by Robin Platts
As the 1960s sped from "Beach Blanket Bingo" through Beatlemania to Psychedelia, Vietnam and beyond, the songs of Burt Bacharach and Hal David played on in the background. Though never credited with bringing about any social, political or fashion revolutions, Bacharach and David's music was as much a part of the decade as the Beatles, the Stones or Dylan. And, even after their collaboration ended, their songs were revived successfully through the Seventies and Eighties and are being discovered anew in the Nineties. In fact, few people probably realize how many of the songs that they know were written by this prolific duo. Between '62 and '72, their music was everywhere. Rarely did a week pass without at least one Bacharach/David number appearing in the Billboard singles chart. Bacharach/David songs have a distinctive sound and appeal, but there is no formula. One number is worldly and sophisticated, the next simple and sincere, while the next might be all of the above and more. Both Bacharach (music) and David (Iyrics) made full use of their pallettes, exploring a dynamic range of words and sounds, textures and rhythms. Their selection of vocalists was as varied as the musical settings with which they were backed: a touch of harpsichord between the verses, marimba, flugel hom, maybe a cheesy organ here and there. And the lyrics - clever, witty, but never without honesty and sincerity. Burt and Hal were consummate professionals, yet everything they wrote seemed to come straight from the heart and their professionalism served only to convey those feelings more effectively.
Hal David started out as a joumalist, writing for the New York Post, but soon began tailoring his words for musical settings. He wrote lyrics for bandleader Sammy Kaye in the late '40s and had his first success with "The Four Winds And The Seven Seas," recorded by Guy Lombardo. By the mid-'50s, David was writing Iyrics at Famous Music in New York and it was there that he met Burt Bacharach in 1957. Having studied at McGill University and the Mannes School Of Music, Bacharach had spent the previous few years working as a conductor and arranger, including a three-year stint as Marlene Dietrich's musical director. Eddie Wolpin of Famous suggested that Burt and Hal try writing together and, after just a few months, the charts beckoned.
Bacharach and David's first success came with "The Story Of My Life," cut by Marty Robbins for Columbia Records. Driven by a whimsical whistling hook, the single peaked at #l5 in December, 1957, swiftly followed into the charts by another collaboration, Perry Como's "Magic Moments," a #27 hit. Neither record gave an indication of what was to follow, but their success encouraged Burt and Hal to collaborate further.
"We used to meet every day at Famous Music in New York," says Hal David, recalling the early days of their partnership. "I'd come in with some titles and some ideas for songs, lines. Burt would come in with opening strains of phrases or what might be part of a chorus section. It was like Show And Tell: I'd show him what I had thought of and he'd show me what he had thought of. And whatever seemed to spark the other would be the start of whatever song we started to write that day. I'd write four lines or sing lines of a lyric and he'd have a melody and, very often, we'd sit in the room and write the song together, sort of pound it out. I'd be writing Iyrics and he'd be writing music and, all of a sudden, we'd have the structure of a song, which we'd keep working on. We didn't write songs so quickIy that they were done overnight or that day. I'd take home his melody and he'd take home my lyrics and so, very often, we'd be working on three different songs at one time."
From 1958 to 1961, Bacharach/David collaborations included the Jane Morgan single "With Open Arms" (which reached #39), Connie Stevens' "And This Is Mine" and a couple of Drifters B-sides. Despite their initial success together, both continued to work with other writers as well. Bacharach wrote with Bob Hilliard (the Drifters' "Please Stay" and "Mexican Divorce") and co-wrote the Shirelles' hit "Baby, It's You" with Hal's brother, Mack. Hal, meanwhile, saw his Iyrics reach the charts on records such as "Johnny Get Angry" by Joannie Sommers and Sarah Vaughan's million-selling "Broken-Hearted Melody."
"It seemed everyone was bouncing around," Bacharach recalled in Joe Smith's (Th.e Record: An Oral History Of Popular Music. ''It was almost incestuous. I'd write with Hal David three times a week and then I'd switch off and write with Bob Hilliard in the morning, and then in the afternoon Bob would write with the same composer Hal had just finished with."
In 1962, however, teh hits began to arrive with more consistency. And, as more and more Bacharach/David numbers appeared on the charts, the partner swapping came to an end. In May of that year, Gene Pitney reached #4 with "(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance," the first of his four Bacharach/David-authored singles. In August, Tommy Hunt peaked at #119 with the first recording of "I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself," while Babs Tino went two positions higher with "Forgive Me (For Giving You Such A Bad Time)". A month later, Gene Pitney was back in the Top Ten, at #2 with "Only Love Can Break A Heart." Although Hal and Burt's collaboration with Pitney would yield two further hits, the duo had just discovered the singer who would become the definitive interpreter of their songs. Over the next ten years, Dionne Warwick would record more than sixty Bacharach/David compositions and would make nineteen of them Top 40 hits.
