Herb Alpert Isn’t Complaining

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Herb Alpert
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If you ever watched The Dating Game, you know his music — and now you can’t get it out of your head. After a half-century in the music business, legendary bandleader, trumpeter, and producer Herb Alpert is still performing and writing new music. His latest album, In the Mood, comes out later this month.

Alpert picked up the trumpet in grammar school music appreciation class. "I was very shy when I was a kid, so when I did make music out of it, it was speaking for me," Alpert tells Kurt Andersen. It wasn't until he heard Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition while playing in the USC orchestra that he decided he needed to compose: enraptured by the sound of the orchestra, he forgot to play his part. "From that point I said 'Hey, I'm not that interested in playing other people's music. I want to close my eyes and just invent my own thing.'"

In the early 1960s, Alpert broke into the music business as a songwriter for Jan & Dean ("Baby Talk") and Sam Cooke (“Wonderful World”). His big breakthrough came in 1962, with the song "The Lonely Bull," inspired by the springtime bullfights he attended in Tijuana. To record the song, Alpert overdubbed his trumpet, added Latin guitars, and the sound of 30,000 people chanting olé!

The sound became known as Tijuana Brass, and it was everywhere in America seemingly overnight. Alpert recalls a phone call from his distributor asking for a rush shipment of 104,000 records. "We're selling a lot of tonnage," the distributor told Alpert. "It was the first time I'd ever heard music reduced to weight," Alpert says. The covers of Alpert’s records were as notorious as the music on them: Whipped Cream and Other Delights (1965) featured a buxom woman clad only in whipped cream. (It was actually shaving cream, Alpert reveals; and the model was hiding something underneath.) See a slideshow below.

Alpert also co-founded A&M records (he's the "A") and signed The Carpenters, The Police, and Cat Stevens. And he continued to have his own hits, like 1979’s slow-disco hit "Rise." The bassline was so good, Notorious B.I.G. gave it a second life 20 years later as the hook to "Hypnotize."

“To tell you the truth, to be quite honest, I’m not crazy about when artists take someone else’s material and uses it — it means that they can’t think for themselves,” Alpert says. But he got royalties. “I’m not regretting that he did it. It was a big hit record and it was a good record too.”

(Originally aired March 30, 2012)

Slideshow: Album covers of Herb Alpert's Tijuana Brass

Music Playlist

  1. Butterball

    Artist: Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass
    Album: Whipped Cream & Other Delights
    Label: Shout Factory Records
  2. A Taste of Honey

    Artist: Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass
    Album: Whipped Cream and Other Delights
    Label: Shout Factory
  3. Whipped Cream

    Artist: Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass
    Album: Whipped Cream and Other Delights
    Label: Shout Factory
  4. The Lonely Bull (El Solo Toro)

    Artist: Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass
    Album: The Lonely Bull
    Label: Shout Factory
  5. Rise

    Artist: Herb Alpert
    Album: Rise
    Label: Shout Factory
  6. Tijuana Taxi

    Artist: Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass
    Album: Going Places
    Label: Shout Factory
  7. (They Long To Be) Close to You

    Artist: The Carpenters
    Album: Life After Death
    Label: A & M
  8. Hypnotize

    Artist: Notorious B.I.G.
    Album: Life After Death
    Label: Bad Boy
  9. Pictures at an Exhibition

    Artist: Mussorgsky & Ravel
    Album: Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition, A Night on Bald Mountain and Other Russian Showpieces
    Label: RCA

Musician and composer Herb Alpert recorded more than a dozen records during his years with the Tijuana Brass in the 1960s. Each record had its own distinct cover — perhaps the most famous is Whipped Cream and Other Delights.

( Shout! Factory )

Alpert’s debut album, The Lonely Bull (1962).

( Shout! Factory )

South of the Border (1964)

( Shout! Factory )

Going Places (1965)

( Shout! Factory )

What Now My Love (1966)

( Shout! Factory )

Herb Alpert’s Ninth (1967). Although there’s no Beethoven on the record itself, this cover pays homage to the composer. It’s also the 9th album from the Tijuana Brass.

( Shout! Factory )

Beat of the Brass (1968) included Alpert’s vocal hit "This Guy's In Love With You." 

( Shout! Factory )

The 1968 Christmas album.

( Shout! Factory )

The Brass are Comin’ (1969). Shortly after the record’s release, Alpert disbanded the Tijuana Brass. 

( Shout! Factory )
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