God, this is such a beautiful song, isn’t it? While I’ve often maintained that you can trace a single’s pedigree by the amount of high profile cover versions that exist in the world (see: Quincy Jones, Wayne Newton), ‘This Guy’s In Love with You’ takes that idea to a whole new level. For a start, it was penned by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, perhaps the most lauded songwriting pair outside of the Gershwins. The year Alpert first performed it live on CBS, it became an instant classic. The song was covered twice in the very same year of its original release by some of the biggest names in music, including two spectacular women; Dusty Springfield and Diana Ross. It’s been used countless times since then, fallen in and out of favour with various flag-bearers of the culture but has generally weathered the years pretty well. How did that happen? It turns out few people have ever sung someone else’s words quite as convincingly as a man who was more famous for playing the trumpet.
There’s something particularly devastating about a guy who can hit all the right notes and then repeat it on another instrument. Though Alpert rarely used his voice on records, this tune threatens to elevate him to the lofty heights occupied by other beloved singer-blasters like Louis Armstrong and Chet Baker. But there’s something different, and somehow more endearing about Alpert’s approach, which has significantly less bravado and almost sounds like an indie-rock frontman’s vocal. He grows into the melody as the song proceeds, particularly when he’s wrapped up in the warm embrace of his fellow brass players, but those few tiptoed steps, like the beginning of a tentative new love affair, are all the listener needs. ‘This Guy’s In Love with You’ is indebted to Bacharach and David’s uncanny ear for a melody in the most unlikely of places. Though it may seem like easy listening, much of the phrasing, from the mid-verse, pedal-note turnaround ‘You know this guy/this guy’s in love with you’ through to those gigantic fireballs of orchestra that seem completely necessary and unnecessary at the same time, is unique. It’s unlikely that what Alpert heard in Bacharach’s living room and what we hear today were in any way similar in scope. This song actually leaps out at you from the 1’30” mark. It’s just amazing, and even though you’d expect him to, Alpert isn’t even going for the upper register. He’s just cruising along beneath the timpani and the crash cymbals, like the total and utter boss that he is.
Apparently the first time anybody heard this song was when Alpert song it to his first wife live on television, which makes me smile. To think about all the expensive campaigns and novel ways publicists now employ to try and get us to listen to new music, and here this guy, a pin-up of his era no less, just waltzes onto CBS and drops a new jam. It was only released as a single after fans kept calling into the station demanding to hear it again, the parallel for which we can find today in Four Tet’s recent release of a song with a 24-word title that everyone kept bugging him about. So imagine a song where the major refrain is ‘I need you love/I want your love’ as the Zane Lowe’s Hottest Track In The Universe. Imagine understated trumpet solos being the new sax solos being the new vocoder solos being the new trumpet solos, women across America slowly and conveniently losing their minds as men prise open their wallets to spend their weekly paycheck on a 45″ single. From the slow-build opening to the drop-note climax (the first hit of the chorus refrain is actually instrumental, with the lyrics occurring on syncopated offbeats) and then the nice little fade-out, this is how the pros are supposed to do it. It’s a song that inspires a full suite of emotions in the listener in only a few minutes, a combination of impeccable timing, warm Fender Rhodes, Hollywood strings and Jewish bombast.
God, this is a beautiful song, isn’t it?
Herb Alpert & Tijuana Brass – ‘This Guy’s In Love with You’