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Dancing with Demons: The Authorised Biography of Dusty Springfield [Hardcover]

Penny Valentine , Vicki Wickham
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)

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Book Description

17 Aug 2000
Dusty Springfield made her name in the 60s with a string of top ten hits, including 'You Don't Have to Say You Love Me' and 'The Look of Love' . Her unique singing style and distinctive bouffant look made her famous throughout the world. Despite a period in the wilderness during the 70s and 80s, she was back at the top in the 90s until her death from cancer in March l999.

She was born in London in l939 - an Irish Catholic, convent-educated girl. It was a background which was to set her almost schizophrenically at odds with herself as she realised her sexuality and moved further into the rock world. Both Penny Valentine and Vicki Wickham knew Dusty well - Vicki was Dusty's friend and manager for much of her career - and together with the cooperation of Dusty's closest family and friends they tell her true story for the first time.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks; First Edition First Printing edition (17 Aug 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340766735
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340766736
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16.4 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 336,582 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

As a child, in a desperate effort to get the attention of her parents, Mary O'Brien would place her hands on the boiler until they burned. As an adult, Mary would have the attention of the whole world. But her wigs and heavy eyeliner masked childhood insecurities that she had never been able to shake. Despite being adored by millions, a part of Dusty Springfield would forever feel loathed and unloved. While chronicling the singer's roller-coaster career, Dancing With Demons--The Authorised Biography of Dusty Springfield, reveals a vulnerable, temperamental, addictive personality whose acts of self-mutilation led to habitual hospitalisation. Based on the "intimate and personal memories" revealed by those "who knew her best", Penny Valentine and Vicky Wickham endeavour to dissect the damage that created the character that became an icon. As you'd expect from a biography written by two of her closest friends, the book paints a sympathetic picture of the high life and low times of the woman who was once the bestselling female artist in the world. But while the book benefits from the close relationship the authors shared with their subject, it also suffers from their inability to be able to view their friend from an objective perspective. Nevertheless, Dusty devotees will devour the detailed and personal account of the all too often sad existence of the white queen of (tortured) soul. --Christopher Kelly


'a real treat' (Q Magazine)

'a poignant portrait of a much-loved star' (Daily Mail)

'compulsive reading' (The Big Issue)