Hal David: "She was a background singer on a lot of the (recording) dates and she came to Burt, wanting to do some demo records for him. He invited her up to Famous Music and she sang for both of us. We both were very impressed and we went in and did a couple of demo songs with her. The first one was 'It's Love That Really Counts' and then we did 'Make It Easy On Yourself'." The latter demo was submitted to Jerry Butler, who had a #20 hit with the song.
³Dionne was much perturbed,² Hal remembers, ³because she thought that was her song. I think thatıs what prompted us to go and take Dionne to Florence Greenburg at Scepter Records and see if we could get her a contract, which we were able to do right away." (note: "It's Love That Really Counts" was subsequently cut by the Shirelles and released as a B-side, which charted #102, while Dionne's demo recording turned up on her first LP, Presenting Dionne Wanvick.)
As it happened, Warwick's debut single was written by Bacharach and David in response to the misunderstanding over "Make It Easy on Yourself." As the singer recalled several years later, "It came about because of a sort of fight I had with Hal and Burt--not really a fight but a little argument. I felt Burt and Hal had given my songs away and they felt they hadn't and that maybe I was being a bit unreasonable. Well, one word led to another... and finally I said, 'Don't make me over, man!' and I walked out. About a week later I walked back in. The mad was gone - and they had written the song." "Don't Make Me Over" was released by Sceptor Records at the end of 1962 and, by January 1963, it had climbed to tis peak chart position of #21. Dionne also appeared singing backup on Timi Yuro's recording of "The Love Of A Boy," which peaked at #44 at the end of 1962. The song was familiar to Warwick, since she sang the demo version, which eventually showed up on the flip of her "Anyone Who Had A Heart" 45.
Warwick's next two singles, "This Empty Place" and "Make The Music Play," did not match the success of her debut -- peaking at #84 and #81, respectively -- and Bacharach and David continued to pen hit songs for other artists. Their other successes of 1963 included Bobby Vinton's "Blue On Blue" (a #3 hit in June), Bobby Vee's "Anonymous Phone Call" (#110 in January) and two more Gene Pitney singles, "True Love Never Runs Smooth" (#21) and "Twenty Fbur Hours From Tulsa" (#17). The latter song features one of Hal David's more memorable lyrics from this period, of which he recalls, "I wrote that to a melody that Burt wrote and that's what the melody said to me. Music speaks to a lyric writer, or at least it should speak to a lyric writer. And that's what the music said to me. And why it did, I don't know. I don't think I had ever been to Tulsa. I've always kind of liked what I call 'narrative songs' -- story songs. And when I hear music, very often I hear a story. The fact that it was Tulsa, as opposed to Dallas, is not terribly meaningful, but the sound of 'Tulsa' rang in my ear."
Towards the end of 1963, Bacharach and David charted with Lou Johnson's recording of "Reach Out For Me," which made it #74, and Jack Jones' classic "Wives And Lovers," which peaked at #14. Like "The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance," "Wives And Lovers" is often assumed to have been written as the theme song from the movie of the same name. In fact, says Hal David, this is not quite true.
"Wives And Lovers" was the title of the film," he explains. We were asked to write what would be called an "exploitation song." It wasn't going in the fllm, but it was meant to come out and every time it got played the name of the film would be performed. It was a song made to promote the film, but it was never in the film. It was never meant to be in the film. Exploitation songs were very common in those days."
As the quality of their collaborations improved and the hits became more frequent, Burt and Hal reached a point where they no longer worked with other writers. Recalls David, "I don't think we ever said to each other, 'Hey, let's write together exclusively,' we just started to." Meanwhile, in early 1963, Bacharach began a side career as a recording artist, with the single "Saturday Sunshine" on Kapp Records, which sneaked into the Top 100, peaking at #93 in July.
An interesting characteristic of Bacharach and David's career is that some of their biggest hit records were re-recordings of songs which were not successful when they were first released or which first appeared only as B-sides or album cuts. A perfect case-in-point is "(They Long To Be Close To You": the song made its first appearance in late 1963, on the flip side of "Blue Guitar," a #42 hit by actor Richard Chamberlain. It would be re-reoorded a number of times, but the best-known version would not appear until 1970.
In January of 1964, the stunning "Anyone Who Had A Heart" became Dionne Warwick's first Top Ten hit, reaching #8. Across the Atlantic, the song fared even better, though not via Warwick's version. While the songs of Bacharach and David have always been hugely popular in Britain, the recordings which hit the U.K. charts were sometimes different versions, often by British artists. Such was the case with "Anyone Who Had A Heart": in Britain, the big hit was Cilla Black's recording, which reached #1 in February '64. However, during the same month, Dionne Warwick's recording of the song reached #42 in Britain, while a third version--by Mary May-- reached #49. Warwick was apparently none too pleased with Blackıs recording, feeling it was little more than an imitation of her own version.
