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Composer Burt Bacharach, Interviewed

omposer Burt Bacharach will turn 75 on May 12. Bacharach is said to have revolutionized the sound of the 1960s. Along with lyricist Hal David, he wrote dozens of hits during the 60s including "What's New Pussycat," "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head" and "This Guy's In Love With You." The songwriting team received every major music industry award in addition to 20 gold records — plus an Academy Award, a Grammy and induction into the Songwriters' Hall of Fame. A new Broadway musical, The Look of Love, is based on their work.

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Other segments from the episode on May 9, 2003

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, May 9, 2003: Interview with Martin Short; Interview with Burt Bacharach and Elvis Costello; Interview with Hal David.

Transcript

DATE May 9, 2003 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
NETWORK NPR
PROGRAM Fresh Air

Profile: Martin Short's acting career
DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, sitting in for Terry Gross.

Martin Short is taking on a new stage role, starring opposite Jason Alexander
in a Los Angeles production of "The Producers." Also, his TV series
"Primetime Glick" has begun its third season on Comedy Central. The show is a
satire of celebrity interview shows with real celebrities showing up to endure
the irreverent and often irrelevant questions by overweight talk host Jiminy
Glick. Here's Martin Short as Jiminy, asking actor Brendan Fraser about his
first movie role.

(Soundbite of "Primetime Glick")

Mr. MARTIN SHORT: (As Jiminy Glick) Now let me ask you this: Your first
film was "Encino Man."

Mr. BRENDAN FRASER (Actor): Yes.

Mr. SHORT: Oh, I loved that. You played Link.

Mr. FRASER: I did; yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SHORT: Then you play a Jew. You played a Jewish man.

Mr. FRASER: Yes, I did.

Mr. SHORT: And that was risky to play a Jew in Hollywood in the '90s. What
went through your head taking that kind of risk?

Mr. FRASER: Well, I made sure that it was a film that had meaning...

Mr. SHORT: But why a Jew?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FRASER: Well, the character's actually just a kid. He was a football
player, and he just wanted to belong. And he was willing to do anything to be
a part of a group, even to deny who he was fundamentally as a person.

Mr. SHORT: That's wrong. That's wrong. You should embrace whoever you are.

Mr. FRASER: Well, that was the point of...

Mr. SHORT: If you're a Buddhist, be happy you're a Buddhist. If you're a
Muslim, be happy that you're a Muslim. If you're Episcopalian, hide that
fact.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BIANCULLI: To Martin Short, obsessing about Hollywood and celebrity is
nothing new. When he first visited FRESH AIR in 1989, he told Terry about
some of his childhood fantasies about show business.

(Soundbite of 1989 interview)

TERRY GROSS, host:

Now I've read about you that when you were young you used to do an imaginary
TV show in your room that would run on alternate weeks in your imagination
with "The Andy Williams Show."

Mr. SHORT: Yes. That is very true, and we were canceled, too, finally, which
is a tragedy. "Hullabaloo," I think, replaced us. Yes, I used to--it was
8:30 Mondays in my mind.

GROSS: Right.

Mr. SHORT: And we'd tape ahead. You know, we'd have shows in the can. And
I'd type things up for TV Guide, you know, highlights--Marty will sing. And I
would come out and I had a Frank Sinatra "The Sands" album, so I used that as
an applause record. And then, you know, I'd use intros from albums. You
know, when I have a guest, you know, my guest would be Tony Bennett, and Tony
would come out and do, (as Tony) `Forget your troubles. Come on, get happy.
The Lord is waiting to take your hand. I'd sing another song, I just don't
remember the words,' (in normal voice) you know. And he'd be my guest, and
then I would, you know, sing with him, you know, with the record. And then
I'd go to the applause, and I'd, you know, piece it together reel to reel.

And then I would take, you know, the playboy of that month and do the
interview with Eldridge Cleaver or something. You know, I'd sit and (in
character voice) say that, `We're not moving fast,' you know. (In normal
voice) And then I'd read a part, and then I'd end with a melody. And then
someone would call, (in character voice) `Dinner!' And we'd tape later.

GROSS: Did you sit on a stool and sing like Perry and Andy used to?

Mr. SHORT: Oh, sure; yeah. But sometimes I'd just throw that stool aside and
belt out a big final...

GROSS: 'Cause that's the kind of informal guy you are.

Mr. SHORT: There was no one restraining me.

GROSS: So who were your sponsors?

Mr. SHORT: Bulova Watch was a biggie, and the Kraft people.

GROSS: They did...

Mr. SHORT: No cigarettes even then.

GROSS: They did Perry Como, Kraft.

Mr. SHORT: Yeah. Well, I know. They were very generous to help me out, as
well.

GROSS: Why, if you were doing an imaginary show, would you have it alternate
every other week with "Andy Williams"? Why not be on every other week--every
week I mean?

Mr. SHORT: How could I do my films?

GROSS: What?

Mr. SHORT: How could I do my films?

GROSS: Oh, oh. Yes. Yes, I see the problem.

Mr. SHORT: Remember, I was directing, as well.

