Flashback Soul: The Fifth Dimension has “One Less Bell to Answer.”


From the mid 60’s through the early 70’s, the music of Burt Bacharach was my parents’ “contemporary” music of choice. In addition to the many hit records he wrote and produced for Dionne Warwick and others, Burt also released instrumental versions of his songs, sometimes featuring his own thin but ultimately charming vocals, and I fondly remember my mother playing those records on Sunday afternoons.  (And who could forget Burt’s suave TV commercials with his then-wife Angie Dickinson for “Martini and Rossi on the rocks, say yeeees”?)  I liked Burt’s melodies but never then gave his music much thought, it was just part of the soundtrack of my life; besides, I was too busy focusing on my burgeoning GI Joe and baseball card collections.  

But in 1974 I was flipping TV channels — literally, no remotes back then, kids — and came upon Soul Train, which on that episode was featuring The Fifth Dimension, whom I had heard on the radio but until then never seen.  I recognized the beautiful melody of “One Less Bell to Answer” as Burt’s, and when the lovely Marilyn McCoo stepped forward to sing her lead vocal, well, that was the moment when GI Joe and baseball cards took a backseat to other, new boyhood interests(!).

The song reached #2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart and #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart for good reason:  As did many of the hits produced during the long songwriting partnership between Burt and his lyricist Hal David, this one paints a vivid picture, using evocative imagery to make the listener see the narrator alone in her home, crying, with “one less man, to pick up after, no more laughter, no more love.”  And Marilyn’s heartfelt vocal, soaring above the strings, captures perfectly that sadness.  Have a look and listen, it’s a worthwhile trip back in time.     

By Robb Patryk


And while you’re at it,  Burt’s commercial is also worth a look!



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