Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Category: 1970s

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.

Put Your Hand in the Hand

First recorded by Anne Murray (1970).
Hit version by Ocean (US #2 1971).

From the wiki: “‘Put Your Hand in the Hand’ is a Gospel-Pop song composed by Gene MacLellan and first recorded byAnne Murray for her third studio album Honey, Wheat and Laughter. It was later covered by Canadian band Ocean and released as the title track to their debut album. Their version is arguably the most popular one of the song, peaking at #2 in 1971 on the US Billboard Hot 100.”

Rock and Roll Love Letter

Written and first recorded by Tim Moore (1975).
Hit version by Bay City Rollers (US #28 1976).

From the wiki: “‘Rock and Roll Love Letter’ is the second single from American Tim Moore’s second album, Behind the Eyes. It was written by Tim Moore. Tim Moore’s original version was not successful. It was later covered by the band Bay City Rollers, and that version became a Top 40 hit.”

Now That We Found Love

First recorded by The O’Jays (1973).
Hit versions by Third World (US #47/UK #10 1977), Heavy D & the Boyz (US #11/R&B #5/UK #2/AUS #6/NETH #2/NOR #10 1991).

From the wiki: “‘Now That We Found Love’ (also known as ‘Now That We’ve Found Love’) was written by Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, and was first recorded by The O’Jays in 1973 for their album Ship Ahoy. Cover versions have included a Reggae-flavored dance hit by Third World, in 1977, and a worldwide breakthrough Rap hit for Heavy D in 1991.”

Squeezebox

First recorded (as a demo) by Pete Townshend (1974).
Hit version by The Who (US #16 1975 |UK #10/CAN #1/AUS #1 1976).

From the wiki: “‘Squeeze Box’ was written by Pete Townshend, and was originally intended for a Who television special planned in 1974. The lyrics are couched in sexual double entendres. In the planned performance of the song, the members of the band were to be surrounded by one-hundred semi-naked women playing ‘squeezeboxes’ – a colloquial expression for accordions and concertinas – as the song was played.

“Townshend first recorded demo of the song featured a farfisa arrangement, as well as with Bluegrass banjos. When the anticipated TV special did not materialize, The Who recorded ‘Squeeze Box’ and the song was released as the first single from The Who by Numbers in 1975 in the US and 1976 in the UK. ‘Squeezebox’ became an international hit, becoming the band’s first-ever Top-10 hit in Britain since 1972.

Take Me to the River

First recorded by Al Green (1974).
Hit versions by Syl Johnson (US #48/R&B #7 1975), Talking Heads (US #26 1979).
Also recorded by Foghat (1976), Levon Helm (1978), Brian Ferry (1978).

From the wiki: “‘Take Me to the River’ was written by singer Al Green and guitarist Mabon ‘Teenie’ Hodges, and first recorded by Green in 1974 for the album Al Green Explores Your Mind. Green’s original recording was ranked #117 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. According to producer Willie Mitchell, Green and Mabon Hodges wrote the song while staying in a rented house at Lake Hamilton, Arkansas, for three days in 1973 in order to come up with new material. Green dedicated his performance on the record to ‘…Little Junior Parker, a cousin of mine, he’s gone on but we’d like to kinda carry on in his name.’ According to one critic, ‘Green’s song squares the singer’s early religious convictions with more earthly interests,’ but when Green became a pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle Church in 1976, the singer dropped the song from his repertoire.

4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)

Written and first recorded by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band (1973).
Hit version (as “Sandy”) by The Hollies (US #85/GER #22/NZ #12/NETH #9 1975).

From the wiki: “‘4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)’, often known just as ‘Sandy’, was written in 1973 by Bruce Springsteen and first appeared as the second song on the album The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle. Van Morrison’s influence can be heard in Springsteen’s songwriting about his hometown, closely paralleling Morrison’s romanticism of his hometown, Belfast, Ireland.

“No singles were released from The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle … except in Germany – the first-ever Springsteen 7-inch issued outside the United States – where Springsteen’s ‘Sandy’ met with no apparent chart success.

“However, ‘Sandy’ became the first song written by Springsteen to chart, anywhere, when The Hollies’ cover version, released in April 1975, hit #85 in the US, and charted higher in a few other international markets (e.g. Top-10 in the Netherlands). While not a big hit unto itself, The Hollies’ use of “Sandy” presaged other artists mining the early Springsteen songbook for material, a notion that would soon be exploited to much greater commercial success by Manfred Mann and others.

