy court battle against the late Mr Mills, there is good reason to doubt the labels)

    As a Euro-epic the record is immaculately, if theatrically, constructed – the opening heraldic/seraphic fanfare stopping dead to let Dusty’s lone voice creep in, like a wife wondering how to apologise to her husband for going to the bingo; the waltz-time piano triplets overlying the slow 4/4 pulse (anticipating Randall and Hopklrk (Deceased)), the serial little breakdowns betrayed by Dusty’s voice throughout (“Life feels dead and so unreal,” “There’s nothing more to feel”), the French horn three-note figure which will reoccur in the Milk Tray adverts and also at the beginning of Peter Wyngarde’s “Once Again (Flight Number 10),” the latter in many ways the answer record to Dusty’s, if she decided NOT to return to him. For there are elements of resentment and defiance at the beginning of the song – “It wasn’t me who changed, but you” and “That I have to FOLLOW you/And BEG you to come home?” – but these are flimsy and collapse instantly along with the singer, such that a few seconds later she is reduced to begging “I’ll never tie you down.”

    And yet that defiance surfaces subtextually at the song’s climax – the key change, the gradual increase in tempo, the escalating orchestration and the final triple scream of “BELIEVE ME!” whereupon the entire song and life pause at the edge of the cliff.

    The differences:
    a) Also in 1966, “River Deep, Mountain High” decides to knock down the cliff altogether, even if only by dint of Spector locking Ike out of the studio.

    b) For a sole Dusty chart-topper I would have preferred either the genuine, chirpy fuck-you defiance of “In The Middle Of Nowhere” or, if we need quietude, then her simple but generous take on Goffin and King’s “Going Back” wherein she looks at the world and decides it’s not her mirror.

    c) That “I will understand – believe me” finale; her final surrender as she is chained and left in her dungeon. A cry of desperation rather than one of hope.

  2. 2
    RJM on 17 Aug 2005 #

    I think you guys are missing a couple of other subtexts here. One,which I don’t want to push too much, is the gay one–the idea that her situation is caused by the fact that her love is forbidden (or, in England at the time, illegal). As I said, I don’t want to push that too much, but it’s definitely there, and certainly that would be cause for a certain level of desperation.

    Second, that climactic “Believe me!” is most obviously directed not to the subject of her love, but to herself. It’s the self-doubt that’s really, I think, responsible for the bombast. She’s trying to convince herself that she can pull this off, that this guy (or gal) is worth the self-sublimation, and humiliation, that she’s going through. It’s desperation, but it’s desperation on a number of different levels. The pain isn’t just her unrequited love, but what she’s willing to put herself through to keep it going. And everytime she think’s she’s overcome the pain, it comes back stronger, and louder.

  3. 3
    RJM on 17 Aug 2005 #

    Oops. Totally screwed up my web page link. Never used blogger comments before. There. That’s better.

  4. 4
    Frank Kogan on 19 Aug 2005 #

    An interesting thing about these lyrics is that I never paid the least attention to them; so what you’re all saying is coming as a revelation.

    What if she’d sung the song in Italian?

  5. 5
    Marcello on 19 Aug 2005 #

    The Italian original was entitled “Io Che Non Vivo (Senza Te)” – literally “I Can’t Live (Without You)” – and its lyric was considerably more submissive and virtually drug-dependent (“I can’t get through a single hour of the day if you’re not there” etc.). Interestingly Connie Francis recorded it in Italian and had a sizeable hit with it in Italy at around that time, though Emilio Pericoli recorded the original version.

  6. 6
    Anonymous on 20 Aug 2005 #

    When I first saw Tom’s critique several days ago, I thought I’d make absolutely no comment. In what universe is Nancy Sinatra a 10 and Dusty a bloody 6, after all?? But considering that I, Doctor Mod, am the author (under my real name) of what is probably the first academic essay on Dusty Springfield, it probably behooves me make some sort of statement. (Published first in David Bergman’s Camp Grounds: Style and Homosexuality [U of Massachusetts Press, 1993], and a revised and updated version in Patricia Juliana Smith’s The Queer Sixties [Routledge, 1999].)

    The various comments are apt. I particularly liked Marcello’s Baby Jane/Blanche simile for Cilla/Dusty. Lest we forget, no girl singer could sustain a career without big overblown ballads back in the mid-sixties. Dusty needed to get back in the charts in the US, where she hadn’t had a big success since “Wishin’ and Hopin'” in late 1964. Big ballads sold. Period. This one put her back on the charts worldwide, and if it wasn’t for YDHTSYLM, perhaps there would have been no Dusty in Memphis–and that would be an immeasurable loss.

