“a reference tempo that need not be followed at every moment”

From: Little Girl Blue (2010), by Randy L Schmidt:

“A&M was a “family” label, founded precariously in 1962 by trumpet player Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss, his partner in production and promotion…A&M Records’ first single was Alpert’s “The Lonely Bull” recorded with the Tijuana Brass…Other artists signed to the label included Leon Russell, Joe Cocker, and Burt Bacharach. The Bacharach-penned “This Guy’s in Love with You” became a #1 hit single for Herb Alpert in 1968, A&M’s first chart topper…

As the Carpenters rehearsed furiously on A&M’s soundstage and the medley began to take shape, Herb Alpert came through with a lead sheet for a lesser-known Bacharach-David song entitled “They Long to Be Close to You,” first recorded by Richard “Dr. Kildare” Chamberlain in 1963. The song was also arranged by Bacharach for Make Way for Dionne Warwick the following year. Alpert had been given the tune several years earlier as a possible follow up to “This Guy’s in Love with You” but disliked the “sprinkled moon dust” lyric and set it aside…

Three very distinct arrangements of “They Long to Be Close to You” were put to tape…For the second attempt Alpert suggested Jack Daugherty bring in pianist Larry Knechtel and drummer Hal Blaine. “I was Herb’s drummer with the Tijuana Brass,” Blaine explains. “He had a lot of faith in me.”…

Blaine suggested using a click track, which is essentially a metronome marking time in the musicians’ headphone mix. Like many artists, the Carpenters considered click tracks to be stifling, often resulting in robotic music. They finally gave in after Blaine explained it to be a reference tempo that need not be followed at every moment of a song. “After that,” Blaine says, “they wanted all their songs done with click track.”…

…”It was almost a joke that we’d die in anonymity and never having a hit single,” (Paul) Williams says…”…’Close to You’ just proved to be magical.” “

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