Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Category: 1970s

Half the Way

First recorded by Clem Easterling (B-side 1978).
Hit version by Crystal Gayle (US #15/MOR #9/C&W #2/CAN #2/IRE #1 1979).

From the wiki: “‘Half the Way’ was written by Ralph Murphy and Bobby Wood (‘Talking in Your Sleep’). First recorded by Clem Easterling in 1978, it was released as the B-side to her cover single ‘Someday We’ll Be Together’ from the album Just in Time on the New Orleans indie label, Hep’ Me, run by recording entrepreneur Senator Jones.

“The song would be covered in 1979 by Crystal Gayle who, after having achieved major country-pop crossover success the previous two years with ‘Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue’ and ‘Talking in Your Sleep‘, had newly signed with Columbia Records. ‘Half the Way’ was the first song recorded under her new recording contract. As happened with Gayle’s previous recordings, ‘Half the Way’ cross-overed to the pop music chart, and was also a success in Canada (her 5th Canadian #1) and Ireland.”

What Have They Done to My Song Ma

Written and released by Melanie (B-side US #35/A-side UK #9 1970).
Other hit version (as ‘Look What They Done to My Song Ma’) by The New Seekers (US #14/MOR #4/CAN #3/UK #44 1970).

From the wiki: “‘What Have They Done to My Song Ma’ was written by Melanie (Safka). Released in 1970 as the B-side of her ‘Ruby Tuesday’ promotional single for the album Candles in the Rain, the reached the #9 on the UK Singles charts for three weeks.

“Later in 1970, the New Seekers covered Melanie’s song, retitling it to its first lyric line, ‘Look What They Done to My Song Ma’, and scored their first US hit single.”

Lonely Night (Angle Face)

Written and first recorded by Neil Sedaka (1975).
Hit version by The Captain & Tennille (US #3/MOR #1 1976).

From the wiki: “‘Lonely Night (Angel Face)’ was written and first recorded in 1975 by Neil Sedaka, appearing as a track on his 1975 studio album, The Hungry Years. The following year the song was made popular when covered by The Captain & Tennille for their album Song of Joy who took their version to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100.”

All You Get from Love is a Love Song

First recorded by Steve Eaton (1973).
Also recorded by the Righteous Brothers (1975).
Hit version by the Carpenters (US #35/MOR #4/CAN #38/JPN #68 1977).

From the wiki: “‘All You Get from Love Is a Love Song’ was composed by Steve Eaton, former lead guitarist of Paul Revere & the Raiders (‘Indian Reservation (Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian)‘), and was first recorded by Eaton in 1973.

“In 1975, the Righteous Brothers were the first to cover the song, for the album Sons of Mrs. Righteous. But, ‘All You Get from Love is a Love Song’ was internationally popularized by the Carpenters in 1977. Included on the album, Passage, their cover was released as a promotional single – charting in the US Top-40, in Canada, and in Japan.

Some Days are Diamonds (Some Days are Stone)

Written and first recorded by Dick Feller (1975).
Hit version by John Denver (US #36/C&W #6 1981).

From the wiki: “‘Some Days Are Diamonds (Some Days Are Stone)’ was written by singer-songwriter Dick Feller, and was quite different from the humorous and novelty songs he was best known for writing (e.g., ‘The Night Miss Nancy Ann’s Hotel for Single Girls Burned Down’, ‘Lord, Mr. Ford’, ‘Makin’ the Best of a Bad Situation’). Feller was first to record and release the song, in 1976, but his version failed to chart.

“‘Some Days are Diamonds …’ was later covered by John Denver, on his 1981 album Some Days Are Diamonds. Released in May 1981 as the album’s first promotional single, Denver’s version peaked at #6 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart and #36 on the Billboard Hot 100.”

(If Loving You is Wrong) I Don’t Want to Be Right

First recorded by The Emotions (unreleased 1972).
First released by Luther Ingram (US #3/R&B #1 1972).
Other hit versions by Jackie Burns (C&W #72 1972), Millie Jackson (US #42/R&B #42 1974), Barbara Mandrell (US #31/C&W 1 1978), Rod Stewart (UK #23 1980), Rhonda Clark (R&B #26 1992).
Also recorded by Veda Brown (unreleased 1972), Faces (1973).

From the wiki: “‘(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want to Be Right’ was composed by Stax Records songwriters Homer Banks, Carl Hampton, and Raymond Jackson. Originally written for The Emotions, it was first recorded by The Emotions and also by Veda Brown, but neither of those recordings were ever released.

