Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Category: 1960s

You Better Run

First recorded by The Young Rascals (US #20/CAN #22 1966).
Also recorded by Listen (1966), The In-Be-Tweens (1966).
Other hit version by Pat Benatar (US #42/FRA #55/AUS #31/NZ #42 1980).

From the wiki: “‘You Better Run’ was written by Young Rascals group members Eddie Brigati and Felix Cavaliere, and was released as the band’s third single in 1966. It reached the top 20 in the United States – a disappointment being that the group’s previous hit, ‘Good Lovin”, had topped the chart in both the US and Canada.

“‘You Better Run’ did not chart in the UK, but it did not go unheard. In 1966, with the band Listen, Robert Plant made his recording debut singing lead vocals on a cover version of ‘You Better Run’ released on CBS Records. Simultaneously, the group the In-Be-Tweens (aka ‘The N’Betweens’), who would later evolve into the band Slade, also released a UK single, produced by Kim Fowley, also on the CBS label which charted regionally but had no great national impact in the UK. Although the groups were familiar with each other and both were distributed by the same record label, neither knew the other had recorded ‘You Better Run’ until their efforts were released.

“In the 1999 BBC documentary It’s Slade, band member Dave Hill recalled ‘I seem to remember we tried to get the local record store to stock 500 copies or something, and try to get people to buy them to try and get it in the charts. It didn’t work!’ Don Powell later recalled in his 2013 biography, Look Wot I Dun, ‘Even though the single got plenty of airplay, it didn’t sell well.’

“Pat Benatar recorded “You Better Run” for her second album, Crimes of Passion (1980). The song was released as the album’s lead single, peaking at #42 on the Billboard Hot 100. On August 1, 1981, Benatar’s music video for ‘You Better Run’ became a part of pop culture history – the second video ever broadcast on MTV (following the network premiere of ‘Video Killed the Radio Star‘).”

Listen, “You Better Run” (1966):

The N’Betweens, “You Better Run” (1966):

Pat Benatar, “You Better Run” (1980):

Pearly Shells

Performed (as “Pupu a ‘o ‘Ewa”) in Donovan’s Reef (“1963).
Also recorded by The Hawaii Calls Orchestra & Chorus (1965).
Hit album version by Don Ho (1965).

From the wiki: “Donovan’s Reef, the last John Ford movie to star John Wayne, was scored by the legendary Cyril Mockridge. The opening main title theme uses the traditional Hawaiian song ‘Pupa O Ewa’ as its basic motif, reappearing throughout the movie. The song’s history is traced to the discovery of pearl oysters at Pu’uloa (Pearl Harbor).

“The 1963 light-hearted comedy was filmed in Kauai, Hawaii but is set in French Polynesia. Ford called it ‘a spoof picture – a whammy, crazy sort of thing. We [were] not going for any prizes.’ Although it was a modest financial success, Donovan’s Reef still was the 24th highest-grossing film of 1963 (among such releases as Cleopatra, How the West Was Won, Tom Jones, and The Great Escape among the top ten).

Come Back When You Grow Up

First recorded by Shadden and the King Lears (released February 1967).
Hit version by Bobby Vee (released June 1967 US #3).

From the wiki: “‘Come Back When You Grow Up’ was written by Martha Sharp, who would later become an executive at Warner Records and us credited with discovering Randy Travis.

Shadden and the King Lears’ original distribution notice for ‘Come Back When You Grow Up’, published in Billboard, Feb. 11, 1967, four months ahead of the Bobby Vee release date.

“Shadden and the King Lears, formed by Shad Williams, hailed from Memphis, TN, and performed together from the early 1960’s until 1968 when Shad quit the band to go to Seminary. The group was best known for several regional hit records, including ‘Come Back When You Grow Up’, which topped local radio charts up and down the Mississippi River ahead of the Bobby Vee cover version. Shad had happened across the song in a publisher’s music demo catalog. He liked the words but did not like the musical arrangement, so Shad and a couple of band members reworked the arrangement and the end result was the song you know today.

