Brief Encounters With Burt Bacharach!
January 20, 2007
Since the early 60′s, Burt Bacharach has been one of the most innovative and influencial figures in popular music. His unique melodies and signature rythyms also made him one of the most imitated musicians of all times. With various lyricists, he racked up an early array of hits that included, “Tower Of Strength”, “Baby It’s You”, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”, “Any Day Now”, “Only Love Can Break A Heart”, “Blue On Blue”, “Anyone Who Had A Heart” and “Walk On By”.
I always felt a thrill just to be in his presence! I would see him at a party or a music business function and go over and introduce myself. This happened so often that after about the fifth or sixth time I did it, he stopped me, smiled and said, “I know…you’re Artie Wayne!” This not only made me feel good, but I felt validated!
He was not only a musical role model, but a personal one as well. He was probably one of the coolest people I’ve ever known, with his sunglasses on top of his premature white hair he always seemed to be dressed for a tennis game or a polo match! I also noticed all of the beautiful women that would fawn over him and it made me realize that you didn’t have to be a Rock Star to get that kind of attention!
In 1963, after I had my first hit as a songwriter and producer, “Meet Me At Midnight Mary” ( Raleigh/ Wayne) with Joey Powers, I called up Burt to see if he had any songs for the follow-up. I met him in his office at Famous music, in the Brill Building and he played me a new song he and Hal David had written, “Message To Martha” (which later became a smash in the UK by Adam Faith and a hit in the US by Dionne Warwick, re-titled, “Message To Michael”)
I loved the song, but I thought it was a bit too complex for Joey Power’s simple folk musical direction we were taking. I felt really weird turning down the song, but Burt was cool and said don’t worry about it. A few months later, I ran into him on my first trip to London, where he was the musical director on Marlena Dietrich’s concert tour, we had a drink and laughed about my embarrasment over turning down one of his songs.
The next time I saw him was in 1965, I was signed to Scepter records publishing company, as a songwriter and producer. I was encouraged to use the studio as often as I wanted for overdubbing and making demos of my songs to help break-in the studio. I produced or co-produced The Shirelles , The Kingsmen and the Guess Who, there which made the owner, Florence Greenberg, more confident in her new facility. At that point, she offered Burt Bacharach and Hal David, a chance to try her new, improved studio out.
I remember Burt and Hal had trouble mixing Dionne Warwick’s, “Are You There With Another Girl” at the original studio where they cut the track, and they decided to try out Scepter. I remember being in my office the day of the “Great New York City Blackout “…when the lights all over our building were dimming then getting brighter! Burt and Hal, after mixing for hours, ran out of the studio screaming, ” What the Hell’s going on ? We almost had it…We almost had the mix! Then machine started slowing down then stared speeding up!”
Tempers cooled, when we looked out the window and saw lights in the entire city dim…then go black! Florence’s son Stanley, who was head of A+R, as well as being totally blind from birth, yelled out, “Don’t worry, I’ll get us all out of here…JUST FOLLOW ME!”
About 20 of us, with Stanley leading the pack, managed to get down several flights of stairs, in total darkness, safely and without incident. It was an event that I’m sure none of us will never forget!
Copyright 2007 by Artie Wayne
Filed in adam faith, brill building, burt bacharach, dionne warwick, famous music, florence greenberg, guess who, hal david, kingsmen, marlena dietrich, meet me at midnight mary, message to martha, message to michael, midnight mary, scepter recording studios, scepter records, shirrells, stanley greenberg, Uncategorized