GROSS: Now when you were doing these shows, were they serious in your mind or
were they parodies of a show? I mean, were you doing them for real or were...

Mr. SHORT: No, it was real. I had a fantasy world that wouldn't quit, you
know. I mean, if I got in the back of a bus, I would go--I mean, if I got on
a bus, I would go to the back of the bus where the windows were kind of
oval-shaped, you know, so that I'd have more of a sense of riding in a
limousine. Do you know what I mean? And if I looked out the window--or I'd
pretend I was, you know, on an airplane taxiing off and fans--you know, this
is at 10. I was just intrigued by it. It wasn't like Rupert Pumpkin
or--Wasn't it?

GROSS: Rupert Pumpkin; yeah.

Mr. SHORT: It wasn't that sick. You know, it was clearly a fun hobby. You
know, it was fun. And while the other kids my age were protesting (singing)
`Going to have a revolution,' I was up in my room singing (singing)
`Weatherwise it's such a cuckoo day,' you know. But certainly in no way did
it become something that I, you know, would answer to two different names or
anything.

GROSS: Did your imaginary show have a theme song?

Mr. SHORT: No. There would be a production number, you know, kind of
opening, which would be similar where dancers come out and go, (singing)
`Marty. It's time for Marty.' But, I mean, that was no real theme.

GROSS: Oh, what a nut.

Mr. SHORT: Yeah. Sad, huh?

BIANCULLI: Terry Gross talking with Martin Short in 1989.

Martin Short got his start doing sketch comedy on "SCTV," where he created the
characters Ed Grimley, Jackie Rogers Jr. and songwriter Irving Cohen. Later,
he took those characters to "Saturday Night Live." In "Primetime Glick,"
Short wears a prosthetic fat suit and improvises with his celebrity guests by
asking intentionally bizarre questions. Terry spoke with Martin Short about
the creation of this new character last year. At that time, here's the way
Jiminy treated guest star Ben Stiller.

(Soundbite of "Primetime Glick")

Mr. MARTIN SHORT: (As Jiminy Glick) There's so much I want to ask about this,
so much. Your father--let's talk about Jerry Stiller.

Mr. BEN STILLER (Actor): Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Mr. SHORT: He's in the wonderful series "Queer as Folk."

Mr. STILLER: No.

Mr. SHORT: No?

Mr. STILLER: No.

Mr. SHORT: What series is he in?

Mr. STILLER: You're mistaken. He's on "King of Queens."

Mr. SHORT: Oh, that's what they're calling it now.

Mr. STILLER: Yes.

Mr. SHORT: And your mother is Anne Heche...

Mr. STILLER: Mm-hmm.

Mr. SHORT: ...and she's had the worst time of it, hasn't she? She's had this
'cause she thought she was a lesbian...

Mr. STILLER: No.

Mr. SHORT: ...and then she thought she was a normal person. And then, before
you know it, she's talking to aliens. How weird is it to be the daughter of
clearly someone who's that insane?

Mr. STILLER: I couldn't tell you that because, unfortunately, you've got her
mixed up. It's not Anne Heche. It's Anne Meara.

Mr. SHORT: Anne Meara?

Mr. STILLER: Right.

Mr. SHORT: See, I like her better than Anne Heche.

Mr. STILLER: Yes. Well...

Mr. SHORT: Well, no wonder you've got all that DNA racing through you, all
that comedic DNA. That's got to be wonderful.

Do you have demons, Ben Stiller?

Mr. STILLER: I think we all have demons, Jiminy.

Mr. SHORT: You do?

Mr. STILLER: Mm-hmm. I think we all do.

(Soundbite of 2002 interview)

GROSS: Martin Short, welcome back to FRESH AIR.

Let's start with Jiminy Glick. Can you give us, like, a capsule bio of who
this character is?

Mr. SHORT: (As Jiminy Glick) Jiminy Glick is someone who grew up--was
privately tutored with his parents until he was around 28. Then he went out
into the real world and saw a wonderful production of "Forty Carats" touring
with Lana Turner, auditioned, got in as Onlooker Number Two, then went to Los
Angeles where for six years he worked at Chason's as a busboy. And at one
night, catering a party at Roddy McDowall's, a very drunken George
Slaughter(ph) was helped home, declaring that a host for a syndicated show
that he wanted had walked out because they didn't accept George's double-scale
approach. And after that, the rest is history. I was asked to do the show,
and before you know it I'm suddenly talking to the likes of yous.

GROSS: Why is it so important for Jiminy Glick to always be in touch with
celebrities?

Mr. SHORT: I don't know. I think that Jiminy is someone who thrives on this
shallow world of celebrity. When I started the show, and then it went on the
air and then I would read some response to it--only the positive, of
course--that would claim great, you know, declarations of intent, you know,
`The ultimate satire of a form of a blankety-blank,' and I would just say,
`Absolutely.' But it's not always true. Sometimes you set out by just saying
that this character, if you've met him in life, whether he was a teacher or
whether he was a politician or whether he was a celebrity interviewer would
make you laugh because of his strange, sincere take on the world and how wrong
it is.

GROSS: And he has a great mix of self-involvement and insecurity.

