As a tribute to the late, great diva Dusty Springfield, we have included 'You Don't Have To Say You Love Me'... This timeless ballad was a No. 1 single for Britain's finest soul singer in 1966.
I've mentioned before that Now 42 contains some unusual selections, and it concludes with the most exceptional of all. This is as far as I know the oldest track on a main-series Now album relative to its last chart appearance: comparably old tracks were appearing due to re-issues and even the seven-year-old 'Grease Mega-Mix' on Now 40 coincided with renewed chart success of one of its constituent parts. Presumably this is a case of Ashley Abram or somebody somewhere in the organisation pulling rank just this once, as no other star has been awarded such a tribute appearance before or since, unless they had a posthumous hit; though it does make it all the odder that she didn't make the cut with any of her hits with the Pet Shop Boys. It's also the only example I can recall of a first-person sleeve note.
I'm not totally sure I can agree with the word 'timeless' in that description, though. Even in 1966, when this single snuck a week at the top of the chart between 'Somebody Help Me' and 'Pretty Flamingo' (according to the Record Retailer chart used by modern reference books; it had a second week on the NME chart), it can't have seemed totally up-to-date: other Number One singles that year included 'Paint It, Black', 'Good Vibrations' and 'Eleanor Rigby', all of them much more radical recordings. What 'You Don't Have To Say You Love Me' is, is a good old-fashioned belter. It's adapted from an Italian chart-topper which Springfield herself discovered and asked her friends Vicki Whickham (who I see was awarded the OBE this month - topical!) and Simon Napier-Bell to supply an English lyric. It's perhaps odd that she didn't approach more experienced wordsmiths (both of them were involved in management, although Napier-Bell had written some music) though it may be that she trusted people who knew her personally to write something she could relate to emotionally. It has been suggested in retrospect that the song relates in some way to her tempestuous love life, which would of course have been complicated further by the fact that she couldn't be open about her sexuality in those days. Whether or not that was the writers' intent, it's hard not to think that her own experience contributed to the power of her vocal performance (the 47th take apparently, such was her perfectionism) and it's that vocal which in all honesty, makes this record the classic it is rather than simply a well-made pop song. The many subsequent covers have all fallen somewhat short, and yes I even include Elvis in that, because it takes an extraordinary performance by an extraordinary talent to keep the rather extreme sentiment from sounding OTT and ridiculous or phony. When she comes in for the big finish and exhorts you to "BELIIIIEVE MEEEE!!!" you actually sort of do.
It's a sign of how strong the competition was that this is only a middling chart-topper for 1966, and that it's some way from being my favourite Dusty track. I can't pretend it's not a highlight of Now 42, and with that big dramatic flourish at the end a glorious closer. But it's only a highlight, not the highlight.
Available on: Just Dusty