From The Face, August 1995

Most Wanted

There comes a time in every musician's life when they realise that the true art of songwriting is to express simple human emotions like love and loss, without resorting to cliches. It's an art that Paul Weller, Noel Gallagher and Michael Stipe all see displayed in the songwriting of Burt Bacharach.

" 'This Guy's In Love With You', what a fuckin' song," says Noel. "If I could write a song half as good as that or "Anyone Who Had A Heart', I'd die a happy man."

With his partner Hal David, Bacharach penned such classics as "Magic Moments", "Walk On By", "I'll Never Fall In Love Again", The Carpenters' "Close To You", the sex pout of Tom Jones' "What's New Pussycat?", "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head", and that staple in elevators the world over, "Trains and Boats and Planes". But it is his solo legacy, the records he cut between 1968 and 1974, that form the basis of the Cult of Burt. The trippy album artwork, lovers entwined in the silhouette of golden sunsets or floating down the river of life on a punt of love, came to epitomize a kind of anonymous romance that became easy listening's trademark.

Hendrix, The Beatles and The Who may have been thrashing away in the teenage consciousness, but Burt provided the alternative pop strand, using the studio, complex rhythms and lush orchestrations and integrating it with rock sounds as he reinterpreted the classic songs he'd written for other people. The result was a trip for the kind of people who didn't trip. As people now rediscover the likes of Herb Alpert, Sergio Mendes, Mike Love and many lesser purveyors of easy listening, so inevitably Bacharach's work is much sought-after.

Once easily found at boot fairs, albums like "Reach Out" and "Make It Easy On Yourself" are now collectors' items. So much so that A&M has now reissued them complete with their original sleeve art. Bacharach should not be seen as just another faceless player in the easy listening fad. His intelligent, emotive songs and innovative arrangements provided a new perspective which altered, in subtle but nonetheless vital way, popular music's style and sound. A genius long due for an irony-free re-evaluation.

Cliff Jones

Back to Media Index

A House Is Not A Homepage