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). ”
First recorded (as a demo) by Franke & the Knockouts (1987, released 1998).
Hit version by Jennifer Warnes & Bill Medley (US #1/MOR #1/UK #6 1987 |UK #8 1991).
From the wiki: “‘(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life’ was composed in late 1986 or early 1987 by Franke Previte, John DeNicola, and Donald Markowitz. Previte, the ‘Franke’ of the group Franke & the Knockouts, had had solo success with the song ‘Sweetheart’ in 1981 but, by 1986, was without a recording contract. Producer and head of Millennium Records, Jimmy Ienner, asked Previte about writing some music for ‘a little movie called Dirty Dancing‘. Previte initially turned the request down because he was still trying to get a record deal, but Ienner was persistent, and got Previte to write several songs for the film, including ‘Hungry Eyes‘, later recorded by singer Eric Carmen.
“After getting further approval, Previte created a demo of the song, performing on it himself with singer Rachele Cappelli. The demo showcased how the harmonies were to be used, employing a ‘cold open’ and a slow build-up of the song to its finale.
Written and first recorded by Nine Inch Nails (1994).
Hit version by Johnny Cash (C&W #56/ALT #33/UK #39 2002).
From the wiki: “‘Hurt’ was written by Nine Inch Nails leader Trent Reznor for the group’s second studio album, The Downward Spiral (1994). The song received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rock Song in 1996, but ultimately lost to Alanis Morissette’s ‘You Oughta Know’.
“In 2002, ‘Hurt’ was covered by Johnny Cash to commercial and critical acclaim; it was one of Cash’s final hits released before his death, and the related music video was considered one of the greatest of all time by publications such as NME. Reznor praised Cash’s interpretation of the song for its ‘sincerity and meaning’, going as far as to say ‘that song isn’t mine anymore.’ The line ‘crown of shit’ was changed by Cash to ‘crown of thorns’, not only removing profanity from the lyrics, but also more directly referencing Christ and Cash’s devout Christianity.
Written and first recorded by Leonard Cohen (1984).
Hit versions by k.d. lang (US #61/CAN #2 2004), Epsen Lind (NOR #1 2006), Rufus Wainwright (ROCK #34/UK #97 2007), Jeff Buckley (recorded 1994, released UK #65 2007 |US #102/UK #2 2008), Alexandra Burke (UK #1/IRE #1/EUR #1 2008), Justin Timberlake & Matt Morris (US #13/UK #91 2010), Pentatonix (US #23/GER #1/SWZ #7 2016).
Also recorded by John Cale (1991), Allison Crowe (2003).
From the wiki: “‘Hallelujah’ was written by Canadian poet-singer Leonard Cohen, and was originally released on his album Various Positions (1984). Achieving little initial success, the song found greater popular acclaim through a recording by John Cale, which inspired a recording by Jeff Buckley. It is considered as the ‘baseline’ of secular hymns. Cohen wrote around 80 draft verses for “Hallelujah”, with one writing session at the Royalton Hotel in New York where he was reduced to sitting on the floor in his underwear, banging his head on the floor.
“His original version, as recorded on his Various Positions album, contains several biblical references, most notably evoking the stories of Samson and treacherous Delilah from the Book of Judges. Following his original 1984 studio-album version, Cohen performed the original song on his world tour in 1985, but live performances during his 1988 and 1993 tours almost invariably contained a quite different set of lyrics, with only the last verse being common to the two versions. Numerous singers mix lyrics from both versions, and occasionally make direct lyric changes; for example, in place of Cohen’s ‘holy dove’, Canadian-American singer Rufus Wainwright substituted ‘holy dark’, while Canadian singer-songwriter Allison Crowe sang ‘Holy ghost’.
Written and first recorded by Chuck Berry (B-side 1956).
Hit album version by Santana (1983).
From the wiki: “‘Havana Moon’ was written and first recorded by Chuck Berry in 1956, and released as the B-side to the single ‘You Can’t Catch Me‘. According to Rolling Stone magazine:
Berry’s story of a Cuban woman missing an American woman came from playing Nat King Cole’s “Calypso Blues” when Berry was still slugging it out at St. Louis’ Cosmopolitan Club at a time when Latin rhythms were popular. He decided to write his own song after a gigging in New York City, where he met Cubans for the first time. “It is the differences in people that I think gives me a tremendous imagination to create a story for developing a lyric,” he wrote in his autobiography. “I had read, seen or heard in some respect all the situations in the Havana story. Certainly, missing the boat and surely missing the girl had been experienced many times by me.” The Rolling Stones recently paid tribute to the song by naming a concert film, shot in Cuba, after the song.
Written and first recorded by P.F. Sloan (1965).
Hit version by The Turtles (US #29 1965).
From ReBeatMag: “‘Let Me Be’ was written and recorded by P.F. Sloan, very successful in the mid-1960s, writing, performing, and producing Billboard Top-20 hits for artists such as Barry McGuire, The Searchers, Jan & Dean, Herman’s Hermits, Johnny Rivers, The Grass Roots, The Mamas & the Papas, and The Turtles. His most successful songs as a writer were three top ten hits. Barry McGuire’s 1965 ‘Eve of Destruction‘, Johnny Rivers’ 1966 ‘Secret Agent Man’ and Herman’s Hermits’ 1966 ‘A Must to Avoid’.
“‘Let Me Be’ was The Turtles’ second single. It didn’t come close to achieving the success of its predecessor, the cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘It Ain’t Me Babe‘. But, it did establish a working relationship between P.F. Sloan and The Turtles. More importantly, the song’s lyrics illustrated the independent, free-thinking spirit of both its composer and its audience, and though, in the big picture, the Turtles weren’t really ‘that kind’ of a band, their energetic and expressive take on the song is what makes it still fresh and relatable today.”
First recorded by David Bowie & John Hutchinson (1969).
Hit version by David Bowie (US #124/UK #5 1969 |US #15/CAN #16 1973 |UK #1 1975).
Also re-recorded by David Bowie (1979).
From the wiki: “‘Space Oddity’ was written by David Bowie. Three primary studio recordings of the song exist: an early version recorded in February 1969, the album version recorded that June (edited for release as a single), and a 1979 re-recording. The earliest version of ‘Space Oddity’ was recorded on 2 February 1969 by Bowie and John Hutchinson for Bowie’s promotional film Love You Till Tuesday. (Bowie and Hutchinson were the remaining members of the trio Feathers after the departure of Hermione Farthingale.) John was ‘Ground Control’, David was ‘Major Tom’.
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.
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’.
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.”
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