One Less Bell to Answer

Album: Portrait (1970)
Charted: 2
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Songfacts®:

  • This Burt Bacharach/Hal David song was originally written for Keely Smith (Louis Prima's ex-singing partner) but she never recorded it.
  • Hal David on how he came up with the lyrics for this song: "I paid attention to what people said. One time I was at a dinner party when it was announced someone wasn't turning up, and the hostess said: 'that's one less bell to answer'. I went home and wrote 'One Less Bell To Answer' - 'one less spells the answer. One less egg to fry.'" (From the Independent newspaper May 9, 2008)
  • This song is about losing your love, and the sadness that follows the loss. The lead vocals were by Marilyn McCoo, who was the 5th Dimension's featured vocalist at the time. She sings that she should be happy that her man is gone but all she does is cry - no more laughter. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Mark - Sarnia, ON
  • In November of 1970, the group were guests on the television series with Robert Wagner called It Takes A Thief and performed both "Puppet Man" and "One Less Bell to Answer" on the show. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bob - Pittsburgh, PA

Comments: 16

  • Kevin O'brien from Elkhart,inToo bad Natalie Wood didn't get a chance to sing that song to Robert Wagner before he took her life.
  • Laura Trevisan from Michigan It a song about a broken hearted woman who’s man left her and he was not right to her she clearly states she should be happy but can’t quit crying because she loves him, given strange circumstances even abused women fall for their abuser’s. So even when they are free of them they don’t know what to do because it’s all they know it’s their normal
  • Greg H. from Allentown PaTo answer the mystery of "Where did he go? Why did he go?" just listen to the second line of the lyrics. "One Less Egg To Fry". Her man left because she wasn't feeding him enough for breakfast. He is down at the diner, getting a 3-egg omelet, maybe even with a side order of hash browns. It's unknown whether he is starting up a relationship with the waitress, but the quantity of food is the main issue here.
  • Delargo from DenverAlways loved this song by the 5th Dimension. McCoo's vocals are spellbinding but what stood out for me were the background harmonies. So smooth with very intricate voicings...
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyUpdate from an earlier post:
    Exactly fifty years ago today on December 20th, 1970, "One Less Bell To Answer" by the 5th Dimension peaked at #2 {for 2 weeks} on Billboard's Top 100* chart, for the two weeks it was at #2, the #1 record for both those weeks was "My Sweet Lord"/"Isn't It A Pity" by George Harrison...
    One week later "One Less Bell To Answer" would peak at #1 {for 1 week} on Billboard's Adult Contemporary Tracks chart...
    Between 1966 and 1976 the Los Angeles quintet had thirty records on the Top 100 chart, six made the Top 10 with two reaching #1, Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In" for six weeks in April of 1969 and "Wedding Bell Blues" for three weeks in November of 1969...
    Original 5th Dimension member Ron Townson passed away on August 2nd, 2001 at the age of 68...
    May he R.I.P.
    * And from the 'For What It's Worth' department, the remainder of Billboard's Top 10 on December 20th, 1970:
    At #3. "The Tears of A Clown" by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
    #4. "Knock Three Times" by Dawn
    #5. "Black Magic Woman" by Santana
    #6. "I Think I Love You" by The Partridge Family
    #7. "Stoned Love" by The Supremes
    #8. "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?" by Chicago
    #9. "Gypsy Woman" by Brian Hyland
    #10. "No Matter What" by Badfinger
  • Dave from Santa Rosa CaSo the genesis of the line "One less bell to answer" really has nothing to do w/the story in the song. Fascinating.
  • Seventhmist from 7th HeavenHappily, Marilyn McCoo's man (Billy Davis Jr) never left her and they've been together for more than 50 years.
  • Larry from Arcadia, CaliforniaI have absolutely always loved this song, even from the 70s, although the lyrics are such a downer. The power and emotion in Marlyn's voice and the background singers do it for me.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn February 23rd 1970, the 5th Dimension guest starred on the ABC-TV series 'It Takes A Thief'...
    The quintet performed "One Less Bell To Answer" on the show...
    Ten months later on December 20th, 1970 the song peak at #2 (for 2 weeks) on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart...
    See the next post below.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn December 20th 1970, "One Less Bell To Answer" by the 5th Dimension peaked at #2 (for 2 weeks) on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; it had entered the chart on October 18th and spent 19 weeks on the Top 100...
    The two weeks it was at #2 the #1 record was "My Sweet Lord" by George Harrison...
    But on December 27th it did reached #1 (for 1 week) on Billboard's Adult Contemporary Tracks chart...
    It peaked at #4 on Billboard's R&B Singles chart...
    Original group member Ron Townson passed away on August 2nd, 2001 at the age of 68...
    May he R.I.P.
  • Markantney from Biloxi, MsDidn't like/understand/"Get it" as a kid back in the 70s but I lucked up and brought their GHits because of their UpTempo Cuts from back then, lucked up and heard "OLBTA"; it's not only my fav 5th Dimension Song but an alltime Fav. I always thought Whitney (RIP) would remake it. Back when her vocals were Prime, this song fit her style perfectly. Though I don't think she could beat Marlyn's Vocals on this song.

    Marlyn's vocals at the end of this song are Heaven on Earth to me, oh and excellent back-up vocals.
  • Staley from Dallas, TxOn the episode of It Takes a Thief, the final note of this song (different from the actual recording) was going to cause a bomb in an elaborate crystal sculpture to explode. They discovered it in time, however, and no one was injured. The group (played by the 5th Dimension but fictional characters) weren't involved in the crime.
  • Esskayess from Dallas, TxNot one of my favorites of theirs. When it came on the radio, it became "one less song to listen to" for me.
  • Camille from Toronto, OhI love so very many songs by The Fifth Dimension. It's a shame they are rarely played on oldies radio. I have their hits on my iPod. This particular song isn't one of my favorites (might be because I love their upbeat music best), but these cleverly-worded lyrics are ones that many women can relate to. And Marilyn McCoo's voice is incredible as always.
  • Michael from Chicago, IlBob from Pittsburgh is right -- but as Paul Harvey says, 'Now, here's the rest of the story'. The song was never intended to be released as a single, it wasn't even going to be on a Fifth Dimension album -- but after it was heard on ITAT, it took off, someone heard it and put it in rotation -- sometimes the radio people get things right!
  • Guy from Woodinville, WaMy mother divorced my father right about the time this song was on the radio. It was interesting that she could relate to it even though she wanted the divorce. Made me realize everything is not always black and white.
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