Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Beach Boys

Barbara-Ann

First recorded by The Regents (US #13/R&B #7 1961).
Also recorded by Jan & Dean (1962).
Other hit version by The Beach Boys (US #2/UK #3 1966).

From the wiki: “‘Barbara Ann’ was written by Fred Fassert and was first recorded by The Regents as ‘Barbara-Ann’. Their version was released in 1961. It reached #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and crossed-over, too, as a Top 10 R&B hit. The Beach Boys recorded their version on September 23, 1965 (five days after actress and model Barbara Anne Feldon coincidentally made her first television appearance on Get Smart). Dean Torrence is featured on lead vocals with Brian Wilson. Torrence was not credited on the album jacket but ‘Thanks, Dean’ is spoken by Carl Wilson at the end of the track.

“By late January 1966, ‘Barbara Ann’ was in position to replace ‘We Can Work It Out’ by The Beatles as the next #1 song. However, ‘My Love’, by Petula Clark, unexpectedly vaulted into the #1 position the week ending February 5, 1966. Consequently, ‘Barbara Ann’ peaked at #2 in the US Billboard Hot 100.”

The Boy from New York City

First recorded by The Ad Libs (US #8/R&B #6 1965).
Also recorded by Dave “Baby” Cortez (1965).
Other hit versions by Darts (UK #2 1978), The Manhattan Transfer (US #7/MOR #4 1981).

From the wiki: “‘The Boy from New York City’ was originally recorded by the American soul group The Ad Libs. Released as the group’s first single in 1964, it was produced by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller (‘Hound Dog‘, ‘On Broadway‘). The song peaked at #8 on the US Billboard Hot 100 in February 1965. The Ad Libs would never repeat their chart success.

“The song was later covered by Dave ‘Baby’ Cortez, as a 1965 instrumental; Darts, in 1978; and The Manhattan Transfer, in 1981. The latter two covers became chart hits in the UK and US, respectively. The Ad Libs recording also inspired a response song by The Beach Boys, ‘The Girl from New York City’, from their 1965 album Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!).”

Little Honda

First recorded by The Beach Boys (1964).
Hit version by The Hondells (US #9 1964).

From the wiki: “‘Little Honda’ was written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love for The Beach Boys. It was released on the group’s 1964 album All Summer Long, and was also featured on the EP Four by The Beach Boys. The song pays tribute to the small Honda motorcycle and its ease of operation, specifically the Honda Super Cub. Carl Wilson recalls:

[Brian] does exactly what he wants to do. I remember [sits back and laughs] — this is so funny — when we did ‘Little Honda’, Brian wanted me to get this real distorted guitar sound, real fuzzy. ‘This guitar sounds like shit,’ I said. ‘Brian, I hate this.’ And he goes, ‘Would you fucking do it? Just do it.’ When I heard it, I felt like an asshole. It sounded really hot. That was before fuzz became a big deal.

“It was covered by The Hondells, whose recording produced by Gary Usher peaked at #9 on the U.S. Billboard 100.”

Sloop John B.

First recorded (as “Histe Up the John B.”) by Cleveland Simmons Group (1935).
First popular version recorded (as “The Wreck of the John B.”) by The Weavers (1950).
Also recorded by Blind Blake Higgs (1952), The Kingston Trio (1958), Johnny Cash (1959), Jimmie Rodgers (1960), Dick Dale & His Del-Tones (1962).
Hit version (titled “The Sloop John B.”) by The Beach Boys (US #3/UK #2 1966).

From the wiki: “According to Blind Blake Higgs, the Bahamanian calypso entertainer, the John B had been a sponger boat that one day went under. That’s not so unusual, all thing considered. So, what made this tragedy so special? One possible explanation is the name of the vessel: to illiterate ears, ‘John B’ sounds like ‘Zombie’. So, when said sloop vanished with no one returning, that’s the stuff where legends are made of.

“The popularity of the song triggered interest in the wreck’s whereabouts. The hull was found and rescued from under the sands of Governor’s Harbor in 1926. John T. McCutcheon, philosopher and cartoonist on holiday with his wife in the West Indies at that time, learned the song and brought the song to New York where poet Carl Sandberg collected it for his songbook The American Songbag (1927).

Come Go With Me

First recorded by The Del-Vikings (1956).
Hit versions by The Del-Vikings (re-recording US #4/R&B #2 1957), Dion (US #48 1962), The Beach Boys (US #18 1981).

From the wiki: “‘Come Go with Me’ was written by C. E. Quick (aka Clarence Quick), an original member of the Doo-wop vocal group The Del-Vikings (also spelled Dell Vikings on Dot records releases, with no dash). The song was originally recorded by The Del-Vikings in 1956 and was released by them on Fee Bee Records with Quick as the lead vocalist. The 1957 re-recording released on Dot Records featured Norman Wright as the lead vocalist.

Blue Christmas

First recorded by Doye O’Dell (1948).
Hit versions by Ernest Tubb (C&W #1 1949), Hugo Winterhalter & His Orchestra with Choir (US #9 1949), Russ Morgan & His Orchestra (US #11 1949), Hugo Winterhalter & Billy Eckstine (US #20 1950), Elvis Presley (1957/UK #11 1964), Beach Boys (US #3 1964), Harry Connick Jr. (MOR #21 2004).