Mr. SHORT: Right. Where I can laugh at Jiminy objectively is when he gets
very sincere and feels he's doing a hard-hitting, tough interview and the
finger is pointing. And he says, in the show, which is, I think, with Dave
Duchovny--he says--(As Jiminy Glick) He says, `I worry about Robert Downey.
Do you worry about Robert Downey?' (In normal voice) And Duchovny says,
`Yes.' (In normal voice) He says--(As Jiminy Glick) I feel like cornering him
and saying, `Bobby, stop it and stay stopped it.' (In normal voice) And
Duchovny says, `I think that's what he needs. He needs someone to point their
finger at him and say, "Stay stopped."' And in Jiminy's world he thinks he's
doing exactly what Charlie Rose would do.

GROSS: Are your interviews on "Primetime Glick" scripted? When you have on
real celebrities and you're playing this satire of a celebrity interviewer, do
the real celebrities know what you're going to ask in advance, and have they
already had a chance to think through how they're going to respond?

Mr. SHORT: No. None of it is planned and none of it's scripted. No one
knows what I'm going to say, and I don't know what I'm going to say. I have
pages in front of me that have facts about the celebrity. And often I won't
even look at it until the last second because Jiminy wouldn't look at it till
the last second.

GROSS: Right. And you have a way of choosing the most unimportant movie that
an actor's made to zero in on.

Sometimes when you have an actor on the show who you're interviewing, they're
clearly, like, trying to not totally crack up 'cause...

Mr. SHORT: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: ...they think what you're doing is really funny, but they want to stay
in character as if this was a real show.

Mr. SHORT: Right.

GROSS: Do you advise them not to laugh if at all possible?

Mr. SHORT: No. What we used to--I know that last season when we were cutting
some of the early shows, I was very self-conscious about them laughing. It
seemed kind of cheesy to me that I would be executive producing the show that
has people sitting back going, `Oh, Marty. How can I get through this?' It
felt a little self-serving. And then, as I would look at it again, I'd think,
you know, `I'm wrong. It's natural. It's fun.'

GROSS: Now one of the things that the Jiminy Glick show does is break for
commercials, as most broadcast shows do, but these are all satirical
commercials. I thought maybe we could break for one of your commercials from
"Primetime Glick," and this is a commercial for the Independent Film Channel.

(Soundbite of "Primetime Glick")

Unidentified Announcer: This Monday on the Independent Movie Channel's best
of the fest, Robin Herker's(ph) "Explaining Carlo,"(ph) the explosive story of
two young heroin addicts who drive cross-country and strike up a relationship
with two Texas lesbians.

Then on Tuesday, two different lesbians on their way to LA strike up a
relationship with a heroin-addicted ex-security guard from Texas in Kiera
Sandoval's(ph) controversial "The Wisdom of Sarah Finkelman."(ph)

Then on Wednesday, two ex-lesbians are drawn back into their former lifestyle
when they pick up three heroin-addicted hitchhikers...

GROSS: That's one of the very funny satirical commercials from Martin Short's
show "Primetime Glick."

Do you write any of those commercials yourself?

Mr. SHORT: Yes.

GROSS: Good. They're very funny.

Mr. SHORT: Yeah. Well, I mean, I work with two brilliant guys. One is
Michael Short and one is Paul Flaherty. And the three of us create the show
together.

GROSS: Is Michael Short a relation?

Mr. SHORT: Yes, he's a brother.

GROSS: Aha. And is...

Mr. SHORT: My big brother Mike.

GROSS: Is Paul Flaherty related to...

Mr. SHORT: Joe Flaherty's brother.

GROSS: Joe Flaherty, yeah.

Mr. SHORT: Yep.

GROSS: Oh, wow. All right. All in the family.

Mr. SHORT: They're all, actually--well, obviously, I grew up with Michael,
but I met Paul on "SCTV," which Michael also wrote.

GROSS: Mm-hmm. Hmm.

Now you've said that when you were a kid you really, you know, wanted to be a
celebrity yourself. So do you feel like, on some level, you really understand
Jiminy Glick's need to be famous and to be with famous people?

Mr. SHORT: Well, I don't know if he needs to be with famous people as much as
that, for Jiminy, these shallow tidbits that make up his life are important.
They're fascinating. But more importantly, society has rewarded him--he does
have his own show; he does live in a nice house; he is watched. And he
couldn't be less qualified to be in his position. He's not the only person in
the entertainment world that has that position.

BIANCULLI: Martin Short speaking with Terry Gross in 2002. We'll have more
of their conversation after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

BIANCULLI: Let's get back to more of Terry's interview from last year with
Martin Short, star of Comedy Central's "Primetime Glick."

GROSS: So when you were young and you were watching all these TV shows and
doing your imaginary show, did you have any training? Did your mother say,
`Send this boy to acting school,' or `Give him singing lessons; develop that
talent'?

Mr. SHORT: No, no, no. My mother was the concert mistress of the symphony.
She was the first female concertmaster, actually. So I grew up with, at times
during the season, five hours of practice heard within the house on a violin.
So the idea of rehearsal and opening night was not foreign.

