Anyone who has ever flipped through a box of LP’s at a thrift store has seen it: a gorgeous woman in a pile of whipped cream, licking a bit of it off of her finger. If you got past the image and to the words on the cover, you saw that the album was called Whipped Cream & Other Delights by Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass. It was symbolic of the decadent, swinging lifestyle espoused in Playboy magazine; you get the impression that every bachelor worth his single malt scotch would have this cued up on his Hi-Fi, ready to set the mood for seduction.
This may all be true. And discovering this 45 in the Archive certainly did little to dispel that impression. But Herb Alpert was also the A in A&M Records, a label that introduced the world to artists as varied as Sergio Mendes, The Carpenters, Styx, and The Police. He was also a gateway drug to other genres. The smooth mix of pop, jazz, mariachi, and samba that Alpert made his name with was extremely popular in the 1960’s, and one imagines that a lot of people got their start listening to any of the above genres because they heard Alpert’s amalgam of them first.
“This Guy’s In Love With You” features a rare vocal turn by Alpert. More limited vocally than he was on the trumpet, the emotion still comes through. Written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, it was featured in a 1968 TV special in which Alpert sang it to his first wife. Thousands of people called their local stations to find out where to get the song, but they were disappointed—it wasn’t recorded, as it was only meant for the television special. When Alpert came to his senses and released the song, he was rewarded with his first #1 single. He would repeat the trick again in 1979 with the sublime “Rise,” making him the only American artist to have both a vocal and an instrumental #1 song.
The B side gives us “A Quiet Tear,” which was the closing song of his debut album, The Lonely Bull. “The Lonely Bull” was the first song Alpert ever recorded as Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass. A trip to Mexico left the trumpeter impressed with the way that a mariachi band at a bull fight was able to whip the crowd into a frenzy at every dramatic turn. So he went to his home studio/garage and recorded a song that would emulate this excitement, complete with cheering crowds. Alpert played each trumpet part himself. A positive public response—the song was a top ten hit in 1962—led him to form a proper band, and go into the studio to record a full album. The melancholy tone of “A Quiet Tear” recalls the music of Sergio Leone’s westerns, though this was recorded two years before the first of those films was released.
Alpert still plays today, and is a noted philanthropist who has founded a music school at UCLA, as well as helped fund the PBS series Moyers & Company and the political shenanigans of The Yes Men. Go figure.