From the wiki: “‘Blue Christmas’ song was first recorded by Doye O’Dell in 1948. It was popularized the following year in three separate recordings: one by Country artist Ernest Tubb; one by instrumental bandleader Hugo Winterhalter and his orchestra; and one by bandleader Russ Morgan and his orchestra (the latter featuring lead vocals by Morgan and backing vocals by singers credited as the Morganaires). In 1950 Hugo Winterhalter released a new version, this time sung by Billy Eckstine, with shortened lyrics in a variation close to what is now the common standard for this song.

Cotton Fields

Written and first recorded by Lead Belly (1940).
Also recorded by Odetta (1954), Harry Belafonte (1958).
Hit versions by The Highwaymen (US #13 1961), The Beach Boys (UK #5 1970).

From the wiki: “‘Cotton Fields’ was written by Blues musician Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Lead Belly, who made the first recording of the song in 1940. ‘Cotton Fields’ was introduced into the canon of Folk music via its inclusion on the 1954 album release Odetta & Larry which comprised performances by Odetta and accompanist Larry Mohr at the Tin Angel nightclub in San Francisco. The song’s profile was boosted via its recording by Harry Belafonte first on his 1958 albums Belafonte Sings the Blues and Belafonte at Carnegie Hall. (Belafonte had learned ‘Cotton Fields’ from Odetta and been singing it in concert as early as 1955.) The song entered Pop culture with the #13 hit recording in 1961 by The Highwaymen. The Beach Boys reached the UK Top 5 with a 1968 recording, released as a single in 1970, of ‘Cotton Fields’.”

Surfin’ USA

Inspired by “Route 90” by Clarence Garlow (as a B-side 1952) and “Sweet Little Sixteen” by Chuck Berry (US #2/R&B #1/UK #16 1958).
Hit version by The Beach Boys (US #3/R&B #20/UK #34 1962).

From the wiki: “‘Route 90’, co-written and first recorded in 1952 by Louisiana stomper Clarence Garlow, served as the basis for two hit songs: Chuck Berry’s ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’ (1958) and ‘Surfin’ Safari’ (1962) by The Beach Boys. Somewhat ironically, it would be Berry – not Garlow (who passed away in 1986) – who would sue The Beach Boys for copyright infringement. Garlow’s only hit song recording was ‘Bon Ton Roula’, which peaked at #7 on the R&B chart in 1950.

Rock and Roll Music

Written and first recorded by Chuck Berry (US #8/R&B #6 1957).
Also recorded by The Beatles (1964).
Other hit versions by Humble Pie (US #105 1975), The Beach Boys (US #5/UK #36 1976).

From the wiki: “‘Rock and Roll Music’ was written and recorded by Rock and Roll icon Chuck Berry. The song has been widely covered and is recognized as one of Berry’s most popular and enduring compositions, and has been recorded by many well-known artists, including Bill Haley & His Comets, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, REO Speedwagon, Mental As Anything, Humble Pie, and Manic Street Preachers.

Seasons in the Sun

Recorded (in English) by The Kingston Trio (1963).
Adapted from “L’e Moribond” by Jacques Brel & Rod McKuen (1961).
Also recorded by Rod McKuen (1964), The Beach Boys (1973).
Hit version by Terry Jacks (US #1/UK #1/CAN #1 1974).

From the wiki: “‘Seasons in the Sun’ is an English-language adaptation of the 1961 song ‘L’e Moribond’ by Belgian singer-songwriter Jacques Brel with English lyrics by American singer-poet Rod McKuen (‘Jean‘). The original French-language song included sarcasm and references to the speaker’s wife’s infidelity.

“The Kingston Trio recording was the first cover version of McKuen’s translation in 1963. McKuen would include a performance of his own work on the 1964 album Rod McKuen Sings Jacques Brel.

“Terry Jacks recorded his version in Vancouver in 1973, making the decision to record the song when The Beach Boys, who had recorded their own version of it with Terry Jacks producing, decided to abandon their recording. Jacks recorded it instead and released it in 1974 on his label, Goldfish Records.

“The Jacks version is one of the fewer than forty all-time singles to have sold 10 million (or more) physical copies worldwide.”

I Can Hear Music

First recorded by The Ronettes (1966).
Hit version by The Beach Boys (US #24/UK #10/SWE #5 1969).
Also recorded by Larry Lurex (Freddie Mercury) (1973).

From the wiki: “‘I Can Hear Music’ is a song written by Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich and Phil Spector, originally performed by The Ronettes in 1966.

“The Beach Boys recorded ‘I Can Hear Music’ in 1969 for the album 20/20. This version peaked at #24 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart (and #20 on the Cash Box and Record World charts) in the US. Internationally, it reached #5 in Sweden, #6 in Holland and Malaysia, #7 in Poland, #10 in the UK, #13 in Germany and in Australia’s Go Set chart, and #15 in Ireland.

“In 1973, Larry Lurex (a pseudonym for Freddie Mercury) also recorded a cover version of ‘I Can Hear Music’. The recording is considered the Holy Grail among Queen collectors.”

Do You Want to Dance

Written and originally recorded by Bobby Freeman (US #5/R&B #2 1958).
Other hit versions by The Shadows (UK #2/NETH #1 1962), Del Shannon (US #43 1964), The Beach Boys (US #12 1965), Bette Midler (US #17 1972).

From the wiki: “‘Do You Want to Dance’ is a song written by Bobby Freeman and recorded by him in 1958. Cliff Richard and The Shadows’ version of the song reached #2 in the United Kingdom in 1962, despite being a B-side. It reached #8 in the United States when released by the Beach Boys in 1965 as ‘Do You Wanna Dance?’, and a 1972 cover by Bette Midler (‘Do You Want to Dance?’) reached #17.

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