Classic Clips : Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham – “I’m Your Puppet” Jools Holland’s Later November 1999

It’s often the case that songwriters prefer to stay in the background and however strong their vocals and musicianship are, they keep out of the limelight. That’s certainly the case for legendary songwriters Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham. The duo have penned some of the most memorable songs from the sixties – including James Carr’s ‘Dark End Of The Street’; Aretha Franklin’s ‘Do Right Woman, Do Right Man’ and ‘You Left The Water Running ‘(Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave and many others).

I first came across them for Dan Penn’s second album – ‘Do Right Man‘ – in 1994, where he was persuaded to re-record some of his many hit songs with Oldham, as well as some new ones. The resultant album is simply glorious – it was recorded at the Muscle Shoals studio and featured all of the Memphis Horns.

The success of the album meant that the duo were ’forced’ to do some live dates and their spine tingling live presence ensured they gained many new fans. They also recorded a live album ‘Moments From This Theatre’ in 1998, when they supported Nick Lowe on his UK tour.

It was for the promotion of that live album that this beautiful performance of one of their most famous songs was made – James and Bobby Purify’s ‘I’m Your Puppet‘ – on a show that also included Paul McCartney.

What’s incredible is not only Penn’s lustrous voice, even in his late fifties – but also the incredibly graceful keyboard playing of Oldham – many have marvelled that when looking at him tinkling, you’d be hard pushed to notice him actually touching the keys, so effortless was his playing.

Penn released a new album in 2020 – ‘Living On Mercy‘ – and his 1973 album ‘Nobody’s Fool’ is still worth tracking down. This clip, though, captures them both on wonderful form and we can only be thankful that they were persuaded to come out of the background for these releases, so we could experience their mighty live sound.

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