Remembering Burt Bacharach

Legendary songwriter Burt Bacharach sadly died a couple of days ago, and to mark his passing I thought I’d run through the UK number ones that he (and his partner Hal David) were responsible for. There are seven in total, by acts ranging from Perry Como, to Cilla Black, to Bobbie Gentry, among his fifty-two Top 40 hits.

And, because the charts never play fair, we can only give such timeless classics as (deep breath)… ‘Walk on By’, ‘Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head’, ‘(They Long to Be) Close to You’, ‘The Look of Love’, ‘I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself’, ‘Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa’, ‘What the World Needs Now Is Love’ and ‘I Say a Little Prayer’… a shout-out now, because they never made the top spot. Still, we have a fair few good ones to be working with, and there’s a link to my original posts in the song titles.

‘The Story of My Life’ – #1 in 1958 for Michael Holliday

Bacharach’s first big hit, originally written for Marty Robbins. Quite jaunty, very whistle-heavy, and not too much of an indication of what was to come… No matter, for a monster hit was just around the corner.

‘Magic Moments’ – #1 in 1958 for Perry Como

Very few songwriters manage to replace themselves at number one, but Bacharach and David managed it with their first two hits. Crooner Perry Como knocked Holliday off the top, and stayed there for eight weeks. More whistling, but still it’s a song that has seeped into our collective conscience. Anyway, these were just the warm-up for a run of all-time classics in the 1960s.

‘Tower of Strength’ – #1 in 1961 for Frankie Vaughan

I’d put ‘Tower of Strength’ in my Top 5 songs I’ve discovered since starting this blog. It’s a real barnstormer, in which Frankie Vaughan spends two minutes just letting rip. He’s the star here, but he needed good source material. In the US it was hit for Gene McDaniels, in a much more laidback version.

‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’ – #1 in 1964 for Cilla Black

Cilla’s version of Dionne Warwick’s original gave her the biggest female hit of the entire decade in the UK. I’m not one to indulge in idle gossip, but… Apparently Warwick hated the fact that Cilla Black got the bigger hit out of this song, claiming that had she so much as coughed on the original then Cilla would have done the same on her cover version. Bacharach was a big fan, however, personally arguing for Cilla to record it ahead of Shirley Bassey.

‘(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me – #1 in 1964 for Sandie Shaw

Another song originally recorded by Dionne Warwick – Bacharach and David’s muse throughout their long careers – though her version wasn’t released until 1968. Instead it was a bare-footed seventeen-year-old who took it to #1 in late-1964, launching the career of one of the biggest British singers of the decade. It wasn’t a hit in the US until Naked Eyes’ new-wave version in 1983.

‘Make It Easy on Yourself’ – #1 in 1965 for The Walker Brothers

The classiest #1 single ever? Never has Bacharach and David’s effortlessly slick songwriting had a cooler delivery. This was another one first recorded by Dionne Warwick, before being shelved. Along came The Walker Brothers a few years later, to give the songwriting duo their 6th UK chart-topper.

‘I’ll Never Fall in Love Again’ – #1 in 1969 for Bobbie Gentry

The last #1 hit for Bacharach and David (in the UK, at least) was also one of the 1960’s final chart-toppers. After the first two, fluffier songs on this list, the duo settled into a run of songs detailing exquisite heartbreak. Towers of strength, things being there to remind you, people not having hearts… And then this, a classic anti-love song dressed up in trademark B&D gloss. Plus, one of the best ryhming couplets in pop music history…

Burt Bacharach, May 28th 1928 – February 8th 2023


69. ‘Magic Moments’, by Perry Como


Magic Moments, by Perry Como (his 2nd of two #1s)

8 weeks, from 28th February – 25th April 1958

I’ve grown so used to describing this period in popular music history as the ‘rock ‘n’ roll revolution’ that I’m growing, quite frankly, bored of typing it (‘rock ‘n’ roll’ is actually a difficult phrase to type quickly – those two commas round the n, you see – and I will be relieved when I can start typing phrases like ‘New Wave’ and ‘Disco’).

And if I were to stop calling this the ‘rock ‘n’ roll era’, I’d be very tempted to re-christen it ‘The Age of Whistling’. Because I make this the sixth UK #1 in a little over a year to be very heavy on the whistling: ‘Just Walkin’ in the Rain’, both versions of ‘Singing the Blues’, ‘Butterfly’, ‘The Story of My Life’ and now ‘Magic Moments’ (and I’m sure I’ve forgotten about a few stray whistles elsewhere…) I suppose it’s cheap and easy to do. And I suppose it’s better than humming. But to me it creates an air of fake jollity around a song, a feeling of enforced fun – a sense that some red-faced, chain smoking record executive was yelling ‘Sound relaxed, dammit!’ just before they pressed record.

But, hey. At least the whistling is fairly sporadic here – after the first few bars Perry Como comes in with some very famous lines: Magic… Moments… When two hearts are carin’, Magic… Moments… Mem’ries we’ve been sharing… While this standard may have receded somewhat into the mists of time, surely everyone still knows the chorus. I can pinpoint the first time I became aware of this song – an advert for (I think) ‘Quality Street’ back when I was a lad – and it is one of those songs, along with, say, ‘Que Sera Sera’ or ‘I Believe’, that make up the background music of one’s life. It’s also another Bacharach and David number, hot on the heels of ‘The Story of My Life’, and while it’s a bit more memorable than Michael Holliday’s record it is still pretty bland in comparison to their later hits.

The best you can say about ‘Magic Moments’ is that it’s a very safe song: super laid-back and super-inoffensive. Como sounds like he recorded it from his bed, or at least from a very comfy armchair. Which kind of makes sense, as the singer of this song is supposed to be an older gentleman contentedly reflecting on happy times. The backing singers, meanwhile, are working overtime – taking on at least a third of the lines.


Away from the chorus, the verses flesh out just what the ‘magic moments’ were. Moments such as: The time that the floor fell outta my car when I put the clutch down… The way that we cheered whenever our team was scoring a touchdown… They are sweet little vignettes; lyrically quite modern in the way that they eschew grandiose statements about love for real life scenarios. There’s also a link here between this and Pat Boone’s ‘I’ll Be Home’ from a couple of years earlier, in the way that the song invokes cute images of small-town, suburban (super white and WASPy, obviously) America.

I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating, how interesting it is to see the ebb and flow of the UK charts around this time; the old guard tussling with the new. You get a couple of very forward-looking, very cool, very new hits in ‘Great Balls of Fire’ and ‘Jailhouse Rock’ before the waves slowly recede and leave a saccharine blob like this beached at the top – for 8 (eight!) weeks. There are certain records that I can imagine having appealed to both young and old – ‘Diana’, for example – but I really struggle to imagine anyone under the age of forty buying this disc. Como himself was forty-five when this hit the top spot making him – and I’ve not checked this at all, but hey – the oldest chart-topper yet. Definitely one of the oldest. Probably.

Before we put the needle back into its holder for another post, let us bid farewell to the ‘King of Casual’. He has an impressive gap between his two #1s – ‘Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes’ (the 5th UK #1) and this (the 69th) – which is surely a sign of his enduring appeal. Though I do have to state that, personally, there is no contest as to which is the better song: the ever-so-jaunty ‘Don’t Let the Stars…’ all the way. Como will go on to have Top 10 hits as late as the mid-1970s – and would have had many more hits had the UK charts begun earlier than 1952 (his first US successes came in the early forties). A true titan of easy listening, he died, aged eighty-eight, in 2001.