Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Category: 1980s

Human Nature

Written and first recorded (as a demo) by Steve Porcaro (1983).
Hit version by Michael Jackson (1984).

From the wiki: “‘Human Nature’ was written by Toto band member Steve Porcaro about a playground incident his daughter had at school earlier in the day. (A boy had hit her after she fell off the slide – Porcaro said ‘she asked [me] why?’ and he replied ‘it was human nature.’) Procaro wrote the song that night in a studio while the band was mixing their single, ‘Africa’, in another studio.

“Soon after, bandmate David Paich called Procaro one day to make a cassette tape of 2 songs David had written for Michael Jackson’s new Thriller album project, for someone to pick up for delivery. Procaro happened to use the cassette he recorded ‘Human Nature’ on, putting Paich’s songs on the opposite side and switching the labels to read Side-A. It was a happy accident that auto-playback kicked in while Jackson producer Quincy Jones was in his car listening to Porcaro’s cassette demo. Jones got to hear ‘Human Nature’ on Side B, and loved it.”

Memory

First recorded by Elaine Paige (UK #6 1981).
Similar to “Bolero in Blue” by Larry Clinton (1940).
Other hit versions by Barbra Streisand (US #52/MOR #9/UK #34 1982), Barry Manilow (US #39/MOR #8 1982), Elaine Paige rerecording (UK #36 1998).

From the wiki: “‘Memory’, often incorrectly called ‘Memories’, is a show tune from the 1981 musical Cats. Its writers, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cats director Trevor Nunn, received the 1981 Ivor Novello award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically. (Prior to its inclusion in Cats, the tune was earmarked for earlier Lloyd Webber projects, including a ballad for Perón in Evita, and as a song for Max in his original 1970s draft of Sunset Boulevard.)

“The lyric was based on T. S. Eliot’s poems ‘Preludes’ and ‘Rhapsody on a Windy Night’. Composer Lloyd Webber feared that the tune sounded too similar to Ravel’s ‘Bolero’ and to a work by Puccini, and also that the opening – the haunting main theme – closely resembled the flute solo (improvised by Bud Shank in the studio) from The Mamas & the Papas’ 1965 song ‘California Dreamin””. He asked his father’s opinion; according to Lloyd Webber, his father responded ‘It sounds like a million dollars!’ While Lloyd Webber does acknowledge Ravel’s ‘Bolero’, there is no mention of similarity to ‘Bolero in Blue’ written by Larry Clinton, replicating note-for-note the first several measures from Clinton’s composition.

(Just Like) Starting Over

First recorded (as a demo titled “My Life”) by John Lennon (1980).
Hit version by John Lennon (US #1/UK #1/CAN #1/AUS #1 1980).

From the wiki: “‘(Just Like) Starting Over’ was written and performed by John Lennon for his album, Double Fantasy. Although its origins were in unfinished demo compositions like ‘Don’t Be Crazy’ and ‘My Life’, it was one of the last songs to be completed in time for the Double Fantasy album sessions. ‘We didn’t hear it until the last day of rehearsal,’ producer Jack Douglas said in 2005. Lennon finished the song while on holiday in Bermuda, and recorded it at The Hit Factory in New York City just weeks later.

“The original title was to be ‘Starting Over’. ‘(Just Like)’ was added at the last minute because a country song of the same title had recently been released by Tammy Wynette. While commercial releases of the song (original 45rpm singles, LP’s and Compact Discs) run a length of three minutes and 54 seconds, a promotional 12” vinyl single originally issued to radio stations features a longer fade-out, officially running at four minutes and 17 seconds. This version is highly sought by collectors.

“It became Lennon’s biggest solo American hit, staying at #1 for five weeks.”

On the Way to the Sky

Co-written and first recorded by Carole Bayer-Sager (1981).
Hit version by co-writer Neil Diamond (US #27/MOR #4 1982).