That Same Old Feeling

First recorded (as “It’s the Same Old Feeling”) by The Foundations (1969).
Hit versions by The Fortunes (US #62 1970), Picketywitch (US #67/MOR #34/UK #5/CAN #39/IRE #5/NZ #7 1970).

From the wiki: “‘That Same Old Feeling’ was composed by songwriters and producers John Macleod and Tony Macaulay, and was included on The Foundations’ final album, Digging the Foundations (1969). As with the group’s previous three albums, Digging the Foundations was produced by Macleod and Macaulay and consisted largely of compositions by the duo. The original recording of the song introduced the song’s standard chorus but its verses were radically different – musically and lyrically – from those of the better-known followups.

Not Guilty

First recorded (as a demo) by George Harrison (1968).
Also recorded by The Beatles (1968, released 1996).
Hit album version by George Harrison (1978).

In an interview with Billboard editor Timothy White in 1999, Harrison referred to “the grief I was catching” from Lennon and McCartney post-India, and explained the message behind the song: “I said I wasn’t guilty of getting in the way of their career. I said I wasn’t guilty of leading them astray in our going to Rishikesh to see the Maharishi. I was sticking up for myself …”

From the wiki: “According to author Robert Rodriguez, ‘Not Guilty’ was ‘much-fabled’ among Beatles fans by the late 1970s, since the song was known as a White Album outtake but had never been heard publicly. In their respective books on the Beatles published at that time, Nicholas Schaffner paired it with Lennon’s ‘What’s the New Mary Jane’ as completed recordings that were known to have been left off the White Album, while Harry Castleman and Walter Podrazik wrote that, as far as collectors were aware, Harrison had taped ‘Not Guilty’ with Clapton in summer 1968 before the Beatles attempted to record the song in March 1969.

Shop Around

First recorded by The Miracles (first recording released September 1960).
Hit versions by The Miracles (re-recording released October 1960 US #2/R&B #1/CAN #11), Captain & Tennille (US #4/MOR #1/CAN #4 1976).

From the wiki: “The original record label for ‘Shop Around’ credits Bill ‘Smokey’ Robinson as the writer, with Motown founder Berry Gordy as producer. Robinson claims he wrote the song ‘in thirty minutes’ and that it had been intended originally for another Motown singer, Barrett Strong (‘Money (That’s What I Want)‘), but that Gordy thought the song was more suited to the Miracles. Subsequent labels list both Robinson and Gordy as co-writers.

“‘Shop Around’ was initially released (as Tamla 53034) locally, in Detroit and the surrounding area, but not intentionally. Motown’s history of the song relates that after the first pressings were distributed to radio stations and record stores ‘in September 1960, [Gordy] couldn’t sleep, worried that it wasn’t good enough (‘too slow, not enough life’). He called Smokey in the middle of the night, and had him bring all the Miracles to the studio at 3 a.m. to lay down a new, slightly faster take of the song. Gordy himself played piano.’

Hi Ho Silver Lining

First recorded and released by The Attack (1967).
Hit version by Jeff Beck (UK #14/IRE #17/AUS #14 1967 |UK #17 1972).

From the wiki: “‘Hi Ho Silver Lining’ was written by American songwriters Scott English (‘Mandy‘) and Larry Weiss (‘Bend Me, Shape Me‘; ‘Rhinestone Cowboy‘) and first released as a single in March 1967 by The Attack, a freakbeat/psychedelic band from London, UK, followed a few days later by Jeff Beck. It was Beck’s version that charted first (backed by ‘Beck’s Bolero’) on the UK Singles chart – the Attack single having no visible chart impact – and the song has become most often associated with Beck because of that.

Mahna Mahna

First performed in the movie Svezia, inferno e paradiso [Sweden: Heaven and Hell] (1968).
Popular version performed by The Muppets (US #55/MOR #12/CAN #22 1969).

“Most people know Mahna Mahna as a Muppets sketch, but the song — titled Mah Nà Mah Nà — is actually by Italian composer Piero Umiliani. The Tuscan musician composed scores for exploitation films in the ’60s and ’70s, including spaghetti westerns and softcore sex films, but Mah Nà Mah Nà would be his most famous work.

