Burt Bacharach and Hal David: Classic or Dud?

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Noticed Marcello's mention of "This Guy's In Love With You" and one of their other songs coming up in another thread recently. Apart from that, I can't recall B&D being mentioned at all on this forum in the last nine months, which is a slightly surprising omission. Which is as good a reason as any for this thread.

Robin Carmody, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

I know very little of their stuff, except for some Dionne Warwick collections I have and the Rain Drops Keep Falling... album by B.J. Thomas. But on that evidence, I'd have to say a big, fat Classic. I hear a song like "The Look Of Love" and I can understand what people are talking about when they say, "They don't write melodies like they used to." These are songs with three distinct melodic sections, each unique & strong enough on its own to build an entire composition around. The idea of the "middle eight" is fading rapidly w/ "alternative" songwriters, which is generally a good thing considering how hard it is to write a great melody. But Bacharach could really nail it most of the time.

Can't comment on David's lyrics, never much paid attention.

Mark, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

Absolute stone-dead classic. Bacharach is my favourite pop songwriter ever. Intricate, beautiful, luscious melodies that have haunted me since I was this high. Love him.

Venga, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

I picked up a used piece of vinyl the other day, in mint condition: Burt Bacharach's Make it Easy on Yourself, and it's good. Good. Well, the singers are a bit cheesetastic, but it's pretty all right. Now, other artists doing Bacharach and David's material, well, totally classic in the right hands.

Sean Carruthers, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

I love Bacharach. Its funny, he seems like sort of a dull guy, but his songs express such honest and heartfelt emotion it makes me feel guilty. I'm glad I live in an decade when you can like Bacharach's close to you AND The Clash without feeling inferior.

Mike Hanley, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

BTW I have heard a few tracks of Switched-on Bacharach, moog covers. I wish I could find the cd. Any one ever see it?

Mike Hanley, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

Does it get any more classic? Isn't that like "God: Good Or Evil?"

Taylor Parkes, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

I dunno Taylor thats a pretty valid question. I mean, reading the Old Testament, GOd is pretty evil.

Mike Hanley, Thursday, 24 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

So very terribly classic. I own what I think are the only three actual Bacarach albums, and love them to bits. I like most the ability to construct a mood and not be stupid about it -- to provide harmonic complexity which does not exist for its own sake, but always sharply directed in intent. And the voices aren't too much at all, they're great. As is the copy on the back of the album, which as I recall is a "sophisticated" poem. Search: San Jose, Alfie Theme, A House is Not a Home, Sundance Kid soundtrack.

Sterling Clover, Thursday, 24 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

It's true, it's strange that they haven't been mentioned more. I meant to start this thread a while back but didn't get round to it.

1. I don't know the material as well as I should. Lots of their songs I have simply never heard.

2. Lots of the songs I have heard disappoint me; or rather, I don't like them - 'The Look Of Love', for example.

3. I think that some of the songs I would like in other arrangements or styles or with other singers, but I don't love them as they are. I don't like Cilla Black (I meant to do a CorD on her, too!), and I don't like what I've heard of Aretha Franklin.

4. Nonetheless - and this sounds silly after all those reservations - I still think Classic. I have heard just enough to convince me of the greatness here - my favourite is surely 'I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself', certainly my favourite Dusty S performance too. And more generally, even with the songs I don't like that much, I back totally what the earlier contributor said re. the greatness of the melodies and their relationships with the music (which is, as I have said a million times, the main thing for me in a song). I feel like even the songs I haven't heard are probably equally great. In a way, I suppose I have a feeling about Bacharach which may sound irrational to you: which is that he is so talented at the particular thing he does - that his gift runs so deep - that almost everything he does is in some way worthwhile, touched by genius. (I feel somehow the same way about McCartney and Merritt.)

5. So, Classic, especially in theory, with reservations about the practice. I need to hear more, much more. But as said previously, I consider Painted From Memory a masterpiece.

the pinefox, Thursday, 24 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

The pinefox and I were having this conversation the other day, funnily enough, and I remember saying I think I prefer the English girls (Dusty, Sandie, Cilla, Lulu) versions of many of the songs to the 'canonical' Warwick versions, I think because of some hazy poignancy that arises from their not being so immaculately and consummately flawless vocalists. It's more evocative, somehow.

