Herb Alpert: My ‘Guy’ Called For No Great Vocal Pipes!

Says Herb Alpert to Alan Smith

FOR HERB Alpert, the British scene is now a little more healthy than on his last visit, when he and the Tijuana Brass played a concert at the vast Hammersmith Odeon. “We had to pad the place out like mad,” the friendly Herb admitted, when I got a transatlantic call from him this week. “It wasn’t exactly the highlight of our career!”

Candid confessions like this come easily from the man who’s just been sitting at No. 1 in the U.S. hit parade; who’s got a good thing going with his own A&M Records; and who now looks forward to a rosy future with his own television and film company. Success is a comfortable cushion.

“How’re things over there?” Herb asked with some interest. “How’s ‘This Guy’s In Love With You’ doing in England? Is it high in the Chart? (I told him it was in the NME Top Ten.) “D’you think it’ll go higher?” he asked.

“It’s a funny thing but I never would have thought of doing a vocal single this time last year. It was just that we had a TV special to do, and we got the notion of me having my wife in the show and singing a song to her.

“I spoke to my dear friend Burt Bacharach, and he and Hal David came up with ‘This Guy’s In Love With You’. I thought it was an ideal piece of material — it didn’t call for great vocal pipes!

“An opinion of my own voice? Well, I guess I sing like I play — kinda natural. I’ve never analysed even when I play trumpet. It’s just natural. It’s just what comes out.”

Contrary to reports published elsewhere, as they say, this isn’t the first time Herb has launched into song on one of his own singles.

“I did a couple of vocal records in 1960 for RCA,” he told me, “when I was knocking around as a songwriter-arranger. I had a song for Gogi Grant and I went into the record company and the man said: Right, let’s do it. But Gogi’s not here, I said.

“I know,” said the man, let’s do it with you.”

Herb was recording his follow-up single to ‘This Guy’s In Love With You’ — another song — in his own studios at North La Brea Avenue, Hollywood, last Friday.

Understandably, he wasn’t too elated at being asked for the title. Not at this moment, anyway. But he did tell me: “It is in the same vein, and it was recorded by another artist about two years ago.

“No, I’ve no plans for an all-vocal album, not ’til we see how this second single goes. Maybe I was just lucky — ‘This Guy’ was a hit in unusual circumstances in the States. For a start, we had plenty of exposure with the TV show.

The future?

“The future? I never really think too much about the future. If it’s the right piece of material, anyone can have a hit — even my mother. I could sign up my mother and get the right song, and she could do O.K. Say — maybe I will!”

Those who raised their eye brows when horn-player Herb gave out with the vocals may have cause to raise them even more in the next year.

Reason: he may, at last, take up one of the many offers he gets to act in a film.

“I’ve rejected a good many,” said Herb, “because they just weren’t right, or I didn’t have the time to give them my best. I would also like to feel I had the right direction.

“The big thing I want to avoid is something where I’m holding the horn. You know the thing — the Harry James, Glenn Miller thing. I don’t want to be portrayed holding a horn, or a gun.

“That apart, I’d be happy with any other good role I could believe in. But I’m no Richard Burton, even though I have had some dramatic training.”

As an artists, Herb is in an enviable position in also having his own record company. It means he gets complete artistic freedom even though he naturally aims towards commercial success.

“We have an unusual set-up here at A&M,” he told me with appreciable pride. “We’re a very, very young company. We do things on a love basis and it’s nice to think of what we’ve achieved since we started in a garage back in 1962, in those days of ‘The Lonely Bull’.

Life is good

“Life is good to me in that not only do I work hard and have fun that way, but I also have time to goof around a lot at the beach… down at Malibu.

“I don’t really feel any different to the way I was five or six years ago. But it’s nice, secure emotion, being able to do what I like and love.”

There was a short interruption to this Hollywood-London conversation when a neighbour knocked at our door and Scoopy, our dog, made Herb’s further comments inaudible by barking her head off.

When I got back Herb told me that hard to believe as it may be, ‘This Guy’s In Love With You’ is the first No. 1 ever for the Bacharach-David team in the States.

“So you can understand,” said Herb, “how we were all kinda happy.” I can indeed.

© Alan SmithNew Musical Express, 3 August 1968

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