Dionne needn't have worried too much, for she was soon enjoying Trans-Atlantic success with her next 45, "Walk On By." This time out, Dionne's recording was rush-released to prevent any competition. Hal David: "We had done 'Walk On By' and 'Anyone Who Had A Heart' at the same recording session. And we couldn't make up our minds which record to go with first. And we went back and forth and back and forth and finally eIected to come out with 'Anyone Who Had A Heart.' And so 'Walk On By" was always meant to be the next one." It was Dionne's version that went TopTen in Britain, while in America, her "Walk On By" reached #6.
Bacharach has often recalled that in the early stages of his collaboration with Hal David the duo would agree to musical compromises in order to conform with a record label's notion of what was 'commercial.' As they became more successful as songwriters, Burt and Hal insisted on producing many of the recordings of their songs, thereby ensuring that the records would remain true to the songs. They produced the vast majority of Dionne Warwick's recordings, as well as many others, including B.J. Thomas, Lou Johnson and Jackie DeShannon.
Hal David recalls their work as a production team: "Burt was the musician and the arranger -- in addition to being a marvellous composer, he's a very good arranger. So, I think that when it came to things musical, I would defer to him more often than not. But in terms of basic feelings about the production, my feelings would get expressed and, very often, would be the direction we'd go."
In the summer of 1964, Dusty Springfield hit #6 with "Wishin' And Hopin'," a song previously released by Dionne Warwick as the B-side of "This Empty Place." The latter months of 1964 saw Dionne chart with two more of Burt and Hal's tunes, "You'll Never Get To Heaven (If You Break My Heart)" and "Reach Out For Me," which reached #34 and #20, respectively.
In August, 1964, Brooke Benton reached #75, with the first version of "A House Is Not A Home," written for the movie of the same name. However, Warwick's version -- released on the flipside of "Reach Out For Me" -- was slightly more successful, peaking at #71. That same month saw Dusty Springfield score a U.K. hit with "I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself,² while Bobby Goldsboro charted domestically (#74) with "Me Japanese Boy I Love You" (The latter tune was recently revived by Japan's Pizzicato Five).
In September, Lou Johnson released the first recording of the perennial "(There's) Always Something There To Remind Me." Johnson's version made it to #49, two positions higher than the Sandi Shaw rendition, which was released three months later. (In Britain Shaw's version was a #1 hit.) Late 1964 also saw the first appearance of another Bacharach/David standard -- one which has been recorded under three different titles. The first single release was by Lou Johnson and was entitled "Kentucky Bluebird" (peak chart position: #104), while Jerry Butler's version (also released in '64) was simply called "Message To Martha."
October saw the release of Dionne Warwick's take on "Reach Out for Me" and this time the song reached out to #20. Other notable Bacharach/David releases in 1964 include Paul Anka's "From Rocking Horse To Rocking Chair" and Doris Day's "Send Me No Flowers." The latter track was the theme for the Rock Hudson/Doris Day comedy of the same name, but the film features a different recording than the single. Although it's an appealing song -- featured prominently in the movie --"Send Me No Flowers" failed to make it higher than #135 on the Billboard singles chart.
In March, 1965, Burt released another solo 45, "Don't Go Breaking My Heart," on the Kapp label (as with many of Burt's own records, the vocals were by a session vocalist.) While the A-side was one of Bacharach's best solo tracks, it did not chart, but the flip --"Trains And Boats And Planes" - reached #4 in the U.K. Both sides of the single turned up on Burt's first LP, Hit Maker, The Man! Burt Bacharach And His Songs which, like subsequent efforts, mixed instrumental and vocal renditions of Bacharach/David material. The album -- which also featured guest vocals by Tony Middleton and Joel Grey -- was subsequently reissued as Burt Bacharach Plays His Hits. The reissued version is more easily found and has recently been reissued on CD by MCA. Burt Bacharach Plays His Hits was also featured prominently in the hit movie "Austin Powers," as one of the International Man Of Mystery's most prized possesions.
In the Sixties, Dionne Warwick generally got the first shot at any new Bacharach/David compositions and such was the case with "What The World Needs Now Is Love" in early '65. However, Warwick was not taken with the song and passed on it. Bacharach also doubted the tune's potential and it was left to Hal David to suggest reviving it for an upcoming Jackie DeShannon session. At that point, DeShannon's biggest claim to fame was that she had cut the original version of the Jack Nitzche/Sonny Bono composition "Needles And Pins" - a #84 hit in April '63.
"There wasnıt great enthusiasm for it," recalls Hal. "I had great enthusiasm for it. We were asked by Liberty Records to record Jackie, who is a great singer and a good songwriter, too. We were in an office in the RKO building and we played a number of songs to Jackie. I suggested to Burt that we play 'What The World Needs Now Is Love' to her. And we did and Jackie said, 'That's the one I want to do.' Jackie was the catalyst - -she was really excited about doing that song."