David's lyrics are great, I think. They don't draw attention to themselves with classic rock wordplay, and they're all the better for it. He wrote about adult situations in a way that seems pretty unimaginable in modern pop, and they've lasted better than all that 60s lysergic sage nonsense. Actually, I was wondering about that Atomic Kitten song the other day, the extent to which it's an answer to 'Walk on by': "If you see me walking down the street..." - meta-pop irony or plain half-inching?

stevie t, Thursday, 24 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

Halfway between. The dirty-lyrics version is probably an answer record, though.

Tom, Thursday, 24 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

The lovely Stevie T says - as usual - lots of interesting and convincing things, and then goes and spoils the ending for me with the incomprehensible

>>> Actually, I was wondering about that Atomic Kitten song the other day, the extent to which it's an answer to 'Walk on by': "If you see me walking down the street..." - meta-pop irony or plain half-inching?

What are you on about here?

the pinefox, Thursday, 24 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

It's Atomic Kitten's curiously dated-sounding "Whole Again" which was number one in the UK for the whole of February this year, Pinefox. So no surprise, really :).

Good call to Stevie T on the English girl singers. His description is one of those lines that should be bottled and sold to anyone who wants to write eloquently about music.

And good call to the Pinefox on "I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself". Rarely has there been a recording that sounds so consumnately like rebirth and renewal of an entire country and social milieu, while at the same time being transcendent pop. Stunning.

Robin Carmody, Thursday, 24 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-two years ago) link

one month passes...
I would call their songs hidden classics. Else they would turn into dud. Especially the Warwick songs. All other versions are not as good. Take Warwick and all other vocalists are downhill from her.

Floor Kuijmans, Saturday, 7 July 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

two years pass...
I'm in a major B&D mood at the moment; would anyone recommend anything close to a definitive compilation or such like which has all the finest versions of their many great songs? i.e. I'd prefer something that wasn't just containing Dionne Warwick versions; I'd like to hear perfect versions of "Raindrops...", "Something Big" (there was a quite nice Jim O'Rourke cover I recall a few years back ;)) and Carpenters' "Close To You" and Alpert's "This Guy's In Love With You" would have to be on it... Is there a release that fits the bill?

Tom May (Tom May), Monday, 3 May 2004 19:25 (nineteen years ago) link

Classic, but I have reservations. I think Jobim was better. Bacharach was great but a lot of it does seem a bit mannered; Jobim never is. Warwick(e) is also very mannered. Always dug "Promises, Promises" as a great example of crazy tonal overlay, though. I think Dusty was a better singer than Warwick, too. I've always liked the sheer energy and exuberance of Elis Regina better than the somewhat arid and showy style of the psychic friend(e).

eddie hurt (ddduncan), Tuesday, 4 May 2004 03:08 (nineteen years ago) link

six months pass...
their songs just keep on giving, absolutely ecstatic

fun to play/sing too

amateur!!st, Saturday, 27 November 2004 23:53 (eighteen years ago) link

eddie otm. also note that the aretha version of "Say A Little Prayer," with purdie on drums, is better than the dionne version.

Ken L (Ken L), Sunday, 28 November 2004 00:22 (eighteen years ago) link

Any word on the Bacharach Dre-vid collab?

Naive Teen Idol (Naive Teen Idol), Sunday, 28 November 2004 05:39 (eighteen years ago) link

haha. Nobody's mentioned the Bacharach-Isley thing that came out within the past year. I liked Ron Isley's singing but Burt's orchestration of his classics was a tiny bit icky for my taste.

Ken L (Ken L), Sunday, 28 November 2004 05:46 (eighteen years ago) link

I like that a lot, actually.

Naive Teen Idol (Naive Teen Idol), Sunday, 28 November 2004 08:28 (eighteen years ago) link

I liked it, too. Some gorgeous singing and a reimagining of "Raindrops" that made me all but fall over the first time I heard it.

Bacharach-as-a-guy has always struck me as hard to dislike. I always recall his being interviewed for a documentary on Dusty in complete ski gear on the side of a mountain. A star!

Rickey Wright (Rrrickey), Sunday, 28 November 2004 10:22 (eighteen years ago) link

four years pass...

OK, I've been obsessing about Burt for a few years now and I finally need to let some of it out here.

Yes yes, we all know Walk On By, and Look of Love, and Raindrops, and House is not a Home, etc. are completely undisputeable pop genius, but I never hear anyone talking about some of smaller hits. The darker shit.

