Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Alfie

First recorded by Cilla Black (US #95/UK #9 January 1966).
Also recorded by Jerry Butler (May 1966, released December 1967), Dee Dee Warwick (May 1966, released 1967).
Other hit versions by Cher (US #32/CAN #36 June 1966), Dionne Warwick (US #15/R&B #5 December 1966).

From the wiki: “‘Alfie’ was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David to promote the 1966 film Alfie. Although Bacharach and David suggested ‘Alfie’ be recorded by Dionne Warwick, their most prolific interpreter, Paramount felt the film’s setting demanded the song be recorded by a UK singer. Accordingly, the initial invitation to record ‘Alfie’ was made to Sandie Shaw who had had a UK #1 hit with the Bacharach/David composition ‘(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me’. When the invitation to Shaw was declined ‘Alfie’ was offered to Cilla Black, who had also had a previous UK #1 with a Bacharach/David song: ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’.

“Black states that rather than overtly decline the song she would set conditions. ‘I said I’d only do it if Burt Bacharach himself did the arrangement, never thinking for one moment that he would. [When] the reply came back from America that he’d be happy to … [Then] I said I would only do it if Burt came over to London for the recording session. ‘Yes,’ came the reply. Next I said that as well as the arrangements and coming over, he had to play [piano] on the session. To my astonishment it was agreed that Burt would do all three. So by this time, coward that I was, I really couldn’t back out.’

“For the US release of the film Alfie‘s the film’s distributor, United Artists, wanted the song featured on the film’s soundtrack despite the objections of the film’s director Lewis Gilbert who felt the song ‘Alfie’ would distract from the jazz score he had had Sonny Rollins record for the film. United Artists compromised with Gilbert in keeping the prospective theme song out of the main body of the film but having it play during the closing credits. Recorded at Gold Star Studios, Cher’s version of ‘Alfie’ was released at the end of June 1966 almost two months prior to the film’s US premiere. Sonny Bono’s production showcased the song à la Phil Spector.

“Two covers actually predate the Cher recording although neither was released prior to Cher’s. The first evident recording of ‘Alfie’ in the US was by Jerry Butler (‘Make It Easy On Yourself‘), in May 1966, but which was not released until December 1967 as a track on the album Mr Dream Merchant. Also in the spring of 1966, Dee Dee Warwick (‘Time Is On My Side‘, ‘I’m Gonna Make You Love Me‘), sister of singer Dionne Warwick, while on a promotional junket to the UK, made a recording of ‘Alfie’ at the Philips Studio in Marble Arch but this version would not be issued until over a year later as the B-side of Warwick’s 1967 single ‘Locked in Your Love’.

“‘Alfie’ would not become a Top-30 hit in the US until the summer of 1967 when Dionne Warwick, the most prolific interpreter of Bacharach/David compositions and the composers’ original choice to cut the song, took it to #15 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #5 on the Billboard R&B Singles Chart. Introduced on the December 1966 album Here Where There Is Love, Warwick’s version of ‘Alfie’ had been an impromptu addition to a recording session at A&R Studio in New York City whose scheduled tracks had been completed early. It was suggested to Bacharach that the booked time remaining be put to use by having Warwick record a version of ‘Alfie’. Warwick, though feeling it pointless to increase the song’s massive cover version count (there had by then been some forty-two versions of the song recorded), was persuaded to record the song cutting her vocal in a single take.”

Cilla Black, the “Alfie” recording session at Abbey Road Studios with Burt Bacharach (1966):

Jerry Butler, “Alfie” (1966, released 1967):

Dee Dee Warwick, “Alfie” (1966, released 1967):

Cher, “Alfie” end credits (1966):

Dionne Warwick, “Alfie” (1967):

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