DeShannon's enthusiasm helped transform the song and the result was a Top Ten hit. The song which almost fell by the wayside remains one of Burt and Hal's most well-known collaborations, the title providing an easy catchphrase for the recent resurgence of interest in their music. Additionally, DeShannon's version featured a Bacharach/David-composed flipside, "A Lifetime Of Loneliness," which reached #66. Dionne Warwick has commented that the version of "What The World Needs Now" offered to her was quite different from the DeShannon version. Indeed, Dionne used the hit version's arrangement when she cut the song for her 1966 LP Here Where There Is Love. Having initially passed on the tune, Dionne had instead released "You Can Have Him," which peaked at #75. In May, "Trains And Boats And Planes" made another appearance in the British charts, this time a #12 hit for Billy J. .Kramer and The Dakotas (their version reached #47 in the U.S.). That summer, another movie soundtrack assignment resulted in one of Burt and Hal's most enduring compositions. A truly memorable song--delivered in teh singerıs inimitably gutsy style--"Whatıs New Pussycat?" took Welsh newcomer Tom Jones to #3 in the singles chart (Jones had previoulsy cut Bacharach and Davidıs ³To Wait for Love" as the B-side of his first hit "It's Not Unusual"). As well as a Bacharach score, the Peter Sellers/Woody Allen sex comedy also featured "Here I Am" (performed by Dionne Warwick) and "My Little Red Book" (performed by Manfred Mann). The latter tune got a radical makeover from L.A. upstarts Love a year later, a rendition which reportedly did not meet with Bacharach and David's approval, but fared better on the charts, reaching #52.
Like Manfred Mann's "My Little Red Book" (which had stalled at #124) and Tom Jones' title song, Dionne Warwick's contribution to What's New Pussycat? was released as a single, in the summer of '65. "Here I Am" initially peaked at #65, but climbed to #45 in February 1966. The single is notewothy for its B-side, another recording of "(They Long To Be) Close To You." Dionne's next single, "Looking With My Eyes," only reached #64, but she returned to the Top 40 in Janu ary 1966 with "Are You There (With Another Girl)." "Make It Easy On Yourself" returned to the charts.at the end of 1965, this time performed by the Walker Brothers, who took the song to #16.
In April, 1966, Dionne Warwick reached #8 with ³Message to Michael,² her own version of the song previously recorded as "Kentucky Bluebird² and "Message to Martha." Significantly, "Message to Michael" was one of the few Warwick singles not produced by Bacharach and David. Apparently, Hal David was strongly opposed to changing the lyrics to a female perspective, feeling that "Martha" was the only name that would work. So Warwick cut the track with another producer and proved him wrong. Hal later commented: "Dionne's vocal was so brilliant that it was obvious we had subconsciously written the song for her even while we thought we were writing it for a man... I don't mind being wrong if, in the final analysis, everytiung turns out right." The first half of 1966 saw the release of three Bacharach/David movie theme songs: the first two Trini Lopez's "Made In Paris" and Tom Jones' energetic "Promise Her Anything" -- were only minor hits (#113 and #74, respectively), but the third became one of Burt and Hal's best-known compositions. From the movie soundtrack itself came the first version of "Alfie," performed by Cher, which peaked at #32 in August. Across the Atlantic, Cilla Black fared even better with the song, her version reaching #9 in Britain. Early '67 would see the release of versions by Dionne Warwick (a #18 hit) and Bacharach himself (his debut single on A&M Records). Although Jackie DeShannon was herself an accomplished songwriter, Burt and Hal penned two further singles for her in 1966: "Come And Get Me" and "Windows And Doors," which reached #83 and #108, respectively. Both records deserved a better fate, particularly the latter, which revisited the lyrical theme of "A House Is Not A Home."
Following the success of their theme for "What's New Pussycat?" Bacharach and David were asked to pen the title song for a new Peter Sellers film "After The Fox." This time out, Sellers himself would appear on the record, delivering spoken contributions in his character from the movie. Handling the musical vocal parts were the Hollies, whose harmonies perfectly counterpointed Sellers' comic ranting. The session was an all-star affair-with George Martin on hand to produce Sellers, ROn RIchard there for the Hollies, and Bacharach himself there to put his personal stamp on the tune. The composer contributed harpsichord and an ingenious vocal percussion part to the track, singlehandedly creating a uniquely compelling hook. "After The Fox" was not a hit, but remains among the more memorable Bacharach/David recordings and was recently covered by Losers Lounge on the tribute album Sing Hollies In Reverse. Burt ended 1966 with "Nikki," a beautiful one-off single for Liberty Records, while Dionne Warwick released another pairing of Bacharach/David numbers, "Another Night" b/w "Go With Love" (peak position: #49).
