Noel Gallagher has been looking back on legendary duet with the late Burt Bacharach, when in 1994 the then Oasis guitarist left the electric guitar at home to join Bacharach onstage at London’s Royal Festival Hall for a performance of This Guy’s In Love With You, and has revealed that he recorded an orchestral version of the smooth-pop icon’s classic track that is yet to be released.
Speaking to BBC Radio’s Jo Whiley (opens in new tab), Gallagher says he and Bacharach kept in touch, and not long ago he was invited to track This Guy’s In Love With You in the company of an orchestra. But Gallagher, who has yet to hear the track himself, is not sure if or when it will ever be released.
“He was great and we kind of kept in touch,” said Gallagher. “I did a couple of things with him before he died. I am not too sure they’ll see the light of day. I got invited down to some place in north London where they were rerecording all of these great [songs] and he wanted me to sing This Guy’s In Love With You with some orchestra. He was supposed to turn up but he missed it; his flight was getting in late or something. And I haven’t heard the finished version of that… but what a dude, and what a songbook. Like really, really, amazing.”
The story of how Gallagher and Bacharach became acquainted is the stuff of legend. The Oasis link with Bacharach had already been established, at least spiritually. Look at the bottom lefthand corner of the cover art for Definitely Maybe and you’ll see Bacharach pictured.
• Learn 4 Oasis guitar chords from their classic songs (opens in new tab)
Oasis would play Bacharach at the end of their gigs, something mellow to take the heat out of the air. As Gallagher tells it, he and Bacharach first met during a chance encounter after an all-night bender with John Lydon, and drinks in the bar of a Santa Monica hotel.
“I just happened to glance over to the reception area and was like, ‘I’m sure that’s Burt Bacharach.’ As I walked up to where he was at the desk, I knew it was him, because he had a bomber jacket on with ambigram on it that said ‘B.B.’ on the back,” said Gallagher. “Like I used to do in the ‘90s, I walked up and tapped him on the shoulder and told him I was in Oasis. And he came out and sat with us. Of course, we had put his picture on the cover of Definitely Maybe.”
Bacharach came over and had a chat. He had heard Oasis. He was going to be in London in a few months for a date at the Royal Festival Hall, his first time playing in the UK since the ‘60s. Bacharach had a proposition.
“He was getting guest singers up to sing,” said Gallagher. “And I said, ‘Who’s going to sing This Guy’s In Love With You?’ And he kind of did this thing, like, ‘Hey, man, why don’t you come and sing it?’ I was like, ‘Absolutely no problem! No problem, mate. Give us yer number!’”
As Gallagher explains, This Guy’s In Love With You is one of his all-time favourite songs, even if he was labouring under the impression it was titled differently – sort of like a Purple Haze mishearing but in reverse. Either way, Gallagher thought it was trippy.
“I thought it was so psychedelic when I heard it,” he said. “I thought it it was called The Sky’s In Love With You, which I always thought was an amazing concept, and only found out afterwards that it was This Guy’s In Love With You. But he was a genius… such a complex composer/songwriter. Amazing breakup songs. Amazing love songs.”
Gallagher might have written this invite to perform with Bacharach off. What were the chances of him calling? But Bacharach did call, and arranged a meeting. Would he come down and see him at The Atheneum, a suitably upscale five-star hotel in London’s Mayfair district?
“It’s only then that it dawned on me what I had agreed to do,” said Gallagher. “And I was like, ‘I can’t go see Burt Bachararch – what are you talking about?’ And they said, ‘Are you doing a gig with him?’ And I’m like, ‘No way I am singing with Burt Bacharach!’ Anyway, everyone is saying I’ve got to go see him, so I go down to The Atheneum, and I go to reception, and I say, ‘Oh, it’s Mr Gallagher for Mr Bacharach.’
“The guy calls up to his room and says, ‘There is no answer. I think he has gone out.’ I was like, ‘Brilliant. Thank god for that. Great, I’ve got out of it. ‘Tell him Noel Gallagher came to see him and he wasn’t in.’ He wrote it down and that was it. And as I turned around, I bumped straight into him. He was like, ‘Hey, man, I’m glad you could make it.’”
There was no turning back now. Gallagher was on the hook.
“I go to his room and honestly it was like my favourite moments of my life, just me and him in this hotel room,” he continues. “And he says, ‘Do you want a drink?’ I said, ‘I’ll have 20 beers.’ He sat down with some beer, we’re just chatting away, and then it’s almost like the scene from Pulp Fiction when Vincent Vega goes into the into the into the bathroom and he’s like, ‘I’m just gonna go out there everything’s gonna be cool, right. We’re going to try and wriggle out of this gig, gonna be all right, gonna make him laugh and then we’ll just leave.’
“As I come out, he’s playing This Guy's in Love You on this huge piano, and he said – I’ll never forget it – he just said, ‘Hey man, why do you come over and join me.’ And it’s like something off some mad TV show from the ‘60s. So I go over, and I’ve got a beer in one hand and a cig in the other. Just me and him. And he’s playing, and he’s got the music up there, and I start singing and he’s like, ‘Hey man, I think this is gonna be great.’”
Despite Gallagher’s reservations, Bacharach was right. It worked out fine. When he got to the venue, Ron Tutt, drummer for Elvis, was behind the kit. The only trouble was that this was the first time he ever performed live without a guitar but he styled it out. “Absolutely,” he said, it was one of the greatest moments of his life. “A lad from a council estate doesn’t normally get to do these things.”
High Flying Birds’ new album Council Skies (opens in new tab) is out on 2 June via Sour Mash Records. The Deluxe edition will feature remixes of the tracks from the likes of David Holmes, the Pet Shop Boys, and Robert Smith of the Cure, who remixes Pretty Boy – a mix that Gallagher says sounds just like the Cure.
You can check out Gallagher's full interview with Jo Whiley at BBC Sounds.