Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Category: 1970s

Everyone’s Gone to the Movies

First recorded (as a demo) by Donald Fagen & Walter Becker with Flo & Eddie (1971).
Hit album version by Steely Dan (1975).

From the wiki: “This was the first song Steely Dan recorded, predating Steely Dan’s debut album Can’t Buy A Thrill. They first put it to tape in 1971 in a version with backing vocals by Flo and Eddie (Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan) of The Turtles.

“The song tells the story of a man who shows 8mm porn movies to young boys. With its lilting melody and catchy chorus, it’s easy to misinterpret the track as a playful kids’ song about going to the movies. At least one theater operator in the United States used the chorus of this song on the speakers prior to the coming attractions (without understanding the, uh, significance of the lyrics). ”

The Devil Went Down to Georgia

First recorded (as “Lonesome Fiddle Blues”) by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (1972).
Hit version by The Charlie Daniels Band (US #3/C&W #1 1979).
Also recorded by Old and in the The Way (recorded 1973, released 1975), Vassar Clements (1975).

From the wiki: “‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’ was written by the Charlie Daniels Band, and was based on a song Bluegrass fiddler Vassar Clements originally wrote, an octave lower, titled ‘Lonesome Fiddle Blues’ that Clements first recorded in 1972 with The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band for the album Will The Circle Be Unbroken.

“In 1973, Clements joined and toured with the Bluegrass supergroup Old and in the Way with Jerry Garcia, David Grisman, and Peter Rowan. The group recorded ‘Lonesome Fiddle Blues’ in 1973 but it would not be released until February 1975. Clements also recorded a version in 1975 for his self-titled solo album on which Charlie Daniels played guitar.”

Take It Easy

First recorded (as a demo) by Jackson Browne & Glenn Frey (1972).
Hit version by The Eagles (US #12 1972).
Also recorded by Jackson Browne (1973).

From the wiki: “Jackson Browne originally began writing ‘Take It Easy’ in 1971 for his own eponymous debut album but was having difficulty finishing the song. His friend and then-neighbor Glenn Frey had heard an early version and later asked Browne about it. Browne then played the unfinished second verse that begins with ‘Well, I’m a-standin’ on a corner in Winslow, Arizona…’, and Frey finished the verse with ‘It’s a girl, my lord, in a flatbed Ford, slowin’ down to take a look at me.’ Browne was very happy with the result and suggested that they co-write the song.

Tell the Truth

First released (as a single) by Derek and the Dominos (1970).
Hit album version re-recorded by Derek and the Dominos (1970).

From the wiki: “‘Tell the Truth’ was composed primarily by keyboardist Bobby Whitlock, with guitarist Eric Clapton adding the last verse.

“The original version of ‘Tell the Truth’ was recorded in London during the sessions for George Harrison’s 1970 triple album All Things Must Pass. The session marked the first recordings by Derek and the Dominos. Produced by Phil Spector, this original, faster version of the song featured guitar contributions from Harrison and Dave Mason. It was issued as Derek and the Dominos’ debut single, in September 1970, although the band had the release withdrawn. Four days before the session, Derek and the Dominos, with Dave Mason as second guitarist, had played ‘Tell the Truth’ at their debut concert, held at London’s Lyceum Ballroom.

“In August 1970, while recording their album Layla at Criteria Studios in Miami, Florida, with producer Tom Dowd, the band decided to remake ‘Tell the Truth’.

Sue Me, Sue You Blues

First recorded (as a demo) by George Harrison (1971).
First commercial release by Jesse Ed Davis (1972).
Hit album version by George Harrison (1973).

From the wiki: “‘Sue Me, Sue You Blues’ was written by George Harrison. Harrison let American guitarist Jesse Ed Davis record it first for release, for the latter’s Ululu album (1972) in gratitude to Davis for his participation in the ‘Concert for Bangladesh’. Harrison had drawn inspiration for the song from the legal issues surrounding the Beatles break-up during the early months of 1971, particularly the lawsuit that Paul McCartney initiated in an effort to dissolve the band’s business partnership, Apple Corps.

“Harrison recorded a brief demo of ‘Sue Me, Sue You Blues’, in the Delta blues style, which became available in the 1990s on bootleg compilations such as Pirate Songs. Harrison biographer Simon Leng describes this 1971 recording as ‘astonishing’ and a ‘must’ for inclusion on any forthcoming George Harrison anthology, with Harrison sounding like ‘a lost bluesman, bootlegged in Chicago.’

