Some songs are like lonely vagabonds that hop on random trains, crossing vast swatches of country, in and out of towns, villages and cities, picking up where others have left off. Spooky, is one such track. Originally an instrumental courtesy of saxophonist Mike Sharpe “Shapiro” and written by Harry Middlebrooks, Jr. back in 1967. A year after, and the song gets it’s lyrics thanks to guitarist James Cobb and producer Buddy Buie.
Fast forward to three years later, and Dusty Springfield’s version drops with that platinum blond tinged quintessential soul. The song opens with a breezy start, allowing for trademark Springfield velvet vocals, coated with a death ray of coolness:
In the cool of the evening
When everything is gettin’ kind of groovy
With an opening like this one, it’s easy to contemplate this is the same chick that brought us Son of a Preacher Man, a song that transcends time, effortlessly searing it’s way decades later back into pop culture consciousness thanks to being featured in 1994’s Tarantino hit Pulp Fiction. It’s just the first 2 stanzas of Spooky that get repeated in the Genius version, but the original held some secrets that might reveal a bit more:
Just like a ghost
You’ve been a-hauntin’ my dreams
But now I know you’re not what you seem
Love is kind of crazy
With a spooky little boy like you
The earlier version of this song centered on a girl, while Springfield’s lyrics offered a gender flip on the subject. It may be telling that Springfield’s sexuality was often questioned by a largely homophobic culture. Springfield had openly had several relationships with women, at one time claiming that men frightened her. The song may in fact hint at a kind of darkness in Springfield’s own troubled life in retrospect, but it’s absent in this Genius re-work, where the focus centers instead on stripped down coolness. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a lovely tribute to a great track; there’s only a small sprinkling of beats that manage to accentuate the existing coolness, which is all very well and good. Sometimes that’s all you need.
Here’s Genius’ fresh new take on Dusty Springfield’s Spooky, followed by the original track. It’s worth watching not only to hear the audio tweak differences. There’s something slightly askew with the visual performance; Dusty lip synchs the words while acting out some of the lyrics with awkward hand gestures. She wears a long, colourful dress, while positioned sitting on top of a giant spotlight, inside a comically oversized wire frame box. It’s as though the audience can see through her. And yet with a faraway, vacant expression, she gives nothing away.