In early '67, Bacharach signed a solo deal with A&M records and, in April, the label's co-founder, Herb Alpert, cut his first Bacharach tune, the theme from the movie "Casino Royale," with his Tijuana Brass. This instrumental number suited the Brass perfectly and was featured in the film, along with Bacharach's score and an alternate take of Dusty Springfield's "The Look Of Love." (The "Casino Royale" theme reached #27 in April, 1967, while "The Look Of Love" peaked at #22 that October.) Springfield's sultry rendition of "The Look Of Love" was initially consigned to the B-side of her "Give Me Time" 45, until a Seattle disc jockey flipped the record over, prompting other radio station to follow suit. The Casino Royale soundtrack was vastly superior to the film itself, a surprisingly unfunny James Bond spoof with an all-star cast including Peter Sellers, Woody Allen and David Niven.
Dionne Warwick's next single, "The Windows of the World," was one of her finest efforts and proof that Hal David was quite capable of conveying a political theme in his lyrics. The song contained a subtle anti-war mes sage, a theme that would be expanded upon several years later, on the "Lost Horizon" soundtrack. "'Windows Of The World' is a song I felt very keenly about," recalls Hal David. "We were going through the Vietnam war and I had two sons -- and still have them. And so I pictured my sons getting involved, particularly my older son who was soon going to be of age. And that was my feeling. I wrote that, I guess, as a political song from a father's perspective."
Warwick also felt strongly about the song and pointed to it as an example of Hal's approach to lyric writing: "Hal doesn't just write songs. He writes himself. There's nothing contrived in what he does. He goes by feeling. 'The Windows Of The World' has become one of our biggest hits, yet Hal didn't even think of it as a song to be written but as something that had to be said. Other people have been thinking it, and one day he just found a way to say it. It's about the kind of world we live in, and the way we feel about it, and again he tells it simply in just the way we'd like to say it ourselves."
"Windows" reached #32 in August '67 and was followed three months later by another Bacharach/David/Warwick classic. After the thoughtful "Windows" 45, the trio retunred with a more straightforward love song, yet with a typically sophisticated and dynamic musical backing. An instant classic, "I Say a Little Prayer" rose quickly to the #4 position, the second biggest hit of Warwick's career (Dionne's biggest hit was actually the other side of "I Say A Little Prayer," "Valley Of The Dolls," which was not a Bacharach/David composition). In December, 1967 came another solo 45 from Burt himself, "Reach Out For Me" b/w "The Look Of Love," taken from Reach Out, his first album for A&M.
April, 1968 saw the release of yet another classic Dionne Warwick single - "Do You Know The Way To San Jose?" -- whose lyrical theme was reminiscent of "Message To Michael." The record turned out to be another double-sided hit, with "San Jose" reaching #10 and the flip - "Let Me Be Lonely'' -- making it to #71.
Bacharach and David had to date written plenty of big hit records among them some of the most memorable songs of the Sixties - but they had not yet written a song which had reached the coveted #1 spot in America. It was inevitable that it would happen, and it did, in May, 1968. It was a million miles away from Tijuana Brass fare like "Spanish Flea" and "Tuuana Taxi," but Bacharach and David's "This Guy's In Love With You" was the biggest hit ever released by Herb Alpert, sitting at #1 for four weeks. Opening with a gently swinging electric piano, adding Alpert's distinctive lead vocal and slowly building to the emotional peak of the chorus, "This Guy" became a radio staple and was, inevitably, widely covered. (Others who covered the song included B.J. Thomas, Petula Clark, Dionne Warwick and Bacharach himself.)
Alpert charted again in August with anothor Bacharach/David ballad, "To Wait For Love" (previously recorded by Jay and the Americans, Tom Jones and Tony Orlando), which climbed to #51. The same month saw Aretha Franklin hit #10 with her great version of "I Say A Little Prayer." In August, Dionne Warwick scored another double-sided hit: "Who Is Gonna Love Me" (which reached #33) b/w "(There's) Always Someing There To Remind Me" (which peaked at #65).
After all their successful movie themes, the idea of a Bacharach/David-composed Broadway musical was very appealing and -- typically --the duo did not disappoint. "Promises, Promises," based on Neil Simon's play "The Apartment," opened at New York's Shubert Theatre on November 23, 1968. It received great notices and ran for several years before moving to London. The show spawned several of Burt and Hal's most enduring compositions, the first of which appeared as a Dionne Warwick 45 in late '68. Her impressive rendition of the musically complex title tune charted at #19 and the Broadway show even won a Grammy, for Best Original Soundtrack Recording Of A Musical Play. Bacharach, meanwhile, saw out 1968 with a catchy seasonal 45, "The Bell That Couldn't Jingle" (previously cut by Bobby Vinton) b/w "What The World Need Now Is Love."