But no. I think growing up in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, you don't
instinctively--you know, Broadway isn't down the street. So it all seems not
terribly realistic.

So it wasn't until I was in university and, having done theater throughout the
university, realized that there was actually an acting scene in Toronto,
Ontario, which is 40 miles away, and that it was not inconceivable to take a
year off school and try it.

GROSS: Did your mother measure talent according to more classical standards,
of, you know, rigorous studies and a more legit kind of singing voice than you
probably had? You had a more pop voice.

Mr. SHORT: No. You know what? It was very interesting. She was always very
encouraging. In fact, I have--when I was 15, Frank Sinatra had released an
album called "September of My Years," and I re-recorded that. I typed up all
the lyrics, and I had an attic bedroom, and the hallway to the bedroom kind of
had an echo to it. So I sat at my chair--I had a microphone, a reel-to-reel,
and I would play the introductions from the Sinatra album, but it would
be--and, of course, Frank was, you know, 53 and I was 14. But the
introductions would be in his key, so it would be (singing) `Do-do-do-do-do,
mmmem-do-do-do-do-do-do-do, mmmem--do-do-do-do,' and you'd hear `click,'
(singing) `Strangers in the night. Two lo'--I was in Frank's keys.

But I would do the album, and it would take me about a week, you know, and I'd
make up an album cover. And then my mother, I remember, listened to it and
critiqued it, because she used to adjudicate at certain, you know, violin
contests and things in her life, and so she wrote a synopsis of--I mean, a
critique of each song, `In this, the pitch was very good,' `lovely old song,'
`well-phrased at the end,' `hold the note too long here,' and rated them on
a--four stars, three stars, three and a half stars, you know. So I still have
that.

GROSS: Was that helpful?

Mr. SHORT: It was helpful. I think it was mainly helpful because someone was
taking my fantasy world very seriously, and treating it with credibility and
respect.

GROSS: And she...

Mr. SHORT: You know, Frank Sinatra once said that his father was always
around to piss on his dreams. And I think it's very important for parents to
constantly nurture and support eclectic interests of their children, because
you never know which one is going to become the fuel that drives their life.

GROSS: Getting back to "Primetime Glick," Jiminy Glick has a sidekick and
bandleader whose name is Adrean Van Vorhese,(ph) a great name I have to say,
and he plays harp. Michael McKean plays the character. Can you talk about
coming up with this character?

Mr. SHORT: Well, I certainly didn't come up with the character; Michael did.
But we kind of wrote it in a direction. It was--you kind of find that the
more things you do with characters, the more you come up with it. We'd be
writing something and Michael would come in and Michael said, `You know, I
want to play him like he's older, but he wears a lot of makeup to hide it.'
So that becomes part of the character.

Does he like Jiminy? He doesn't dislike Jiminy, but it's a job. So if Jiminy
insults him or cuts him off, he goes, `Very good; no problem,' because it's a
job.

In one of the episodes, his first wife, who's around 85, is on. It's one of
those scenarios where you assume that he's married his first wife was 20 years
older. She's a horn player, and he just loses it. And there's a tape of
Buddy Rich, a pirated tape of Buddy Rich screaming at the band on a bus, once
his band. And so we made that Adrean Von Vorhese. So we come back from
commercial and he's just berating--(As Adrean) Clams! You're hitting nothing
but clams! (in normal voice), you know. And so that's a new side of Adrean,
the side of Adrean losing it. So that's what makes that stuff fun, is you
keep saying what if--`OK, what if Adrean was in a bad mood this show, or what
if Adrean gets hurt?'

I interviewed Michael last year, Michael McKean, as Adrean, and the idea was
that Russell Crowe hadn't shown up, and now we had to interview Adrean Van
Vorhese. And at one point--again it's all improvised--I asked him something
about--I made some comment about the fact that he wasn't terribly educated,
that was that ever a limitation as a musician. And Michael's face completely
changed, and he started to tear up, real tears. And there was a split second
that even I as Jiminy thought, `Wait a second. Have I mentioned something
that's actually gotten Michael upset here?' I mean, it was so real. And he
then proceeded to let me know, as Adrean Van Vorhese, that this was a very
hurtful subject for him, and I could be hurtful sometimes and insensitive, and
that he was always--you know, it was a sore spot for him, his lack of
education. And it was an amazing exercise to watch, even after all these
years of improvising, to see someone that into it and to make it that real.

GROSS: So how did your character, Jiminy Glick, react when...

Mr. SHORT: He became very--you know, (As Jiminy), `Oh, my God, Adrean, I so
didn't mean that.' (In normal voice) I mean, he became a little bit attentive
to the possibility that he'd gone too far. You know, Jiminy Glick has no
intention of hurting anyone. And when people get upset when they walk off or
they storm out, (as Jiminy) What have I done? Someone explain to me what I
have done. (In normal voice) He doesn't know.

GROSS: Well, Martin Short, thank you so much for talking with us.

Mr. SHORT: My pleasure.

BIANCULLI: Martin Short speaking with Terry Gross in 2002.