“The song has had a notable chart presence, most notably by Luther Ingram, whose recording topped the R&B chart for four weeks and rose to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1972. Billboard ranked it as the #16 song for 1972.

Signs

First recorded and released by The Five Man Electrical Band (B-side 1970).
Hit versions by Bobby Vee (US #125 Feb 1971), The Five Man Electrical Band (re-release US #3/CAN #4/AUS #1 1971), Tesla (US #8/UK #70 1990).

From the wiki: “‘Signs’ was written by the Five Man Electrical Band’s frontman, Les Emmerson, and was recorded it for their second album, Good-byes and Butterflies, in 1970. ‘Signs’ was first released as the B-side earlier that year to the unsuccessful single ‘Hello Melinda Goodbye’, thus remaining relatively obscure.

“Re-released by the group in 1971 as the A-side, ‘Signs’ reached #4 in Canada and #3 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. Billboard ranked it as the #4 song for 1971. It became a gold record. But, prior to the Five Man Electrical Band re-release, ‘Signs’ made its first chart appearance in February 1971 when a recording by Bobby Vee ‘bubbled under’ the Hot 100, peaking at #125.

We’re All Alone

Written and first recorded by Boz Scaggs (AUS #54 1976).
Other hit versions by Frankie Valli (US #76/MOR #27/CAN #73 1976), La Costa (C&W #75 1977), The Walker Brothers (NETH #22 1977), Rita Coolidge (US #7/MOR #1/C&W #68/UK #6/IRE #6/AUS #32/NZ #34/NETH #22 1977).

From the wiki: “”We’re All Alone” was written by Boz Scaggs, and was included on his 1976 album Silk Degrees. ‘We’re All Alone’ was also released as the B-side of two of the four promotional singles releases from that LP, including ‘Lido Shuffle’. Released as an A-side single in Australia, it peaked at #57.

“The song garnered attention soon after the Scaggs’ album’s March 1976 release. Frankie Valli released a single version from his Valli LP which reached #78 U.S. in August 1976. The Walker Brothers – one of Scaggs’ formative influences – cut ‘We’re All Alone’ for their Lines album; the track had an October 1976 single release in the UK where the Frankie Valli version had a single release that July; the Walker Brothers’ version did reach #22 in the Netherlands in August 1977. Country singer La Costa (sister of Tanya Tucker) had a single release of ‘We’re All Alone’ in both the US – where it charted at #75 C&W – and also the UK where the track was the B-side of a remake of ‘I Second That Emotion’.

Playground in My Mind

First recorded by Billy Lawrence (1971).
Hit versions by Clint Holmes (US #2/MOR #7/CAN #7/NZ #3 1972), Johnny Ashcroft (AUS #19 1973).

From the wiki: “‘Playground In My Mind’, a nursery rhyme-styled song, was written by record producer Paul Vance (‘Catch a Falling Star’, 1957; ‘Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini’, 1960) with Lee Pockriss, and was first recorded in 1971 by Billy Lawrence (in a session produced by Vance and Pockriss) and released in June 1971 by Atlantic Records with no apparent chart impact.

“When produced again by Vance, it featured a duet with Clint Holmes and Vance’s son, nine-year-old Philip, on the chorus. ‘Playground in My Mind’ was released in the U.S. in July 1972 but did not reach the Billboard Hot 100 chart until March 24, 1973 – going on to chart for a total of 23 weeks, peaking at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. It ended 1973 at the 12th most popular song of the year.”

Rings

First recorded (as a demo) by Eddie Reeves & Alex Harvey (1971).
First released by Lonnie Mack (1971).
Hit versions by Cymarron (US #17/MOR #6/CAN #41/AUS #46 1971), Tompall & the Glaser Brothers (C&W #7 1972), Reuben Howell (US #86 1974), Lobo (US #43/CAN #30 1974), Twiggy (UK#35 1977).
Also recorded by Alex Harvey (co-writer 1972), Leo Kottke (1983).

From the wiki: “‘Rings’ was composed by Eddie Reeves, an executive at the West Coast office of United Artists Music, and Alex Harvey, who was contracted as a songwriter to United Artists, and was written for the wedding of a friend of Reeves named Bob Hamilton who – as the song’s lyrics indicate – had experienced an estrangement and reconciliation with his fiancée: the song concludes with the couple ‘hand in hand…upon the sand with the preacher man’ – a reference to Hamilton and his bride’s exchanging vows on the Venice beachfront. The lyric ‘Got James Taylor on the stereo’ was a reference to James Taylor’s ‘Fire and Rain‘ being the couple’s favorite song – while the ‘Tony and Mario’ mentioned in the song were the owners of a Hollywood restaurant the couple frequented.

