First recorded (as a demo) by John Lennon (1968).
Hit B-side single version by The Beatles (1969).
From the wiki: “Written by John Lennon as an anguished love song to his wife, Yoko Ono, Paul McCartney interpreted ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ as a ‘genuine plea’, with Lennon saying to Ono, ‘I’m really stepping out of line on this one. I’m really just letting my vulnerability be seen, so you must not let me down.’ First recorded as a demo by Lennon in 1968, multiple versions of ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ were recorded by the Beatles during the tumultuous Let It Be (née Get Back) recording sessions. The version recorded on 28 January 1969 was released as a B-side to the single ‘Get Back’, recorded the same day.
“The Beatles performed ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ twice during their rooftop concert of 30 January 1969, one of which was included in the Let It Be (1970) film, directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg. When the ‘Get Back’ project was revisited, Phil Spector dropped ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ from the Let It Be (1970) album. The B-side version of the song was later included on the Beatles’ compilation albums Hey Jude, 1967-1970 and Past Masters Volume 2 and Mono Masters.”
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.'”
Written and first recorded by Jake Holmes (1967).
Also recorded (as “I’m Confused”) by The Yardbirds (1968).
Hit album version by Led Zeppelin (1969)
From the wiki: “‘Dazed and Confused’ was written and first recorded by Jake Holmes for his debut solo album The Above Ground Sound of Jake Holmes, released in June 1967. The song has been incorrectly labelled as a tale about a bad acid trip; however, Holmes has confirmed that is not the case – that the song refers to the potential break-up of a relationship, typical of Blues numbers.
“In August 1967, Holmes opened for The Yardbirds at a Greenwich Village gig in New York City. According to Holmes, ‘That was the infamous moment of my life when ‘Dazed and Confused’ fell into the loving arms and hands of Jimmy Page.’ When ‘Dazed and Confused’ subsequently appeared on Led Zeppelin’s album in 1969, Holmes was aware of it but didn’t follow up on it at that time. He said: ‘In the early 1980s, I did write them a letter and I said basically: ‘I understand it’s a collaborative effort, but I think you should give me credit at least and some remuneration.’ But they never contacted me.’
“In June 2010, Holmes finally brought suit against Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page for copyright infringement, claiming to have written and recorded ‘Dazed and Confused’ two years before it appeared on Led Zeppelin’s debut album. In court documents Holmes cited a 1967 copyright registration for the song which he had renewed in 1995. This court case was ‘dismissed with prejudice’, as the parties settled out of court in January 2012.
First recorded by The Jet Set (1964).
Hit versions by The Turtles (US #6/CAN #1 1968), De La Soul (as “Transmitting Live from Mars” 1989), Salt N Pepa (US #47/UK #15 1990), The Lightning Seeds (UK #8 1997).
From the wiki: “‘You Showed Me’ was written by Jim McGuinn and Gene Clark of The Byrds in 1964 at a time when the pair were performing as a duo at The Troubadour and other folk clubs in and around Los Angeles. McGuinn and Clark soon formed a trio with David Crosby and named themselves The Jet Set. The Jet Set trio were rehearsing at World Pacific Studios under the guidance of their manager Jim Dickson, and it was there many of group’s rehearsal sessions were recorded, including ‘You Showed Me’. However, the song was soon abandoned by the group, who had by now changed their name to The Byrds, and it was not included on their debut album for Columbia Records, Mr. Tambourine Man.
“In 1968 the song was recorded by The Turtles, for the album The Turtles Present the Battle of the Bands, and was also released as a single in 1968. ‘You Showed Me’ had been introduced to The Turtles by their producer and former bass player, Chip Douglas, who himself had first become acquainted with the song after hearing Clark, McGuinn and Crosby perform it at The Troubadour in 1964. Douglas had also performed the song with Clark during 1966, while he was a member of Gene Clark and the Group.
Written and first recorded by Tommy James & the Shondells (1968).
Hit version by The Clique (US #22 1969).
From the wiki: “‘Sugar on Sunday’ was written by Tommy James and Mike Vale, and was first recorded by Tommy James & the Shondells in late 1968 for inclusion on the Crimson & Clover album.
