CHECK OUT TIME: Along with lyricist Hal David, they combined to create one of the most formidable songwriting partnerships of the twentieth century. We salute the extraordinary career of BURT BACHARACH, along with an in depth, exclusive and first hand look at Blitz Magazine - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People's direct involvement in the creation of a Bacharach-related album project (Click on above image to enlarge).

( 1928 - 2023 )
By Michael McDowell

Freelancing album projects for various record labels while concurrently serving as a member of the entertainment industry press most assuredly had its aesthetic perks.

One morning in early 1984, Blitz Magazine - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People's offices opened for business a bit earlier than usual. It was a particularly busy season, which meant frequent occasions of burning the midnight oil.

True to form, there were a number of phone messages awaiting that morning. One was from the late Senior Vice-President of Rhino Records, Gary Stewart. 

"I've got a new album project to talk about with you", he said.

"I'm excited about it. I think you're going to like it".

At that point, Blitz Magazine was well into a long term freelance relationship with Rhino. Among other things, Blitz contributed sleeve notes, as well as serving as project producer and / or research and development for compilation albums by such storied artists as the Standells, the Chocolate Watchband, the Vogues, Joe Tex, Bobby Day, the New Colony Six, the Diamonds, Gary U.S. Bonds, Freddy Cannon, Jay And The Americans and others. 

Upon reaching Stewart at his office that morning, his level of excitement had continued unabated from the previous evening.

"We just got a go ahead for Dionne Warwick's Scepter catalog", he said.

"I'd like you to head up the project".

To be certain, a project involving Warwick's work for Florence Greenberg's storied label was most assuredly a quantum leap forward on all counts. As such, Rhino wanted to present it in a unique manner, commensurate with the label's in progress transition from cottage industry maverick to reissue and anthology front runner. 

For the Dionne Warwick project, Rhino opted to take an unprecedented approach. While up to that point the vinyl format had been the unchallenged industry leader for decades, the recent introduction of the compact disc offered a number of possibilities that were simply not available in the vinyl option. 

"Here's what we're going to do", Stewart said.

"We're working with a two LP format. You and I will pick the track listing for the album, and you will handle the sleeve notes. There is also a CD version planned, and Billy Vera will do the sleeve notes for that one".

While Rhino of course was among the first among such labels to champion a thinking outside of the box approach, by definition, there was a need (at least in the case of this particular project) to take into consideration such periphery as chart activity. In Warwick's case, her successful Scepter singles alone were more than enough to fill a double LP in its entirety.

Although chart stats were often only of marginal consequence in such projects, the Warwick collection pretty much demanded it in order to underscore the overall mission statement at hand. As such, Blitz Magazine acquiesced accordingly, while still keeping the primary focus on the attributes of academia and aesthetic merit. 

But doing so ultimately meant sacrificing for the occasion one ongoing perk that was part and parcel to the various Rhino projects.

In keeping with his own considerable acumen as a musicologist and record collector, Stewart afforded those with whom he worked in tandem the opportunity to weigh in on repertoire. What that meant was that if space permitted, the project manager was given the opportunity to cite a particular favorite track for inclusion on that project. In Blitz Magazine's case, that was how the utterly stupendous cover of the James Brown / Chubby Checker monster classic, Good Good Lovin' from their Capitol label Happening Live album ended up as part of Rhino's single disc anthology by legendary first generation garage band, the Outsiders. 

True to his altruistic nature, Stewart raised that option while the Warwick project was in progress. But given the sheer volume of material slated for inclusion, he knew that any such overtures would most likely ultimately be an exercise in futility.

Nonetheless, Blitz Magazine weighed in accordingly, lobbying for the inclusion of Warwick's March 1965 Don't Say I Didn't Tell You So single. The single had been a modest sized hit on Detroit, Michigan's exponentially influential WKNR Keener 13 radio, and its high drama atmosphere certainly placed it in the upper echelons of the artist's work up to that point. Ultimately, it was a short lived moment of hopefulness.

"Sorry Mike, you got outvoted", Stewart said.

"The powers that be wanted the flip side of that single, Who Can I Turn To, since it was more of a hit".

Minor discrepancy notwithstanding, the vinyl edition of Anthology 1962-1971 was released to considerable acclaim. Due in part to the newness of that particular physical format (among other things), the release of Vera's CD version was delayed for a few months. But once it made its appearance, the two editions literally provided the best options available at the time for that phase of Warwick's legacy. The vinyl and CD releases flourished in that respect for a season, until Rhino itself produced an all new upgrade.