'riveting ... remarkable candour and honesty' (The Observer)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
This was never going to be an easy book for a Dusty Springfield fan to read. Rather unfortunately, we had the Daily Mail serialisations 2 weeks before the book was published. These focused solely on the low points of Dusty's career and gave the impression the book would be a salacious, scandalous depiction that refused to acknowledge the success and popularity of arguably Britain's most popular female singer.
However, the book manages to discuss many of the more painful moments in Dusty's life without being sycophantic or judgemental. The book is not a history of Dusty's musical career but prefers to tackle the so called 'demons' that seemed to catch up with her in the 1970s when her success had dried up.
We learn about the somewhat eccentric upbringing she received from parents that preferred to throw food around at meal times rather than discuss emotions. Of her strict Catholic upbringing. Of her feeling that she could never quite please her parents enough. And of course her struggles with accepting her sexuality. Somewhat more disturbing are the stories of her self abuse - cutting herself, drink and drugs and admissions to psychiatric hospitals. It's all a long way from the 60s icon that sang hits like I Only Want To Be With You and You Don't have To Say You Love Me.
Although the unhappy instances (mainly a period of ten years from the mid 70s spent in Los Angeles) are very hard to read they are necessary all the more when we get to the final chapters of the book. Dusty burst back on the music scene in 1987 with the Pet Shop Boys and continued to have success with 2 further albums before her untimely death of cancer in 1999.
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48 of 54 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Demons" - Oh, really? 24 Aug 2005
By A Customer
Don't you just love the vultures who come out to profit off someone else's misery after they're no longer here to defend themselves? Having known Dusty, she's probably waiting for a seance just to get back here and tell these two "authors" where to get off. After almost 40 years of working overtime to keep her private life private, these two come along and blow her well-guarded privacy all to pieces. Disgraceful!
The woman was one of the most gifted singers of our time. Her courageous fight against the ravages of disease - be it bi-polar disorder, addiction, or breast cancer - should be admired. She, like most of us who share those particular inherited maladies, did the best she could. No one knows the torment of the day in day out battle against those ill forces unless they've fought them up close and personal.
If you want to know Dusty Springfield, just listen to her music. It's all there. She didn't get all that "soul" by being a piece of fluff. Dusty suffered for her art. And, make no mistake, an artist she was.
What difference does it make with whom she slept? It was nobody's business when she was alive. Why should it be spread all over these pages now that she's tragically gone?
Insteading of wasting your hard-earned money on this drivel, treat yourself to a copy of "Dusty In Memphis"; and, enjoy the gift she left for all of us. Dusty will be missed forever for those of us who loved her and her music.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Any ardent fan of Dusty Springfield knows that this unbelievably talented artist was also extremely private. Dancing With Demons spills the beans. That said, it is my view that the story of Ms. Springfield's private life would have come out at some point in one way or another. Vicki Wickham was there throughout, so she does have some authority on the topic. What this book does is provide an outline of the emotional climate that Dusty Springfield lived in and describes what happened to her as a result. It is a piece of her story that hadn't been told before. But it is only a piece. The fabulous aspects of Dusty Springfield, i.e., her music and her soul, are missing.
There are some wonderful stories of her humor, generosity and strength, but not enough. The story of Dusty Springfield is told from the authors' perspective, in a series of anecdotes and observations told by Ms. Wickham and those whose stories the authors recruited. It is heart breaking, especially in it's description of her years in California; and her struggle with drink, drugs and some very difficult emotional issues. The weakest part of the book is that Dusty Springfield's own voice is missing from this description. The book is really about some of the people who knew her, and how they felt about her. So although her own view of the situation is absent, the book does shed some light on the life of Dusty Springfield by describing the attitudes of the people surrounding her.
One major detail of Dusty Springfield's life left out by the authors is a description of the difficulties of being an extremely gifted woman in a world of music dominated by male record execs and their ideas of music as a business.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Whatever had Dusty done to deserve this? 27 Mar 2009
Oh dear, oh dear. How i would have loved to have been able to give this book a good review, but in my heart i simply cannot. You see, on the surface the book looks great; a fabulously young and glamorous Dusty on the cover, a cursory look inside shows more wonderful photo's, so even if by now, you might be wondering why they chose that particular title, it soon becomes apparent. If, like me, you are fascinated with one of the most enchanting, funny and mesmerising singers the world has ever known, to say nothing about that utterly unforgettable voice, you'll be in for quite a shock. And if, like me, it's the first book you pick up and start golloping down the contents like a large tub of chocolate Haagen Daaz, alas, unlike the ice cream, it won't be too long before you're feeling quite sick, and all because two people wanted to race to the publishers before anyone else got there, as soon as possible after her death, and in the process, whether deliberate or not, tarnished the memory of Dusty Springfield forever.
It's not that i don't WANT to believe all the horrible bits about Dusty's depression, and her bad times in the US....okay, it's without doubt a warts-and-all book, and yes, okay, we can take it, but the trouble is, this book focuses far too much on her troubled times, in great detail, and only very, very briefly looks at Dusty's amazing achievements. As well as this, and probably because the book was written by two people rather than one, the overall tone is very strange. Not quite total bitchiness, not quite open criticism, and if there is any affection shown to the late and lovely lady, this book falls far, far short of managing to convey it...very sad.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Like
Bought for my daughter as a present and she loves it very very pleased, she is a big fan. Thank you.
Published 1 month ago by sweak
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
I loved her when she was with her and what a life she lived but oh what a sad life she lived also. What a loss to this world, wonderful read but a must read !!!!!
Published 2 months ago by georgie
5.0 out of 5 stars dusty
a first class read about the rise and fall of a fantastic singer who sadly died to young because of her demons,excelliant book
Published 3 months ago by highland lassie
5.0 out of 5 stars Diva Dusty
I enjoyed this book although I found it sad Sad that such a talented star had so many troubled times I think it did her justice and was left looking for her performances on utube... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Bugs
5.0 out of 5 stars FANTASTIC
Published 5 months ago by lyndon
4.0 out of 5 stars Sad
I liked learning about her life but was saddened but much of it, certainly had no idea how difficult her life was.
Published 6 months ago by Terry O'Neill
4.0 out of 5 stars Muck-raking, yes, but inevitably fascinating
I agree with many other posters that Dusty Springfield may not have wanted this book to be written and her former friends, ie the authors, must come to their own peace about that. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Jane Doe
4.0 out of 5 stars What a lady
If ever a life should be made into a film surely this one should. A remarkable woman, a remarkable life. And I now listen to her albums too. Bonus.
Published 7 months ago by kevin manson
1.0 out of 5 stars Quite a battered book
This was a very brown and smelly copy. Obviously had been well read and I would suggest was less than hygenic. It went in the bin!
Published 10 months ago by Kath Bainbridge
4.0 out of 5 stars Great insight , sympathetic and detailed.
Very good biography for Dusty fans who will gain some understanding of her mental health struggles as well as fantastic talent.
Published 12 months ago by J C Lints
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