From the wiki: “‘On the Way to the Sky’ was written by Neil Diamond and Carole Bayer Sager, and was first recorded and released by Bayer-Sager in 1981 on her album Sometimes Late At Night.”

Endless Love

First performed by Shea Chambers (1981).
Hit versions by Diana Ross & Lionel Richie (US #1/MOR #1/R&B #1/UK #7 1981), Mariah Carey & Luther Vandross (US #2/R&B #7/CAN #6/UK #3/IRE #4/AUS #2 1994).

From the wiki: “‘Endless Love’ was written by Lionel Richie, and was first performed in the 1981 movie Endless Love by Shea Chambers (lip-synced by uncredited actress in a singing role) but whose vocal did not appear on the subsequent soundtrack album. The song was then recorded as a duet by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie, and was released as the single from the soundtrack album; released while Richie still officially was a member of The Commodores. The success of the duet encouraged Richie to branch out into a full-fledged, and very successful, solo career.

“The Ross/Richie duet became a #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, and nearly 30 years after its release it still remains the best-selling single of Ross’ career. The single stayed at #1 for no less than nine weeks from August 9 to October 10, 1981, making it the biggest-selling single of the year in the US. It also topped the Billboard R&B chart and the Adult Contemporary chart as well as becoming a Top ten hit single in the UK, peaking at #7.

Waiting for a Star to Fall

First recorded by Belinda Carlisle (1987).
Hit versions by Boy Meets Girl (US #5/MOR #1/UK #9/CAN #1 1988), Cabin Crew (UK #4 2005), Sunset Strippers (UK #3 2005).

From the wiki: “‘Waiting for a Star to Fall’ was written by Shannon Rubicam and George Merrill, inspired by an actual falling star that Rubicam had seen at one of Whitney Houston’s concerts at the Greek Theatre. Initially, the duo did not consider recording it and, instead, submitted the song to Clive Davis to consider including it on Houston’s next album. But, he rejected it, alleging that the song did not suit her. The song was then offered to and recorded by Belinda Carlisle for her 1987 release, Heaven on Earth. But, Carlisle disliked the song and refused to include it on the album.

“Merrill and Rubicam decided to record the song themselves for their second album Reel Life, becoming a Top 10 hit in the US, the UK and Canada.”

Nothing Compares 2 U

First recorded by The Family (1985).
Hit version by Sinead O’Connor (US #1/UK #1/CAN #1/IRE #1/AUS #1 1989).
Also recorded by Prince & The New Power Generation (1993), fDeluxe (aka The Family) (2016).

From the wiki: “‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ was written and composed by Prince for one of his side projects, The Family. It was later made famous by Irish recording artist Sinéad O’Connor, whose arrangement was released as the second single from her second studio album, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got. This version, which O’Connor co-produced with Nellee Hooper, became a worldwide hit in 1990.

“The Family’s origins started with the disintegration of The Time in 1984. Lead singer Morris Day had left the band to pursue a solo career and guitarist Jesse Johnson became the de facto band leader. Prince invited the remaining members of The Time – Jellybean Johnson, Jerome Benton, and Paul Peterson – to his home and presented them with his new project. They agreed to become a new band called The Family, with Peterson renamed ‘St. Paul’ as the new frontman and bassist. The Family was a relatively important album in Prince’s musical career because it allowed him to test several musical concepts that he would later fully integrate in his music. ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ appeared on the album but it was not released as a single, and received little recognition. (A mix of the song, featuring Prince on vocals, was released in 1993 under the guise of The New Power Generation.)

Hold Me

First recorded (as “In Your Arms”) by Diana Ross (1982).
Hit version by Teddy Pendergrass & Whitney Houston (US #46/MOR #6/R&B #5/UK #44 1984).

From the wiki: “‘Hold Me’, originally titled ‘In Your Arms’, was written by Linda Creed & Michael Masser (‘The Greatest Love of All‘), and first recorded by Diana Ross for her 1982 album Silk Electric. In 1984, the song was recorded as a duet by Teddy Pendergrass and Whitney Houston. That recording was released simultaneously as a single in 1984 by both Pendergrass (from his album Love Language) and Houston (from her self-titled debut album, Whitney).”