Just Don’t Want to Be Lonely

First recorded by Ronnie Dyson (US #60/R&B #29 1973).
Other hit version by The Main Ingredient (US #10/R&B #8/CAN #7 1974).

From the wiki: “‘Just Don’t Want to Be Lonely’ was written by Bobby Eli, John Freeman and Vinnie Barrett and was first made popular in 1973 by Ronnie Dyson. The Main Ingredient’s version of the song, featuring Cuba Gooding, Sr., on lead vocal, was released in 1974, becoming a US Top-10 pop and R&B hit.”

L.A. International Airport

Written and first recorded by David Frizzell (C&W 67 1970).
Other hit version by Susan Raye (US #54/C&W #9/CAN #26/NZ #1/AUS #2 1971)
Also recorded by Shirley Myers (2003).

From the wiki: “‘L.A. International Airport’ was written by Leanne Scott and was first recorded by David Frizzell in 1970. Susan Raye recorded her version of the song in 1971, which became an international hit. The song enjoyed much greater success outside of America and was a major pop hit in many countries, including New Zealand and Australia.

“The song was rerecorded with updated lyrics in 2003 by Shirley Myers for the 75th Anniversary of LAX.”

Amarillo By Morning

Co-written and first recorded by Terry Stafford (C&W #31 1973).
Also recorded by Chris LeDoux (1975).
Other hit version by George Strait (C&W #4/CAN #1 1983).

From the wiki: “‘Amarillo by Morning’ was written by Terry Stafford (‘Suspicion‘) and Paul Fraser, and was first recorded by Stafford in 1973 on his album Say, Has Anybody Seen My Sweet Gypsy Rose. Stafford says he conceived the song after playing with his band at a rodeo in San Antonio, Texas, and then driving back to his home in Amarillo, TX. It was first covered in 1975 by bona fide rodeo champion Chris LeDoux, with no apparent chart success. ‘Amarillo by Morning’ was again covered, in 1983, by George Strait, for his 1982 album Strait from the Heart, his third Country Top-5 hit and topping the Canadian Country chart for the second time.”

Cocaine

Written and first recorded by J.J. Cale (1976).
Hit versions by Eric Clapton (NZ #1/SUI #2/AUT #3 1977), Eric Clapton (B-side live US #30 1980).

From the wiki: “‘Cocaine’ was written and first recorded in 1976 by singer-songwriter J. J. Cale. The song was popularized by Eric Clapton after his cover version was released on the 1977 album Slowhand. A live version of ‘Cocaine’, from the album Just One Night, charted on the Billboard Hot 100 as the B-side of ‘Tulsa Time’, which was a #30 hit in 1980. Clapton described ‘Cocaine’ as an anti-drug song, calling it ‘quite cleverly anti-cocaine.'”

Ease On Down the Road

First recorded by “The Wiz” original cast (1975).
Hit versions by Consumer Rapport (US #42/R&B #19/Dance #1 1975), Diana Ross & Michael Jackson (US #41/R&B #17/UK #45 1978).

From the wiki: “‘Ease On Down the Road’ isthe 1975 Broadway musical The Wiz, an R&B re-interpretation of L. Frank Baum’s ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’. The Charlie Smalls–composed tune is the show’s version of both ‘Follow the Yellow Brick Road’ and ‘We’re Off to See the Wizard’ from the 1939 movie version of The Wizard of Oz. In the song, performed three times during the show, Dorothy and her friends the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion dance their way down the Yellow Brick Road and give each other words of encouragement.

“‘Ease On Down the Road’ was performed in the original Broadway production by Stephanie Mills (Dorothy), Hinton Battle (Scarecrow), Tiger Haynes (Tin Man), and Ted Ross (Cowardly Lion), who also performed the song on the original 1975 cast album for The Wiz. Released as a single in 1975 by the studio group Consumer Rapport, the song became a #1 Disco hit for five non-consecutive weeks.

“A second cover of the song was recorded by Diana Ross and Michael Jackson, for the 1978 feature-film adaptation of The Wiz. It charted #41 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Top-20 on the R&B chart.”

Love Me

Written and first recorded by The Bee Gees (1976).
Hit versions by Yvonne Elliman (US #20/UK #6/IRE #9/NZ #3 1976), Martine McCutcheon (UK #6 1999).