Where's the love for the ultimately creepy "Everybody's Out of Town" by BJ Thomas? The strings and french horn at the start and end make it sound like someone fucking with an orchestra recording on a tape machine. It was a completely surreal soundtrack to my first return to post-Katrina New Orleans. Driving around those devastated empty streets on a bright sunny day with this confused not-quite-happy-go-lucky song on repeat is probably the strangest sober experience I will ever have.

And speaking of BJ Thomas, he's also got a really perfect version of "Long Ago Tomorrow", with verses gloomier than any of the yawns that radiohead have been crapping out the last few years and a desperately hopeful to wistful to defeated chorus that really just nails down the feeling of a dying hope.

And what about Manfred Mann's version of "Little Red Book"? Everyone always talks about Love's version and yay Arthur Lee and yay Syd Barrett and all that but seriously, there's a reason Burt didn't like Love's version and it's not an aversion to distortion. Love took out the real dark heart of the song when they just appropriated the bassline as a riff and threw the vocals over it without keeping those creepy dissonant piano chords that gave the song so much tension (not too mention how awesome that organ riff sounds! Was this song written for Halloween parties??).

And then there's Chuck Jackson's near-manic version of "Breaking Point" where he's practically channeling Screamin' Jay at some point. Goddamn, I don't want to break up with this dude.

There really ain't enough drooling over Burt on this board and whoever's idea it was to make an OPO thread is just cruel and doesn't understand the human heart.

What Burt really fucking does it for you?

Fetchboy, Friday, 7 August 2009 13:12 (thirteen years ago) link

You people are psychic. I just got all my Dionne Warwick albums out because I'm tired of not having them on computer. I also snap up sixties Bacharach by anyone, I have to go fishing to see what I find!

Since you asked, I like all of Dionne Warwick's sixties albums, not just the hits, especially the earlier records. Stuff like "This Empty Place" is a favorite.

The Worst Chef in America!! (u s steel), Friday, 7 August 2009 14:18 (thirteen years ago) link

you can see parts of Lost Horizon on YouTube, which is one of those it-was-awesome-as-a-legend things - bonkers in reality, too, but I liked knowing it had been a train wreck and not knowing just what kind

the evil genius of Zaiger Genetics (J0hn D.), Friday, 7 August 2009 14:23 (thirteen years ago) link

xpost - Oooohhhh, haven't heard Dionne's version of that, i'll have to dig it up!

watching clips of Lost Horizon right now. WTF exactly was this thing?!? From what I can gather it's some kind of Wicker Man musical??

Fetchboy, Friday, 7 August 2009 14:36 (thirteen years ago) link

it's a movie that cost an incredible amount of money and was an utter disaster - the aftermath of its failure effectively ended the Bacharach/David partnership for quite some time, or so the story goes. one of the all-time legendary train wrecks.

the evil genius of Zaiger Genetics (J0hn D.), Friday, 7 August 2009 14:40 (thirteen years ago) link

eight months pass...

Bacharach and David were on NPR today, talking about all sorts of things: the revival of Promises, Promises; how they met; Lost Horizon; etc. Totally worth a half hour of your day if you care about these guys. Terry Gross (who I'm generally not into) was fantastic, as good as I've ever heard her, getting into the nitty-gritty of time signatures with them. She plays (and they discuss) a couple versions of "Promises, Promises," they get in a little jab at Aretha for her problems with a particular time change, but the segment nicely ends with them acknowledging that her version of "I Say A Little Prayer" slays Dionne's. You get to hear a lot of Dionne too: this segment's a great argument for her as the perfect match for their style, a point I'd heard made but never really understood why until hearing this. And it's fascinating to hear Bacharach openly discuss the ways his temperament shaped his career and his relationship with David. He kept coming back to the phrase "woulda, coulda, shoulda," like he's both got regrets and is trying not to; I'd love to hear them work on a song built around that phrase.

dad a, Wednesday, 5 May 2010 19:02 (thirteen years ago) link

Cool. I will listen to that later. Public radio's Terry Gross is married to blues and jazz critic and author Francis Davis by the way.

curmudgeon, Wednesday, 5 May 2010 19:28 (thirteen years ago) link

thanks for the heads up ... has gross interviewed bacharach before? maybe it was a different NPR show I'm thinking of ...

tylerw, Wednesday, 5 May 2010 19:29 (thirteen years ago) link

This is awesome. Thanks for the link A-Dad!

