Musical Monday: Cover songs #7

I’ve started 2023 with a series of my favourite cover songs. It’s quite amazing how many artists cover one another’s songs. Sometimes they’re not artists you might expect, sometimes they are.

Burt Bacharach changed the sound of popular music. More than any composer, his brand of easy listening songs (that nevertheless dealt with heavy emotion) shifted the beat of pop.

Born in 1928, Bacharach would sneak into jazz clubs in New York as a young man to listen to icons like Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie. The sound he soaked up there would later inspire hundreds of his own songs, including 73 top 10 hits in the USA and 52 of them in the UK.

His first song, Once In A Blue Moon, was recorded by Nat King Cole in 1952. Not a bad beginning to a career that was full of so any timeless classics. He leaves behind an incredible musical legacy, which has touched the lives of millions, check out a few of them below.

Walk on By was arguably his one of his best tunes (lyrics by Hal David), written  for singer Dionne Warwick in 1963. (See the other 9 best songs from my top 10 below). The song peaked at number 6 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and it was nominated for a Grammy for the Best Rhythm and Blues Recording.

Walk On By has since charted numerous times in various countries, with wildly different arrangements.The most epic version which shows the song’s versatility is Isaac Hayes’ soulful and sorrowful track from his 1969 album Hot Buttered Soul.

One of the more surprising versions was by The Stranglers.

In 1978,  they recorded a six minute version of Walk on By (with extended organ and guitar solos) that hit No. 21 on the UK Singles Chart. The video for the Stranglers’ version was based on the 1966 movie “Blowup” and was filmed in the same location as the movie, Maryon Park in London.

Which version do you prefer? Or is there another version you like better? Let me know below.

IMHO Burt Bacharach’s 9 other best songs

Magic Moments (1957)

Burt Bacharach first teamed up with lyricist Hal David to write this ditty that was a smash hit for Perry Como and later went on to shift loads of quality chocolate tins. Unlike said confectionary, the song is saccharine but not too sweet. An early example of Bacharach bringing a perfect melody to maximise the lyricism and mood of a song.

Baby It’s You (1964)

One bar of this song takes you right back to the early, swinging but very smooth Sixties. Maybe that time never actually existed, but The Shirelles and Bacharach’s irresistible, dreamy beats will make you believe. Some obscure band called The Beatles did an ok version too.

Make It Easy On Yourself (1962)

Again written with Hal David, Make It Easy On Yourself is at once tender and tortured, encapsulating what it’s like to break up a relationship. Several artists had hits with the song, though the best-known (and my personal favourite) version was released by the Walker Brothers in 1965.

I Say A Little Prayer (1967)

The title alludes to religion, the spirit feels almost gospel. Wouldn’t we all want to be the person someone says this little prayer for? The acceleration of the song into the chorus is truly thrilling. I like the Aretha Franklin version best – iconic!

What’s New Pussycat? (1965)

Becoming a signature song for Welsh superstar Tom Jones, it starts with a swing that knocks you out straight away.

Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa (1964)

Where was Gene Pitney starting if he was “only 24 hours from Tulsa”? Maybe a state or two over. Nothing makes the world seem smaller than knowing that thanks to modern transportation, you could be 24 hours from almost anywhere. Including Tulsa.

I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself (1964)

There’s a lot of sadness in a lot of these songs. Regret. A desire to have another try at making things work. And Dusty Springfield makes you feel the way she feels. But the versatility of a song like this is proved when a band like White Stripes can cover it and bring a whole new dimension of desperation and anger to the tune.

Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head (1969)

Perhaps the definitive Burt Bacharach song. It was written for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, one of my all-time favourite films,  but remembered more than the rest of the movie is today. A snippet of the chorus is enough to bring images of Paul Newman munching an apple on a bicycle straight to mind.

I’ll Never Fall In Love Again (1967)

Another of Burt Bacharach’s most famous songs, but key for introducing him to a new generation of teenagers after some innuendo jokes when Bacharach made a cameo appearance in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.

These are just ten songs, the list could have been many times longer. Thanks for the music Mr Bacharach.

15 Comments on “Musical Monday: Cover songs #7

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