From the wiki: “‘Love Me’ was first recorded and released by the Bee Gees, released on the 1976 album Children of the World. It was written by Barry and Robin Gibb featuring Robin on lead with his falsetto (with Barry on the middle eight evidenced on the outro). This makes this song a curio among the group’s mid- to late-’70s tracks, as Barry sang most of the The Bee Gee’s lead vocals. Yvonne Elliman’s version was more successful than the Bee Gees’, reaching the Top-20 US chart, and Top-10 in the UK, Ireland and New Zealand. Martine McCutcheon remade ‘Love Me’ for her 1999 debut album You, Me & Us from which the track – serving as the BBC Children in Need single for 1999 – was issued as the third single.”

Patches (Clarence Carter)

First recorded by Chairmen of the Board (1970).
Hit versions by Clarence Carter (US#4/R&B #2/UK #2 1970), Ray Griff (C&W #26 1970).
Also recorded by The Rudies (1970), George Jones & B.B. King (1994).

From the wiki: “‘Patches’ (sometimes known as ‘Patches (I’m Depending On You)’), a Country-Soul song, was written by General Johnson and Ron Dunbar. The song tells a story about how a boy born and raised in poverty in Alabama ‘on a farm way back up in the woods’ took over responsibility for his family from his dying father.

“‘Patches’ was included on Chairmen of the Board’s first album, The Chairmen of the Board (later reissued as Give Me Just a Little More Time), and was the B-side of the group’s July 1970 single, ‘Everything’s Tuesday’, their third chart hit. The best-known recording was the 1970 hit production by Clarence Carter. It won the 1971 Grammy Award for Best Rhythm & Blues Song.

Count on Me

Written and first recorded by Jesse Barish (1978).
Hit version by Jefferson Starship (US #8/CAN #9 1978).

From the wiki: “‘Count On Me’ was a 1978 song and single by Jefferson Starship for the album Earth, written and first recorded by songwriter Jesse Barish. The Jefferson Starship single gave Starship their second US Top-10 hit of the ‘Seventies, after their 1975 hit, ‘Miracles’.

“Barish played flute with the seminal experimental band The Orkustra in San Francisco in the mid 60’s and also played flute with John Phillips on John’s Wolf King of L.A. tour. In 1971 Jesse was signed to Shelter Records by Denny Cordell and released the album Jesse, Wolff and Whings with guitarist Billy Wolff and drummer Kevin Kelly. Landing in Marin County in the early ’70s, Jesse became friends with Marty Balin who would go on to record ‘Count On Me’ with Jefferson Starship (among other songs) and, in 1980, ‘Hearts’ on Balin’s first solo album for EMI Records.”

Moody Blue

Written and first recorded by Mark James (1975).
Hit version by Elvis Presley (US #32/C&W #1 1976).

From the wiki: “‘Moody Blue’, made famous by Elvis Presley, was written and first recorded by Mark James who also penned Elvis’ ‘Suspicious Minds‘. ‘Moody Blue’ was Presley’s last #1 hit in his lifetime, topping the Billboard magazine Hot Country Singles chart in February 1977.

“Presley recorded his version in February 1976, in the Jungle Room of his Graceland home. The only time Elvis performed the song in its entirety was on February 21, 1977 at a concert in Charlotte, North Carolina. He had attempted to perform the song February 20 at the same venue but revealed to the crowd that he had completely forgotten the lyrics; he returned on February 21, lead sheet in hand, and performed the song with his eyes glued to the lyrics.”

No More Drama (ref. “Nadia’s Theme”)

First recorded as “Cotton’s Theme” by Barry De Vorzon and Perry Botkin, Jr. (1971).
Also recorded by Sounds of Sunshine (1973).
Hit version (as “Nadia’s Theme”) by Barry De Vorzon (US #8 1977).
Hit version (sampled in “No More Drama”) by Mary J. Blige (US #15/R&B #16/UK #9 2001).

From the wiki: “Mary J. Blige sampled the instrumental popularly known as ‘Nadia’s Theme’ as a backdrop for her 2001 single, ‘No More Drama’. Barry De Vorzon and Perry Botkin Jr. composed this piece of music, originally titled ‘Cotton’s Dream’, as incidental music for the 1971 theatrical film Bless the Beasts and Children. Botkin Jr. later composed a rearranged version of the instrumental theme for the U.S. TV soap opera The Young and the Restless, which debuted on March 26, 1973, on the CBS television network. Although a soundtrack album for the TV series was released by P.I.P. Records in 1974, the LP only contained a cover version by easy-listening group Sounds of Sunshine, rather than the original recording by De Vorzon and Botkin.

