The Spooky original was an instrumental
Thanks to Guy Richie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, I discovered the groovy song “Spooky” by Dusty Springfield. Written by Mike Shapiro and Harry Middlebrooks Jr, Springfield’s “Spooky” came out in 1970. American band, Classics IV, performed another well-known version of “Spooky” in 1967. However, the “Spooky” original was a saxophone instrumental performed by Shapiro, as Mike Sharpe, released earlier that year.
Mike Sharpe version
Shapiro’s “Spooky” original hit number 57 on the 1967 US pop charts. The song has an exciting and groovy lounge sound. It does a great job showcasing Shapiro’s talents with the saxophone.
Classics IV and Spooky
Guitarist James Cobb and producer Buddy Buie took the “Spooky” original and added lyrics about a “spooky little girl” for the group Classics IV to perform.
Classics IV formed in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1965. The group consisted of Cobb, Walter Eaton, Joe Wilson (later replaced by Dean Daughtry) and lead singer Dennis Yost. They are often credited for developing the “soft southern rock” sound.
Classics IV released there version of “Spooky” as a single in October 1967. The song also appeared on the band’s first album Spooky, an album of mostly covers of current hits.
In 1968, “Spooky” reached number 3 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 46 in the UK. The song has a great late-60s sound. There’s a rockier edge to it than Springfield’s version, and more sax. The song also features an eerie whistling sound effect that’s cool.
Atlanta Rhythm Section version
Cobb and Daughtry later became part of the Atlanta Rhythm Section (ARS). In 1979, they re-recorded “Spooky”. The ARS version of “Spooky” didn’t differ much from the Classics IV version, which made sense seeing they were both produced by Buie and involved three former Classics IV members – Cobb, Daughtry and Robert Nix.
I thought the ARS version placed more emphasis on the guitar, compared with the earlier version’s sax focus. It also sounds more psychedelic. This version of “Spooky” reached number 17 in the US on Billboard and number 15 on Cashbox magazine’s charts. It was also one of the first songs to receive heavy airplay on the new album-oriented rock (AOR) FM radio format.
Dusty is Spooky!
Springfield released her “Spooky” single in 1970. She flipped genders to sing about a “spooky little boy”, ironic considering Springfield liked girls.
The ‘Spooky’ orchestration is much better, and her smokey and sexy delivery of the lyrics is spot on. Perfect fit of song and singer. Could have been huge if the Classics IV hadn’t done it already.”Owsh, review on rateyourmusic.com
Spingfield’s “Spooky” is my favourite version, although I love many versions. It’s just a great song. But Springfield’s version is mellow and groovy and just very, very cool.
Other Spooky songs
Shapiro’s instantly-recognisable riff from the “Spooky” original is iconic. It was even sampled in Bloodhound Gang’s “Why’s Everybody Always Pickin’ on Me?” from 1996 and Barry Adamson’s 1997 song “Something Wicked This Way Comes” which appeared on the Lost Highway soundtrack.
There are almost 100 versions “Spooky”, instrumental and with lyrics. Highlights for me include versions by:
- Martha Reeves (couldn’t find the recording date) – “Spooky” with a Motown vibe
- Percy Sledge 1968 – one of the greats!
- Michel Pagliaro 1968 – in French
- The Golden Cups 1968 – Japanese rock
- Chris Montez 1968
- Michele Lee 1968
- Lydia Lunch 1980
- Kid Montana 1986
- R.E.M. 1991
- Tok Tok Tok 2003
- The Puppini Sisters 2007
- The Funky Muchachos 2008
- Vintage Lounge Orchestra 2012 – featuring Wendy Lewis
Check out more 70s songs and their unknown originals here.