BURT BACHARACH ON MUSIC
A song is a very compact form--probably the most compact form. It's supposed to create an emotional response from a listener in two to three minutes time, an emotional response that people can identify with. My idea was always to search for a new way, a fresh way of portraying the emotion. I've always thought of myself more as someone who writes from an emotional point of view rather than a cerebral one.--Bacharach and David, Almo Publications 1978
[A great song is] something that doesn't wear me out, doesn't beat me up. So it's not, you listen four or five times and you love it, and then you say, 'OK, enough with that.' If I get tired of it quicker than I should, I have to rethink it.--At 79, Bacharach Proves He's Got Staying Power. Stewart Oksenhorn. Aspen Times Weely. December 22, 2007.
I never intended to appear introspective. But then, I've never been a consistent writer of up tempo songs. I kind of veer toward ballads and melody. I'm seldom totally positive. Maybe that's because 'she loves you' or 'I'm so happy' don't make for such good songs.--Bacharach to the Future. Paul Lester. Melody Maker. October 21, 1995.
I don't look too much into my life for stuff. They're just melodic fragments. The autobiographical references are irrelevant. They're reflections, generalizations, not specific. I'm like a sponge. I absorb things.... When I'm really moved by something, by a beautiful view, I put that response into the melody. But that's it.--Bacharach to the Future. Paul Lester. Melody Maker. October 21, 1995.
You can't start out to write a song that will 'resonate the heart'. As a composer the style that's attracted me means you won't see a lot of uptempo tunes. Many of the songs are ballads. I think they're the things I can touch, or want to touch. I've always tried to create in a song form which will translate into a record. Making it like a four-minute movie with highs and lows.--Q&A. Select Magazine March 1996
The best way, for me [to write a song], always is to get away from the piano, sit in a place and hear it in my head. And that's where everything gets born.--NPR, July 3, 2008
People will tell me a song sounds great even if it's only mediocre. In the end you have to rely on your own ear. If something isn't right I know it and I have to start again. (B. Bacharach Is Hoping for First Oscar. Linda Deutsch. Associated Press, April 1, 1968.)
It's very hard for me to sit down and, as I'm writing at the piano, perceive this as a full song, knowing whether it's good or not good. It goes by in inches. If you get away from the piano and hear the melodic contour as well as the harmonisation in your head, you're hearing a long vertical line. I like to take a long look at the song.--Do You Know the Way to Monterey? Santa Fe? Whitley Bay?... Mojo Magazine. March 1996
I do that when I'm orchestrating too. I have to have a long-range picture of he whole scope of a piece. I get a sense of balance that I couldn't get if I was sitting at the piano. Your hands tend to go places because they've been there before. You'll write what your hands can play instead of what an orchestration can play.--Do You Know the Way to Monterey? Santa Fe? Whitley Bay?... Mojo Magazine. March 1996
What does happen with me is that I tinker, I fiddle, I've never had a song come to me fully formed in a blinding flash of inspiration. If it comes too easy I don't think it's any good. So I turn it upside down and look at it in the middle of the night. It's a short form, three and a half minutes, so everything counts. You can get away with murder in a forty-minute piece but not in three and a half. Some songs, you know, they beat you up. Too notey, too wordy, too much. You think, I don't wanna hear that again in a hurry.--See You Later, Elevator! Q. July 1996
Occasionally there would be 'complaints.' With 'What's New, Pussycat?' someone said, 'This is in 3/4,' it's a waltz, how is somebody in a disco in Paris going to dance to this?' I said, 'They'll find a way. It feels right the way it is. They'll find a way to move to it.' You can't think about things like that. I never bothered counting the bars, about seeing whether or not there were eight bars in the first section. Sometimes there'd be nine bars, sometimes twelve. I never paid any attention. I never paid any attention to a changed time signature. I think it was Dionne who told me the turn-around bar on 'Anyone Who Had A Heart' was in 7/8. She counted it out, and I couldn't believe it. It wasn't intentional, that's just the way it came out.
Those things never bothered me. They bothered some people. An A&R man in the early days might say, 'Here's a three-bar phrase instead of a four-bar phrase, and it really makes me uncomfortable. If you'll make it a four-bar phrase l'll record the song, but the way it is now I won't.' And I did that a couple of times, and I ruined a couple of good songs.--Bacharach and David, Almo Publications 1978
I started writing my own orchestrations as a kind of self-defense. No matter how good the words or the melody of a song, it has got to be showcased properly.--Hits. Lillian Ross. The New Yorker, September 14, 1968.
When any instrumentalist would have a singular statement to make on a record, I'd write a lyric underneath. It might be words that made no sense at all, but it would help them speak through their instrument. There are certain things that can't really be notated in orchestration. It's maybe two eighth notes, a 16th note and another eighth note, and that's the way it should be notated, but that's not the way it totally feels. But if you put words with it, or even vowel sounds, it does make a difference.--Do You KNow the Way to Monterey? Santa Fe? Whitley Bay?... Mojo Magazine. March 1996
You need that certain magic to happen at a recording session. Much of the feeling of a record—my records—comes from the rhythm section.--Hits. Lillian Ross. The New Yorker, September 14, 1968.
I did it [produce records] out of total self-defense. I saw a lot of songs get distorted, butchered, or changed, and I had to make compromises to people who had the power to let an artist record my songs.--Billboard August 16, 1986.
I would only sing part of a song. I was afraid to do more. Then the girls would sing the rest. Or I wouldn't have a whole instrumental. If there were key lines I'd use vocal dramatically. Or maybe an English horn, which I'd try to use as judiciously as possible. Then maybe two flugelhorns. There's only so much expression you're going to get out of a lead instrument, so I would try and keep it interesting.--Props for Burt Bacharach. Skip Heller. Pulse Magazine. October 1995.
The biggest thrill for me is being able to make a dent, even a small one, in somebody's life. The reward is when someone tells you one of your songs means something special to them. It might be the memory of a good time, or a love affair, or when their baby was born.--Billboard Jul 25, 1970
I found out doing concerts that you have to be very careful, when you have so much known material, [about] how much new material you can get away with--and where you can get away with it.--Billboard May 3, 2000