Dusty in Memphis
Warren Zanes is forthright with his intentions in writing about the late British singer Dusty Springfield’s classic 1969 album: “This book is about an experience with a record more than it is about a record,” the former Del Fuegos guitarist and current vice president of education at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame admits in the introduction.
Zanes’ approach puts himself at the center of the book and occasionally relegates Dusty In Memphis to the sidelines. The fifteen pages of the third chapter, about one-eighth of the book, contain one reference to the album, as Zanes recounts an anecdote about teenage voyeurism while growing up in New Hampshire.
Zanes, who got hooked on Dusty In Memphis after buying a used copy of the album in 1985, is on more solid ground when he is closer to his subject. He writes knowledgeably and engagingly about the music and its hold on him, and the appeal of the south in attracting the likes of Springfield and Jerry Wexler to the region.
Dusty In Memphis, which featured the hit singles “Son Of A Preacher Man” and “Windmills Of Your Mind”, is an inspired musical marriage of a pop singer and the American Studios house band lifting each other to new heights. Zanes’ interviews with Wexler and Arif Mardin, the two surviving producers of the album, and Stanley Booth, who wrote the original liner notes, add perspective and background.
The album originally was to have been recorded in Muscle Shoals but was moved to Memphis because of delays in choosing the songs, Wexler explains. One is left wishing Zanes had pursued interviews with others involved in the project, such as guitarist Reggie Young or songwriters Carole King and Randy Newman.