Few songwriters have composed more tunes that reached the upper echelons of Billboard Magazine’s popular music charts than Burt Bacharach.
Indeed, the six-time Grammy Award winner and three-time Acadamy Award winner composed no less than 66 songs that reached the Billboard Top 40 — many with lyrics provided by the late Hal David –and 28 of them made it into the Top 10, with six of them topping the national charts. [To view a recent ventwing.com article that listed the 10 best-selling singles composed by Bacharach, click here].
However, not all of Bacarach’s tunes managed to reach the Hot 100, and this column takes a look at the 12 songs that hit the Billboard category of “Bubbling Under the Hot 100.” Those are records that never managed to reach the official pop charts, but they were often near-misses, and in this case, the songs charted between Nos. 102 and 135.
Some of the listed songs — such as “Only Love Can Break A Heart”, “I Say A Little Prayer” and “Make It Easy On Yourself” — were major chart items for other singers, although the renditions below obviously had less record sales and radio station airplay.
These “Bubbling Under” recordings also include some artists who had numerous big hits, such as Dionne Warwick, The Shirelles, Johnny Mathis, Doris Day and Dusty Springfield.
Here is information about each of the dozen Bacharach “Bubbling Under” records, and for a link that will allow you to hear any of the songs, simply click on the title.
- “IT’S LOVE THAT REALLY COUNTS” (Shirelles, No. 102, 1962): Even though the song had all of the usual “earmarks” of a big hit, and even though big-name artists such as Dionne Warwick and Brook Benton also recorded it, The Shirelles’ original rendition came the closest to the Billboard Hot 100, missing by just two spots. The group that later became The Shirelles was formed in 1957 by four teenage friends from Passaic, N.J., under the name The Poquellos. This record was produced by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.
- “MAKE IT EASY ON YOURSELF” (Johnny Mathis, No. 103, 1972): Three other artists — The Walker Brothers (No. 16, 1965), Jerry Butler (No. 20, 1962) and Dionne Warwick (No. 37, 1970) — charted highly with this tune, but Mathis’ version didn’t fare nearly as well. Mathis was born in Gilmer, Texas, but moved to San Francisco at a young age. He was one of the best-ever pop ballad singers, and he charted more than 60 albums and had 20 songs reach the Top 40 on the national pop charts.
- “KENTUCKY BLUEBIRD” (Lou Johnson, No. 104, 1964): The song was first recorded as “Message To Martha” by Jerry Butler in 1962, and two years later, Bacharach had Lou Johnson record the song under the title “Kentucky Bluebird.” Johnson’s single was also released in the UK, where it was covered by Adam Faith, who took the song to No. 12 as “Message to Martha.” In 1966, as “Message to Michael”, Dionne Warwick had a No. 8 hit in the U.S. Johnson, born in Brooklyn in 1941, was a singer-pianist who recorded a number of Bacharach’s songs.
- “I SAY A LITTLE PRAYER” (Sergio Mendes, No. 106, 1968): The Brazilian pianist, who organized the band Brasil 66, failed to reach the Billboard Hot 100 with this song, although two other famous artists — Dionne Warwick (No. 4, 1967) and Aretha Franklin (No. 10, 1968) — had major success with it.
- “WINDOWS AND DOORS” (Jackie DeShannon, No. 108, 1966): This record was recorded in London by an American singer-songwriter with a long string of hit song credits, beginning in the early 1960s. The artist was born Sharon Myers in Hazel, Ky., but moved to Los Angeles to pursue her career in music. This was the highest-charting version of this song.
- “ONLY LOVE CAN BREAK A HEART” (Dionne Warwick, No. 109, 1977): The huge hit on this one was recorded by Gene Pitney, who took it to No. 2 on the national pop charts in 1962. Warwick was the primary “voice” for many Bacharach-David compositions, and in all, she charted 31 songs that reached the Top 40 on Billboard. Two other renditions, by Margaret Whiting (No. 96, 1967) and Bobby Vinton (No. 99, 1977), managed to eke into the Hot 100.
- “MADE IN PARIS” (Trini Lopez, No. 113, 1966): The song was written for the film of the same name, starring Ann-Margret and Louis Jordan. It was perfect for the folk-rock style of the vocalist, born as Trinidad Lopez in Dallas, Texas, and later discovered by Don Costa while performing in a Los Angeles nightclub.
- “IN THE LAND OF MAKE BELIEVE” (Dusty Springfield, No. 113, 1969): The singer-guitarist, born Mary O’Brien in London, was a member of the folk trio called The Springfields in the early 1960s. In a career that extended from the late 1950s to the 1990s, she charted 11 Top 40 hits in the U.S., and she is a member of both the U.S. Rock and Roll and UK Music Halls of Fame.
- “FORGIVE ME” (Babs Tino, No. 117, 1962): Not much is known about the New York City songstress who was primarily a demo singer for the Kapp label. Although she had the looks and talent, she never managed to chart a Billboard Hot 100 item, and this record (at No. 117) was her highest-placing single. She had one release on Cameo in 1957, but nothing else until having six Kapp releases between 1961 and 1963. Even despite the Bacharach-David composition and production by Leiber and Stoller, this one never received much airplay, and the Lesley Gore soundalike “bubbled under” for just one week.
- “I JUST DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH MYSELF” (Tommy Hunt, No. 119, 1962): This was the original rendition of the song, which later charted for Dionne Warwick (No. 26 in 1968) and Gary Puckett (No. 61 in 1970), in addition to reaching No. 3 in England for Dusty Springfield. The recording session was produced by Leiber and Stoller, with Bacharach arranging and conducting.
- “MY LITTLE RED BOOK” (Manfred Mann, No. 124, 1965): This song was written for the 1965 film “What’s New Pussycat?”, starring Peter O’Toole and Peter Sellers. Bacharach had the group record two versions of the song, with the first version used only in the film. The second version was released on the film soundtrack and released as a single. This rendition only “bubbled under” on the Billboard charts, but it was revived and taken No. 52 by the group Love the following year.
- “SEND ME NO FLOWERS” (Doris Day, No. 135, 1964): Doris Kappelhoff, better known by her stage name, was born in Cincinnati, and she got her start as a Big Band era singer with the Les Brown Orchestra. She also was one of the top box-office movie stars of the late ’50s and early ’60s, and she recorded more than 600 songs. more than 650 songs. The movie that this song came from starred Day, along with Rock Hudson, Tony Randall and Paul Lynde.
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