In February, 1969 -- just eight months after Herb Alpert had topped the charts with "This Guy's In Love With You" -- Dionne Warwick reached #7 with her own "This Girl's In Love With You," extracted from her Promises, Promises LP. In May, Warwick followed "This Girl..." with the Bacharach and David-composed movie theme, "The April Fools," which peaked at #37. That same month saw another Bacharach solo 45 - a version of "I'll Never Fall In Love Again," from the musical "Promises, Promises." The single was taken from Burt's second A&M album Make It Easy on Yourself, Yourself which featured five numbers from the Broadwayt show. Like his other LPs, Make It Easy On Yourself mixed instrumental versions of Bacharach/David tunes with the occasional appearance of unnamed session vocalists. Burt himself delivered a touching vocal on the album's title track. Though not technically a great singer, Bacharach's voice gives the track an aching beauty that makes the song his own.
"When Burt and Hal presented a song, Burt would play piano and sing with a glitch in his voice," Gene Pitney told Britain's Record Collector magazine. "He's like Roger Cook, in that he doesn't sing well technically, but I'd sing it to myself and think, "Jezz, it doesn't sound as good as them.' That's because they've left a piece of themselves in the song-- l can't explain it better than that."
As the Sixties drew to a close, the Bacharach/David Songbook continued to attract an amazing variety of interpreters. The latter months of 1969 found Engelbert Humperdink at #38 with "I'm A Better Man" and Isaac Hayes at #30 with his version of "Walk On By," the first of several Bacharach-David tunes recorded by the Shaft-man.
Bacharach and David's biggest achievement of 1969 came as a result of another film project, the soundtrack to the Robert Redford/Paul Newman classic "Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid." One of the film's most memorable sequences was accompanied by BJ Thomas' rendition of a new Bacharach-David tune, "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head." A laid-back number featuring ukelele and a great vocal performance by Thomas, the track was released as a single and reached the #1 spot, where it spent four weeks. Well worth seek ing out is Dionne Warwick's version of "Raindrops," which appearet on her I'll Never Fall In Love Again LP in 1970. The "Butch Cassidy" soundtrack also garnered a few awards to add to Bacharach and David's growing collection: another Grammy (for Best Soundtrack) and two Oscars (Best Song for "Raindrops" and Best Original Score.)
Thomas has said that when he cut "Raindrops...," he was under the impression that the song had been written with Bob Dylan in mind. Bacharach has denied this and Hal David is unequivocal in his recollection: "No. We wrote the song with Paul Newman in mind. (laughs) Not for him to sing but (inspired by) the character of Butch Cassidy. You don't write for the singer who's going to be singing over the scene. You should write for the character and what the scene has to say. And that's exactly how and why the song was written." The accompanying soundtrack album featured Bacharach's memorable score, as well as "Raindrops" and another B.J. Thomas vocal entitled "On A Bicycle Built for Joy." In fact, the latter track is merely the alternate version of "Raindrops" featured in the movie.
While Thomas enjoyed his stint at the top of the charts, another Bacharach/David number made its way into the Top Ten. As 1969 drew to a close, Dionne Warwick was at #6 with her version of "I'll Never Fall In Love Again." The 1970s began with yet another hit recording of "(There's) Always Something There To Remind Me." This time out, the artist was R.B. Greaves -- following up his big hit "Take A Letter, Maria" - whose version reached #27 in February, 1970.
By 1970, Bacharach had expanded his solo career to include concert tours, as well as two successful television specials, "The Burt Bacharach Special" and "Another Evening With Burt Bacharach." At the 1971 Emmy Awards, the two specials competed against each other for the Best Variety Apecial award, with "The Burt Bacharach Special" winning out.
In March, B.J. Thomas released "Everybody's Out Of Town," a Bacharach/David-penned followup to "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head." While Bacharach, David and Thomas seem to have been trying to recapture some of the magic of the earlier hit, the simiiarities are largely superficial and "Everybody's Out Of Town" has its own distinct charm. It didn't match the huge success of "Raindrops" but was a modest hit, charting at #26 in April.
Dionne Warwick began her second decade of hit-making with "Let Me Go To Him" which ascended to #32 in May, 1970. The following month, seven years after the song was written, "(They Long To Be) Close To You" reached the #1 spot where - like "This Guy's In Love With You" and "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head" before it -- it stayed for four weeks. The song's revival was the result of Burt and Hal playing the song to Herb Alpert, who in turn passed it on to the Carpenters, who had recently signed to A&M.
"When we recorded the song (in 1964), it didn't feel like a hit at that time," recalls David, "but we always liked the song. That's why we sent it over to Herb Alpert. We had faith in the song, but we didn't feel we had the right rendition. When I first heard (the Carpenters' version), I didn't have the same enthusiasm as Burt did. I think Herb Alpert or Jerry Moss sent it over to Burt's house in California and we played it. And I liked it, but I didn't jump up and down. Burt thought it was a great record. I learned to fall in love with it very quickly but, on first hearing, I wasn't bowled over."