Captain Ahab, Wednesday, 5 May 2010 19:50 (thirteen years ago) link

Bacharach's songs all seem kinda psychotic to me

the sound of a norwegian guy being wrong (Shakey Mo Collier), Wednesday, 5 May 2010 19:50 (thirteen years ago) link

or at least deeply neurotic

the sound of a norwegian guy being wrong (Shakey Mo Collier), Wednesday, 5 May 2010 19:50 (thirteen years ago) link

hmm guess I should blame Hal David for that tho

the sound of a norwegian guy being wrong (Shakey Mo Collier), Wednesday, 5 May 2010 19:51 (thirteen years ago) link

Nice. I've been thinking about them lately -- since last week's Glee episode, I guess.

jaymc, Wednesday, 5 May 2010 20:11 (thirteen years ago) link

i'm pretty sure terry has interviewed bacharach before. in fact, i'm sure of it. was it around the time of the elvis costello collaboration?

thanks for this link. i love B&D.

by another name (amateurist), Wednesday, 5 May 2010 21:22 (thirteen years ago) link

sorry jerry orbach fans but his rendition of promises, promises is horrid.

by another name (amateurist), Wednesday, 5 May 2010 21:27 (thirteen years ago) link

granted that's a fucking difficult song to sing. just try it.

by another name (amateurist), Wednesday, 5 May 2010 21:27 (thirteen years ago) link

This was cool. For some reason I had thought Hal David died years ago, so it was neat to hear them interviewed together.

Grisly Addams (WmC), Wednesday, 5 May 2010 21:54 (thirteen years ago) link

yeah, nice interview ... i love Burt bein' all like "all i wanted to do was get to palm springs / go to my beach house in del mar" etc. That's exactly what Burt Bacarach would want to do!

tylerw, Wednesday, 5 May 2010 22:02 (thirteen years ago) link

nine months pass...

sorry jerry orbach fans but his rendition of promises, promises is horrid.

Just listening to this now (it's still up...don't think all NPR stuff is up forever), but "horrid" only if you detest show tunes. I'm no fan of them myself, but clearly Dionne turned it into a pop song.

Bacharach sounds like he's a hundred in this interview. Reminds me that these guys aren't going to be around forever.

Naive Teen Idol, Monday, 14 February 2011 04:38 (twelve years ago) link

five months pass...

Now that I have Spotify, it's time for some brainstorming:

Bacharach Hits

ReRecorded, ReMastered (Mount Cleaners), Wednesday, 3 August 2011 16:45 (eleven years ago) link

Insomnia is good for something:

john. a resident of chicago., Saturday, 6 August 2011 05:45 (eleven years ago) link

i love jimmy webb's bacharach rip "the girl's song"

chawki (buzza), Saturday, 6 August 2011 05:55 (eleven years ago) link

Thx for that Spotify playlist. I wish the BB volume of the "Great Jewish Music" series was available on Spotify -- it's really good.

L.P. Hovercraft (WmC), Saturday, 6 August 2011 16:28 (eleven years ago) link

one year passes...

Sorry to hear about this:


The genius of all those Bacharach/David songs was primarily melodic, I'd say, but when you think about the lyrics to "I Say a Little Prayer" or "What the World Needs Now is Love," they were pretty great too. Probably a mistake to even try keeping score.

clemenza, Saturday, 1 September 2012 21:40 (ten years ago) link


Always thought Hal David was under appreciated.

john. a resident of chicago., Saturday, 1 September 2012 22:00 (ten years ago) link

I should have mentioned "Walk on By" before anything else. Lyrically, it doesn't get much more subtle than that.

clemenza, Saturday, 1 September 2012 22:09 (ten years ago) link


How's My Modding? Call 1-800-SBU-RSELF (WmC), Saturday, 1 September 2012 22:12 (ten years ago) link

RIP. Wow, he wrote the lyrics to "A House is not a Home"


curmudgeon, Saturday, 1 September 2012 22:12 (ten years ago) link


The Rhino box is all-time.