“The song originally appeared in a racy Italian film called Svezia, inferno e paradiso (Sweden: Heaven and Hell), in a scene where a bunch of Swedish models crowd into a sauna wearing little more than bath towels.

Danke Schoen

First recorded (as the instrumental “Candlelight Cafe”) by Bert Kaempfert (1959 |1962).
Hit version by Wayne Newton (US #13/MOR #3 1963).

From the wiki: “‘Danke Schoen’ was composed by Bert Kaempfert (‘Spanish Eyes’, ‘Strangers in the Night‘) and was first recorded as a jazzy instrumental titled ‘Candlelight Cafe’ in 1959 with Ladi Geisler on guitar, and again in 1962 in an ‘easy listening’ arrangement. Kurt Schwabach wrote the German lyrics.

“The song gained international fame when, in 1963, Milt Gabler wrote English lyrics and 21-year old singer Wayne Newton recorded an American version. The song was originally intended for singer Bobby Darin as a follow-up to his hit single, ‘Mack the Knife’, but after seeing Newton perform at the Copacabana, in Las Vegas, Darin passed the song along to Newton, transposing the arrangement to fit Newton’s voice. ‘Danke Shoen’ became Newton’s first US Top-20 hit.

Goin’ Back

First recorded by Goldie (1966).
Hit versions by Dusty Springfield (UK #10/AUS #9/SNG #6 1966), The Byrds (US #89 1967).
Also recorded by Carole King (1970 |1980), Larry Lurex aka Freddie Mercury (1973).

From the wiki: “Billed as ‘Goldie’ (of Goldie & the Gingerbreads), Genya Raven released the original version of the classic Carole King-Gerry Goffin composition “Goin’ Back” in the spring of 1966. However, this single was withdrawn within a week by producer Andrew Loog Oldham, due to disagreements with Goffin and King over altered lyrics. King then decided to record “Goin’ Back” herself, but ultimately she offered it to Dusty Springfield instead who would record it three months later, making the U.K. Top-10 singles chart immediately in the wake of her UK #1 hit ‘You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me‘.

Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat

First recorded by John Carter and Ken Lewis (1964).
Hit versions by Goldie & the Gingerbreads (UK #25 1965), Herman’s Hermits (US #2 1965).

From the wiki: “‘Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat’ was written by John Carter and Ken Lewis (‘Tossing and Turning’, ‘Little Bit O’ Soul‘) and was first recorded in 1964 by the songwriters’ group, Carter-Lewis & the Southerners, with no apparent chart impact.

“The song would next appear separately on the UK and US music charts – first by a US group in the UK, and then by a UK group in the US.

A Thing Called Love

Written and first recorded by Jerry Reed (1968).
Hit versions by Jimmy Dean (C&W #21 1968), Johnny Cash (C&W #2/MOR #37/UK #4/CAN #1/IRE #1 1972).

From the wiki: “‘A Thing Called Love’ was written and first recorded by Jerry Reed in 1968.

“Jimmy Dean was the first artist to chart the song, peaking at #21 on the Country Singles chart in 1968. In 1971, the song was recorded by Johnny Cash and it became an international hit – peaking at #1 in Canada and Ireland, and also charting high in the UK and the Netherlands, becoming Cash’s biggest hit ever in Europe.”

A House is Not a Home

First performed and released by Brook Benton (US #75/MOR #13/R&B #6 1964).
Other hit versions by Dionne Warwick (US #71/R&B #10/CAN #37 1964), Luther Vandross (1981).
Also recorded by Burt Bacharach (1965), Aretha Franklin (2005).

