Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Beatles

Till There Was You

First commercial release by Sue Raney & The Nelson Riddle Orchestra (November 1957).
First performed by Barbara Cook & Robert Preston (December 1957).
Hit versions by Anita Bryant (US #30 1959), Peggy Lee (UK #30 1961).
Also recorded by Sonny Rollins (1958), The Beatles (1962 & 1963).

From the wiki: “‘Till There Was You’ was written by Meredith Willson for his 1957 musical play (and, later, movie) The Music Man, the original cast album for which was released in 1957. The first recording of the song to be commercially released came even before the original cast album release in January 1958. Promotional copies of a 45-rpm single were released on November 26, 1957 (before the Broadway premiere on December 19) featuring The Nelson Riddle Orchestra and 17-year-old vocalist Sue Raney.

“Jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins recorded an instrumental version of “Till There Was You” in 1958. Anita Bryant had the first chart success with the song, making the Billboard Top 40 in 1959. Peggy Lee charted UK Top-30 the same year in Great Britain in 1961 with her recording of “Till There Was You”.

“Paul McCartney, of The Beatles, was introduced to Peggy Lee’s music by his older cousin, Bett Robbins, and it would be the only Broadway song the group performed or would record. ‘Till There Was You’ became part of the Beatles’ repertoire in 1962 and was first recorded by them as part of their failed audition for Decca Records in January 1962. The George Martin-produced version, recorded in July 1963, would appear in the UK on With The Beatles, the group’s second album, in November 1963. ‘Till There Was You’ would also be the second of five songs The Beatles performed during their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964.


Written and first recorded (as “Match Box Blues”) by Blind Lemon Jefferson (1927).
Also recorded by The Shelton Brothers (1947), Carl Perkins (1956).
Hit version by The Beatles (US #17 1964).

From the wiki: “It was Carl Perkins’s father, Buck, who suggested that Carl record ‘Match Box Blues’. Buck knew only a few lines from the song, either from the 1927 recording by Blind Lemon Jefferson, or from a version recorded by Country musicians The Shelton Brothers. As Perkins began singing the few words his father had suggested, Jerry Lee Lewis, who was at that time a session piano player at Sun Studios, began a restrained boogie-woogie riff. Carl picked out a melody on the guitar to the riff and improvised more lyrics. Perkins’ recording was released in February 1957 with no apparent chart impact.

Hello Little Girl

Written and first recorded by The Beatles (1962).
Hit version by The Fourmost (UK #9 1963).
Also recorded by Gerry & The Pacemakers (1963).

From the wiki: “‘Hello Little Girl’ was the first song ever written by John Lennon. According to Lennon, he drew ‘on an old ’30s or ’40s song’ that his mother sang to him. Written in 1957, ‘Hello Little Girl’ was used as one of the songs at the Beatles unsuccessful Decca audition in 1962. In 1963, the English Merseybeat band The Fourmost made a recording of the song (produced by George Martin) and released it as their debut single. Two weeks later, Gerry & The Pacemakers also recorded a version of the song, but the version by the Fourmost was selected for the issue and reached #9 in the United Kingdom.”


Written and first recorded (as a demo) by George Harrison (1969).
First commercial recording by Joe Cocker (1969).
Hit versions by The Beatles (US #1/UK #4 1969), Shirley Bassey (US #55/UK #4 1970), Johnny Rodriguez (C&W #6 1974)
Also recorded by Ray Charles (1971).

From the wiki: “‘Something’ was the first Beatles song written by lead guitarist George Harrison to appear as an A-side single, and the only song written by him to top the US charts while he was in the band. Harrison began working on a song that eventually became known as ‘Something’ during the 1968 recording sessions for The Beatles (aka The White Album). Harrison recorded the demo of ‘Something’ on February 25, 1969, his 26th birthday.

