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Bacharach: The Lesser Known Songbook

On 12 May, Burt Bacharach will celebrate his 85th birthday. Regular readers will know that I regard Bacharach to be in the highest echelons of songwriters. Unusually, he straddles different genres: the easy listening of Perry Como’s Magic Moments, the pure pop of Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, the soul of Don’t Make Me Over, the cowboy song of The Man Who Shot Liberty Vance. This mix places the focus on the lesser known Bacharach songs, chronologically from his beginnings to the time of his zenith, more or less: 1954-1965.

Bacharach - front

Actually, it starts in 1952, with a Nat King Cole song that is usually incorrectly credited to Jerome Kern and Anne Caldwell. The jaunty instrumental Once In A Blue Moon is in fact the first known recording of a Bacharach song, a tune he had written with his father, a newspaper columnist (or, by his own admission, they adapted it from Rubenstein’s Melody in F).

Keep Me in Mind, the 1954 song Burt wrote with Jack Wolf, was his first pop song to be recorded when Patti Page sang it. He had tried, without success, to get his songs recorded for a year and a half after quitting his gig as arranger for the Ames Brothers. Too bad Bacharach hates the song, as he does most of the stuff he wrote during that period. It’s actually quite pleasant, if one ignores the chauvinist lyrics, though the sweet touches we associate Bacharach’s melodies with are still absent. I’d say that the earliest track on this compilation that hints at the Bacharach style of the 1960s is on Jane Morgan’s With Open Arms, a #15 pop hit in September 1959.

In 1956 the first Burt Bacharach/Hal David (or David/Bacharach, as it tended to be into the 1970s) composition was recorded, a track called The Morning Mail which a white vocal group called The Gallahads put on a b-side to a reputedly dull song called, perhaps appropriately, The Fool. Note the whistling: it featured also on the first two Bacharach/David hits the following year, Marty Robbins’ The Story of My Life (a chart-topper in Britain in Michael Holliday’s version) and Perry Como”s Magic Moments.

But the Bacharach/David artistic relationship, prolific as it was, was not yet monogamous. In fact, before they became an exclusive songwriting item in around 1963, Bacharach frequently wrote with Bob Hilliard (the guy who wrote the lyrics of Sinatra”s In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning). Their collaborations included here are Del Shannon‘s The Answer To Everything, The Drifters‘ (Don’t Go) Please Stay, Etta James‘ Waiting For Charlie (originally recorded by Jane Morgan), Dick Van Dyke‘s Three Wheels on My Wagon, Gene Pitney‘s Little Betty Falling Star, and Phil Colbert‘s Who”s Got The Action (possibly written in 1962).

Other songs were the product of more fleeting associations, such as Johnny Mathis‘ Heavenly and Keely Smith‘s Close, which Bacharach co-wrote with Sydney Shaw, Peggy Lee‘s Uninvited Dream (with Sammy Gallop, and arranged by Nelson Riddle) or Gene Vincent‘s Crazy Times (with Paul Hampton). He also wrote a few forgotten songs with our old friend Norman Gimbel, though none feature here.

Talking of Paul Hampton, as a bonus track I’m including his recording of the bizarre collaboration with Bacharach, Two Hour Honeymoon, as a bonus. Recorded in 1960, it was a riff on the death records which were popular at the time. It must be heard to be believed.


As the 1950s ended, Bacharach’s R&B sensibilities began to become evident. Listen to 1959’s Faker Faker by The Eligibles: beneath the feckless white bread interpretation which makes no nod to Hal David’s lyrics of heartbreak, neither in arrangement nor vocals, there lurks a useful R&B number. The Eligibles, incidentally turn up again to back Gene Vincent. In 1959, R&B singer Gene McDaniels recorded his first Bacharach song, but the earliest soul song featured here is The Wanderers outstanding I Could Make You Mine, the only one of Bacharach/David’s early soul songs to be covered later by Dionne Warwick.

A future soul legend recorded a Bacharach song long before she became famous. As Tammi Montgomery, Tammi Terrell recorded Sinner’s Devotion in around 1961 for Wand Records, with The Shirelles on backing vocals. The song was released only in 1967 on a “from the vaults” type record to cash in on Tammi’s Motown success.

Of course, Bacharach continued to write in other genres, including terrible novelty songs such as Dick van Dyke‘s Three Wheels On My Wagon, which features here solely as it also marked Bacharach’s first producer credit. But the Bacharach style we know manifests itself as the 1960s began, when he also started to supervise the arrangements. The Drifters‘ Please Stay in 1961 was the first song for which Bacharach submitted a demo with an arrangement, rather than just the usual piano and vocal treatment. The song was produced by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, and arranged by Ray Ellis. Later Bacharach would usually be in the studio at the first recordings of his songs, acting as de facto producer, even if he received no credit.