“The Clique was a late 1960s American sunshine pop band from Houston, Texas. They started as the Roustabouts in the Beaumont, Texas area, 90 miles east of Houston, and later the Sandpipers before renaming themselves the Clique in 1967 and settling in Houston. Their first hit was a cover of the 13th Floor Elevators’ ‘Splash 1’, on Cinema Records, produced by Walt Andrus. The song was #1 in Houston for several weeks. Their self-titled album, The Clique (1969), released by White Whale Records, featured the singles ‘I’ll Hold Out My Hand’ and ‘Sugar on Sunday’. The latter single reached #22 on the Billboard Hot 100 in October, 1969.”
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.”
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.”
Inspired by “The Trip” by Donovan (1966).
Hit version by Sonny & Cher (US #6/UK #29 1967).
“The Trip” was written by English folk-rock singer Donovan about his popular engagement in Los Angeles at the Sunset Strip nightclub of the same name, and the “happenings” on the scene at the time.
The evidence is purely circumstantial, but:
“[Charlie Greene] discovered and built acts like Sonny and Cher, Buffalo Springfield and Iron Butterfly, from obscurity to stardom. The same groups would eventually have seizures until Greene was booted out of the very contracts he landed them. Every time. Sonny Bono paid $250,000 to buy back Greene’s contract.
“‘I hocked my typewriters for that first record, ‘Baby Don’t Go.’ Got $168, you know, it was just a West Coast hit anyway. And then Sonny stole . . . ah, wrote, ‘I Got You Babe’. . . . heheheheh. . . .
“‘Why the big laugh?
“‘It was a very timely song, man. Hey, Donovan had just come off ‘Catch The Wind’ and Sonny is very good at picking out certain commercial aspects of other hit songs. As are other writers. Sure. Just listen to them side-by-side, it’s an influence. Sonny’s clever. He’s not a good songwriter, but he’s a clever thief. No, thief is the wrong word. Influence . . . he uses influence well.
“. . . ‘The Beat Goes On,’ you might listen to Donovan’s ‘The Trip.’ ‘Baby Don’t Go,’ you might listen to ‘We’ll Sing in the Sunshine.’ Some are direct; some are indirect. I got to hand it to the mother-fucker for continuing to have perseverance on . . . ah . . . on an overabundance of a lack of talent. No, no, no, I got no complaint with Sonny.'”
– ‘As Bare As You Dare With Sonny and Cher’, Rolling Stone RS135, May 24, 1973
First recorded (as demos) by David Crosby (1968), Stephen Stills (1968).
Hit album versions by Crosby, Stills & Nash (1969), Jefferson Airplane (1969).
(Above: David Crosby demo.)
(Above: Stephen Stills demo)
From the wiki: “‘Wooden Ships’ was written by David Crosby, Paul Kantner, and Stephen Stills. ‘The song was composed in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on a boat named ‘Mayan’ owned by Crosby, who composed the music, while Kantner and Stills wrote most of the lyrics. Wooden Ships’ was first recorded as a demo by Crosby in March 1968 with the melody but no lyrics. Stills recorded his own demo the following month with most of the lyrics in place.
“On the original Crosby Stills & Nash release in 1969, Kantner could not be officially credited as one of the joint authors-composer due to legal issues. Crosby later said, ‘Paul called me up and said that he was having this major duke-out with this horrible guy (Matthew Katz) who was managing the band, and [Katz] was freezing everything their names were on. ‘He might injunct the release of your record,’ [Kanter] told me. So we didn’t put Paul’s name on it for a while. In later versions, we made it very certain that he wrote it with us. Of course, we evened things up with him with a whole mess of cash when the record went huge.’
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.’
First recorded by Sparrow (1967).
Hit album version by Steppenwolf (1968).
Also recorded by Hoyt Axton (1971).
From the wiki: “‘The Pusher’ was written by Hoyt Axton (‘Joy to the World‘, ‘Never Been to Spain‘) after one of his friends died of a drug overdose. The song was one of the first to deal with harsh realities of drug use, and condemns ‘the pusher’ as a heartless criminal who is only after your money. It was made popular by the 1969 movie Easy Rider. ‘The Pusher’ was first recorded as a live performance at The Matrix in 1967 by Sparrow (pre-Steppenwolf moniker). But, according to organist Gordy McJohn, the group’s history with the song began in 1966 when singer John Kay and Jerry Edmonton were late for a performance:
Nick and Mars and me started that long version of ‘The Pusher’. John and Jerry’s flight was late one night at the Avalon Ballroom, so we started and then we perfected it at the ‘Arc’ in Sausalito on New Year’s Eve in 1966.
