Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.
Today (8/22) marks the 53rd anniversary of “(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me” making its first appearance on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. First recorded in 1963 as an unreleased demo sung by 22-year-old Dionne Warwick, a soon-to-be Bacharach protégé, it’s been covered well over 150 times since, with at least a half dozen of those achieving varying degrees of Billboard chart success. It continues to be a goldmine for its authors, Burt Bacharach and Hal David. It’s not just popular to record, either – add in commercial uses of the song, from TV ads to Xena: Warrior Princess to Mad Men, and you’ll see another huge revenue stream from a song that’s become totally ingrained in modern day popular culture.
With so many versions released over such a long period of time, we found it impossible to narrow the entire list of covers down to only three standouts. So we’ve listened to every version we could find, and in a Cover Me first, we’ll give you the bottom line by decade, starting today with the Sixties. We’ll even throw in some honorable and noteworthy mentions too!
Part I: The ’60s
Burt Bacharach, the prolific songwriter/entertainer extraordinaire, and his lyric writing partner Hal David began penning hits in the late 1950’s and are universally recognized as one of the greatest songwriting duos of all time. They were already on a roll in 1964, with Dionne Warwick’s “Walk On By” and Dusty Springfield’s “Wishin’ and Hopin'” released as singles earlier that spring. In the summer, Lou Johnson, dubbed “the male Dionne Warwick,” put out the first commercial version of “(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me.” In his liner notes for the Bacharach collection The Look of Love, Alec Cumming says the song “sounds like sped-up Drifters, with a happy urban surface covering up that essential Bacharach/David lonely heart.” (Bacharach aficionados interested in learning more about the music should check out Serene Dominic’s essential Burt Bacharach: Song By Song, available here.) By October 3rd of that year, the song became a minor hit, peaking at #49.
In a common practice of the time, British artists routinely appropriated songs and released them in the UK ahead of their US counterparts. That’s what Sandie Shaw did, and her slightly faster and shorter version entered the UK charts on October 14th, eventually rising to #1. It was then released in the US eight weeks after Johnson’s, eventually topping out at #52. Because their release dates were so closely timed, it’s hard to view Shaw’s version as a true cover of Johnson’s, although it’s often categorized as one – in fact, many view hers as the definitive version. Due to these circumstances, we’ll consider both Johnson’s and Shaw’s versions to be the original releases, excluded from the Good, Better, Best treatment.
From its official summer of ’64 release through the remainder of the decade, artists covering the song included big name singers, bands, and instrumentalists. They incorporated multiple styles, including rock & roll, Motown, surf guitar, “Beach Boys” harmonies, and Latin flavor. And don’t forget the Italian, German, French, Dutch, and Swedish versions. But when boiling down the thirty-plus releases, you’ll find…
Jose Feliciano’s version is good.
Dionne Warwick’s version is better.
R.B. Greaves’ version is best.
Jose Feliciano – (There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me (Burt Bacharach cover)
The summer of ’68 brought us the hugely successful Feliciano! One of the artist’s earliest efforts, the album became a bona fide classic and featured the 23-year-old burgeoning Latin star already at the top of his game. The acoustic guitar and strings version is smooth, flowing, and bright, despite the song’s story.
Dionne Warwick – (There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me (Burt Bacharach cover)
The fact that Bacharach and David chose Warwick for the ’63 unreleased demo was telling. Her version from the 1967 album The Windows of the World fits like a sleek leather glove. Warwick’s strong vocals, with background singers in tow, build to a rocking crescendo before the fade out. The song reached #65 on the charts in the fall of ‘68.
R.B. Greaves – Always Something There to Remind Me (Burt Bacharach cover)
In his follow-up to the smash hit “Take a Letter Maria,” R.B. Greaves, a nephew of Sam Cooke born in Guyana, closed out the decade with the ‘60’s most successful commercial release of the song. It draws on the best elements of the originals and adds its own touches. Greaves brings vibrant energy and clean soul. Standing out in the arrangement are the harmonies, keyboards, and horn flourishes, which no doubt intentionally mimic melody lines from another huge Bacharach/David hit, “Do You Know the Way to San Jose,” released by Dionne Warwick a year prior. Greaves’ self-titled debut album was released in ’69; however, the track didn’t break into the charts until the following year. Peaking at #27 in late February 1970, his version was the first to crack the Top 40, but has virtually vanished from the airwaves since.
Patti LaBelle and The BlueBelles – (There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me (Burt Bacharach cover)
Another ’67 release, LaBelle and her BlueBelles begin like a slow dance before things quickly kick in. Soulful, with tempo changes throughout, this version is full of rollicking high energy and ends too soon.
Percy Faith – (There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me (Burt Bacharach cover)
The Canadian easy-listening orchestra king delivered this brassy, cinematic instrumental on 1965’s Percy Faith Plays Latin Themes for Young Lovers.
• A handsome young Ted Neeley, six years before he became a (Jesus Christ) Superstar, released a slower version and performed it on The Smothers Brothers Show with the Teddy Neeley Five. (1967)
• The distinctive Johnny Mathis. (1967)
• The Del-Rays enlisted 16-year-old, pre-Doobie Brothers Michael McDonald as their singer on a Steve Cropper-produced track. (1968)
• Martha Reeves & The Vandellas with an uptempo Motown version. (1968)
Part II: The ’70s