He's currently starring on TV in Comedy Central's "Primetime Glick" and on
stage on a Los Angeles production of the Mel Brooks musical "The Producers"
opposite Jason Alexander.

For Terry Gross, I'm David Bianculli. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

(Announcements)

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) The look of love is in your eyes...

BIANCULLI: Coming up, composer Burt Bacharach and lyricist Hal David. They
wrote dozens of hits in the '60s and won just about every major music award.
Bacharach turns 75 next week, and there's a new Broadway revue built around
their music.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) ...of love. It's saying so much more than just
words could ever say. And what my heart has heard, well, it takes my breath
away. I can hardly wait to hold you, feel my arms around you. How long I
have waited, waited just to love you. Now that I have found you, you've got
the look of love, it's on your face, the look that time can't erase. In mine
tonight, that this is...

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: Burt Bacharach and Elvis Costello discuss music styles
DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli.

Burt Bacharach turns 75 on Monday, and in recent years has been enjoying a
sort of personal renaissance. In 1998, the same year a box-set retrospective
of his old songs was released, he collaborated with Elvis Costello on a
well-received collection of new songs. He was featured as himself in the
"Austin Powers" movies and has had his songs performed by the singing
contestants on TV's "American Idol." Right now, the classic songs written in
the '60s and '70s by Bacharach and Hal David are being showcased in a new
Broadway musical called "The Look Of Love." It's a Roundabout Theatre Company
production, stringing together such hits as the title song, "Alfie" and
"Promises, Promises," a song recorded originally by Dionne Warwick.

Terry asked Burt Bacharach about that song when they spoke in 1998, when he
and Elvis Costello were on FRESH AIR. Here's the original recording of
"Promises, Promises."

(Soundbite of "Promises, Promises")

Ms. DIONNE WARWICK (Singer): (Singing) Promises, promises, I'm all through
with promises, promises now. I don't know how I got the nerve to walk out.
If I shall remember, I feel free. Now I can look at myself and be proud of
laughing out loud. Oh, promises, promises, this is where those promises,
promises end. I don't pretend that what was wrong can be right. Every night
I'll sleep now, though realize things that I promised myself fell apart, but
I've found my heart. Oh, promises, they're gone...

TERRY GROSS, host:

When I, like, for instance, listened to "Promises, Promises" I never thought
to myself, `Gee, what a tricky set of time signature changes. And the sheet
music, if you look at the sheet music, the line `Promises, those kind of
promises take all the drive from life,' there's one bar of three-quarter,
followed by a bar of four-quarter, followed by a bar of six-quarter, then
three-quarter...

Mr. BURT BACHARACH (Music Writer): Very good.

GROSS: ...then four-quarter, then six-quarter. And then `Promises, promises,
my kind of promises,' that's three-quarters, three-eighths and then
four-eighths. I mean, who even sees three-eighths in sheet music? So, Burt
Bacharach, these kind of shifts just come into your mind, and then you write
them down, and that's when you realize how tricky they are?

Mr. BACHARACH: Well, I think that was driven--yeah, that certainly was driven
by the intensity of what that had to say theatrically on stage in
"Promises"...

GROSS: Right, 'cause that was written for the show "Promises, Promises."

Mr. BACHARACH: Right. So it had to have a drive of its own. And, yeah, I
heard it, played it, and started to notate it, write it down. Oh, my
goodness. We've got a three-eight bar, and here comes another three-eight bar
'cause it can't be a six-eight bar. Put in the two three-eights together.
It's a three-eight, it's a three-eight, it's a four-eight. And even when I'm
doing it like with a symphony orchestra now, I try to get them to think, to
add one thing. Instead of just counting the three-eight, three-eight,
four-eight, to hear what the girls are singing or hear the musical content
rather than reading those eighth notes and go, `Promises, promises' and one.
So right there that takes care of your seven-eight bar, you see? `Promises,
promises' and one, ba-da-da-da-da-da-da. But if they don't sing in their
head--I mean, the background voices and the strings are playing
da-ba-da-ba-da-da, see? The girls are going `promises, promises.' The trumpet
players have to come in one beat later, so it would be `promises, promises'
ba-ba. But if they can hear it in their head `promises, promises,' and one,
if they count that way, it's a breeze. It's simple.

GROSS: So...

Mr. ELVIS COSTELLO (Singer): There's an easy lesson for you to teach her.

Mr. BACHARACH: And, of course, the symphony orchestra sometimes would look at
me with great dismay and say, `What is this man saying?'

Mr. COSTELLO: I mean, this is the kind of stuff that you can--everyday work
together throws up, you know. And, obviously, we--to go back to your question
about harmonics, or harmony, I should say--I mean, I've written a good degree
of music down, particularly when I've worked with musicians from the classical
and jazz field, who were more used to the written page, but when it comes to
popular song, of course, working in a rock band you hardly ever write anything
down. Sometimes a string overlay of a rhythm section, but the rhythm section
parts, the chord progressions, are very simple and it would be stupid to write
them down; they're too easy to remember. You would inhibit yourself in the
communication.

GROSS: But don't you think that, orchestration aside, a lot of rap musicians
don't even know most of the chords, or many of the chords, that Bacharach
would use in his compositions. You know, the more complicated jazz chords for
instance.