In July came Dionne Warwick's #43 hit "Paper Mache," a swipe at the increasing superficiality of consumer culture. Where the social commentary of "Windows of the World" had been gentle, "Paper Mache was much more direct in its approach: "There's a sale on Happiness/ You buy two and it costs less," crooned Dionne to Bacharach's lovely melody and stripped-down marimba backdrop. David's lyrics depict a shallow modern world with a shallow remedy for everything: "Spray it with cologne and the whole world smells sweet..." Also released that July was B.J. Thomas"'Send My Pic ture To Scranton, PA" (on the B-side of his hit "I Just Can't Help Believing"), a fine recording which would have fit in (musically, at least) on the "Butch Cassidy" soundtrack album. It was followed in September by the Bacharach 45 "Any Day Now" b/w "A House Is Not A Home" (the latter track featuring another vocal by Burt).
In October,1970 -- eight years after she accused Bacharach and David of "making her over" by giving the song to someone else -- Dionne Warwick released her own version of "Make It Easy On Yourself" as a single and saw it reach #37. On the flipside was "Knowing When To Leave," a song from tbe musical "Promises, Promises."
In November, Hal and Burt almost chalked up another #1 hit, with the Fifth Dimension's "One Less Bell To Answer," a song written in 1967 and originally recorded by Keely Smith. Although the single spent two weeks in the #2 position, it was kept from the top spot by George Harrison's mega hit "My Sweet Lord." The same month saw the release of one of Dionne Warwick's finest Bacharach/David-penned singles, "The Green Grass Starts To Grow," backed with "They Don't Give Medals (To Yesterday's Heroes)," one of several Bacharach/David tunes penned for tbe 1966 Ricky Nelson/Joannie Sommers TV musical "On The Flip Side." That single climbed to #43 in January of the following year.
Compared to the years which preceded it,1971 saw little in the way of new Bacharach/David material. Dionne released the excellent "Who Gets The Guy" (peak position: #57), while Burt released an eponymous album and two 45s, "All Kinds Of People" b/w "She's Gone Away" and "Freefall" b/w "One Less Bell To Answer." The excellent Burt Bacharach LP featured one of the composer's increasingly assured vocals on the charming "Hasbrook Heights." There was another B.J. Thomas-sung movie theme, "Long Ago Tomorrow," one of Burt and Hal's best early-'70s compositions. In spite of a great vocal performance by Thomas, the thoughtful "Long Ago Tomorrow" reached only #61. Meanwhile, Isaac Hayes tackled another Bacharach/ David tune, "The Look Of Love," his version reaching #79.
In 1972, as in previous years, the main vehicle for Bacharach and David's songs was Dionne Warwicke (now spelling her last name with an 'e' tagged on, reportedly on the advice of a numerologist). After a decade with Scepter Records, Warwicke had signed with Warner Bros. and her 1972 debut for the label was simply called Dionne. More than half the album was penned by Burt and Hal, their contributions including "I Just Have To Breathe," "The Balance Of Nature," "If You Never Say Goodbye," and "Be Aware." There was a new version of "Close To You" (similar to Dionne's mid-'60s rendition rather than the Carpenters' hit version), as well as "One Less Bell To Answer" and "Hasbrook Heights." The Bacharach/David/Warwicke triumvirate seemed to be moving steadily forward but, in actuality, the collaborators were very close to a messy divorce. The back cover of the album showed a smiling Dionne nestled cosily between a grinning Hal and a some what uncomfortable-looking Burt.
Apart from the Dionne album, 1972 was another lean year for Bacharach David materia1, as the duo worked on their most ambitious project yet. After the success of their work on "Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid" and the Broadway musical "Promises, Promises," the natural next step was for Burt and Hal to write a movie musical and that's exactly what they proceeded to do. The project was a musical remake of the classic Frank Capra film "Lost Holizon," about a group of plane crash survivors who discover the lost city of Shangri-La in the Himalayas.
The movie soundtrack itself came packaged in a lavish die-cut fold out sleeve. Extracted as a single was the theme song, "Lost Horizon," sung by Shawn Phillips, with lyrics that echoed the anti-war sentiments of "The Windows Of The World." A truly beautiful song, gentle yet musically complex, "Lost Horizon" climbed to the #63 position in February, 1973.
Hal David: "'Lost Horizon' was a film that just didn't work. And the score suffered because of it in my opinion. Many people now seem to think the score's rather good. The picture deals with the hope for things wonderful and people getting along and finding a peaceful solution and a happy solution to life. And that kind of philosophy has been very dear to me and very close to me all my life. So it was sometbing I just loved doing. And there are things in that score that are very dear to me. 'Where Knowl edge Ends; Faith Begins' is a song I always loved."