“Harrison’s original intention had been to offer the song to Apple Records signing Jackie Lomax as he had done with a previous composition, ‘Sour Milk Sea’. When this fell through, ‘Something’ was instead given to Joe Cocker to record. Cocker completed his recording at A&M Studios in Los Angeles before The Beatles completed their recording in August 1969 at Abbey Road, but Cocker’s recording was not released (on Joe Cocker!, his second album) until November 1969 – six weeks after the release of The Beatles’ Abbey Road.

Besame Mucho

First recorded by Emilio Tuero (1941).
Hit versions by Jimmy Dorsey & His Orchestra (US #1 1944), Lucho Gatica (1953), The Coasters (US #70 1960), The Beatles (1962|1969).

From the wiki: “‘Besame Mucho’ (‘Kiss Me Much’) was written in 1940 by Mexican songwriter Consuelo Velázquez. According to Velázquez herself, she wrote this song even though she had not yet ever been kissed at the time; she’d heard kissing was considered a sin. ‘Besame Mucho’ has since become of the most famous boleros, and was recognized in 1999 as the most sung and recorded Mexican song in the world. Emilio Tuero was the first to record the song, but the Lucho Gatica recording in 1953 made the song world-famous.

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.

On the Wings of a Nightingale

First recorded (as a demo) by Paul McCartney (1983).
Hit version by The Everly Brothers (US #50/MOR #9/UK #41/CAN #10/SA #6 1984).

From The Beatles Rarity: “After a long break from recording together, the Everly Brothers got back together in 1983. They began with a reunion concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall in September of that year and then recorded another album together titled EB84 – their first album together in seven years. The lead single was a Paul McCartney composition that he not only contributed for the record, but also plays guitar on, called ‘On the Wings of a Nightingale’ and it went to #9 in the U.S. (Other contributors to the LP included Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Richard Tandy, and producer Dave Edmunds.) McCarthey presented his song to the Everlys in demo form prior to the album recording sessions.

Got to Get You Into My Life

First released by The Beatles (1966).
First hit version by Cliff Bennett & the Rebel Rousers (UK #6 1966).
Other hit versions by Stitch in Tyme (CAN #9 1967), The Beatles (US #7 1976), Earth Wind & Fire (US #9/R&B #1 1978).

From the wiki: “‘Got to Get You Into My Life’ was written by Paul McCartney (though officially credited to Lennon–McCartney), and first released in 1966 on The Beatles’ album Revolver but was never released then as a promotional single. It was the second song, after ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’, to be recorded for the album. John Lennon is said to have particularly admired the lyrics of ‘Got To Get You Into My Life’, interpreting them as being about LSD. In fact, the song was about marijuana, as McCartney later explained:

“‘Got To Get You Into My Life’ was one I wrote when I had first been introduced to pot. I’d been a rather straight working-class lad but when we started to get into pot it seemed to me to be quite uplifting … I didn’t have a hard time with it and to me it was mind-expanding, literally mind-expanding.

“‘So Got To Get You Into My Life is really a song about that, it’s not to a person, it’s actually about pot. It’s saying, I’m going to do this. This is not a bad idea. So it’s actually an ode to pot, like someone else might write an ode to chocolate or a good claret.'”

“The song took some time to get right in the studio – the Anthology 2 album has a version from the first day’s recording, 7 April, played on a harmonium and sounding quite different to the final arrangement heard on Revolver. The next day The Beatles tried a different arrangement, ending up with the rhythm track they settled on. On 11 April they overdubbed a guitar part, but the song remained untouched again until 18 May. On that day they added the song’s distinctive brass and woodwind parts, plus two lead vocal parts, tambourine and organ.

“In early 1966, Cliff Bennett & The Rebel Rousers was the opening act for The Beatles on their final European tour. Bennett got the opportunity to hear the song during the tour and ask McCartney if his group could record it. McCartney was producer for the session. The Rebel Rousers’ single, backed by Bennett’s own composition, ‘Baby Each Day’, reached #6 on the UK Singles chart.

Love of the Loved

Written and first recorded by The Beatles (1962).
Hit version by Cilla Black (UK #35 1963).