Change of Heart

First released by Samantha Sang (recorded 1977, released B-side 1978).
Hit version by Eric Carmen (US #19/MOR #6/CAN #14 1978).

From the wiki: “‘Change of Heart’ was written by Eric Carmen. It was first recorded in 1977 by Samantha Sang for her album, Emotion, and released as a single in April 1978 as the B-side to ‘You Keep Me Dancing’ (US #57), the follow-up single to her Top-10 international hit Emotion.

“Carmen released ‘Change of Heart’ in September 1978 as the lead single to Change of Heart, his third solo album (after leaving The Raspberries), with Sang on backing vocals.”

Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft

First recorded by Klaatu (US #62/CAN #45 1976).
Other hit version by The Carpenters (US #32/MOR #18/UK #9/CAN #9/IRE #1 1977).

From the wiki: “‘Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft’, written by Terry Draper, John Woloschuk, was first recorded by Canadian band Klaatu in 1976 for release on their debut album 3:47 EST. John Woloschuk, a member of Klaatu and one of the song’s composers, recalled:

‘The idea for this track was suggested by an actual event that is described in The Flying Saucer Reader, a book by Jay David published in 1967. In March 1953 an organization known as the ‘International Flying Saucer Bureau’ sent a bulletin to all its members urging them to participate in an experiment termed ‘World Contact Day’ whereby, at a predetermined date and time, they would attempt to collectively send out a telepathic message to visitors from outer space. The message began with the words … ‘Calling occupants of interplanetary craft!”

“After its release, the Klaatu recording would open night transmissions of the pirate radio station Radio Caroline. Even more bizarre, the song got caught up in rumors that it presaged a Beatles reunion – that ‘Klaatu’ was just a pseudonym for the Fab Four’s return to the recording studio (and possible reunion concert).

Stop and Smell the Roses

First recorded by Henson Cargill (recorded 1973, C&W #29 1974).
Other hit version by co-writer Mac Davis (US #9/MOR #1/C&W #40/CAN #3 1974).

From the wiki: “‘Stop and Smell the Roses’ was written by songwriter Mac Davis (he wrote ‘In the Ghetto’ for Elvis Presley) and the noted bandleader-trumpeter Doc Severinsen. It was first recorded by Henson Cargill (best known for the socially controversial 1968 Country #1 hit ‘Skip a Rope’) in late 1973 on his album This Is Henson Cargill Country, and then released in May 1974 as something of a come-back single for the performer, peaking at #29 on the Country singles chart.

“Co-writer Davis released his arrangement in March 1974 as the title track for the album Stop and Smell the Roses. Promoted as a single beginning in August 1974, ‘Stop and Smell the Roses’ peaked at #40 on the Country singles chart but went Top-10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Canadian RPM music charts and topped the MOR chart in the US.”

Good Hearted Woman

Co-written and first recorded by Willie Nelson (1972).
Hit versions by Waylon Jennings (C&W #3 1973), Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson (US #25/MOR #16/C&W #1 1976).
Also recorded by Tina Turner (recorded 1974, released 1979).

From the wiki: “Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson wrote ‘Good Hearted Woman’ in a room at the Fort Worther Motel in Forth Worth, TX, in 1969, inspired by an ad for an Ike & Tina Turner show saying: ‘Tina Turner singing songs about good-hearted women loving good-timing men.’ Jennings started writing the song and asked Nelson to help him finish it during a late-night poker game. By all accounts, Nelson’s contribution was minimal, with his third wife Connie recalling, ‘The only part Willie came up with was ‘Through teardrops and laughter they walk through this world hand in hand.’ Waylon said, ‘That’s it! That’s what’s missing’ and gave Willie half the song.’

“‘Good Hearted Woman’ was first recorded by Willie Nelson in 1972 for his album The Words Don’t Fit the Picture. Later the same year, Jennings recorded the song as the title track of his album Good Hearted Woman. Released as a single in 1973, Jenning’s recording peaked at #3 on Billboard magazine’s Hot Country Singles chart.

It’s a Heartache

First released by Juice Newton (MEX #3 1977 |US #86 1978).
Other hit versions by Bonnie Tyler (US #3/UK #4/CAN #1/AUS #1 1978), Dave & Sugar (C&W #32 1981), Trick Pony (C&W #22 2005).
Also recorded by Rod Stewart (2006).