To be certain, compiling the track listing for that project was most assuredly an exercise in familiarity. Such sublime Scepter label 45s as Are You There (With Another Girl), Looking With My Eyes, Anyone Who Had A Heart, I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself and Another Night had all been long integral parts of Blitz Magazine's archives. And all possessed the trademark high drama approach of the extraordinary songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

But Warwick was far from the only artist to work that prolifically with Bacharach. By the time they had teamed up for Don't Make Me Over in 1962, Bacharach had already made his mark decisively with a healthy variety of other projects, both as composer and as artist. 

In the latter category, Bacharach permanently endeared himself to many as a creative force behind the lovable Five Blobs, whose 1958 The Blob single for Columbia was put together for inclusion in the Steve McQueen motion picture of the same name. That same year, Bacharach also contributed to the great Perry Como's formidable legacy for RCA Victor, making Como's Catch A Falling Star single a two-sided monster classic by being coupled with the relentlessly optimistic Magic Moments. Years later, one of the theatres in the Southern California amusement park Six Flags Magic Mountain was named after that Bacharach-penned Como single.

A native of Kansas City, Missouri, Bacharach spent his formative years in Queens, New York. Schooled in classical piano, Bacharach in short order turned his attention towards jazz. He earned a Bachelor of Music degree in Montreal, Quebec in 1948, which was followed by a stint in the U.S. Army.

Following his discharge, Bacharach worked in various capacities (pianist, composer, arranger, conductor) with such giants as Vic Damone, the Ames Brothers, Steve Lawrence and Marty Robbins. By the time he and Hal David (who passed away in 2012) had joined forces with Dionne Warwick, Bacharach had already added to his curriculum vitae many celebrated collaborations with everyone from Gene McDaniels and Chuck Jackson to the Drifters and the Shirelles.

All of which underscored in part just how far reaching his work had permeated the musical landscape.

In the late 1990s, Bacharach's work had enjoyed a renewed appreciation, due in part to the runaway success of the motion picture Grace Of My Heart and his collaboration with Elvis Costello on the film's showcase track, God Give Me Strength. Costello and Bacharach took to the concert stage at that time to considerable acclaim, including one most memorable performance at the Universal Ampitheatre in Universal City, California, in which Blitz Magazine was in attendance. 

That particular performance particularly resonated with Blitz's late and much, much missed Photo Editor and Cinematographer, Audrey McDowell, whose interest in Bacharach's overall catalog increased exponentially at that point. All of which made for a somewhat amusing development in 1998.

That year, in tandem with the aforementioned renewed interest in Bacharach's work, Rhino Records released a three CD collection, The Look Of Love: The Burt Bacharach Collection. That particular collection not only highlighted some of Bacharach's best work with the Five Blobs, Warwick and Jackson, but it also featured some of his most celebrated collaborations with Rick Nelson, Gene Pitney, Billy J. Kramer, Maxine Brown, Jack Jones, Lou Johnson, Jackie DeShannon, Tom Jones, Cilla Black, Herb Alpert And The Tijuana Brass, Richard Chamberlain, Dusty Springfield, Bobby Vinton, Manfred Mann, the Carpenters, the Fifth Dimension and others. In other words, it was the ultimate Bacharach compilation available to date.

So much so that when Rhino Records forwarded a review copy of the Bacharach box set to Blitz Magazine, it immediately caught the attention of Audrey McDowell, who appropriated it on the spot.

"Mine!", she said, in a rare moment of finality.

Blitz Magazine attempted to negotiate, to no avail.

"But we need it in order to write a review".

"Then get your own!", she retorted.

Ultimately, Blitz Magazine did just that, and a rave review followed in timely fashion. Meanwhile, so cherished by Audrey McDowell was that promo copy of Bacharach's CD box set that she kept it well archived so that it could retrieved and appreciated at a moment's notice. The Bacharach box remained in heavy rotation in her regular listening until her tragic and untimely passing in October 2014.

Indeed, those Blitz Magazine tales are but two examples of the far reaching influence of Bacharach's unique and remarkable gifts. Aside from his own life story, perhaps the best account of his legacy came within They're Playing Our Song, the acclaimed autobiography of fellow composer and vocalist, Carole Bayer Sager. Even so, Sager's detailed, first hand recollections reflect but one of many different takes on the Bacharach legacy that have surfaced in the hours following his passing.

A tireless champion of his art, Bacharach passed away of natural causes at his Los Angeles home on 09 February. He was 94.