First recorded by Paul Revere & the Raiders (1965).
Also recorded by The W.C. Fields Memorial Electric String Band (1966), The Rebounds (1966), Flies (1966), Jimi Hendrix (1969, released 1971).
Hit versions by The Monkees (US #20 1967), The Farm (UK #57 1990), P.J. & Duncan (UK #11 1996).
From the wiki: “‘(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone’ was written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart (‘Last Train to Clarksville’, ‘I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight’). It was first recorded in 1965 by Paul Revere & the Raiders, and first appeared on their album Midnight Ride released in May 1966. Early covers included recordings by The W.C. Fields Memorial Electric String Band, The Rebounds, and The Flies. ‘Stepping Stone’ is best known as a hit for The Monkees (US #20). In early 1967, it became the first Monkees B-side to chart.”
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.
First recorded by Jay & the Americans (1967).
Hit album version by Traffic (1968, released 1969).
From the wiki: “‘Shanghai Noodle Factory’ was written by Steve Winwood sometime between his departure from The Spencer Davis Group in the spring of 1967 and his co-founding of the band Traffic, but was first recorded by the group Jay & the Americans (‘Come A Little Bit Closer’, ‘Cara Mia’, ‘This Magic Moment‘) as the B-side to the non-charting single ‘French Provincial’. Coincidentally, the original recording was produced by co-writer and Traffic producer Jimmy Miller. Traffic would later record its own version of Winwood’s song, but it would not appear on an album until the 1969 release of Last Exit.”
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.”
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.”
First recorded by The Silver Beetles (1960).
Hit album version by The Beatles (1964).
From the wiki: “‘I’ll Follow the Sun’ was written and sung by Paul McCartney and credited to Lennon–McCartney. It appears on the Beatles for Sale album in the UK and on Beatles ’65 in the US, but was written long before. A version recorded in 1960 can be found in the bootleg record You Might As Well Call Us the Quarrymen. One reason The Beatles didn’t use the song on their first three albums was because it didn’t ‘sound’ tough enough for the group’s leather-jacketed early image. By the time the group did record it, for their fourth LP, the rhythm had changed from a Rockabilly shuffle to a gentle Cha-cha. Ringo Starr kept the beat by smacking his palms on his knees.
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 Bluegrass banjos. When the 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 Top 10 hit in Britain since 1972.
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.
Written and first recorded by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band (1973).
Hit version (as “Sandy”) by The Hollies (US #85/GER #22/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 ‘Sandy’ met with no apparent chart success. The ‘Sandy’ in the song was a composite of girls Springsteen knew growing up in New Jersey. He calls the song ‘a goodbye to my adopted hometown [Asbury Park] and the life I’d lived there before I recorded.’ ‘Sandy’ became the first song written by Springsteen to chart, anywhere, when The Hollies’ cover hit #85 in the US in 1975, charting higher in a few Continental markets.
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.”
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.
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.
First recorded (as”Piangi Con Me”) by The Rokes (1967).
First recorded (in English) by The Rokes (1967).
Also recorded (and first released) by The Living Daylights (1967).
Hit version by The Grass Roots (US #8 1967).
From the wiki: “The song that would become ‘Let’s Live for Today’ was originally written by David Shapiro and Ivan Mogul in 1966, with Italian lyrics and the Italian title of ‘Piangi Con Me’ (translated as ‘Cry with Me’). At the time, Shapiro was a member of The Rokes, an English beat group who had relocated to Italy in 1963. Following its success on the Italian charts, plans were made to release ‘Piangi Con Me’ in the United Kingdom and as a result, the song was translated into English and given the new title of ‘Passing Thru Grey’. However, the song’s publisher in Britain, Dick James Music, was unhappy with the lyrics of “Passing Thru Grey” and decided that they should be changed.
“Michael Julien, a member of the publisher’s writing staff, was assigned the task of composing new words for the song and it was his input that transformed it into ‘Let’s Live for Today’. Before the Rokes could release the song in the UK, however, another British group, The Living Daylights, released a version of it. Ultimately, neither The Living Daylights nor The Rokes would reach the charts with their recording of the song.
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