Alfie – Bill Evans

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“Alfie ” is a song written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David to promote the 1966 film Alfie. The song was a major hit for Cilla Black (UK) and Dionne Warwick (US).Contents;1 Background;2 Cilla Black;3 Cher;4 Early covers;5 Dionne Warwick Version;6 Other versions;7 References;8 External links;Background Although Burt Bacharach has cited “Alfie” as his personal favorite of his compositions, he and Hal David had not been very interested when approached by Ed Wolpin, who headed the composers’ publishers Famous Music, to write a song to serve as a promotional tie-in with the upcoming film Alfie (a release from Paramount Pictures who owned Famous Music). Hal David would attribute the composers’ lack of interest to the title character’s name being pedestrian: “Writing a song about a man called ‘Alfie’ didn’t seem too exciting at the time.The composers agreed to submit an “Alfie” song if they were able to write a worthy candidate so named within a three-week period. When Bacharach, resident in California, was shown a rough cut of the film Alfie the quality of the film’s depiction of a Cockney womanizer played by Michael Caine instilled in Bacharach a determination to writing a complementary song. As Bacharach felt – in his own words – “with ‘Alfie’ the lyric had to come first because it had to say what that movie was all about” He arranged for David – in Long Island – to receive a script of the film to facilitate writing the lyrics for an “Alfie” song. David utilized one of Michael Caine’s lines in the film: “What’s it all about”, as the opening phrase for the song’s lyrics. When completed these were set to music by Bacharach.Cilla Black Although Bacharach and David suggested “Alfie” be recorded by Dionne Warwick, their most prolific interpreter, Paramount felt the film’s setting demanded the song be recorded by a UK singer. Accordingly, the initial invitation to record “Alfie” was made to Sandie Shaw who had had a UK #1 hit with the Bacharach/David composition ” (There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me “. When the invitation to Shaw was declined “Alfie” was offered to Cilla Black, who had also had a UK #1 with a Bacharach/David song: ” Anyone Who Had a Heart “.Black was invited to record “Alfie” in a letter from Bacharach – who Black recalls wrote that the song had been written especially for her. Brian Epstein, her manager, was sent a demo of the song. Black would recall her negative reaction to hearing the demo “of some fella singing ‘Alfie’…I actually said to Brian ‘I can’t do this.’ For a start – Alfie?? You call your dog Alfie!…[Couldn’t] it be Tarquin or something like that?;Black states that rather than overtly decline the song she would set conditions. “I said I’d only do it if Burt Bacharach himself did the arrangement, never thinking for one moment that he would. [When] the reply came back from America that he’d be happy to…I said I would only do it if Burt came over to London for the recording session. ‘Yes,’ came the reply. Next I said that as well as the arrangements and coming over, he had to play [piano] on the session. To my astonishment it was agreed that Burt would do all three. So by this time, coward that I was, I really couldn’t back out.The session for Cilla Black’s recording of “Alfie” took place in the fall of 1965 at Studio One, Abbey Road Studios and was overseen by Black’s regular producer George Martin. In addition to the agreed arranging and piano playing, Bacharach conducted a 48-piece orchestra which played on the session which also featured the Breakaways as background vocalists. According to Black, Bacharach had her cut eighteen complete takes before he was satisfied with her vocal while Bacharach’s estimation of the session’s total number of takes, including partial ones, is as high as “twenty-eight or twenty-nine…I kept going [thinking] can we get it a little better…[add] just some magic[?]”.Alfie” was released in January 1966 four months prior to the opening of the film. The single was essentially intended as a specialty item to foster interest in the upcoming film rather than a mainstream hit. However the track accrued enough interest to enter the UK Top 50 in April 1966, reaching #9 that May.Black’s “Alfie” was issued in Australia and the US in July 1966, the month prior to the release of the film Alfie in both territories. Despite the soundtrack appearance of a version of “Alfie” by Cher in the film’s worldwide release, Black’s “Alfie” was a sizable Australian hit at #22. In the US – where Black had had only one moderate success with ” You’re My World ” in 1964 – her “Alfie” single just made the Billboard Hot 100 at #95, the Pop mainstream sector’s focus on the song being primarily on Cher’s version. Cher’s was only a moderate hit in the US at #32. Interest in any single recorded version of “Alfie” was being dissipated by the plethora of easy listening -oriented covers which were in release by the summer of 1966.Cilla Black entitled her 2004 autobiography What’s It All About?, a reference to the opening phrase of the song “Alfie”.Cher Although Black’s version of “Alfie” had served as a promotional tool for the film’s UK release rather than as the film’s theme – being in fact featured nowhere on the soundtrack of the film’s UK release – for the US release of the film Alfie the film’s distributor United Artists wanted the song featured on the film’s soundtrack despite the objections of the film’s director Lewis Gilbert who felt the song “Alfie” would distract from the jazz score he had had Sonny Rollins provide for the film. United Artists compromised with Gilbert in keeping the prospective theme song out of the main body of the film Alfie but having it play during the closing credits.Rather than utilize Black’s version, United Artists commissioned a new version of the song “Alfie” by Cher who was on the roster of Imperial Records. Recorded at Gold Star Studios, Cher’s version of “Alfie” was released at the end of June 1966 almost two months prior to the film’s US premiere (August 25, 1966), Sonny Bono ‘s heavy-handed production (a la Phil Spector) did not showcase the song appealingly and despite being the follow-up to the #2 hit ” Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) ” Cher’s version of “Alfie” rose no higher than #32.The versions of “Alfie” by both Cilla Black and Cher were released in Australia in July 1966, with Black’s becoming the major hit at #22, the Cher version’s Australian chart peak was #96.Alfie” was featured on the October 1966 album release entitled Cher.Despite her 1966 version being a relative chart disappointment, Cher was recruited to remake the song “Alfie” to play under the closing credits of the 2004 remake of the film Alfie, Cher by then being the only one of the song’s early interpreters to have had any recent recording success. After previews, audiences responded to Cher’s updated version of the theme song with laughter which led to the track being subsequently dropped from the soundtrack. After unsuccessfully wooing Norah Jones to remake “Alfie” for the film, the producers successfully recruited Joss Stone.Early covers Despite the relative failure of the version of “Alfie” cut for the US film release, Cilla Black’s UK success with the song had attracted sufficient attention in the US for several American singers besides Cher to cover the song by the time the film Alfie opened in the US in August 1966. Two of these covers actually predate the Cher recording although neither was released prior to Cher’s, the first evident recording of “Alfie” by an American singer being that cut by Jerry Butler in May 1966 which first appeared as a track on the December 1967 album release Mr Dream Merchant. Also in the spring of 1966 Dee Dee Warwick, while on a promotional

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