As sophisticated as Burt and Hal's collaborations had always been, their work together continued to evolve. A song like "Lost Horizon" may not have been as immediately accessible as "Close To You" or "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head," but the quality of Bacharach and David's compositions showed no signs of declining. Lost in the rush to damn the venture were songs such as "Share The Joy," which featured one of Bacharach's best-ever melodies. Although the Shawn Phillips single was not a major hit; another song from the "Lost Horizon" sound track did find its way into the Top 40. The record in question was not an original soundtrack recording but the Fifth Dimension's reworking of "Living Together, Growing Together," which peaked at #32 in February, 1973. (Note: A kitschy curio from the "Lost Horizon" era is a Disneyland Records LP called The World Is A Circle, which features a Disney chorus singing "Living Together, Growing Together," "Question Me an Answer" and "The World Is a Circle," plus several non-Bacharach/David numbers).
Several "Lost Horizon" numbers inevitably appeared on Burt's excellent 1973 album Living Together. The best tracks on the LP were those featuring Burt's lead vocals, his confidence as a singer making the use of other vocalists seem increasingly unnecessary on his records. Sadly, although tracks like "Something Big" and "Long Ago Tomorrow" showed Bacharach and David to be the height of their abilities, the duo had reached the end of their long and fruitful partnership. As it turned out, the Fifth Dimension's "Living Together, Growing Together" was the last new Bacharach David composition to reach the charts. The enormous pressure of working on the "Lost Horizon" soundtrack, compounded by the film's lack of success drove a wedge between the songwrit ers. Bacharach later recalled that, after the movie's disastrous reception, "I just went down to the beach at Del Mar and sort of hid. It was such a giant bust. I didn't want to be seen walking around the community." The strain on their relationship affected not only Burt and Hal, but also Dionne Warwicke. Said Burt, "When Hal David and I started to come apart, we weren't able to be there in the studio for Dionne. So she sued us and Hal sued me and I sued Hal. It was all very messy."
"Things happen with every group," reflects Hal David, twenty-four years later. "Through it all, the fact that we -- at a certain point-- stopped writing together is just really a blip in our relationship. We really remained very good friends all the way through, as we are today. I think time erodes... You're together X number of years. Your mind goes one way and the other guy's mind goes the other way. I didn't think there was anything abnormal about it, in retrospect. Everybody changes and you just go where your life takes you."
During the next twenty years Bacharach and David did not work together. In 1993, they reunited to pen "Sunny Weather Lover" for Dionne Warwicke and the track was included on her Friends Can Be Lovers album. "We thought it was good," David muses, "but it just didn't work. I didn't think it was one of our great songs. I think, under certain circumstances, it could have happened."
In 1997 interest in the songs of Bacharach and David is the strongest it's been in twenty-five years. As before, the spotlight tends to focus on Burt, but it's those vintage coIlaborations that inspire the revival. Bacharach appeared in Mike Myers' hit movie "Au~tin Powers," singing "What The World Needs Now," before his version segued into and then back out of a fine update by the Posies. PBS aired the British documentary "Burt Bacharach: This Is Now." A&M has assembled a retrospective of record ings Bacharach cut for the label, while Rhino is working on a comprehensive multi-disc set of original recordings of Bacharach-penned material, both famous and obscure. Varese Vintage has reissued the score from "Casino Royale," while Razor and Tie has even gone so far as to reissue the "Lost Horizon" soundtrack. There has been a slew of magazine articles, cover versions and tribute albums.
Bacharach is currently working with Elvis Costello, with whom he recently wrote the excellent "God Give Me Strength" for Allison Anders' film "Grace of My Heart." Though both he and Hal David are kept busy with other pursuits, they recently completed a new song together. Entitled "You've Got It All Wrong," the song was written for the recent Broadway revival of the musical "Promises, Promises." Initial reports suggest that the song is a fine return to the classic Bacharach/David sound (A new soundtrack album is rumoured to be forthcoming from Varese Vintage.)
Whether or not Hal David and Burt Bacharach continue to collaborate, the contribution they have already made to popular music cannot be underestimated. Their work was rooted in the tradition of great songwriting teams like Rodgers and Hart, as well as contemporaries like Goffin and King. Yet they took that tradition and carried it forward, their songs charting numerous times in the '60s and continuing to be covered in the '70s, '80s and '90s. The current interest in their work far transcends any Easy Listening revival and that term seems an inappropriate categorization for most of the Bacharach/ David catalog. The reason for the enduring success of the songs of Bacherach and David is that they are great songs, both simple and sophisticated, from basic love songs to thoughtful philosophical reflections, pushing the boundaries of pop music while remaining commercial.
_"I think we always tried to write up to the best of our ability," says Hal David. "Not to what looked like it was going to be in the Top 10 on the charts because of what was happening at that moment, or what was the new fashion. We just tried to write with as much integrity as we could, tried to write the best we knew how."
Special thanks to: Karen Sherry, Hal David, Georgina Saksa Bedi, Tom Ardolino (and very special thanks to Mary).
(Note: All chart positions are from the Billboard Pop Char unless otherwise indicated.)
The above article reprinted without permission from the December 1997 issue of Discoveries Magazine.
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