Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Category: 1970s

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.

“In 1975, Jennings remixed the song, adding vocals from Willie (and adding fake crowd noise to give it a ‘live performance’ feel) for the compilation album Wanted: The Outlaws!. The album cemented the pair’s outlaw image and became country music’s first Platinum album. Re-released as a single, ‘Good Hearted Woman’ peaked at #1 on the Hot Country Singles chart and crossed-over to the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #25. The song won the Single of the Year award at the 1976 Country Music Association (CMA) Awards.

“In 1974, unbeknownst to either Jennings or Nelson, Tina Turner recorded the song that was, in part, inspired by her, intending it for her first solo album (while still married to Ike Turner), Tina Turns The Country On. Turner recorded almost twenty songs, all covers by different country artists, but only ten – not including ‘Good Hearted Woman’ – were chosen for the album’s release. The remaining tracks were released for the first time in 1979 on the album Good Hearted Woman in 1979. (After Tina’s mid-1980s comeback, the album was reissued in 1985 by Playback Records under the title Tina Turner Goes Country.) Of the 1985 reissue, Billboard magazine wrote:

‘The history of this album is not elucidated in the liner notes, but whenever and however it was recorded, it links Turner with classics like ‘Lovin’ Him Was Easier’, ‘Good Hearted Woman’, and ‘Stand By Your Man’. Her cornered, yowling style renders complete justice to them all.'”

Waylon Jennings, “Good Hearted Woman” (1973):

Tina Turner, “Good Hearted Woman” (1974):

Willie Nelson & Waylon Jennings, “Good Hearted Woman” (1976):

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.’

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.'”

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