The Motown Song

Written and first recorded by Larry John McNally (1986).
Hit version by Rod Stewart ft. The Temptations (US #10/MOR #3/UK #10 1991).

From the wiki: “‘The Motown Song’ was written by Larry John McNally and was originally recorded by McNally in 1986 for the Quicksilver movie soundtrack. In 1991, Rod Stewart covered ‘The Motown Song’ with The Temptations, for Stewart’s album Vagabond Heart.”

Tom’s Diner

Written and first recorded by Suzanne Vega (1982).
Hit versions Suzanne Vega (UK #58 1987), DNA (as “Oh Suzanne!”) ft. Suzanne Vega (US #5/R&B #10/UK #2 1990/CAN #4/AUS #8/GER #1), Giorgio Moroder ft. Britney Spears (2015).

From the wiki: “Tom’s Diner’ was written and first recorded by Suzanne Vega in 1982. The song’s orgin can be traced back to a story published on November 18, 1981, in the New York Post, thanks to this set of lines:

‘I open up the paper, there’s a story of an actor / Who had died while he was drinking, it was no one I had heard of / And I’m turning to the horoscope, and looking for the funnies.’

“By cross-referencing the New York daily papers operating in 1981, fans of the song isolated the star in question as William Holden, an Academy Award winner who died alone and drunk in his apartment.

Walking on Sunshine

First recorded by Katrina & the Waves (1983).
Hit version by Katrina & the Waves (US#9/UK #8/CAN #3/IRE 2/AUS #4 1985).

(Above: Canadian TV appearance, c. 1983.)

From the wiki: “‘Walking on Sunshine’ was written by Kimberley Rew for Katrina & the Waves’ 1983 debut album. The band recorded – at their own expense – an LP of their original material designed to be sold at gigs. The album was shopped around to various labels, but only Attic Records in Canada responded with an offer. Consequently, although Katrina & the Waves were based in England, the first album, Walking On Sunshine, was released only in Canada. The title track garnered enough critical attention and radio play (especially for the title track) to merit a Canadian tour and a follow-up album in Canada (Katrina and the Waves 2, in 1984).

“In 1985, the group was signed to an international deal by Capitol Records. For the first Capitol album, the band re-recorded, remixed, or overdubbed 10 songs from their earlier albums, including ‘Walking on Sunshine’, to create their major-label self-titled debut album in 1985. A substantially-rearranged ‘Walking on Sunshine’ was released as the album’s first promotional single, and scored the group a Top 10 chart hit in both the US and the UK. A Grammy award nomination for Best New Artist followed.

Runaway Train

Written and first recorded by John Stewart (1987).
Hit version by Rosanne Cash (C&W #1 1988).

From the wiki: “‘Runaway Train’ is a song written by John Stewart and was first released by Stewart on the album Punch the Big Guy. Rosanne Cash released her released in July 1988 as the fourth single from the album King’s Record Shop. It would become her ninth #1 hit on the Country chart as a solo artist.”

Radio Free Europe

First recorded by R.E.M. (1981).
Hit version by R.E.M. (US #78 1983).

From the wiki: “‘Radio Free Europe’ was written by R.E.M., and was first recorded and released in 1981 as the group’s debut single on the short-lived independent record label Hib-Tone. The single received critical acclaim, and its success earned the band a record deal with I.R.S. Records. R.E.M. then re-recorded the song for its 1983 debut album Murmur. R.E.M. formed in Athens, Georgia in 1980. The band quickly established itself in the local scene. Over the course of 1980 the band refined its songwriting skills, helped by its frequent gigs at local venues. One of the group’s newer compositions was ‘Radio Free Europe’. The other members of the band were reportedly awestruck when they heard the lyrics and melodies singer Michael Stipe had written for the song. By May 1981 the band added ‘Radio Free Europe’ to its set-list.”