From the wiki: “‘A House Is Not a Home’ was a 1964 ballad written by the team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David for the 1964 film of the same name, starring Shelley Winters and Robert Taylor (and Raquel Welch’s film debut in a small role as a call girl), and was sung in the film by Brook Benton (‘A Rainy Night in Georgia‘, 1970). A promotional single by Benton was released, debuting two weeks before the release of Dionne Warwick’s cover (as the B-side of ‘You’ll Never Get to Heaven (If You Break My Heart)’). But, with two recordings of the same song charting concurrently, radio airplay and sales was split airplay. Benton’s version peaked at #75 on the Billboard Hot 100; Warwick’s B-side recording peaked at #71 (the A-side peaked at #34 on the Hot 100; #10 R&B).

“Warwick’s single of ‘A House is Not a Home’ fared a bit better in Canada, where it peaked at #37.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

First recorded by Ray Stevens (US #81/C&W #55 1969).
Other hit version by Johnny Cash (C&W #1 1970).
Also recorded by Kris Kristofferson (1970).

From the wiki: “‘Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down’ was written by Kris Kristofferson and was first recorded in 1969 by Ray Stevens, for his album Kristofferson, whose production reached #55 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart and #81 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart.

“The most successful version of the song originated from a Johnny Cash performance, taped live at the Grand Ole Opry’s Ryman Auditorium during a July 1970 recording his CBS TV variety show, The Johnny Cash Show, as part of a ‘Ride This Train’ segment, which was broadcast as the first episode of the Season Two. A companion album was then released by CBS Records in October 1970, with ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down’ issued as the promotional single. Both the album and the single topped the Country music charts, and won the Country Music Association Award for Song of the Year in 1970.

Universal Soldier

Written and first recorded by Buffy Sainte-Marie (1964).
Hit versions by Donovan (US #53/UK #5 1965), Glen Campbell (US #45/AUS #16/SWE #4 1965).

From the wiki: “‘Universal Soldier’ was written and first recorded in 1964 by Canadian singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie for release on Sainte-Marie’s debut album It’s My Way!. The song was not a popular hit at the time of its release, but it did garner attention within the contemporary folk music community. Sainte-Marie said of the song: ‘I wrote ‘Universal Soldier’ in the basement of The Purple Onion coffee house in Toronto in the early sixties. It’s about individual responsibility for war and how the old feudal thinking kills us all.’

“A year later, it caught the attention of budding folk singer Donovan, who recorded it using a similar arrangement to Sainte-Marie’s original recording but with some lyrical changes. For example, in Donovan’s version, Dachau became Liebau (Lubawka, Poland), a training center for Hitler Youth. Donovan’s recording was released in the UK on an EP titled The Universal Soldier and continued Donovan’s run of high-charting UK releases by reaching #5 on the charts.

Only in America

First recorded by The Drifters (1963, released 1996).
Hit version by Jay & the Americans (US #25 1963).

From Songfacts:

“Written by the brilliant Brill Building songwriting teams of Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller (‘Hound Dog‘, 1953; ‘Stand By Me’, 1961; ‘On Broadway‘, 1963) and Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil (‘On Broadway’, 1963; ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin” 1964; ‘We Gotta Get Out of This Place‘, 1965; ‘Never Gonna Let You Go‘, 1982), ‘Only in America’ was first written for and recorded by The Drifters.

“It was written at a time before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had become the law of the land, and the original lyrics when first submitted reflected the racism that existed at the time in the US:

Free the People

Written and first recorded by Barbara Keith (released Sept 1970).
Hit versions by Delaney & Bonnie (US #75 May 1970), Sherbet (AUS #18 1971).
Also recorded by Barbra Streisand (1971).

From the wiki: “A singer/guitarist and folk-influenced songwriter, Barbara Keith’s curious career began when she was discovered at Greenwich Village’s famous Café Wha?. Her first appearance on record was in 1968, with her background vocals and one of her songs appearing on the self-titled debut from Kangaroo Records. Verve Records released the first of two self-titled albums in 1969.

“Keith would would initially sign with Verve for one album (1969’s Barbara Keith). Some critics fell in love with the album but as far as sales the album went nowhere. Keith switched labels to A&M Records in August/September, 1970. Her first A&M single, ‘Free the People’, was soon covered by Delaney and Bonnie, whose promotional single peaked at #75 on the Billboard Hot 100, and a year later by Barbra Streisand (for her album Stoney End that peaked at #10 on the Billboard 200 album chart in the United States, her first to reach the top 10 in five years and a marked departure from Streisand’s previous musical direction).