    That being said, YDHTSYLM is really an awful song, even if Dusty might make one think otherwise. One need only listen to any other version by any other singer. (It would both amuse and distress me to hear the imaginary Dido version Marcello proposes.) What was unique about Dusty was her ability to bestow a quasi-operatic dignity (if opera is indeed dignified) that seemed to belie that fact that there’s less to this than meets the ear. Having some operatic training, I can assure you that the same might be said for opera itself, still the grandiosity of it all makes people love it despite its absolute artificiality–big, beautiful voices can seduce us into believing what we would never accept from small, polite voices–or strident Cilla-like blasters. (I remember daydreaming as a schoolgirl that Ulysses was trapped between Cilla and the Charybdis. I must have tossed the Sirens in for good measure, but the picture isn’t pretty.)

    Indeed, what if it were sung in Italian? It would be even more like opera, and those Anglophones among us would have little clue what the song is about–which might make many of us like it better. But when all is said and done, the most salient quality of the song is simply that it’s all too much. Too much of what? You name it! One would run a mile from Cilla’s “You’re My World,” but one would run from anyone articulating the sentiments of YDHTSYLM–only one would feel really guilty in the second instance. Dusty sounds vulnerable, but at the same time dangerously formidable–never a good combination. (I’ll not bore you with details, but based on the experiences of the past week, I ought to know.)

    I agree, too, that Dusty made many recordings far more worthy of the number one slot on the charts. “I Only Want to Be with You” remains my personal favourite, and “In the Middle of Nowhere” comes close to being her best. Dusty never performed poorly, but some of her material didn’t deserve her artistry. One might wish that the historic legacy of her career gave us a different song to rank here–but schlock often outsells the best artistic efforts. “I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten,” surely in the best handful of her recordings, was never heard on US radio.

    So what is my point here? The sad misfortune of a great singer being remembered primarily for a godawful song. But then, as we shall eventually discuss in this forum, such was the fate, one year later, of Sandie Shaw as well. Damn bloody Eurovision!!

    Doctor Mod

  7. 7
    Anonymous on 20 Aug 2005 #

    I want to respond separately to RJM’s observations about the queer subtexts here. I don’t think anyone can fully appreciate Dusty Springfield’s career without considering the gay aspects of it; much of her performance style–the hair, the make-up, the melodrama–is inexplicable otherwise. My basic hypothesis is that, being gay and feeling guilty about it (just see the Penny Valentine-Vicki Wickham biography), Dusty sensed that she’d failed in her attempt to be a “girl,” and thus became a sort of female female-impersonator. She’d appropriated a lot of drag-queen style by 1966, as if she were trying to hide herself under and over-the-top disguise.

    Where this all connects with YDHTSYLM is in the venerable tradition of camp–queers have long had to hide their feelings in real life, and have therefore long sought the refuge of overblown melodrama in which to enact a catharsis that, on the surface, looks more comic than tragic. And Dusty knew just what sort of “drama queen” song she was recording. It worked–commercially at least. And she was still doing the camp thing two decades later with the Pet Shop Boys two decades later. The difference is that “What Have I Done to Deserve This?” stands as an unambiguous parody of the sentiments expressed in YDHTSYLM. But then again, it was much easier to be queer in 1987 than it was in 1966.

    One point of correction: it was never against British law for lesbians to engage in homosexual acts–the law (repealed in 1967) only applied to men. This is not to say that lesbianism was acceptable in British society or in the pop music industry then, and Dusty’s belated “coming out” in the press ended her career for all intents and purposes until the PSBs came along. From all I’ve been able to discover, though, Dusty’s queerness had been a badly kept secret for many, many years and, sadly, her own life had parallels with YDHTSYLM.

    One can only hope we live in more enlightened times now–but, as I live in the US, I’m not terribly sure of it.

    Doctor Mod

  8. 8
    Anonymous on 22 Aug 2005 #

    This is why I love this site. Dusty Springfield is my favorite woman singer, but I never liked this record. Now, at least, I can find it a fascinating one, thanks to the several analyses offered.

    My fave Dusty track would come from this list: Breakfast in Bed, Some of Your Lovin’, I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself, Take Me For a Little While, I Think It’s Going to Rain Today, and about two-thirds of “Dusty in Memphis.” If forced, I guess I’d have to go with “Some of Your Lovin’.”

    On the “Dusty Sings Bacharach & King” compilation, Carole King expresses regret that she and Gerry Goffin never had a chance to make an album with Dusty, since Carole considered her the best singer of Goffin/King songs. How sweet that would have been! (Followed, perhaps, by an album written and arranged by Randy Newman, if Dusty’s versions of “I Think It’s Going to Rain Today” and “I Don’t Want to Hear It Anymore” are any indeication. “Real Emotional Girl” would have been perfect for her.)

  9. 9
    Anthony on 29 Aug 2005 #

    i dont like dusty–i mean i know im a fag, and i like voices like hers, but i cant deal with it, and i have no idea why

  10. 10
    Alan Connor on 29 Aug 2005 #

    Resurrection Watch: Rowetta had a crack on The X Factor (and Nadia Turner on American Idol – maybe making it one of those new standards?)

    Covers have been released by Cher, Elvis, Carla Thomas, Taylor Dayne, back to Italy with Jerry Vale and/or Jim Nabors and those Dollar people Guys & Dolls.

