Mudcat Café message #339573 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #27630   Message #339573
Posted By: Helen
13-Nov-00 - 03:45 AM
Thread Name: Help: Who sang 'What's it all about Alfie?'
Subject: RE: Help: Who sang 'What's it all about Alfie?'
Hi guys,

You were all partly right.


20.Alfie Cilla Black (Burt Bacharach/Hal David)

Musical Direction & Arrangement: Burt Bacharach Produced by George Martin Capitol single #5674 (8/66) * Pop #95 "If you press me for what my favorite song is, the one I'm most proud of, that just about is number one." That's what Burt Bacharach said about "Alfie" on the One Amazing Night telecast that aired on the TNT network during the first half of 1998.

The song was written for the Michael Caine film Alfie. "I saw the script of Alfie, I didn't see the film," says Hal David. "Burt was in Los Angeles and I was in New York. I called Burt, and I asked him if the script and the film were pretty much the same. He said 'yes,' so I felt comfortable working off the story in the script. I wrote a lot of the lyric and gave it to Burt."

Bacharach struggled with the music to accompany Hal's (exceptional) words. "That was a tough song," he told KCRW's Chris Douridas. "[It] took me three weeks to write." Once the song was done, Burt flew to England to record it at Abbey Road with Beatles producer George Martin and the Liverpool-bred, Brian Epstein-managed girl singer Cilla Black.

Cilla may have earned Dionne Warwick's eternal chagrin (due to Cilla's soundalike U.K. hit of "Anyone Who Had A Heart"), but Burt seemed to harbor few ill feelings as he took the singer through the paces of recording "Alfie." As seen in the BBC-TV documentary This Is Now, Burt himself played the piano, conducted the orchestra, and coached the singer simultaneously, pushing a weary Cilla for take after take. "I certainly wouldn't have done it for a Quasimodo," Cilla said in the documentary. "[I did it] because it was Burt, and he was gorgeous and so talented, and I enjoyed his company anyway."

George Martin, who produced the session, claims the British filmmakers turned down the song (!) for inclusion on the movie soundtrack. American prints of the movie later contained Cher's version of the song, produced in Sonny's shaggy pseudo-Wall of Sound style. Dionne recorded the song almost a year later with Burt in New York (the only version to become a sizable hit on the U.S. charts). "I didn't want to record it," she says. "I told them, 'How many versions do you need?'"

Like "A House Is Not A Home," "Alfie" is a genuine standard -- not just an orchestral pop classic, or a '60s oldie, or a bit of lovable kitsch. Due to Hal's brilliant lyric and an astonishingly sympathetic Bacharach melody, the song will certainly outlive us all.