No No Song

Written and first recorded by Hoyt Axton (1974).
Hit version by Ringo Starr (US #3/CAN #1 1975).

From the wiki: “Ringo Starr’s cover of Hoyt Axton’s and David Jackson’s ‘No No Song’ was included on Starr’s 1974 album Goodnight Vienna. The song was released as a single in the US in January 1975, becoming a #1 hit in Canada and a #3 hit in the US. Harry Nilsson provided backing vocals.”

Willin’

First recorded by Johnny Darrell (1970).
Also recorded by The Byrds (1970, released 2000), Seatrain (1970).
Album hit versions by Little Feat (1971 |1972 |1978), Linda Ronstadt (1974).

From the wiki: ‘Willin” was written by Lowell George, of Little Feat, but first recorded in the spring of 1970 by Johnny Darrell for his album California Stop-Over. The song is about a truck driver in the American southwest who makes some extra cash smuggling cigarettes and transporting illegals across the border from Mexico. George’s opening line, in which the narrator describes himself as being ‘warped by the rain,’ originated in a conversation between George and drummer Richie Hayward. Hayward had used it to describe a rocking chair. Prior to forming Little Feat, George was a member of Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention. It is probable that this song was a reason for his departure, due to its drug references in the chorus. It is known that his leaving had something to do with his drug use, which Zappa heavily frowned upon.

Harry Hippie

Written and first recorded by Jim Ford (1970).
Hit version by Bobby Womack (R&B #8 1973).

From the wiki: “‘Harry Hippie’ was written by Jim Ford for a self-titled album scheduled to be issued by Capitol in the fall of 1970. But, Ford had a falling out with the label and the album was shelved. The song was written by Ford as a dedication to Bobby Womack’s brother, bass guitarist Harry Womack. ‘Harry Hippie’ would, after Womack recorded it in 1973, become a Top-10 R&B hit for Womack. According to Womack:

Harry was the bass player and tenor for the brothers when we were The Valentinos (‘It’s All Over Now‘). He lived a very carefree life. As a child he always said he wanted to live on an Indian reservation. We used to joke about it, but when we got older he was the same way. He always thought I wanted the materialistic things and I said, ‘I just want to do my music. My music put me into that comfortable territory.’ He didn’t want the pressure. We used to laugh and joke about the song when I’d sing it.”

Happiness is Just Around the Bend

First recorded by Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express (1973).
Hit version by The Main Ingredient (US #35/R&B #7 1974).
Also recorded by Cuba Gooding, Sr. (1983), Altern-8 (1991).

From the wiki: “‘Happiness is Just Around the Bend’ was written by Brian Auger and first recorded in 1973 by Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express. A cover recording in 1974 by The Main Ingredient charted in the US Top 40, peaking at #35, and the R&B Top 10, peaking at #7.

Lonely Night (Angel Face)

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

From the wiki: “‘Lonely Night (Angel Face)’ was written by Neil Sedaka. Sedaka first recorded the track for his 1975 album, The Hungry Years. The following year, the song was turned into a hit single by Captain & Tennille, who had previously recorded and scored a #1 hit with Sedaka’s ‘Love Will Keep Us Together‘. Their recording of ‘Lonely Night” became the duo’s third-straight Top 5.”

Video Killed the Radio Star

First recorded by Bruce Wooley & the Camera Club (1978).
Hit version by The Buggles (US #40/UK #1/CAN #6/AUS #1/IRE #1/ITA #1/SWE #1/JPN #1 1981).

From the wiki: “‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ was written by Trevor Horn, Geoff Downes and Bruce Woolley in 1978, and was first recorded by Bruce Woolley & the Camera Club (with Thomas Dolby on keyboards) for the album English Garden. Horn and Downes would, in 1979, go on to form The Buggles, cover ‘Video’ and release it as The Buggles’ debut single in September 1979 from the album The Age of Plastic. In 1980, Horn and Downes were invited to join the rock group Yes; Horn becoming the lead vocalist, replacing Jon Anderson. The ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ music video is well-remembered as the first music video shown on MTV in the United States at 12:01am on 1 August 1981, and as the first video shown on MTV Classic in the United Kingdom on 1 March 2010. The song has received several critical accolades, such as being ranked #40 on VH1’s 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the ’80s and The Guardian newpaper’s Top 100 British Number 1 Singles.

Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys

Co-written and first recorded by Ed Bruce (C&W #15 1975).
Other hit version by Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson (US #42/C&W #1/CAN #1 1978).

From the wiki: “‘Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys’ was first recorded in 1975 by Ed Bruce, written by him and wife Patsy Bruce. Bruce’s rendition of the song went to number 15 on the Hot Country Singles charts. Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson covered the song on their 1978 duet album Waylon & Willie. This recording peaked at #1 in March 1978, spending four weeks atop the Country music charts while also crossing-over to the Billboard Hot 100, and won the 1979 Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. Members of the Western Writers of America chose ‘Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys’ as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time.”

Devil Woman

First recorded by Kristine (1975).
Hit version by Cliff Richard (US #6/UK #9 1976).

From the wiki: “‘Devil Woman’ was written by Terry Britten and Christine Holmes (singer of the Family Dogg, ‘Arizona‘) and was first recorded by Holmes under the name ‘Kristine’. It became a #9 UK hit in June 1976 for Cliff Richard, and was his first single to reach the Top 20 in the US. The song is told from the point of a view of a man jinxed from an encounter with a stray cat with evil eyes, and his discovery that the psychic medium (a Gypsy woman) whose help he sought to break the curse was the one responsible for the curse in the first place. Richard supposedly was hesitant to cut it until he modified some lyrics to play down the occult theme.”

Friends

Written and first recorded (as “(You Got to Have) Friends”) by Buzzy Linhart (1970).
Hit version by Better Midler (US #40/MOR #9 1973).

From the wiki: “‘Friends’ (also titled ‘(You Got to Have) Friends’) was written by Buzzy Linhart and Mark ‘Moogy’ Klingman and was first recorded by Linhart in 1970. Bette Midler was one of Linhart’s close friends during the early 1970s. While rehearsing for an audition for a Broadway show called Mirror Cracked, Linhart sang ‘Friends’ to Midler.

“After hearing the song, Midler asked Linhart if she could sing the song during a show that she was performing at the Continental Baths in New York. Soon after, Midler recorded the song (twice!) on her debut album The Divine Miss M, and released the song as a single backed with ‘Chapel of Love‘.

Do Ya

First recorded by The Move (B-side US #93/UK #7 1972).
Also recorded by Utopia (1975).
Hit version by Electric Light Orchestra (US #24 1977).

From the wiki: “‘Do Ya’ was written by Jeff Lynne in 1971 and was first recorded by British Rock band The Move in 1972 when Lynne was a member of the group. The final Move line-up of 1972 was the trio of Lynne, Roy Wood and Bev Bevan; together, they rode The Move’s transition into the Electric Light Orchestra ca. 1971. Released on a maxi single along with ‘California Man’ and ‘Ella James’, ‘Do Ya’ proved to be The Move’s farewell disc, and the only song recorded by the group to chart in the US Billboard Hot 100. (The Move had ten UK Top 20 hits before its breakup.) ELO formed during The Move’s latter years to accommodate Wood’s and Lynne’s desire to create modern Rock and Pop songs with classical overtones. ELO’s sixth album, the platinum-selling A New World Record, became their first UK Top 10 album when it was released in 1976. It contained the hit singles ‘Livin’ Thing’, ‘Telephone Line’, ‘Rockaria!’ and ‘Do Ya’, the re-recording of The Move song that charted Top 30 in the US in 1977.

Billy, Don’t Be a Hero

First recorded by Paper Lace (US #96/UK #1 1974).
Other hit version by Bo Donaldson & the Heywoods (US #1 1974).

From the wiki: “‘Billy, Don’t Be a Hero’ was written by two British song writers Mitch Murray and Peter Callander, was first a hit in the UK for Paper Lace (‘The Night Chicago Died’); some months later it was covered in the US by Bo Donaldson & the Heywoods who scored a #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. In the song, a young woman is distraught that her fiancé chooses to leave the area with Army recruiters and go with them to fight. Because the song was released in 1974, it was associated by some listeners with the Vietnam War, though it actually does not reference a specific ‘war’.”

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