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Baby It's You - the Shirelles

It's interesting that what are now thought of as the greatest songs written by Burt Bacharach, who died on February 8th earlier this year and his songwriting partner Hal David, were not their greatest hits at the time: their register of US number ones read like a playlist for lift music in an old people's home: "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on my Head", the Carpenters' "(They long to be) Close to You", "Arthur's Theme", "That's What Friends are for", "On My Own" and Herb Alpert's "This Guy's in Love with You". I guess the Alpert might be excluded as at one point it's energised enough to cause a mild coronary to residents of a nervous disposition.

Much is made of Bacharach's jazz influenced harmonies and chord changes, but he was also very influenced by the world of Broadway musicals and middle of the road melodies as can be heard on his early big hits with Hal David such as Marty Robbins' insipid "Story of my Life" and Perry Como's mortifying "Magic Moments".

An early germ of the more sophisticated music to come is the Shirelles' "Baby It's You" which reached number 8 in the US charts in 1961, and was written by Bacharach along with Mack David and producer Luther Dixon.

The unusual downbeat tone of the verses, echoed in the final line of the chorus, is beautifully offset by the almost warped but exquisite electric organ solo. So jagged and inappropriate, it's appropriate, reflecting the smouldering vocal by Shirley Owens, trapped in a relationship with a Lothario:

"It's not the way you smile that touched my heart. it's not the way you kiss that tears me apart.

Many, many, many nights go by, I sit alone at home and cry over you. What can I do? I can't help myself,

'cause baby, it's you, baby it's you."

For once the Beatles, in their cover version, came up very, very short. They should have left it well alone.

Much too cool for the elevator to heaven.


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