A Little Bit More

Written and first recorded by Bobby Gosh (1973).
Hit version by Dr. Hook (US #11/UK #2 1976), 911 (UK #1/IRE #7/NZ #46 1999).
Also recorded by Bill Brantley (1977).

From the wiki: “‘A Little Bit More’ was written and first recorded by Bobby Gosh, released on his 1973 album Sitting in the Quiet. The first hit version was recorded by the band Dr. Hook. Released in 1976, it charted at #11 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and #2 on the UK Singles chart.

“Soul singer Bill Brantley (the ‘Titus’ half of the duo ‘Van & Titus’) recorded a critically well-received cover of ‘A Little Bit More’, releasing it as the A-side of his second solo single in 1976 but with no apparent chart impact.

“In 1998, English boy band 911 recorded a cover of ‘A Little Bit More’ for their third studio album, There It Is (1999). It went on to become one of their most successful singles, debuting at #1 on the UK Singles Chart in January 1999, becoming their only #1 single.”

Wishing on a Star

First recorded by Rose Royce (R&B #52/UK #3 1978).
Other hit versions by Fresh 4 (UK #10 1989), The Cover Girls (US #9/UK #38 1992), Jay Z (UK #13 1998).

From the wiki: “‘Wishing on a Star’ was written by Billie Rae Calvin and produced by famed former-Motown ‘psychedelic shaman’ Norman Whitfield, and was included on Rose Royce’s second album, Rose Royce II: In Full Bloom. The original recording of ‘Wishing on a Star’ was not a big hit in the US, peaking at #52 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, but was a big chart hit in the United Kingdom, reaching #3 in March 1978. A cover by Fresh 4, in 1989, also peaked in the UK Top 10. The Cover Girls released a version in 1992 that peaked in the US Top 10.

May You Never

Written and first recorded by John Martyn (1971).
Re-recorded by John Martyn (1973).
Hit album version by Eric Clapton (1977).

From the wiki: “‘May You Never’ became something of a signature song for its writer, John Martyn, becoming a staple of his live performances. Released in November 1971 as a single, in an early form with a full band, the first release of ‘May You Never’ had slightly different lyrics than appeared in subsequent recordings. ‘May You Never’ was re-recorded with a more sparse arrangement for the Solid Air album sessions in 1973. According to Songfacts.com, the night before producer John Wood was due to fly to New York to master the album, he was still waiting for the tape containing this tune. ‘It was by then nearly midnight,’ he recalled to Mojo magazine April 2013, ‘so I said to him, For Christ’s sake, John, just go back down into the studio and play it again, and we’ll record it. And he did, and it’s great.’

“Eric Clapton covered ‘May You Never’ on his 1977 album Slowhand. When Martyn was presented with a lifetime achievement award at the 2008 BBC Folk Awards, Clapton sent a message saying that [Martyn] was ‘so far ahead of everything else it was inconceivable’ and acknowledged the extent of his influence on ‘everyone who ever heard him.'”

Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?

Inspired by “Taj Mahal” by Jorge Ben Jor (1972).
Hit version by Rod Stewart (US #1/R&B #5/UK #1 1978).

From the wiki: “‘Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?’ was recorded by the British singer Rod Stewart for his 1978 album Blondes Have More Fun. It was written by Stewart, Carmine Appice and Duane Hitchings, and incorporates elements of the melody from the song ‘Taj Mahal’ by Jorge Ben Jor first recorded in 1972. It was alleged that Stewart created the song through partial musical plagiarism. A copyright infringement lawsuit was file by Brazilian musician Ben Jor claiming the song had been derived from ‘Taj Mahal’. The case was ‘settled amicably’ according to Ben Jor. Stewart admitted to ‘unconscious plagiarism’ of the Ben Jor song in his 2012 autobiography Rod: The Autobiography.”

Love Has No Pride

First recorded by Bonnie Raitt (1972).
Hit version by Linda Ronstadt (US #51/MOR #23 1973).
Also recorded by Libby Titus, co-writer (1977).

From the wiki: “‘Love Has No Pride’ was written by Eric Kaz and Libby Titus, and was first recorded in 1972 by Bonnie Raitt for her album Give It Up of which critic Dave Marsh wrote ‘[it comes] closest to perfecting her approach. She [mingles] her blues resources with a variety of contemporary and folk-oriented songs, coming up with classics in ‘Been Too Long at the Fair’ and Eric Kaz’s ‘Love Has No Pride.’ Her version of the latter remains definitive …’

“Linda Ronstadt covered ‘Love Has No Pride’ for her 1973 album Don’t Cry Now. Her recording was released as the album’s first single. It peaked at #51 on the Billboard Hot 100, but has song has endured over the years to be remembered as one of Ronstadt’s signature songs.”