From the wiki: “‘It’s a Heartache’ was written by Ronnie Scott & Steve Wolfe. Scott was working with Wolfe as a songwriting and producing team when they spotted Bonnie Tyler in ‘The Townsman Club’ in Swansea, Wales in 1976, and they became Tyler’s managers, songwriters, and producers, writing and producing eight out of the ten songs on Tyler’s first album, The World Starts Tonight (1977). The album included Tyler’s first two UK Top-30 hits, ‘Lost in France’ and ‘More Than a Lover’.

“Tyler’s second album, Natural Force (released in the US as It’s a Heartache in 1978) included five Scott/Wolfe songs including the track ‘It’s a Heartache’ which reached #4 in the UK, and #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States. The song had already been recorded and first released by Juice Newton almost a year earlier, in 1977.

Old Time Rock ‘n Roll

First recorded (as a demo) by George Jackson (1978).
Hit version by Bob Seger (US #28/CAN #31 1979 |US #48/AUS #53 1983 |AUS #3 1987 ).

From the wiki: “‘Old Time Rock and Roll’ was written by George Jackson (‘Victim of a Foolish Heart‘) and Thomas E. Jones III, and was first recorded as a demo by Jackson. The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, who often backed Seger in his studio recordings at the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Sheffield, Alabama, sent Seger a demo of Jackson’s song during the recording of Stranger in Town. Jackson recalls ‘Bob had pretty much finished his recording at Muscle Shoals and he asked them if they had any other songs he could listen to for the future.’

“The song was recorded at the Muscle Shoals studio and also at Sound Suite Studios in Detroit, Michigan. Originally, Seger’s Silver Bullet Band was displeased with its inclusion on Stranger in Town, claiming, according to Seger, that the song was not ‘Silver Bullety’ enough. However, upon hearing audience reactions to it during their tour in Europe, the band grew to like the song. Released as a single in 1979, the song became a Top-40 hit, peaking at #28 on the Billboard Hot 100.

That’s Rock ‘n Roll

Written and first recorded by Eric Carmen (DEN #7 1976).
Other hit version by Shaun Cassidy (US #3/CAN #1/AUS #2 1978).

From the wiki: “‘That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll’ was written and first recorded by Eric Carmen in 1976. It later became a US Top-10 hit for teen idol Shaun Cassidy.

“Carmen released his version of ‘That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll’ in some nations as the third single from his first eponymous self-titled debut album, Eric Carmen. The single’s limited release did not include the United States. The song charted at #7 in Denmark. Parts of the song are autobiographical.

“‘That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll’ was covered in 1977 by Shaun Cassidy on his first solo LP, Shaun Cassidy. The song was Cassidy’s second of three consecutive Top-10 hits in the US. Cassidy’s cover also topped the Canadian singles chart and nudged the top of the Australian singles chart.

“In 1988, ‘That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll’ was featured as the B-side of a subsequent major hit by Carmen, ‘Make Me Lose Control’.”

Shaun Cassidy, “That’s Rock ‘n Roll” (1978):

Last Thing I Needed First Thing This Morning

First recorded (as “The Last Thing I Needed (The First Thing This Morning)”) by Bill & Bonnie Hearne (1976).
Hit version by Willie Nelson (C&W #2/CAN #1 1982).
Also recorded by Lost Gonzo Band (1976), Gary P. Nunn (1984).

From the wiki: “‘Last Thing I Needed First Thing This Morning” was written by Gary P. Nunn (‘London Homesick Blues’ aka Austin City Limits theme song) and Donna Farar, and was first recorded in 1976 by then-Austin, TX, musicians Bill & Bonnie Hearne. Willie Nelson recorded the song in 1982 for his album Always On My Mind. ‘Last Thing I Needed …’ was released as the third single from the album, and peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart and #1 on the RPM Country Tracks chart in Canada.

Pablo Picasso

First recorded (as a demo) by The Modern Lovers (recorded 1972, released 1976).
First released by John Cale (1975).
Also recorded by David Bowie (2003).

From the wiki: “‘Pablo Picasso’ was written by Jonathan Richman for his proto-punk group The Modern Lovers. The song was first recorded by the group in 1972, produced by former Velvet Underground member John Cale. However, the recording was not released until 1976, on The Modern Lovers’ self-titled debut album. In the meantime, Cale recorded a cover of ‘Pablo Picasso’ for his own album, Helen of Troy, released in 1975.

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.’

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