ALFIE - THE MOVIE, THE SONG AND THE SCORE
From the booklet contained in: The Look of Love – The Burt Bacharach Collection
“If you press me for what my favorite song is, the one I’m most proud of, that just about is number one”. That’s what Burt Bacharach said about “ Alfie” on the One Saturday Night telecast that aired on the TNT network during the first half of 1998.
The song was written for the Michael Caine film Alfie. “I saw the script of Alfie, I didn’t see the film”, says Hal David. “Burt was in Los Angeles and I was in New York. I called Burt, and I asked him if the script and the film were pretty much the same. He said ‘yes’, so I felt comfortable working off the story in the script. I wrote a lot of the lyric and gave it to Burt”.
Bacharach struggled with the music to accompany Hal’s (exceptional) words. “That was a tough song”, he told KCRW’s Chris Douridas. “[It] took me three weeks to write”. Once the song was done, Burt flew to England to record it at Abbey Road with Beatles producer George Martin and the Liverpool-bred, Brian Epstein-managed girl singer Cilla Black.
Cilla may have earned Dionne Warwick’s eternal chagrin (due to Cilla’s soundalike U.K. hit of “Anyone who had a heart”), but Burt seemed to harbour few ill feelings as he took the singer through the paces of recording “Alfie”. As seen in the BBC-TV documentary This is now, Burt himself played the piano, conducted the orchestra, and coached the singer simultaneously, pushing a weary Cilla for take after take. “I certainly wouldn’t have done it for a Quasimodo”, Cilla said in the documentary. “[I did it] because it was Burt, and he was gorgeous and so talented, and I enjoyed his company anyway”.
Geroge Martin, who produced the session, claims the British filmmakers turned down the song (!) for inclusion on the movie soundtrack. American prints of the movie later contained Cher’s version of the song, produced in Sonny shaggy pseudo-Wall of Sound style. Dionne recorded the song almost a year later with Burt in New York (the only version to become a sizable hit on the U.S. charts). “ I didn’t want to record it”, she says. “I told them, ‘How many versions do you need?’”.
Like “A house is not a home”, “Alfie” is a genuine standard – not just an orchestral pop classic, or a ’60s oldie, or a bit of lovable kitsch. Due to Hal’s Brilliant lyric and astonishingly sympathetic Bacharach melody, the song will certainly outlive us all.
Cilla Black - Alfie
Cher - Alfie
Dionne Warwick - Alfie
What's it all about, Alfie?
Is it just for the moment we live?
What's it all about when you sort it out, Alfie?
Are we meant to take more than we give
or are we meant to be kind?
And if only fools are kind, Alfie,
then I guess it's 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, Alfie.
Without true love we just exist, Alfie.
Until you find the love you've missed you're nothing, Alfie.
When you walk let your heart lead the way
and you'll find love any day, Alfie, Alfie.
Sonny Rollins - Original score from the Movie ALFIE
Orchestra conducted by Oliver Nelson