Graded on a Curve:
Burt Bacharach,
Reach Out

Burt Bacharach is an evil man. Oh, I know the King of Smooth is a musical legend, and has undergone a renaissance of late–he’s collaborated with the likes of Elvis Costello, Adele, and Sheryl Crow, and even performed at the Glastonbury Festival in 2015. Bacharach chic is the order of the day, and who am I to question the likes of Elvis Costello?

But Bacharach–with the help of my own mother no less–laid waste to my tender years. She liked to pop the 8-track version of this instrumental 1967 monstrosity into its slot in the living room stereo and go about her housework. No skin off the asses of we kids, you’d think; we were safely out of its blast zone, pledging allegiance to the flag.

Unfortunately, there were those days when we were home with the flu, chicken pox, malaria, necrotizing fasciitis, or traumatic limb amputation. And while we lay helplessly supine on the living room sofa mom would sadistically play it over and over again, torturing us like involuntary participants in a sinister medical experiment. Like General George S. Patton she viewed all forms of physical or mental illness as malingering, and considered Reach Out a harsh but appropriate punishment. And it worked; one day of nonstop listening and we would hasten back to school, rickets, appendicitis, or bubonic plague notwithstanding.

We all know these songs; they stick with you like bubblegum beneath an elementary school desk. They’re part of our collective unconscious, imprinted in our DNA, and we’re destined to carry them across the River Styx into the underworld. Many of them were written in collaboration with co-conspirator and fellow traveler Hal David and sung by Dionne Warwick, and it’s the Warwick versions we all love. Is there anyone who doesn’t know her sublimely soulless versions of “Alfie,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” “Reach Out for Me,” “Walk on By,” and “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?” by heart?

And that’s precisely the problem with Reach Out; Warwick is nowhere to be found. Bacharach has “vanished” her (and some other folks, including Jackie De Shannon and Dusty Springfield) the way Josef Stalin used to airbrush purgees from official photographs. And what are we left with? Lots of shiny brass, saccharine strings and in a few frightful cases, some forgettable singers warbling away in the background, sounding for all the world like a North Korean prisoner’s choir. The resulting songs constitute the aural equivalent to the diazepam referenced in the Rolling Stones’ “Mother’s Little Helper,” which is probably why mom listened to ‘em in the first place.

Another shortfall–albeit a small one–of Reach Out is its failure to include instrumental versions of some unforgettable Bacharach classics. I’m talking about Dick Van Dyke’s “Three Wheels on My Wagon,” Bobby Goldsboro’s “Me Japanese Boy I Love You,” and the Five Blob’s “The Blob.” Seriously, where’s “The Blob”? Like the movie poster says, “It’s indescribable, indestructible and nothing can stop it.” So why isn’t it here? Message to Burt: “Beware of the Blob, it creeps and leaps and glides across the floor… be careful of the Blob!”

I’ve carried the memory of those sick days spent being tortured by this iron maiden of an LP to this very day, and I don’t care if Bacharach’s one of America’s greatest (and most beloved) songwriters and composers. You don’t ruin an innocent kid’s childhood and get away with it, and I’m seriously considering suing him for musical malpractice.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
F

This entry was posted in The TVD Storefront. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.
  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text
  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text