From The Beatles Bible: “One of Paul McCartney’s earliest musical compositions, ‘Love Of The Loved’ was recorded by Cilla Black and released as a single in 1963. The song was part of The Quarrymen’s repertoire for a time, and The Beatles often played it at the Cavern Club in Liverpool. It was one of 15 songs performed at their audition for Decca Records on 1 January 1962, but The Beatles’ version of ‘Love Of The Loved’ is the only original composition from the Decca audition not to have been made commercially available.

Octopus’s Garden

First recorded (as a rehearsal demo) by Ringo Starr with George Harrison (1969).
Hit album version by The Beatles (1969).

From the wiki: “The idea for ‘Octopus’s Garden’ came about when Ringo Starr was on a boat in Sardenia belonging to comedian Peter Sellers in 1968. Starr ordered fish and chips for lunch, but instead of fish he got squid (it was the first time he’d eaten squid, and he said, ‘It was OK. A bit rubbery. Tasted like chicken.’) Then, the boat’s captain told Starr about how octopuses travel along the sea bed picking up stones and shiny objects with which to build gardens. The Let It Be film included a scene in which Harrison is shown helping Starr work the song out on piano.

Let It Be

First recorded (as a demo) by Paul McCartney (1969).
First released by Aretha Franklin (1970).
Hit versions by The Beatles (US #1/UK #3/CAN #4/IRE #1/MOR #1/GER #2 1970), Ferry Aid (UK #1 1987).

From the wiki: “‘Let It Be’ was written by Paul McCartney (but credited to Lennon-McCartney), recorded by The Beatles, and released in March 1970 as a single and (in an alternate mix) as the title track of the group’s album Let It Be. But, The Beatles weren’t the first to release this song; Aretha Franklin was. The Queen of Soul recorded it in December, 1969, and it was released on her album This Girl’s In Love With You (but not as a single) in January, 1970, two months before The Beatles released their recording in the US and UK.

The Fool on the Hill

First recorded (as a demo) by Paul McCartney (1967).
Hit album/EP version by The Beatles (1967).
Also recorded by Sharon Tandy (1968).
Hit single versions by Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 (US #6 1968), Eddie Fisher (1968), Shirley Bassey (UK #48 1969).

From the wiki: “‘The Fool on the Hill’ was written by Paul McCartney (but credited to Lennon-McCartney) and was his major contribution to the Magical Mystery Tour EP and album, released in late 1967, and to the Magical Mystery Tour TV film broadcast on Boxing Day (December 26), 1967. McCartney recorded a solo demo version of the song in the on 6 September 1967. The recording of the song by the group began in earnest on 25 September and was completed in two days, with flutes added a month later.

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

Originally recorded (as a demo) by Paul McCartney (1968).
Hit versions by The Marmalade (UK #1/NOR #1 1969), The Bedrocks (UK #20 1969), Paul Desmond (MOR #35 1969), Arthur Conley (US #51/R&B #41 1969), The Beatles (AUS #1/JPN #1 1969 |US #49 1976).

From the wiki: “‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ is a song credited to Lennon–McCartney, but written by Paul McCartney. Released by The Beatles on their 1968 album The Beatles (commonly called The White Album), the song was released as a single that same year in many countries – except not in the United Kingdom, nor in the United States until 1976.

“During May 1968, after their return from India, The Beatles gathered at George Harrison’s Esher home, in Surrey, to record demos for their upcoming project. ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ was one of the twenty-seven demos recorded there. Paul performed this demo solo, with only an acoustic guitar. He had also double-tracked his vocal, which was not perfectly synchronized, creating an echoing effect.


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.

While My Guitar Gently Weeps

First recorded (as a demo) by George Harrison (1968).
Hit album version by The Beatles (1968).
Also recorded by Kenny Rankin (1976), Jeff Healey (1990), Jake Shimabukuro (2004), Tom Petty & Jeff Lynne (2004).

