This Guy’s In Love With You – Herb Alpert
…who looks at you the way I do?
When you smile
I can tell
we know each other very well…
It certainly helps that the first thing you hear is a soft-tone electric keyboard before the brushes on the snare and the vocal arrive for this is a lounge groove par excellence, from deep in my memory. Herb Alpert had been running Tijuana Brass since 1962 with huge success, the extremely popular albums outselling even The Beatles in 1966. Tijuana Brass were a faux-Latin brass pop outfit which Alpert described as “Four lasagnas, two bagels, and an American cheese”. Alpert himself is Ukrainian Jewish from Boyle Heights and went to Fairfax High in Los Angeles. He is also the “A” in “A&M Records” which he formed with Jerry Moss in 1962 and was home to The Carpenters, Sergio Mendes and Burt Bacharach who wrote and arranged “This Guy…“. It wasn’t all easy-listening central, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Cat Stevens, Joe Cocker and Procul Harum (My Pop Life #37) all signed with A&M in the late 60s and by 1972 they were the largest independent record label in the world. Herb Alpert has many Grammys, millions of sales and the distinction of being the only artist to top the charts as a singer (This Guy…1968) and an instrumentalist (Rise, 1989).
He’s not the greatest singer as he would himself admit – Herb first sang this to his wife on a TV special (see below) but the phone lines went ballistic and within two days it was released on his own label. Somehow it is one of the most romantic records ever recorded. Perhaps the guys listening to it feel they can join in given that the lead vocal is so ordinary, perhaps the languid backbeat just makes them wanna slow dance with their wives…either way it is a potent and irresistible slice of conceptual conception music for adults. Cheesy you say? Only in the best possible way.
It reminds me strongly of my grandfather’s funeral in Portsmouth. My mum’s dad. I remember Horace as a kind man, balding with remaining hair greased flat onto his head, slight air-lip, dark suit, sleeveless maroon pullover and a navy tie over a white patterned shirt. We used to play jacks together – he taught me how to play it with five dice : 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King. Kept in a nice red leather pouch in the sideboard. He had a mysterious genesis as we believe his mother returned from Shanghai pregnant and gave birth in Portsmouth. My brother Paul lives in Shanghai. There is a Laming mentioned as a government official in China but not much more information, and it could be unrelated of course, but anyway murky family histories sometimes have to be pieced together with the clues available from reticent relatives. He met Ruby my nan in Portsmouth and they married and had two daughters, Heather, my mum, and her sister Valerie. I do know that Horace, my grandad, was a policeman during World War Two and had to climb onto the roof of the Guildhall in air-raids to defuse unexploded bombs, which is impressive to say the least. He then became a shoe shop manager/owner (vagueness again) and a Mason. The funeral I was attending, along with the other males in the family but none of the females, was Masonic.
It was a pretty weird day. I don’t even remember if my Dad was there, but I think he was. I was eleven. Paul was nine, Andrew just turned five. Aunty Valerie was married to Uncle Keith by now and he had a daughter Annette who was about my age. Uncle Keith was a dark-voiced stern-looking smooth operator. Over-familiar yet unfriendly. The ‘men” all trooped off to some impersonal chapel of rest where other masons sat in silence and a vicar read a funeral service, inserting the word “Horace” where a blank was left for a name. There was no personality to it. No eulogy detailing what he had done, who he was, and I was tremendously disappointed. The priest seemed not to have known Horace at all. It made me wonder whether there had been another Masonic funeral service to which Uncle Keith, Dad, Paul and myself would not have been invited. The glum little ceremony done, we were driven back to 6 Moneyfields Avenue in Copnor where Nan and Mum and Valerie, Annette and cousin Wendy were gathered. Triangular sandwiches appeared. Tea. Paul was there aged nine, and Andrew was five. Perhaps he’d stayed behind with Mum. Some music went on the gramaphone, Uncle Keith no doubt. For some unspoken reason the men congregated at the back of the room, and the women near the bay window.
Then this song came on. Me being a veteran of the radio and TOTP I knew it, but Uncle Keith wanted to instruct us in the ways of righteousness. Our conversations were suddenly interrupted as he announced “Listen to this – suddenly there’s a complete silence”.
“Say you’re in love, in love with this guy. If not I’ll just die….”
We dutifully listened to the silence.
And the mournful trumpets returned, Bacharach-style, and that laid-back groove from heaven resumed, and Uncle Keith made a hand gesture as if to say “See – what did I tell you?”. We all nodded in solemn appreciation of this moment and then after a respectful pause carried on chatting, ignoring the actual song itself, it was the silence we had come to see. Uncle Keith had slip-on shoes and he wasn’t to be trifled with.
About two years earlier he and Aunty Valerie had been looking after Andrew and offered to adopt him if Mum “couldn’t cope” after her first major breakdown. They were childless, and Andrew had spent a lot of time down there. But he’d stayed with Mum in the end. He’d be back in Portsmouth a a couple of years time when we lost the house in Selmeston, but for now we were all together. Later on, Aunty Valerie would divorce Uncle Keith and he would disappear from our lives. Aunty Val would go on to live with the true love of her life in Norfolk, a woman whom I never met, also called Wendy.
This Guy’s In Love With You was written by Burt Bacharach & Hal David at some point in the 1960s when Herb Alpert asked Burt if he had any old songs lying around. It has been covered numerous times by other artists such as The Supremes, Donny Osmond, Booker T and Bacharach himself. It reminds us that while the Beatles broke the charts, and the Stones brought the blues to suburban England, there was always a strain of seriously laid-back music with its adherents and practitioners happy to croon away on Sunday evening radio, any evening radio, Andy Williams, Percy Faith, Barbra Streisand, Val Doonican and even Elvis himself supported the cause, the chunky sweater, the easy warm smile, the undemanding seductive tune, your gran liking it, your Uncle Keith liking it; secretly, you’re loving it too; you know you are.
From “The Beat Of The Brass” TV Special 1968