Bacharach & David & Dionne Warwick

Related imageYoung Dionne Warwick from New Jersey had a pretty good year in 1963. In January her first solo single for Scepter Records,  “Don’t Make Me Over” hit the US Top 20. Songwriting duo Burt Bacharach & Hal David had hired Dionne to provide vocals on the demos of their songs. They had previous success separately & together but still needed to hawk their wares around New York. Ms Warwick did such a great job for the team that she was signed for their production company & they committed to recording the new songs with her. In December 1963 her new single “Anyone Who Had A Heart” was on the charts with a bullet, heading towards the Top 10. The same morning session had also produced “Walk On By” & well, we all know how that goes.

 

 

This wonderful 30 minute clip captures a performance by the new 23 year old hit maker. After her first success Dionne had left her studies at Hartt College of Music in Connecticut to travel to France. The Bacharach connection found Marlene Dietrich (Burt had been her arranger/accompanist) introducing her at the Olympia, Paris & she was a sensation. On Dionne’s return to Europe in 1964 she was filmed at the small 27 Club in Knokke, a Belgian seaside resort. Simply shot & choreographed the director accentuates the talent & she delivers. This is no supper club schmaltz (though I’m not a big fan of “People who need people”) it’s just the demure Dionne, her songs, her voice & that’s enough. It’s a surprise when she loosens up for Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say” & I love it.

 

Image result for searchers dionne warwick1964 was a peak of the UK music package tour. The Beatles & Mary Wells, the Stones with Inez & Charlie Foxx, Billy J Kramer headlining with the Ronettes & the Yardbirds in support. Dionne shared her October/November bill with the Searchers, the Zombies & the Isley Brothers. Now that sounds like a value-for- money night out. (The “comedy comperes” Syd & Eddie later became fixtures in our tellies as Little & Large. For any international readers, don’t bother, really.) It was during this tour that she joined her producers at Pye Recording Studios to make “The Sensitive Sound of…” album. One of the singles selected from the record is “You Can Have Him” , a stunning remodel of a 1961 Roy Hamilton hit. It has always surprised me that the most R&B of Dionne’s Sixties output, driven by staccato drums & impassioned backing vocals, was recorded with London sessioneers & not the usual New York crew.

 

 

Sometime near the end of the 20th century I was working in Putney, South London & across the road was a second hand record shop. It was the perfect place for a music freak like me to spend a lunch hour buying too many albums. There was a chance that the copies of “Dionne Warwick’s Golden Hits Part 1 & 2”, released in 1967 & 69 respectively, could be a little scratchy but they were US copies, on the Scepter label, & were a complete collection of those great singles. I was on a “easy listening” tip at the time, inspired by an old beaten-up Bacharach album I had found on the local market. These records, which turned out to be unplayed, turned our house into warmer but cooler home.

 

Image result for dionne warwick paris“You’ll Never Get To Heaven (If You Break My Heart)” was the 1964 follow up to “Walk On By”. That year Dionne was Cashbox’s Best Selling Female Artist & this song was a bigger hit in the UK than in the US. The clip is taken from 1966, part of her 5 week engagement back at the Olympia as a guest on the Sacha Distel Show. Two years on & she is an international star, a confident, sophisticated talent recognised as the premier interpreter of Bacharach & David’s songs. She’s assured enough to add her own flourishes to this song, one of my favourites, & her perfectly pitched performance can still give me goosebumps.

 

 

Burt Bacharach’s compositions employed unusual time changes to surround & support Hal David’s mature lyrics. As an arranger, he sat pianist Paul Griffin next to drummer Gary Chester in the studio & together they found the fluid, graceful interior logic of the music. This was not the usual “moon in June” Brill Building teen-pop knock off. This was a refined, urbane progression for the popular song & in Dionne Warwick the pair found the perfect foil. Dionne emotional Gospel roots were smoothed by an almost Jazz, almost cabaret feel. She became a modern Pop star making a new, a little more experienced, Pop music.

 

Image result for dionne warwick bacharach davidThere’s not room here for all of the classic records that kept Ms Warwick on the charts through the decade & became the foundation of such an enduring & successful career. “Walk On By”, “I Say A Little Prayer” & “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” all deserve attention. I shock myself that I have the front to leave out the perfect “Do You Know The Way To San Jose?”. It’s another personal favourite that makes the cut, another clip recorded in France where they really got her. Dionne delivers the charming “Are You There (With Another Girl)” (1965) casual in sweater & slacks, the epitome of chic which is, I believe, a French word. “Je ne sais quoi”, that’s more French but I think we knew exactly what Dionne Warwick had.

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Zimmermania 1965 (Bob Dylan Covers)

By the Summer of 1965 the US music scene had been in thrall to the Beatles-led British Invasion for 18 months. Phil Spector showed that he still had the moves with the irresistible epic “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” for the Righteous Brothers while Motown injected the same energy & imagination into African-American pop music that the Fabs & their followers did into Rock & Roll. In April & May Freddie & the Dreamers, Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders, Herman’s Hermits  & the Mop Tops had consecutive #1 records. (Whisper it but in the UK we were moving on to the 2nd wave, the Kinks, the Who, the Yardbirds). When the Byrds struck a gold record with their cover of Bob Dylan’s “Mr Tambourine Man” they not only invented folk-rock but signposted a short-cut back to the Hit Parade for American groups. Recording Dylan songs became quite the thing after the success of the Byrds.