From the wiki: “Inspiration for the song came to Geroge Harrison when reading the I Ching, which, as Harrison put it, ‘seemed to me to be based on the Eastern concept that everything is relative to everything else… opposed to the Western view that things are merely coincidental.’ Taking this idea of relativism to his parents’ home in northern England, Harrison committed to write a song based on the first words he saw upon opening a random book. Those words were ‘gently weeps’, and he immediately began writing the song.


First recorded (as a demo) by The Beatles (1968).
Hit version by The Beatles (US #12 1968).
Also recorded by The Beatles (as “Revolution 1”) (1968), The Beatles (as “Revolution #9”) (1968).

From the wiki: “Around the fourth week of May 1968, The Beatles met at Kinfauns (George Harrison’s home in Esher) to demonstrate their compositions to each other in preparation for recording their next studio album. During his time in Rishikesh, India, that past February, John Lennon decided to write a song about the recent wave of social upheaval. He recalled, ‘I thought it was about time we spoke about it [revolution], the same as I thought it was about time we stopped not answering about the Vietnamese war. I had been thinking about it up in the hills in India.’ A bootleg recording from the informal Esher session shows that ‘Revolution’ had two of its three verses intact. The line referencing Mao Zedong was added to the lyrics in the studio. During filming of a promotional clip later that year, Lennon told the director that it was the most important lyric of the song. Lennon had changed his mind by 1972, saying ‘I should have never put that in about Chairman Mao.’

Baby It’s You

First recorded by The Shirelles (US #8/R&B #3 1961).
Other hit versions by Smith (US #5 1969), The Beatles (album 1963 |US #67/UK #7 1995).
Also recorded by The Carpenters (1970), Elvis Costello & Nick Lowe and His Cowboy Outfit (1984, released 1995).

From the wiki: “‘Baby It’s You’ was written by Burt Bacharach, Luther Dixon (credited as Barney Williams), and Mack David (elder brother of lyricist Hal David). The song was originally titled ‘I’ll Cherish You’, but was re-written at the request of Dixon who produced the track that the Shirelles released as a single in 1961. The group’s vocals were added directly to Bacharach’s demo recording.

“Dixon’s vocal arrangements for the Shirelles’ recording proved influential in subsequent versions, including that of The Beatles who performed ‘Baby It’s You’ as part of their stage act from 1961 until 1963 before recording it on February 11, 1963 for their first album, Please Please Me. Not released as a single in 1963, ‘Baby It’s You’ was re-released as both a CD single and a vinyl single in 1995 in the UK and the US, peaking at #7 in the UK and #67 in the US.

The Hippy Hippy Shake

Written and first recorded by Chan Romero (AUS #3 1959).
Also recorded by Little Tony (1959), The Beatles (1963).
Hit versions by The Swinging Blue Jeans (US #21/UK #5 1964), Mud (UK #8 1974), The Georgia Satellites (US #45/ROCK #13 1988).

From the wiki: “‘”Hippy Hippy Shake’ was written and recorded by 17-year old Chan Romero in 1959. That same year, it reached #3 in Australia. A cover version by Italian rocker Little Tony appeared in the same year and found moderate success in the UK and Italy.

Kansas City

First recorded (as “K.C. Lovin’) by Little Willie Littlefield (1952, reissued 1959).
Hit versions by Little Richard (as “Kansas City/Hey, Hey, Hey” US #95/R&B #26 1959), Hank Ballard & the Midnighters (US #72/R&B #16 1959), Wilbert Harrison (US #1/R&B #1 1959), James Brown (US #55/R&B #21 1967).
Also recorded (as “Kansas City/Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey”) by The Beatles (1964).

From the wiki: “First recorded by Little Willie Littlefield the same year, ‘Kansas City’ later became a #1 hit when it was recorded by Wilbert Harrison (‘Let’s Work Together‘) in 1959 and, then, went on to become one of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller’s most recorded tunes, with more than three hundred versions, with several appearing on the R&B and pop record charts.

