Sunday, 23 February 2014
ELDER MUSIC: Songs of Burt Bacharach
This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
With a title like that I imagine that you could fill in the songs without drawing a breath. But I might surprise you today.
When I investigated the topic, I found that he had written an enormous number of songs. That's no secret, of course, but it means I can pick and choose. So, I have picked and chosen songs that you might not be expecting.
I'll say from the start that there are no songs by Dionne Warwick, Dusty Springfield, Jack Jones, Aretha Franklin or Herb Alpert. I have nothing against any of those performers, it's just that they are so associated with Burt's music that I've come up tracks that aren't so famous.
That's not quite true. Many, maybe most, are famous but it was a bit of a surprise to me that they were written by him. I hope some of them surprise you too.
I'll start with some tunes from very early in his career, the first of which is performed by MARTY ROBBINS.
I really didn't know at the time that this was written by Burt but then I wouldn't have known who he was in 1957. It was also one of the first times I was aware of Marty - not quite the first, that'd be White Sport Coat.
Anyway, The Story of My Life was co-written by Hal David.
I'm going to stop saying that I didn't know the song was written by Burt as most of them today fall into that category. I'll just say the name GENE MCDANIELS.
Gene had a number of really good songs on the charts in the early sixties; this is one of them. This time Burt had the help of Bob Hilliard. Tower of Strength.
Around the same time that Marty had his hit, PERRY COMO had one as well.
This was the second song from Burt and Hal David to make the charts (Marty's was the first) and, coincidentally or not, they both feature whistling. I don't think that that's significant.
Of course, at this time Perry could do no wrong so it wasn't a surprise that it sold so well. Unfortunately, Magic Moments has been used in all sorts of inappropriate places. I wish they'd stop doing that.
I wasn't aware of ETTA JAMES' contribution until recently. It had sailed past me without waving.
It came from Etta's third album and that's about all I know about it except that Bob Hilliard wrote the words. The song is Waiting for Charlie to Come Home.
There are a few versions of this next one: Elvis had a crack at it as did Luther Vandross, Don Gibson and James Brown. Percy Sledge did a really good version but none of those mentioned are as good as the one by CHUCK JACKSON.
Chuck was once a member of the Del Vikings, one of the best of the DooWop groups, but that's not obvious from his interpretation of Any Day Now. Bob Hilliard was co-writer and it was from the days when he and Burt were both slaving away in the Brill building.
A song that sounds as if it came from south of the border is, not surprisingly, Mexican Divorce. The original version of the song is by THE DRIFTERS.
This was the rather short-lived version of The Drifters led by Ben E King. On this song, Ben had some outside help, a rather handy quartet of singers consisting of Dionne Warwick, her sister Dee Dee Warwick, her aunt Cissy Houston and friend Doris Troy.
With that array of talent how could they miss? Well, they didn't. It was at this session that Burt and Dionne first met. He was mightily impressed with her and asked if she'd like to record his next song. It was far from the last time they collaborated.
There must be something about the tune, co-written by Bob Hilliard, because there are at least two other versions that would be worthy of inclusion by Nicolette Larson and Ry Cooder. Probably others as well.
TOM JONES sings What's New Pussycat in his own distinctive style.
This was from the film of the same name which had a great cast but calling it ordinary would flatter it. It was the first film that Woody Allen wrote (he was also in it). He rather disowns it now as the studio completely changed his script. He said that the experience taught him always to have complete control of his films.
The song was co-written by Hal David.
My Little Red Book was also written for that film. The version used in it and the original recording, was by MANFRED MANN.
This is from the days when they still had that fine singer Paul Jones out in front doing the warbling. Hal David had his hand in this one too.
GENE PITNEY wrote quite a few of his own songs but not this one, obviously.
It was one of his biggest hits. After his success with The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, also written by Burt and Hal David (it was intended for the film but not used), they decided to write another in the same vein but without the movie plot to go with it.
They invented their own story with Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa.
I think that THE SHIRELLES were the pick of the "girl groups" from the early sixties.
They could sure teach The Supremes and others a lesson in soulful singing. They actually used Burt's demo recording as the backing for the song, which is Baby It's You.
It was co-written by Luther Dixon (credited as Barney Williams) and Mack David – Hal's older brother. Mack was also responsible for the song Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo.
Missing the cut is The Blob sung by The Five Blobs from the film The Blob which starred Steve McQueen in his first lead role. I bet you're sorry I didn't include that one.