Sunday April 15th 2007 heralded the eighth annual Dusty Day.
For the first time, it wasn’t taking place in Henley-on-Thames but in Ealing, London, where Dusty lived for part of her childhood. The event was organised, also for the first time, by Simon Bell, Dusty’s friend and backing singer and it was by all accounts a resounding success! The venue was Finnigan’s Wake, a large pub which was half taken over by the Dusty Day crowd.
The day was very untypical for April, being extremely warm and sunny, but luckily the pub had a lovely walled garden with seating and shade, which was just perfect for eating and socialising in. The main room and the bar area had 2 or 3 plasma screens showing Dusty videos, and the stage was backed by a huge screen which meant that there were no problems with seeing the screens from any part of the room. The large screen also showed beautiful stills of Dusty when other things were taking place on stage, which meant that Dusty was forever present throughout the auction, raffle etc.
It was great to see so many people there, I would say at least 200, possibly more, quite a few didn’t buy tickets but just turned up on the day. At past Dusty Days, I’ve met friends I hadn’t seen for over 30 years and for me it’s one of the best things about the event, the talking with old friends and catching up, meeting people you’ve never met before but have maybe spoken to on the internet (the LTD gang!) and being introduced to people who have come to DD for the first time, sometimes travelling from the other side of the world. And all because of Dusty. There were visitors from Australia, America, Canada, Holland and every part of the British Isles.
There were some celebrity guests as well. Julie Felix came and was instantly recognisable. As well as having hits in those long ago days, Julie appeared as a guest on Dusty’s TV series, dueting with Dusty and her brother Tom. Also there, were Clodagh Rogers and her sister Lavinia who along with Simon and Vicki Brown was a backing singer for Dusty at the Royal Albert Hall concert. Riss Chantelle, founder member of The Lana Sisters came, along with singer/songwriter Nola York who was a member of the group after Dusty left when they were known as The Chantelles. The two performers along with Simon were to be Madeline Bell and Kay Garner and when they arrived, they joined the other celebs and appeared more than happy to chat with everyone, sign autographs and smile and pose for the cameras. Finally, Dusty Day wouldn’t be complete without Pat Rhodes, Dusty’s secretary and long time friend, who for the past few years has managed to find personal affects of Dusty’s hidden away in her house. She’s searched under beds and in cupboards, and has generously given her finds to be auctioned for the Royal Marsden.
The day’s entertainment started off with the Actionettes, a 1960’s inspired dance act, who strutted their stuff to three Dusty tracks, and a little while later, the main entertainment began with a great set from Simon. For the first time, instead of backing tracks, Simon was joined on stage by our friend Jonathan Cohen, wizard keyboard player and entertainer, who makes a sound so big that Madeline described him as her orchestra! It was so much better to have the live music and the interaction between singer and musician. In all, Simon sang around 10 songs, all Dusty tracks, getting back-up on some from Kay and Madeline. My favourites were ‘I Had A Talk With My Man’ and ‘I’ve Been Wrong Before’, which I’d guess are two of Simon’s favourites too. On the screen behind the singers was a still of the Brooklyn Fox Theatre where Dusty appeared in ’64 and superimposed on to it were the words ‘The Dusty Springfield Songbook’ and a shot of Dusty’s eyes, which looked great and very effective. As always, Simon was a big hit, showing why Dusty rated him so highly.
Kay, looking great but not feeling too good, performed terrific versions of ‘I Only Wanna Laugh’ and ‘Take a Little Piece of My Heart’ and deserved every second of the prolonged applause that she got. She joined Simon to back Madeline, who has got to be one of the most underrated singers on this earth. She has boundless energy and a voice that most singers can only yearn for. She performed some Dusty classics, ‘Goin’ Back’ and ‘Some of Your Lovin’ being stand out tracks for me and she finished with an, as always, emotional ‘You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me’. Complete with audience on backing it produces goose bumps every time. The whole show was a fabulous and fitting tribute to Dusty.
A little while later came the auction, with Madeline soon getting into her stride as auctioneer. Amongst the items on offer were blouses of Dusty’s that went for around £100 each, a pretty pink dressing gown that fetched around £250, a framed drawing of Dusty by LTD’s Tim that brought between £40 and £50, Dusty’s heated rollers that Pat found in a cupboard and which went for around £400 and the biggest lot, a locket/pill case that Dusty gave to Madeline back in the sixties and which was engraved on the back. That went for over £400. Madeline said that when Dusty gave it to her, it had hash in it! Madeline also spoke of Vic Billings who she said didn’t always get the credit he deserved for the support he gave to Dusty as her manager back in the sixties, and she also talked of the devotion that Pat has shown to Dusty, in her lifetime, and since.
The raffle, always a big money raiser, had what seemed like hundreds of prizes and along with smaller money raisers, like Dusty post cards, badges and “have your photo taken with the I’ll Try Anything skirt”(!), helped make this the best Dusty Day in terms of money raised for the Marsden. The final amount raised by Dusty fans was £4600!
Someone who couldn’t be with us was singer/songwriter Lesley Duncan who also often backed Dusty in the sixties. She sent a taped message which was played in the middle of her beautiful ‘Love Song’.
So, that was it. It was a wonderful day and I didn’t miss it being in Henley as much as I thought I would. Simon was completely exhausted at the end, but he can look back with pride on a day that he organised (with more than a little help from friends Paul and John), and hopefully realise that he can do it all over again next year!
Reported by Carole Gibson