Reach Out for Me

First recorded by Lou Johnson (US #74 1963).
Other hit versions by Dionne Warwick (US #20/R&B #1 1964), Olivia Newton-John (MOR #32/AUS #153 1989).

From the wiki: “‘Reach Out for Me’, written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, was first recorded in 1963 by Lou Johnson.

“Johnson came from a musical family, and started singing in gospel choirs in his teens. In 1962, Johnson signed as a solo singer with Bigtop Records, run by the Hill & Range music publishing company in the famed Brill Building. There, he met the songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, who took a liking to the singer and wrote Johnson’s first single, ‘If I Never Get to Love You’. Neither that song nor his second record, ‘You Better Let Him Go’ (written by Joy Byers), were hits. But, his third single, ‘Reach Out for Me’, another Bacharach-David composition and this time produced by Bacharach, reached #74 on the Billboard Hot 100 in late 1963. However, as it rose up the charts, the Bigtop Records collapsed, limiting the record’s success.

This Guy’s in Love with You

First performed by Herb Alpert (1968).
First released (as “That Guy’s in Love”) by Danny Williams (1968).
Hit versions by Herb Alpert (US #1/MOR #1/CAN #1/UK #3/AUS #1 1968), Dionne Warwick (as “This Girl’s in Love with You” US #7/MOR #2/R&B #7/CAN #7 1969).

From the wiki:”‘This Guy’s in Love with You’ was by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. [T]he original performance originated when Herb Alpert, while visiting at Bacharach’s office, asked, ‘Say, Burt, do you happen to have any old compositions lying around that you and Hal never recorded; maybe one I might be able to use?’ Alpert said he made it his practice to ask songwriters that particular question: often a ‘lost pearl’ was revealed. As it happened, Bacharach recalled one, found the lyrics and score sheet in his office filing cabinet, and offered it to Alpert: ‘Here, Herb … you might like this one.’

“Alpert originally sang ‘This Guy’s in Love with You’ on his April 1968 television special, The Beat of the Brass. In response to numerous viewer telephone calls to the network following the broadcast, Alpert decided that the song should be used as the promotional single for the subsequent May 1968 release of the TV special’s soundtrack. But, the first release of ‘This Guy’s in Love with You’, titled ‘That Guy’s in Love’, was in the UK by South African-born singer Danny Williams in late April 1968, for his self-titled album. Williams’ recording, however, was not released as a single.

With a Little Help from My Friends

First recorded by The Beatles (1967).
First single release by The Young Idea (UK #10 1967).
Other hit single versions by Joe Cocker (US #68/UK #1 1968), The Beatles (US #71/UK #63 1978), Wet Wet Wet (UK #1/IRE #1/FRA #3/GER #3 1988), Sam & Mark (UK #1 2004).

From the wiki: “‘With a Little Help from My Friends’ was written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon, and first appeared on the Beatles’ 1967 Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Not one of that album’s promotional single releases, the song was first released as single by British singers The Young Idea in 1967.

“A subsequent recording of the track by Joe Cocker – a radical re-arrangement of the original, including an extended instrumental intro (featuring keyboardist Tommy Eyre and guitarist Jimmy Page) – became a hit single in 1968 and an anthem for the Woodstock era. In 1978, the Beatles’ recording, paired with ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’, was reissued as a single.

(The) Marvelous Toy

Written and first recorded by Tom Paxton (1962).
Hit versions by The Chad Mitchell Trio (US #43/MOR #20 1963); Peter, Paul & Mary (1969).

