Bert Bacharach’s death reminded me

Of his hundreds of terrific songs. I read the obit with my mouth hanging open. “Oh, yeah, that one. And that.”

I’m not a snob about pop music. I love tunes, melodies, passages I can sing or hum. And Bacharach gave me a ton of them. I could have done without the bubble-gum description of “buoyant pop confections” in the headline. As I’ve mentioned, writing about music is stupidly difficult; what Bacharach and his long-time lyricist Hal David did was write those wonderful songs. It’s a gift and can’t be described by someone who can’t do it.

A zillion years ago, Paul Simon taught me about “hooks,” the musical passages, usually short, which get into your head and make it difficult to discard. The ones when you have to burst out singing.

I wasn’t very sophisticated in those days and could be intimidated by someone who knew a lot more than I did. Which Paul did. Still, I adored him for a number of reasons so wasn’t too afraid of describing Lou Christie’s song, “Lightning Strikes,” as a hit, just as it was released. (I was shyly meddling around with prescience.) “That’s a hit,” I said.

Paul made a disparaging face. My defense? “It’s what you taught me — it has hooks!”

Paul sighed. “You have teenage tastes.” (Which, all in all, isn’t a bad thing to have if you want to get into the music business.)

But this isn’t what Bacharach’s obit reminded me of.

My neighborhood is full of majestic old residential building, often with names from someone’s notion of empire. The most prominent is, of course, The Dakota, but there are many others. Their names convey sweeping vistas, estates, even royalty. The Seminole, the Normandy, the Ansonia, née Hotel, where I took singing lessons in my youth. The Eldorado, Apthorp, Aylsmere, the Belleclaire, elegant, large, glorious residences. Beresford, Kenilworth.

In addition to the fancy names, these buildings are embellished with gods, sea creatures, stone and plaster elaborate designs. (My building isn’t anything like those. It’s stolid, brick, gigantic and unadorned.)

My favorite building, though, is at 245 West 74th Street. Its architecture is fairly stern although the brick work shows some invention.

Its name is Alfie Arms.

Alfie Arms. Why would anyone name a 1924 building “Alfie”? Perhaps it was named after the builder’s dog? Thanks to Bacharach, though, I smile at it and hum a bit whenever I pass.

Alfie Arms.

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