Hut Stricklin at Lake Speed (C. Grisso/McCain), Saturday, 1 September 2012 22:23 (ten years ago) link


piscesx, Saturday, 1 September 2012 23:11 (ten years ago) link


Pangborn to be Wilde (Dr Morbius), Sunday, 2 September 2012 01:05 (ten years ago) link

Obama giving it up for Bacharach and David makes me seriously proud. What a legacy these two have. I'm gonna be completely slayed when Burt goes.

Naive Teen Idol, Sunday, 2 September 2012 04:51 (ten years ago) link

Bacharach never was as good as he was with David. An immense loss to music.

we don't wanna miss a THING!!! (underrated aerosmith bootlegs I have owned), Sunday, 2 September 2012 06:02 (ten years ago) link

yes yes yes

byebye Hal D

boooooo he ain't hardcore (Noodle Vague), Sunday, 2 September 2012 08:25 (ten years ago) link

listenin' to Dusty torch her way through "The Look of Love" and trying not to cry....

will miss you HD

Lee626, Sunday, 2 September 2012 08:46 (ten years ago) link

Just typed "The Windows of the World" into Spotify -- and came up with dozens of versions of the most appropriate song of the day.

Naive Teen Idol, Sunday, 2 September 2012 12:22 (ten years ago) link


cute, banned, alert (some dude), Sunday, 2 September 2012 12:36 (ten years ago) link

"I Just Don't Know What to do with Myself" . Discovered this one via the Elvis Costello version on Stiffs Live

curmudgeon, Sunday, 2 September 2012 15:55 (ten years ago) link


DARING PRINCESS (DJP), Sunday, 2 September 2012 16:51 (ten years ago) link

I had forgotten the anecdote where Dionne said to B&D early on, "Don't make me over, man"

Pangborn to be Wilde (Dr Morbius), Sunday, 2 September 2012 17:29 (ten years ago) link

RIP. "This Guy's In Love With You" is probably my fave bacharach/david collab -- just the combo of the totally vulnerable, almost desperate lyrics and the majestic chorus, such an amazing song. alpert's low-key delivery is great too.

tylerw, Sunday, 2 September 2012 18:59 (ten years ago) link

I'm always impressed by songs so powerful they overcome the disadvantage of a less-than-great singer.

How's My Modding? Call 1-800-SBU-RSELF (WmC), Sunday, 2 September 2012 19:09 (ten years ago) link

I still get a little tingle when I go into the Brill Building for a film screening.

Pangborn to be Wilde (Dr Morbius), Tuesday, 4 September 2012 14:57 (ten years ago) link

six years pass...

From: Burt Bacharach and John Zorn, a section of some guy's dissertation:

In 'Alfie', the melody is supported by the chords; the melody note often extends the chord (cf. for instance bars 8, 10, 21, and 33). Unfamiliar with jazz chords, the use of unresolved melodic cadences in 'Alfie' can leave the listener hanging. Furthermore, the melody constantly runs the risk of simply extending outwards in a series of increasingly far-flung spirals, losing the possibility of circling acceptably back. How far can it drift from the starting point or opening motif before the literate listener (performer, analyst) loses all hope that it is ever going to get back? The melody meanders so unpredictably that it is threatened with unbridgeable gaps and unexpected dissonances. But then Bacharach abruptly brings it home by using some type of deft shortcut or another (cf. for instance bars 10 and 25-6).

john. a resident of evanston. (john. a resident of chicago.), Friday, 22 March 2019 15:17 (four years ago) link


Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Friday, 22 March 2019 18:55 (four years ago) link

I don’t have the technical musical knowledge to really understand this but just the idea is great !

AlXTC from Paris, Friday, 22 March 2019 19:05 (four years ago) link

Agreed. I'm gonna try to get a friend of mine who was a music major to dissect it with me.

john. a resident of evanston. (john. a resident of chicago.), Friday, 22 March 2019 19:14 (four years ago) link

the melodic lines in some of his songs are indeed really really extended, with minimal repetition by pop-song standards (which is still a lot of repetition by the standards of the sort of music bacharach was trained in).

affects breves telnet (Gummy Gummy), Friday, 22 March 2019 19:16 (four years ago) link

i'm mighty skeptical of a derridean reading of bachrach though!

affects breves telnet (Gummy Gummy), Friday, 22 March 2019 19:16 (four years ago) link

four years pass...

102nd anniversary of Hal David's birth today

The Terroir of Tiny Town (WmC), Thursday, 25 May 2023 17:44 (one week ago) link

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