Vacation

First recorded by The Textones (1980).
Hit version by The Go-Go’s (US #8 1982).

From the wiki: “‘Vacation’ was written by Karen Valentine and first recorded by her group, The Textones, in 1980 for release in the UK. The Go-Go’s Jane Wiedlin recalls [from Songfacts.com] ”Vacation’ was Kathy’s song, and Kathy was the last Go-Go to join. She joined at the beginning of ’81 and she brought that song with her from her band, The Textones. We really loved the song, but it didn’t really have a chorus. So Charlotte and I ended up working with Kathy a little bit more on the song, and sort of Go-Go-fying it.’ The Go-Go’s recording charted Top 10 in the US but did not have any impact on the UK Singles chart.”

All the Man (That) I Need

First recorded (as “All The Man I Need”) by Linda Clifford (1981).
Hit version by Whitney Houston (1992).

From the wiki: “‘All the Man That I Need’ is a song written by American songwriters Dean Pitchford and Michael Gore with Linda Clifford in mind when they wrote the song. The song was first recorded by Clifford in 1982 as ‘All The Man I Need’, for her album I’ll Keep on Loving You. It was released it as a single, but it failed to chart.

No More “I Love You’s”

First recorded by The Lover Speaks (UK #58 1986).
Hit version by Annie Lennox (US #23/UK #2 1995).

From the wiki: “‘No More I Love You’s’ was written by Joseph Hughes and David Freeman, and was first released by their band, The Lover Speaks, in 1986. Released as a single, the original peaked at #58 on the UK Singles chart. The song was covered almost a decade later by former-Eurythmic Annie Lennox and was the first single released from her second studio album, Medusa.

Come Back and Stay (Paul Young)

Written and first recorded by Jack Lee (1981).
Hit version by Paul Young (US #22/UK #4/GERM #1/IRE #3/BEL #1 1983).

From the wiki: “‘Come Back and Stay’ was written and first recorded in 1981 by Jack Lee (‘Hanging on the Telephone‘), who had earlier formed the seminal, yet short-lived Los Angeles power pop trio The Nerves. In 1983, singer Paul Young released his cover as a single from his album, No Parlez, and it became an international hit; his first US Top 40, peaking at #22 on the Billboard Hot 100.”

Thing Called Love

Written and first recorded by John Hiatt (1987).
Hit version by Bonnie Raitt (US #11/UK #86 1989).

From the wiki: “‘Thing Called Love’ was written and first recorded by John Hiatt in 1987, featuring Ry Cooder on guitar and Nick Lowe (‘Cruel to Be Kind‘) on bass. The album on which it appeared, Bring the Family, was recorded in four days after McCabe’s Guitar Shop booker John Chelew convinced Hiatt that ‘Thing Called Love’, ‘Thank You Girl’, and ‘Have a Little Faith in Me‘ were some of his best songs. Hiatt was recently sober but had burned so many bridges in the music industry he did not think he had a chance of continuing. He had been dropped by his label and ‘wondered if I was worth a damn.’ Demon Records in England still loved his work and pledged about $30,000 if he wanted to record; A&M Records would picked up the finished disc for distribution in the US.

The Best

First recorded by Bonnie Tyler (UK #95/NOR #10/POR #10/SPN #34 1988).
Other hit version by Tina Turner (US #15/UK #5/CAN #4/AUS #2/SPN #2/NOR #5 1989).

From the wiki: “‘The Best’ is a song written by Mike Chapman (‘Mickey‘) and Holly Knight (‘Better Be Good to Me‘), originally recorded by Bonnie Tyler on her 1988 release Hide Your Heart. The single reached #10 in Norway and Portugal, #34 in Spain and #95 in the UK.

I’ve Done Everything for You

Written and first recorded by Sammy Hagar (1978| UK #36 1980).
US hit version by Rick Springfield (US #8 1981).