Mr. BACHARACH: Very possible.

Mr. COSTELLO: Well, they stumble on them and they don't know them by name, or
they don't know them instantly, but you do hear some very complex things
happen in records that they're just not necessarily schooled in.

Mr. BACHARACH: Because...

GROSS: Right, right, right.

Mr. BACHARACH: But, you know, the interesting thing for me is the rock
musicians--you know, and this is generalization--that have trouble there and
don't necessarily play that minor second in that chord...

Mr. COSTELLO: Yeah.

Mr. BACHARACH: ...or don't hear it or don't understand how to hear it enough
to play it on their guitar or on the keyboard...

COSTELLO: Yeah.

Mr. BACHARACH: ...I find that at like the same level of not being able to
translate onto paper what they're play--R&B players, it's a different thing.

COSTELLO: Yeah.

Mr. BACHARACH: They go to the minor second like it's in their system...

Mr. COSTELLO: Yeah.

Mr. BACHARACH: ...in their blood. It's a natural thing. They go into
different kind of loops, both rhythmically and harmonically because it's
a--and they may not be able to write it down.

Mr. COSTELLO: Yeah. There's also the other side of it, isn't there, that it
can be a loop and you get jazz players who defer to particular intervals that
allow them to speak in a language that's understood by other jazz musicians
but that, you know, you're starting to hear these voicings all the time and
they can't play a plain chord, you know.

Mr. BACHARACH: Yeah. Plain chord. Whoa!

Mr. COSTELLO: They couldn't play a plain chord. You know, it's almost like a
heresy to them. And I think that's a...

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. COSTELLO: There's a little bit of a trap in that, in only being able to
voice in complex harmony and to not see that there is a beautiful thing in,
you know, a Hank Williams song...

Mr. BACHARACH: I understand that.

Mr. COSTELLO: ...with just plain harmony, you know.

Mr. BACHARACH: I understand that when I have to go to a choice of do I end
it with just a straight C? I'll try it.

Mr. COSTELLO: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

GROSS: Well, Burt Bacharach, what influenced you harmonically? What music
were you listening to that you think formed your basic, you know, musical
harmonic mind?

Mr. BACHARACH: I think when I did get interested in music, it certainly was
the French impressionist Ravel, you see, and Rachmaninoff. And suddenly to
hear what was going on in the world of jazz, opposed to the world of jazz that
I knew before coming from listening to the Dorsey band or Harry James. And
suddenly somebody opened this giant door and there was Dizzy Gillespie and
Tadd Dameron and Charlie Parker, Thelonius Monk. It was like another
light-years away.

GROSS: And why do you think that, rather than becoming, say, a bop musician
or a bop composer-arranger, you went into pop instead?

Mr. BACHARACH: Oh, I don't think I would ever have been a good enough jazz
pianist, bop pianist. You know, I was influenced by--the same reason I never
became a serious classical composer, starting with Darius Milhaud and Henry
Cowell. It was a learning process. I liked the music, appreciated the music.
I always felt that if I pursued it, you know, I'd be writing it maybe on a
commission from a symphony, that I'd hear the work two years later. I'd have
to supplement my income by--or make money teaching at a university. It's a
hard route, you know. I like a nice place to live, and I wasn't going to get
it that way. I like the comfort level a little, too. And the other thing is
I just didn't want to do it enough.

GROSS: Right, right.

Mr. BACHARACH: So there was never--maybe that's the biggest--but there'll
never be a regret coming from me, you see, where I'll say, `Oh, God, it'd have
just been different if I'd written that one great symphony.' Well, that's off
the list. That doesn't--that's just a fabrication in my mind from the other
(unintelligible).

GROSS: Yeah. Yeah.

Mr. BACHARACH: I had one regret, that my mother was so disappointed because
Leopold Stokowski asked me to write a piece years ago, probably when
"Promises, Promises" was out there, and I was commissioned by the American
Symphony. And you know, they said, `We'll premiere it in three years.' And I
was used to the gratification, you know, of write a song, go into the studio,
make the record and hear it on the way home, hear it on the way home or the
next morning when you turn on the radio. Three years.

Mr. COSTELLO: That's a long time, isn't it?

Mr. BACHARACH: Long time. And I took a pass, and I was fine taking a pass on
it. But...

Mr. COSTELLO: But she was disappointed.

Mr. BACHARACH: ...my mother was very disappointed.

Mr. COSTELLO: Yeah.

BIANCULLI: Burt Bacharach speaking with Terry Gross in 1998. We'll hear more
of their conversation after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

BIANCULLI: Let's get back to Terry's interview with Burt Bacharach.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) If you see me walking down the street and I
start to cry each time we meet, walk on by. Walk on by. Make believe that
you don't see the tears. Just let me grieve in private, 'cause each time I
see you, I break down and cry. Walk on by. Walk on by. Walk on by. I just
can't get over losing you, and so if I seem broken in two, walk on by. Walk
on by.