Already in the 1950s Bacharach employed the technique of voices imitating instruments. On Chuck Jackson‘s 1961 song The Breaking Point, an usually fast R&B song, Bacharach gets the singer to imitate a rhythm section, with the machine-gun skat of shagga dagga shagga dagga shick shick.

Many of the songs here are lesser known because they were b-sides, often to inferior a-sides. Richard Chamberlain‘s 1963 single Blue Guitar was a Bacharach/David a-side. They also wrote the flip side, a ditty you might know called (They Long To Be) Close To You.

burt (2)

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes home-composed covers.

1. Nat ‘King’ Cole – Once In A Blue Moon (1952)
2. Patti Page – Keep Me In Mind (1954)
3. Mel Tormé – These Desperate Hours (1955)
4. The Gallahads – The Morning Mail (1956)
5. Peggy Lee – Uninvited Dreams (1957)
6. Johnny Mathis – Heavenly (1959)
7. Jane Morgan – With Open Arms (1959)
8. Gloria Lambert – Moon Man (1959)
9. The Eligibles – Faker, Faker (1959)
10. Gene Vincent – Crazy Times (1960)
11. The Wanderers – I Could Make You Mine (1960)
12. Keely Smith – Close (1960)
13. Dick Van Dyke – Three Wheels On My Wagon (1961)
14. Connie Stevens – And This Is Mine (1961)
15. Del Shannon – The Answer To Everything (1961)
16. Tammi Montgomery (Tammi Terrell) – Sinner’s Devotion (1961, rel. 1967)
17. The Drifters – (Don’t Go) Please Stay (1961)
18. Dee Clark – You’re Telling Our Secrets (1961)
19. Chuck Jackson – The Breaking Point (1961)
20. The Shirelles – It’s Love That Really Counts (In The Long Run) (1962)
21. Etta James – Waiting For Charlie (1962)
22. Babs Tino – Forgive Me (For Giving You Such A Bad Time) (1962)
23. Helen Shapiro – Keep Away From Other Girls (1962)
24. Gene Pitney – Little Betty Falling Star (1962)
25. Jimmy Radcliffe – (There Goes) The Forgotten Man (1962)
26. Dionne Warwick – Make The Music Play (1963)
27. Jay and The Americans – To Wait For Love (Is To Waste Your Life Away) (1963)
28. Bobby Vee – Be True To Yourself (1963)
29. Richard Chamberlain – Blue Guitar (1963)
30. The Searchers – This Empty Place (1964)
31. Maxine Brown – I Cry Alone (1964)
32. Jackie DeShannon – A Lifetime Of Loneliness (1965)
33. Phil Colbert – Who’s Got The Action (1965)


Previous Songbooks:

Ashford & Simpson
Barry Gibb Vol. 1
Barry Gibb Vol. 2
Bill Withers
Bob Dylan Volumes 1-5
Brian Wilson
Bruce Springsteen
Burt Bacharach & Hal David Vol. 1
Burt Bacharach & Hal David Vol. 2
Burt Bacharach’s Lesser-Known Songbook
Carole Bayer Sager
Carole King Vol. 1
Carole King Vol. 2
Chuck Berry
Cole Porter Vol. 1
Cole Porter Vol. 2
Elton John & Bernie Taupin
John Prine
Jimmy Webb Vol. 1
Jimmy Webb Vol. 2
Jimmy Webb Vol. 3
Lamont Dozier
Laura Nyro
Leonard Cohen
Neil Diamond
Paul McCartney Vol. 1
Rod Temperton
Sly Stone
Steely Dan

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  1. May 9th, 2013 at 08:52 | #1

    Thanks, Amd Whah!

  2. Bill
    May 9th, 2013 at 15:25 | #2

    Excellent music and a very informative posting. Many thanks.

  3. May 9th, 2013 at 19:51 | #3

    Amazing! Some serious research here. You rock Amd!

  4. lugworm
    May 13th, 2013 at 01:05 | #4

    Great post! Fantastic writeup! Thank you very much.

  5. Ronald
    May 18th, 2013 at 21:43 | #5

    Hmmm… My computer deleted the download from crocko. Said the file contained a virus.

  6. halfhearteddude
    May 19th, 2013 at 11:22 | #6

    Strange. I’ve just doublechecked with Kaspersky, which gave the file a clan bill of health.

  7. dennis bibridd
    November 16th, 2023 at 18:29 | #7

    Once in a Blue Moon seems to be identical to Anton Rubenstein’s Melody In F in every way at least the music is.Maybe Burt and his dad wrote lyrics to it which ARE original?

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