Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Four Seasons

Working My Way Back to You

First recorded by The Four Season (US #9/UK #50 1965).
Also recorded by The Happenings (1972)
Other hit versions by The Spinners (US #2 1979 |UK #1/IRE #1 1980), Boyzone (IRE #3 1994).

From the wiki: “‘Working My Way Back to You’ was written by Sandy Linzer and Denny Randell, with the song originally recorded in 1966 by The Four Seasons, reaching #9 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. and #50 on the UK Singles chart. It is the only Four Seasons’ hit to feature the group’s arranger, Charles Calello, in the temporary role of bassist/bass vocalist, having replaced original member Nick Massi.

“In 1979, The Spinners recorded a medley of ‘Working My Way Back to You’ and Michael Zager’s ‘Forgive Me Girl’, topping the UK Singles chart for two weeks in April 1980.

“The Irish boyband, Boyzone, released a cover version of ‘Working My Way Back to You’ as their debut single in May 1994. The song reached #3 on the Irish Singles Chart. It is one of the few songs to feature Mikey Graham on lead vocals.”

Don’t Think Twice (It’s Alright)

First recorded by Bobby Darin (Jul 1962 |Released Nov 1963).
First released by The New World Singers (Released Jul 1963).
Also recorded by Bob Dylan (Jul 1962 |Released Aug 1963).
Inspired by “Who’s Gonna Buy You Ribbons (When I’m Gone)” by Paul Clayton (1960).
Hit version by Peter Paul & Mary (US #9/MOR #2 1963). The Wonder Who? (parodied as “Don’t Think Twice” US #12 1965).

From the wiki: “‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right’ was written by Bob Dylan in 1962, recorded by him on November 14 that year, and released on the 1963 album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan and as his second-ever single in August 1963 with no chart impact.

“But, there were other, earlier recordings and releases prior to Dylan’s because of the music’s availability via Witmark Publishing Co., when Dylan was “just” an aspiring songwriter. Bobby Darin, no slouch in discovering talent (see Tim Hardin), first recorded the song in July 1962, the same month as Dylan, but the New World Singers released their version one month prior Dylan’s own recording and four months prior to Darin’s recording, in July 1963.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

First performed by Eddie Cantor (1934).
First recorded by Harry Reser & His Orchestra (1934).
Popular versions by Bing Crosby & The Andrews Sisters (1943), Perry Como (1946), The Four Seasons (US #23 1963), The Jackson 5 (1970), Bruce Springsteen (1975).

From the wiki: “‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ was written in 1934 by John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie, and first performed on Eddie Cantor’s radio variety show, The Chase and Sanborn How on NBC Radio, in November 1934. Indicative of his effect on the mass audience, Cantor had agreed to introduce the new song, that other well-known artists had rejected as being ‘silly’ and ‘childish’. The song, “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town”, became an immediate hit; the publisher had orders for 100,000 copies of sheet music (the measure in those days of a song’s popularity) the next day; over 400,000 copies were sold by Christmas.

“The earliest-known recorded version of the song was by banjoist Harry Reser and his band. It, too, became an instant hit with orders for 100,000 copies of sheet music and more than 30,000 records sold within 24 hours. Bing Crosby & The Andrews Sisters recorded a popular wartime version in 1943. But, it was the Four Seasons who first charted the song on the Billboard Hot 100, reaching #23 in 1963. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band recorded a live version in 1975 that was bootlegged to Rock radio stations until it saw its first release in 1982 as part of the Sesame Street compilation album In Harmony 2.”

Silhouettes

First recorded by The Rays (US #3/R&B #3 1957).
Other hit versions by The Diamonds (US #10/R&B #6 1957), Herman’s Hermits (US #5/UK #3 1965), Cliff Richard (UK #10 1990).
Also recorded by Frankie Lymon (1960), Bob Crewe (1961), Paul Anka (1961), The Four Seasons (1964), The Nylons (1982).

From the wiki: “In May 1957, songwriter-producer Bob Crewe (‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore)‘, ‘Lady Marmalade‘, ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’, ‘Silence is Golden‘) saw a couple embracing through a window shade as he passed-by on a train. He quickly set about turning the image into a song. Frank Slay, who owned the small Philadelphia record label XYZ with Crewe, added lyrics, and they soon had a complete song ready to record.

“The Rays’ original recording received a break when popular Philadelphia disc-jockey Hy Lit fell asleep at home listening to a stack of newly-released records on his record player. ‘Silhouettes’ happened to be the last record to play, and so it repeated until he woke up. Lit began to playing the song on his show and it became popular enough that Cameo-Parkway picked it up for national distribution. The Rays’ ‘Silhouettes’ eventually reached #3 on Billboard Hot 100, while also hitting the Top-5 on both the sales and airplay charts. It became the group’s only Top 40 hit.

Don’t Let Go

First recorded by Roy Hamilton (US #12/R&B #2 1958).
Also recorded by The Four Seasons (1964).
Other hit versions by Mel Tillis & Sherry Bryce (C&W #11 1974), Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen (US #56 1975), Isaac Hayes (US #18/Soul #11 1979).

From the wiki: “‘Don’t Let Go’ was written by Jesse Stone, and was first a hit for Roy Hamilton (‘Unchained Melody‘) in 1958 before covers by Mel Tillis, Commander Cody, and Isaac Hayes charted in the 1970s. One of the more interesting of many cover recordings done of ‘Don’t Let Go’ was produced by The Four Seasons in 1964; very much against their archetypical sound. The 1965 cover by The Graham Bond Organization (including bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker) was one of the first Rock tracks to feature the Mellotron.

“Stone was the leader of a Jazz band during the 1920s that included Coleman Hawkins. In 1936, with the assistance of Duke Ellington, Stone was booked to perform at New York City’s famed Cotton Club, and would later become a staff arranger/writer at the Apollo Theater. He would go on to join Atlantic Records as songwriter and producer, where he wrote ‘Shake, Rattle & Roll‘ under the pseudonym ‘Charles Calhoun’, first recorded by ‘Big’ Joe Turner.”

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