    It was used in the movie Errance, and the film Things To Do Before You’re 30 was going to be called YDHTSYLM in that way that lots of movies get named after hit songs.

  11. 11
    Joe Williams on 22 Sep 2005 #

    I much prefer the Elvis version, where he plays it like a chauvinistic cad. In the final ‘Believe me, believe me’ you just know that he knows he’s lying.

    I’m not sure Elvis would have appreciated the suggestion of a gay subtext though. Can’t see it myself either.

  12. 12
    Anonymous on 8 Oct 2005 #

    Elvis himself recorded songs with GAY subtexts,with “paralysed” and Jailhouse rock,
    “Number 47 says to number 3, you’re the cutest jailbird I ever did see. I sure would be delighted with your company” And I dont think they were thinking of having a game of scrabble either!!

  13. 13
    Sally Burke on 18 Nov 2007 #

    Dusty, wonderful voice, great music, what the hell does it matter if she is homosexual or not. Love is love the world around.

    I am sick of the sexual revolution, why can/t we all be whatever and not show it or tell anyone, just enjoy.

    Making out our great Elvis what a homosexual is the last straw. So what? I am 65 and I still think he was the most sexy charasmatic Guy ever. Just enjoy entertainment, entertainers,and get the ‘Gay’ word out of homosexual. Put it back were it belongs, having fun.

    It is getting to be a sad world, Live and let live. The world will be a happier place for it.

  14. 14
    Simon Bell on 12 Apr 2008 #

    Vicki Wickham was not Dusty’s manager until the 80s. Simon Napier-Bell never was.
    The too often forgotten Vic Billings was Dusty’s manager throughout her most successful years.

  15. 15
    Pascal Redfern on 10 Dec 2009 #

    We sure do over-analyze here. Just enjoy the song and that talent that produced it. Keep it simple.

  16. 16
    Paulito on 3 Apr 2010 #

    I don’t think there’s any specifically gay subtext to this song; what I do think, however, is that Dusty’s sexuality is probably at the heart of the wonderful melancholy and vulnerability that she brings to so many of her recordings, including this one. I agree that this isn’t of her very best singles – it doesn’t go straight to one’s heart in the same way as, say, “All Cried Out”, “I Close My Eyes And Count To Ten”, “Some of Your Lovin'”, The Look of Love” or my personal favourite, her truly devastating version of “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself”. But as big ballads go, “YDHTSYLM” is pretty damn good. The arrangement is big but not overblown and, crucially, Dusty easily rises above the somewhat mechanical melody with a powerful vocal that exudes warmth and yearning. She does more than sell the song; she inhabits and makes it her own in the way that only the true greats can do.

  17. 17
    crag on 14 Apr 2011 #


    Betty Jackson, fashion designer(2002)

    Maggi Hambling, artist(2005).

  18. 18
    Lena on 19 Aug 2011 #

    NME #2 stylee: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.com/2011/08/folk-explosion-no-1-cher-bang-bang.html Thanks for reading everyone!

  19. 19
    Billy Smart on 3 Dec 2011 #

    TOTPWatch: Dusty Springfield thrice performed You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me on Top Of The Pops;

    31 March 1966. Also in the studio that week were; The Kinks, The Seekers and The Yardbirds. Jimmy Savile was the host.

    7 April 1966. Also in the studio that week were; The Alan Price Set, The Bachelors and The Spencer Davis Group. Alan Freeman was the host.

    28 April 1966. Also in the studio that week were; Manfred Mann, Nancy Sinatra and Trini Lopez. Jimmy Savile was the host.

    None of these editions survive.

  20. 20
    lonepilgrim on 2 Aug 2012 #

    Meanwhile in the USA this got to number 1.

  21. 21
    Mark M on 31 Mar 2014 #

    This was being impeccably whistled by a greengrocer outside his shop in Herne Hill this evening – a lovely pop moment.

  22. 22
    hectorthebat on 23 Apr 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010)
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (2004) 491
    New Musical Express (UK) – The Top 150 Singles of All Time (1987) 77
    Q (UK) – The 1010 Songs You Must Own (2004)
    The Guardian (UK) – 1000 Songs Everyone Must Hear (2009)
    Zig Zag (UK) – Gillett & Frith’s Hot 100 Singles (1975)
    Toby Creswell (Australia) – 1001 Songs (2005)

  23. 23
    lonepilgrim on 4 Sep 2015 #

    I find this a whole lot more compelling and affecting than The Walker Brothers. Just as with Nancy Sinatra I hear a strong emotional truth wrapped up in, what may appear on the surface to be, a larger than life performance. What impresses me about Dusty’s performance is the sense that she is barely holding back her emotions whereas Cilla tends to over sell the performance.

  24. 24
    Gareth Parker on 2 May 2021 #

    I would go with a 7/10. I think Dusty’s performance brings out the emotional weight to this song.

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