GROSS: Burt Bacharach, I mean, your arrangements are filled with flugelhorns
and trumpets. I mean, there's so many songs of yours where that's just--I've
come to think of it as a signature. I was wondering if you ever played
trumpet or, you know, why you hear trumpets in so many of your songs.

Mr. BACHARACH: It's a very expressive instrument and, you know, for a
singular--it's one of the few instruments when I could, say, make a statement,
set up on an intro or a figure. It speaks more vocal than, like, a flute
would've or a clarinet or--a saxophone is a little bit of another picture.
But I used to write dummy lyrics on flugelhorn parts just on introduction
things, just so they weren't just notes. So the flugelhorn player would be
able to see the note, sing the note; even though it made no sense, it was a
lyric, but it made no sense, but it just had the right sound vocally,
vowelwise, for that right note. Trumpet players in the original times when we
were recording, until they got to know me, thought I was nuts. (Laughs) But
there is something about it, you know. Just say--sing it.

GROSS: I want to play another record here, and I thought that we'd play the
Elvis Costello version of the Burt Bacharach-Hal David song "I Just Don't Know
What to Do with Myself."

Mr. COSTELLO: Oh, my God.

GROSS: And this is a great song, and there's great recordings of it. Elvis,
I love your version of it. And then there's, of course, the Dusty Springfield
version, which is a classic. And on the new Rhino box set, it also features
the original version of the song by Tommy Hunt. So before we hear all three
versions, Burt Bacharach, would you tell us about writing this song?

Mr. BACHARACH: In the Brill Building days, where Hal and I would work every
day, we had a whole roster of Septa(ph) artists that were potentially artists
to record. And I guess that was going to be either for Chuck Jackson or for
Tommy Hunt. And I went in, wrote the orchestration, made the record with
Tommy, and that was the initial record, and I liked the record. I liked the
way he sang, too. So, you know, every other record afterwards is a different
record, in a way, than what the original was. They might be better, but, you
know, the original often comes right out of the bed with me.

GROSS: So after Tommy Hunt recorded "I Just Don't Know What to Do with
Myself," did you rethink the song for Dusty Springfield when you arranged it
for her?

Mr. BACHARACH: No, I didn't do Dusty. Dusty did it with whoever was writing
arrangements for her.

GROSS: Oh, OK.

Mr. COSTELLO: Yeah, I think one of the things--we've been through this
process because, being as this is the song that I have the longest history
with...

GROSS: Yeah?

Mr. COSTELLO: ...as a professional singer, we wanted to include this song in
our concerts, in our recent concerts. And, of course, there's a question; the
parts for that original Tommy Hunt record are long lost, and it was a question
of having somebody transcribe a hybrid from the two records, because I learned
the song from Dusty's version, and that's imprinted on my mind. And we went
back and had the skeleton of the arrangement transcribed. You can hear how
whoever transcribed this record--it's a shameless copy, in certain respects,
of your orchestration, but there are certain voicings that are wrong if you
compare them--they're actually wrong you might say in the sense they've
misheard what's going on on the Tommy Hunt version. They're trying to keep so
close to it. I don't think they've changed them deliberately; I think they're
just mishearing. And if you listen on to me and The Attractions stumbling
through it in 1977, you'll hear still a further mishearing of a chord or two,
and I get slightly embarrassed when I hear that record now 'cause I hear the
naivety of the approach, but I also hear the feeling.

GROSS: Yeah. Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah.

Mr. COSTELLO: It's in all of these versions, and the one thing--that is a
journey that a song can go on and, I mean, some of the songs have a more
extraordinary genitive youth. If you listen to "I Say A Little Prayer" as
done by Aretha Franklin or as done by Roland Kirk, you'll hear an even more
radical translation, you know?

GROSS: Right. Well, right now, why don't we hear "I Just Don't Know What To
Do With Myself." And first, we'll hear Tommy Hunt, then Dusty Springfield,
then Elvis Costello.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. TOMMY HUNT: (Singing) I just don't know what to do with myself. Don't
know just what to do with myself. I'm so used to doing everything with you,
planning everything for two, and now that we're through, I just don't know...

Ms. DUSTY SPRINGFIELD: (Singing) ...I just don't know what to do with my
time. I'm so lonesome for you it's a crime. Going to a movie only makes me
sad. Parties make me feel as bad. When I'm not with you, I just don't know
what to do. Like a summer rose, you're just sun and rain. I need your sweet
love to beat all the pain. I just know what to do...

Mr. COSTELLO: (Singing) I just don't know what to do with myself. I just
don't know what to do with myself. Baby, if your new love ever turns you
down, come back, I will be around just waiting for you. I don't know what
else to do. Don't know what else to do. Don't know what else to do. Don't
know, baby, 'bout you. Oh, oh, oh.

(Soundbite of applause)

GROSS: Those are three versions of the Burt Bacharach-Hal David song, and we
heard Tommy Hunt, then Dusty Springfield, then Elvis Costello. And my guests
are Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach, and they have a new CD of their song
collaborations and it's called "Painted From Memory."

Burt Bacharach, when did you first hear Elvis Costello's version of that?