Motorhead

First recorded by Hawkwind (1975).
Also recorded by by Motörhead (1977).
Hit version by Motörhead (UK #6 1981).

From the wiki: “‘Motorhead’ was written by Lemmy, later of the group Motörhead, while he was a band member in Hawkwind; it was his last before leaving the band. The song first appeared on the B-side of Hawkwind’s 1975 single ‘Kings of Speed’. The title of the song is American slang for a ‘speed’ (amphetamine) freak. The song was written in the Hyatt Hotel (a.k.a. ‘Riot House’) in West Hollywood, California. Lemmy explains:

‘I was on tour with Hawkwind in 1974, we were staying at the Riot House and Roy Wood and Wizzard were also in town. I got this urge to write a song in the middle of the night. I ran downstairs to the Wizzard room, got Roy’s Ovation acoustic guitar, then hurried back to mine. I went on to the balcony and howled away for four hours. Cars were stopping and the drivers were listening then driving off, and there I was yelling away at the top of my voice.

‘The six thousand miles was a reference to Los Angeles, and the rest is self-explanatory. And yes, I am the only person to fit the word ‘parallelogram’ into a Rock’n’roll number! I’m very proud of that.’

Tangled Up in Blue

First recorded by Bob Dylan (1974, released 1991).
Hit version by Bob Dylan (US #31 1975).
Also recorded by Bob Dylan (1984).

From the wiki: “‘Tangled Up in Blue’ was written by Bob Dylan, and first appeared on the album Blood on the Tracks in 1975. Released as a single, ‘Tangled Up in Blue’ reached #31 on the Billboard Hot 100. Rolling Stone ranks it #68 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. According to The Telegraph, Dylan said ‘I wanted to defy time … When you look at a painting, you can see any part of it altogether. I wanted that song to be like a painting.’ Dylan had been influenced by his then-recent study of painting and the Cubist school of artists, who had sought to incorporate multiple perspectives within a single plane of view. Dylan has often stated that the song took ‘ten years to live and two years to write.’

“‘Tangled Up in Blue’ was one of five songs on Blood on the Tracks that Dylan initially recorded in New York City in September 1974 and which was then re-recorded in Minneapolis in December that year; the later recording became the album track and single. One of the September 1974 outtakes was released in 1991 on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961–1991.

Givin’ It Up For Your Love

Written and first recorded by Jerry Williams (1979).
Hit version by Delbert McClinton (US #8 1981).

From the wiki: “Jerry Williams’ big break as a songwriter came when Delbert McClinton recorded a cover of ‘Givin’ It Up For Your Love’, from Williams’ album Gone. Williams would go on to write for Eric Clapton, B.B. King and Clint Black, and contributed two songs, ‘Real Man’ and ‘I Will Not Be Denied’, to Bonnie Raitt’s 1989 Grammy Award-winning album Nick of Time. Williams also helped Stevie Ray and Jimmie Vaughan write the song ‘Tick Tock’. By age 14, Williams had dropped out of school and was working Texas roadhouses with his own band, The Epics. He later toured with Little Richard’s band until authorities discovered Williams’ age and sent him home. Williams says he learned to play lead guitar from a fellow band member, Jimmy James – better known as Jimi Hendrix.”

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Written and first recorded by Gil Scott-Heron (1970).
Popular version by Gil Scott-Heron (1971).
See also: “The Lawrence Welk-Hee Haw Counter-Revolution Polka” by Roy Clark (1972)

From the wiki: “‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ is a song-poem written by Gil Scott-Heron. Scott-Heron first recorded it as a live performance for his 1970 album Small Talk at 125th and Lenox, on which he recited the lyrics, accompanied by congas and bongo drums. A re-recorded version, with a full band, was the B-side to Scott-Heron’s first single, ‘Home Is Where the Hatred Is’, in 1971 from his album Pieces of a Man. This version of ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ was also included on Scott-Heron’s compilation album, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (1974).

“The song’s title was originally a popular slogan among the 1960s Black Power movements in the United States. Its lyrics either mention or allude to several television series, advertising slogans and icons of entertainment and news coverage that serve as examples of what ‘the revolution will not’ be or do.

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