Of course the world’s folk singers had known about this wrinkle for some time. The lovely Joan Baez, romantically involved with the young poet, was an early adaptor & proselytiser for his talents. In 1963 Peter, Paul & Mary, no doubt encouraged by Albert Grossman, the manager they shared with Dylan, included 3 of his songs on their LP “In the Wind”. Their 45 “Blowing in the Wind” shifted 300,000 units in its 1st week of release. Bob Dylan was becoming more widely known & anyway an astonishing burst of  creative development, lyrically & musically, became a declaration of his independence from the other 136 (or 142) protest singers. At the end of 1964 the LP “Beatles For Sale” included John Lennon’s “I’m A Loser”, obviously influenced by Dylan. Similarly Dylan was surely affected by the vitality (& the commercial success) of  music made by a generation raised on the same Rock & Roll/R&B records as he was. Folk diehards shocked by the release of “Like A Rolling Stone” in June 1965 & the electric appearance at the Newport Folk Festival the following month had not been listening very hard to “Bringing It All Back Home”. Those of us who had welcomed him over to our side.

Dylan & the Hawks (who became the Band) recorded”Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window”in October & it was released in December intending to continue the hit streak after “Rolling Stone” & “Positively 4th St”. Whoever was responsible for the Vacels cover of the song was certainly on the case, the single hitting the shops in the same month. Ricky & the Vacels started as a Doo-Wop harmony group & had released a couple of Beatle-ish singles before coming around with this great record. At first listen I thought “Oh Yes ! A Garage Rock version of a Dylan song” but the arrangement (by Artie Butler, the man who played keyboards on “Leader of the Pack” !) has too much going on for it to be the product of some carport crew. There’s a glimpse of garage, a bit of Byrds, even a little 4 Seasoning. The proclamatory vocals match the urgency of the music & I love it. The record was obviously aimed at the charts, it missed & the Vacels never recorded again.

The Turtles included 3 Dylan songs on their debut LP & the title track, “It Ain’t Me Babe” took them to the Top 10. Two of the biggest American hits of the year were Sonny & Cher’s “I Got You Babe”, almost an answer song to “It Ain’t Me…” & “Eve of Destruction” by Barry McGuire, a protest song in the style of…The Byrds & Cher both released “All I Really Want To Do” while the Association, soon to find their own light folk-rock style hacked away at a preppy attempt on “One Too Many Mornings” which was deservedly overlooked. Dylan was suddenly a major influence on popular music. “Eve of Destruction” sounded fresh at the time but it was an odd construct which you don’t hear much nowadays. It was the Rolling Stones’ first US #1 “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” which matched the impetus & innovation of Dylan’s Rock & Roll. 40 years later Rolling Stone ranked “Satisfaction” as the 2nd greatest song of all time, 2nd to “Like A Rolling Stone”. 1965 was some year for music.

Of course not everyone got it. At a rather incredible but probably typical press conference in London in 1966 Dylan is credited with writing “Eve of Destruction”, asked how many protest singers there are (for the answer see above) & whether he is “the ultimate beatnik” before fielding a photographer’s request to suck on his glasses ! Eddie Hodges had won a Grammy when he was only 12 for his part in the original Broadway production of “The Music Man”, a fine musical in which he played Winthrop Paroo (Winnie the Pooh !). In 1960 he was the lead in “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, a charming movie that put a young boy (that would be me) onto Mark Twain. By 1965, still only 18, he was a would-be teen idol of the type left floundering in the backwash of the Mersey tidal wave. The decision to record a version of “Love Minus Zero/No Limits”, a beautiful love song with surreal lyrics referencing visionary poets & the Book of Daniel, omitting the top half of verses 3 & 4 , delivering the remnant with the passion & perception of a rocking horse while the go-go dancers do the Frug seems more than ill-judged. Something is happening but you don’t know what it is. Do you Master Hodges ?

In the late-1950s songwriter Burt Bacharach was happy if his tunes were picked up for the B-side of a record. He took a job as accompanist/musical director for the great actress/singer Marlene Dietrich & travelled the world’s great cities & theatres, arranging & conducting her concerts & recordings. When Bacharach, with lyricist Hal David, became the new benchmark for sophisticated popular music he continued to work with the international star. Bob Dylan recorded “Blowin’ in the Wind” for his 2nd LP “The Freewheelin’…” in 1963. The tune was adapted from a spiritual, the rhetorical lyrics a progression from his folk ballad style. Peter, Paul & whatshername put the song on the charts & it was immediately adopted as an anthem by supporters of civil liberties across the world.

In 1964 Johnny Cash & Sam Cooke recorded their versions but Ms Dietrich had beaten them to it. Bacharach, looking to expand & contemporise her repertoire had recorded this cool, classy arrangement for a German version in 1963. In 1965, with Dylan all the rage it was re-released, this time in English. I like this take on the song, it reminds me of Nico. My good friend Paul Pj McCartney once remarked that there’s not enough Marlene around our computers & he was right. I do what I can.