Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: John Lennon

Don’t Let Me Down

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.”

(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.”

One After 909

First recorded by The Quarrymen (1958).
Also recorded by The Beatals (1960), The Beatles (1962), The Beatles (1963).
First released by Terry Manning (1968).
Hit album version by The Beatles (1969).

From the wiki: “‘One After 909’ is the oldest known Beatles song. It was written as early as 1957, one of the first Lennon-McCartney compositions (‘[‘One After 909′] was something I wrote when I was about seventeen,’ John Lennon explained in his 1980 Playboy magazine interview), and was first recorded c. 1958 by The Quarrymen according to Mike McCartney. The then-name Beatals recorded ‘One After 909’ sometime between January-August 1960, after Stu Sutcliffe had joined as the bass player but before the addition of Pete Best on drums. The Beatles, sans Sutcliffe but with Best on drums, also recorded the song during rehearsals in 1962 at The Cavern Club, Liverpool. The group first recorded ‘One After 909’ in a studio during the sessions for the group’s third single, ‘From Me to You’, with Ringo Starr on drums, but that recording was unreleased until Anthology I in 1995.

Dizzy Miss Lizzy

Written and first recorded by Larry Williams (1958).
Also recorded by Ronnie Hawkins & the Hawks (1959), The Fabulous Echoes (1965), The Plastic Ono Band (1969).
Hit album version by The Beatles (1965).

From the wiki: “‘Dizzy Miss Lizzy’ was composed and first recorded by Larry Williams (‘Nobody‘) in 1958, sharing some similarities with the Little Richard-composed hit ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’. The song has been covered many times, including, most famously, by the Beatles on the 1965 Help! album. (The recording was initially intended for the 1965 American album Beatles VI, along with the Larry Williams cover, ‘Bad Boy’, recorded by the group on the same day.) Paul McCartney has stated that he believes ‘Dizzy Miss Lizzy’ to be one of the Beatles’ best recordings. ‘Dizzy Miss Lizzy’ also appeared as a live recording by the Beatles’ John Lennon on The Plastic Ono Band’s Live Peace in Toronto 1969 album.

Come Together

Inspired by “You Can’t Catch Me” by Chuck Berry (1956).
Hit version by The Beatles (US #1/UK #4 1969).

From the wiki: “In 1969, Lennon composed the song ‘Come Together’ for The Beatles’ album Abbey Road but its history began when Lennon was inspired by Timothy Leary’s campaign for governor of California against Ronald Reagan, which promptly ended when Leary was sent to prison for possession of marijuana. Lennon recalled, ‘The thing was created in the studio. It’s gobbledygook; ‘Come Together’ was an expression that Leary had come up with for his attempt at being president or whatever he wanted to be, and he asked me to write a campaign song. I tried and tried, but I couldn’t come up with one. But I came up with this, Come Together, which would’ve been no good to him – you couldn’t have a campaign song like that, right?’

Just Because

Written and first recorded (as “A Little Word”) by Shirley & Lee (1956).
Hit version by Lloyd Price (US #29/R&B #3 1956).
Also recorded by John Lennon (1973/1974).

From the wiki: “‘A Little Word’ was written by Leonard Lee, and released as the B-side to Shirley & Lee’s ‘That’s What I’ll Do’ non-charting single released in February 1956 (ahead of their chart-topping ‘Let the Good Times Roll’). Lloyd Price would adapt ‘A Little Word’ into “Just Because’. Price had already recorded one of the biggest-selling songs of the early Rock ‘n roll era, ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’, in 1952, but his career momentum was cut short when he was drafted into the Army in 1954. Upon his discharge, Price found he had been replaced at Specialty Records by Little Richard. Price then decided to start his own label – The Kent Recording Company (KRC). Kent Records began in late 1956 with Price as its only artist. The label’s first release was ‘Just Because’, on which Price played piano and produced the session.

If I Fell

First recorded (as a demo) by John Lennon (1964).
Hit version by The Beatles (US #53 1964).

From the wiki: “John Lennon got a head start on writing new material for the yet untitled first Beatles movie, in early January 1964, when he wrote and recorded the initial home demos for ‘If I Fell’ in his London flat. He later recalled ‘[This was] my first attempt to write a ballad proper. ‘In My Life’ was the first one that worked as a ballad.’ Brought into the studio for the group to record, ‘If I Fell’ was recorded in 15 takes on 27 February 1964. The song’s acoustic introduction – which is not repeated elsewhere in the song, musically or lyrically – made its first appearance on take 11. However, the home demo recorded by Lennon also contained the passage.

I’m the Greatest

Written and originally recorded (as a demo) by John Lennon (1970).
Album hit version by Ringo Starr (1973).

From the wiki: “‘I’m the Greatest'” was written by John Lennon in December 1970 as a wry comment on his past as a Beatle, and later tailored the composition for Ringo Starr to sing. With Lennon, Starr, and George Harrison appearing on the track, the song marks the only time that more than two ex-Beatles recorded together between the band’s break-up in 1970 and Lennon’s death in 1980.

A Day in the Life

Rhythm track recorded January 19, 1967 by The Beatles.
Hit album version released June 1, 1967 by The Beatles.

From All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Beatles Release: “The production of this song was epic. On the day of the first session, January 19, the song was not yet finished. The group recorded the basic rhythm track in a simple manner (piano, acoustic guitar, bass, drums, bongos and maracas). John’s voice, wrapped up in a heavy echo, was particularly moving. Instead of a traditional countdown, John called out ‘sugarplum fairy, sugarplum fairy.’ The whole team felt emotion. Audio engineer Geoff Emerick remembers shivering as he heard this.

Julia

First recorded (as a demo) by John Lennon (1968).
Hit album version by The Beatles (1968).
Also recorded by Ramsey Lewis (1968), Medeski, Martin & Wood and John Scofield (2006), Mike Patton & Carla Hassett (2009), Sean Lennon (2009)

From the wiki: “‘Julia’ was written by John Lennon (credited to Lennon–McCartney) during The Beatles’ 1968 visit to Rishikesh in northern India, where they were studying under the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It was there where Lennon learned the song’s finger-picking guitar style (known as ‘Travis-picking’) from Scottish musician Donovan. Lennon recorded his demo of ‘Julia’ during the very casual May 1968 new song reviews conducted by the Beatles at Esher, George Harrison’s estate, following the group’s return from India.

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