“Through a connection to producer Ralph Bass, Leiber and Stoller wrote ‘Kansas City’ specifically for West Coast blues/R&B artist Little Willie Littlefield. Littlefield recorded the song in Los Angeles in 1952, during his first recording session for Federal Records. Federal’s Ralph Bass changed the title to ‘K. C. Lovin”, saying he considered it ‘hipper’ than ‘Kansas City’. Littlefield’s record had some success in parts of the U.S., but it did not reach the national chart.


First recorded by The Everly Brothers (1962, released 1984).
Hit versions by The Cookies (US #17/R&B #7 1962), The Beatles (1963).

From the wiki: “‘Chains’ is a song composed by the Brill Building husband-and-wife songwriting team Gerry Goffin and Carole King (‘Up on the Roof‘, ‘Crying in the Rain‘, ‘Oh No Not My Baby‘), and originally recorded by the Everly Brothers but which went unreleased until 1984. In 1962 it was a US Top 20 hit for Little Eva’s backing singers, The Cookies, and later covered by The Beatles.

I Call Your Name

First recorded by Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas (UK B-side #1 1963).
Hit album version by The Beatles (1964).

From the wiki: “John Lennon wrote the song prior to the formation of The Beatles. In 1963, he gave the song to Billy J. Kramer of The Dakotas, another Liverpool band signed to Parlophone by George Martin. Later, Lennon was reportedly dissatisfied with the Dakotas’ arrangement of his song as well as its position as a B-side (to the UK #1 ‘Bad to Me’, also written by Lennon-McCartney), so The Beatles recorded their own version, releasing it in the US on The Beatles’ Second Album and in the UK on the EP Long Tall Sally. The Beatles’ recording features George Harrison playing a Rickenbacker 360/12 guitar, giving to the world for the first time the distinctive sound of the famous guitar. ‘I Call Your Name’ was to have been included in the movie soundtrack to A Hard Day’s Night but was rejected in favor of ‘You Can’t Do That’.”

Money (That’s What I Want)

Originally recorded by Barrett Strong (US #23/R&B #2 1959).
Other hit versions by Jennel Hawkins (R&B #17 1962), The Beatles (1963), Bern Elliot & the Fenmen (UK #14 1963), The Kingsmen (US #16/R&B #6 1964), The Flying Lizards (1979 UK #5/US #50).

From the wiki: “The song was written by Tamla founder Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford, and became the first hit record for Gordy’s Motown enterprise. The record was first released on the Anna label (operated by Gwen Gordy, Anna Gordy and Billy ‘Roquel’ Davis). Gwen and Anna’s brother Berry Gordy had just established his Tamla label (soon Motown would follow), and he licensed the song to the Anna label in 1960 to take advantage of its national distribution arrangement with Chicago-based Chess Records in order to meet demand.

Anna (Go to Him)

Written and originally recorded by Arthur Alexander (US #68/R&B #10 1962).
Hit album version by The Beatles (1963).

From the wiki: “‘Anna (Go to Him)’ (or simply ‘Anna’) was written and originally recorded by Arthur Alexander, and is considered to be one of the great early Soul ballads even if its loping groove was closer to a mid-tempo song than a slow ballad.

“‘Anna’ was actually a minor pop hit (but Top-10 R&B) when it first came out in 1962, peaking #68 on the Pop charts. However, it was a personal favorite of John Lennon, and ‘Anna’ had been a part of the Beatles live set since its release in 1962. ‘Anna’ would become more famous for its cover version by the Beatles than when originally released by Alexander.

Maggie May (The Beatles)

Originally recorded by The Vipers Skiffle Group (1957).
Also recorded by Judy Garland (1964), and The Beatles (1969).

From the wiki: “Banned by BBC Radio on its release because of the sexual content of the lyrics, ‘Maggie May’ (also known as ‘Maggie Mae’) is a traditional Liverpool folk song about a prostitute who robbed a ‘homeward bounder’: a sailor coming home from a round-trip. The song specifies several real streets in Liverpool, notably Lime Street in the center of the town.

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