Mr. BACHARACH: You know, I'm not sure I did back when it was recorded. I did
hear Elvis do it about four years ago live at the Troubadour with Steve Naive
on piano, an acoustic concert, and I thought it was brilliant. You know, it
was great. You know, I have to confess. I often did not listen to covers or
things that would come in. I don't defend that position. If Elvis' records
had come in and somebody called it to my attention--What is it? 1974? Was
it...

Mr. COSTELLO: 1977.

Mr. BACHARACH: ...when that record came in. I think probably at the time, I
wasn't listening to anything, any covers that were coming in, you know? I
would...

Mr. COSTELLO: I think anyway that's a fairly obscure release, you know? It
wasn't like a single where we covered it and tried to--you know, there were
hits there.

Mr. BACHARACH: But this is my nature. What it's been is, `Well, that was
written. That's done. Somebody else did it. Elvis Costello did it. Great,'
but, you know, I was too into, `OK. We've got to work today. We've got to
write something...'

GROSS: Right, right, right.

Mr. BACHARACH: `...write the next song.' I was into the next song of it...

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. COSTELLO: Yeah.

Mr. BACHARACH: ...rather than--I figure when I stop writing and ancient, then
they'll bring in all these old records and I'll spend the last days of my life
listening to all the records of my songs that I've never heard.

BIANCULLI: Burt Bacharach and Elvis Costello speaking with Terry Gross in
1998. Coming up, we hear from lyricist Hal David. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: Lyricist Hal David discusses some of the songs he's
written
DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

As part of our salute to Burt Bacharach who turns 75 on Monday, let's listen
to Terry's 1997 interview with Hal David, Bacharach's most significant musical
collaborator. You probably know lots of Hal David's lyrics by heart, lyrics
to such songs as "The Look Of Love," "What The World Needs Now," "Do You Know
The Way To San Jose?" "I Say A Little Prayer," "Walk On By," "What's New
Pussycat?" and "Alfie." Bacharach and David's collaboration lasted from the
late '50s to the mid-'70s.

TERRY GROSS, host:

You and Burt Bacharach have each said that "Alfie" is your favorite song or at
least right on top there. Why is "Alfie" your favorite?

Mr. HAL DAVID (Lyricist): Well, in writing songs, we were always trying to be
as good as we can be, try to be at our very best. We're not always at our
very best. I think that's an impossibility for anyone. And then there are
time constraints when there are recording sessions to go into, films where the
song has got to be produced in a given amount of time and the theater piece
where it's got to go in very quickly. So consequently, you let go of songs
sometimes before it's every bit as good as you hoped it would be. I think
with "Alfie," in my case at least, that song came as close to being the way I
wanted a song to be.

GROSS: If I were a lyricist, this is an assignment I don't think I would have
wanted: Write a title them for a movie called "Alfie" about a womanizer who,
you know, really mistreats the women in his life. It seems like a tough
assignment. You did good. What did you think when you got this assignment?

Mr. DAVID: Well, I thought to myself, `My God, why do they keep giving me
these terrible assignments?' It seems such an odd phrase "Alfie." It was not
a name that spelled any sort of romance whatsoever. It sounded almost like a
British music hall kind of song, and it took me a while to find my way into
the song, which was the opening line, `What's it all about?' and then suddenly
I had a sense of where I should go.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Singer: What's it all about, Alfie? Is it just for the moment
we live? What's it all about when you started out, Alfie? Are we meant to
take for then we give, or are we meant to be kind? And if only fools are
kind, Alfie, then I guess it is wise to be cruel. And if life belongs only to
the strong, Alfie, what will you lend on an old golden rule. As sure as I
believe there's a heaven above, Alfie, I know there's something much more,
something even non-believers can believe in. I believe in love...

GROSS: Now in the bridge, it doesn't really rhyme. You know, `As sure as I
believe there's a heaven above, Alfie, I know there's something much more,
something even non-believers can believe in.' Tell me about doing that
without a rhyme.

Mr. DAVID: Well, now that you asked the question, I hadn't even thought of
it, and I don't think I even thought that it didn't have rhyme. You know, you
bring it to my attention. That's just exactly how I heard the lyric going. I
wrote that lyric for the most part first, and Burt wrote the music afterwards.
He wrote a brilliant melody. I just heard those lines and the structure of
the lines was the way I thought it should fall in the bridge of the song. And
I now know I didn't have a rhyme in the bridge, and that's interesting for me.

BIANCULLI: Hal David speaking with Terry Gross in 1997. A new musical review
of his compositions with Burt Bacharach called "The Look Of Love" has just
opened on Broadway. Bacharach celebrates his 75th birthday on Monday.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Singer: What's new, Pussycat? Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. What's
new, Pussycat? Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Pussycat, pussycat, I've got...

(Credits)

BIANCULLI: For Terry Gross, I'm David Bianculli.

Unidentified Singer: What's new, Pussycat? Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. What's
new, Pussycat? Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Pussycat, Pussycat, you're so
thrilling and I'm so willing to care for you. So go and make up your big
little pussycat eyes. Pussycat, Pussycat, I love you. Yes, I do. You and
your pussycat eyes. What's new, Pussycat? Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.
What's new, Pussycat? Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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