From the wiki: “‘I’ve Done Everything for You’ was written by Sammy Hagar, and was a staple of Hagar’s live performances as early as 1977. A live recording of the song appeared on Hagar’s 1978 album All Night Long and was released as a single. It did not chart in the US but was a UK Top 40 hit in 1980. A cover version of the song appeared on Rick Springfield’s 1981 international breakout album Working Class Dog. Springfield’s single reached the US Top 10. Following the success of the Springfield version, Hagar recorded a studio version of ‘I’ve Done Everything for You’ for inclusion on his 1982 greatest hits album. Rematch.”

Harden My Heart

First recorded by Seafood Mama (1980).
Hit version by Quarterflash (US #3/UK #49 1982).

From the wiki: “‘Harden My Heart’ was originally released as a single in early 1980 by Seafood Mama, Quarterflash’s predecessor band. That recording featured more sparse instrumentation but a more dramatic vocal arrangement than the hit version. The original single was a regional success on radio stations in the Pacific Northwest. After changing the group name, Quarterflash released their self-titled debut album in 1981 on which was the new version of ‘Harden My Heart’. This version was released as the album’s first single, and made the US Top 5.”

Better Be Good to Me

First recorded by Spider (1981).
Hit version by Tina Turner (US #5/R&B #6/UK #45 1984).

From the wiki: “‘Better Be Good to Me’ was written by Mike Chapman (‘Mickey‘, ‘Kiss You All Over’), Nicky Chinn and Holly Knight, and enjoyed its greatest commercial success on Tina Turner’s solo album, Private Dancer. The song had originally been released in 1981 by Spider, a New York City band that included co-writer Knight as a member. Chapman is an Australian record producer and songwriter who was a major force in the British Ppop music industry in the 1970s and early 1980s. He created a string of hit singles for artists including Sweet, Suzi Quatro, Smokie, Mud, and Racey, and later produced breakthrough albums for Blondie and The Knack.”

Our Lips Are Sealed

Co-written and first recorded by The Go-Go’s (US #20/UK #47/CAN #3 1981).
Other hit version by Fun Boy Three (UK #7 1983).

From the wiki: “‘Our Lips Are Sealed’ was written by The Go-Go’s guitarist Jane Wiedlin and Fun Boy Three singer Terry Hall (formerly of The Specials). The Go-Go’s supported The Specials on the latter’s 1980 US tour. According to Wiedlin, she and Hall had had an affair despite him having a girlfriend and this led to correspondence between Wiedlin and Hall about his ‘complicated situation’ from which the two pulled lyrics for the song. ‘Lips’ was first recorded by The Go-Go’s (and produced by Richard Gottehrer, who had co-written and helmed the recording of The Angels’ ‘My Boyfriend’s Back’ 18 years earlier) as the opening track on their 1981 album Beauty and the Beat and served as the group’s debut American single in June 1981. In 1983, Hall’s band, Fun Boy Three, released a more ominous-sounding cover of ‘Our Lips Are Sealed’. Issued as a UK single, the track became Top 10 there, and remains the best-known version of ‘Lips’ in that country and on the Continent. In 2000, Rolling Stone named ‘Our Lips Are Sealed’ one of the 100 Greatest Pop Songs of All Time.

Living in America

Co-written and first recorded (as a demo) by Dan Hartman (1984).
Hit version by James Brown (US #4/R&B #10/UK #5 1985).

From the wiki: ‘Living in America’ was written and first recorded as a demo by Dan Hartman (‘I Can Dream About You‘) in 1984, and posthumously released in 1994 on the album Keep the Fire Burnin’. Hartman produced both his original demo and the James Brown cover that would be used in the movie and on the soundtrack album for Rocky IV. ‘Living in America’ would be the last of Brown’s forty-four hit recordings to appear in the Billboard Top 40. (Also, Stevie Ray Vaughn played guitar on both the cover and original recordings!)”

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