From the wiki: “‘The Marvelous Toy’ was written in 1962 by folk singer Tom Paxton, and was first released on his album of songs recorded live at the ‘Gaslight Cafe’, Greenwich Village, I’m The Man That Built The Bridges. The album liner notes opine that

‘[t]his LP marks Tom Paxton’s achievement. Taped at the Gaslight on a series of warm Autumn afternoons in 1962, it is his own interpretation of the songs he has given America – and a promise of the many fine songs yet to come … The singer is at home in the whimsical world of children, too. ‘THE MARVELOUS TOY’, with its zip, bop noises is a constant favorite with Village audiences.’

Yesterday, When I Was Young

First recorded (as “Hier Encore”) by Charles Aznavour (1964).
Hit English-language version by Roy Clark (US #19/C&W #9/MOR #6/CAN #7 1969).

From the wiki: “‘Yesterday, When I Was Young’ was originally written and recorded as ‘Hier Encore’ (‘Yesterday Again’) in France by songwriter Charles Aznavour and released in September 1964. It was subsequently released in Italian as ‘Ieri Si’, in Danish as ‘Hvor tiden går’, in Japanese ‘帰り来ぬ青春’ [‘Returning Youth’], in Spanish as ‘Ayer Aún’, ‘Eilen kun mä tiennyt en’ in Finnish and, in 1969, in English as ‘Yesterday, When I Was Young’. It is considered one of Aznavour’s greatest hits.

“The English-language lyrics, written by Herbert Kretzmer, tell of a man reflecting on his life. Country singer Roy Clark covered ‘Yesterday, When I Was Young’ in 1969. His version became his biggest hit up to that time on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart, peaking at #9 and becoming his only Top-40 pop hit, peaking at #19. Clark performed the song at Mickey Mantle’s funeral in 1995, at Mantle’s personal request.”

Hello Stranger

Written and first recorded by Barbara Lewis (US #3/R&B #1 1963).
Other hit versions by Fire & Rain (US #100 1973), Yvonne Elliman (US #15/R&B #57/MOR #1/UK #26/NETH #20/NZ #12 1977), Carrie Lucas & The Whispers (R&B #20 1985).
Also recorded by Martha & the Vandellas (1963), The Capitols (1966), The Supremes & The Four Tops (1970).

https://youtu.be/WX3AXzu7dP8

From the wiki: “‘Hello Stranger’ was written by Barbara Lewis herself, who was originally inspired to write the while working gigs in Detroit with her musician father: ‘I would make the circuit with my dad and people would yell out: ‘Hey stranger, hello stranger, it’s been a long time’.’ The song is notable because its title comprises the first two words of the lyrics but is never at any point repeated throughout the remainder of the song.

“Lewis recorded ‘Hello Stranger’ at Chess Studios in Chicago in January 1963. The track’s producer Ollie McLaughlin recruited The Dells to provide the background vocals. The arrangement by Riley Hampton – then working with Etta James – featured a signature organ riff provided by keyboardist John Young. The track was completed after thirteen takes. Lewis would recall that, on hearing the playback of the finished track, Dells member Chuck Barksdale ‘kept jumping up and down and saying, ‘It’s a hit, it’s a hit.’…I didn’t really know. It was all new to me.’

Patches (Dickey Lee)

First recorded by Jimmy Isle (1960).
Hit version by Dickey Lee (US #6 1962).

From the wiki:”‘Patches’ (not to be confused with Clarence Carter’s ‘Patches‘) was written by Barry Mann (‘We Gotta Get Out of This Place‘, ‘Venus in Blue Jeans‘, ‘Never Gonna Let You Go‘) and Larry Kobler imagining a ‘Romeo & Juliet’ scenario. The song tells in waltz-time the story of teenage lovers of different social classes whose parents forbid their love. The girl drowns herself in the ‘dirty old river.’ The singer concludes: ‘It may not be right, but I’ll join you tonight/ Patches I’m coming to you.’

“‘Patches’ was first recorded by Jimmy Isle for Everest Records in 1960 but which did not have any chart impact. Two years later, in 1962, Dickey Lee would cover the song. Because of its teen-suicide theme, the song was banned on a number of US radio stations. Still, it sold over one million copies, was awarded a gold disc, and peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 at #6.

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