Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: The Wrecking Crew

Strangers in the Night

First recorded (as “Beddy Bye”) by Bert Kaempfert (1965).
First English-language recording by Jack Jones (1966).
Also recorded by Ivo Robić (1966).
Hit version Frank Sinatra (US #1/MOR #1/UK #1 1966).

From the wiki: “‘Strangers in the Night’ is credited to Bert Kaempfert with English lyrics by Charles Singleton and Eddie Snyder. It is sometimes claimed that the Croatian singer Ivo Robić was the original composer of ‘Strangers in the Night’ (performed as ‘Stranci u noći’), and that he sold the rights to Kaempfert after entering it without success in a song contest in Yugoslavia. These claims have not been substantiated. Robić, a pioneer of popular Yugoslav music from the early 1950s on, was the only artist from Yugoslavia whose records were available in the record shops of Europe and the rest of the world. He performed and collaborated with Kaempfert, Freddy Quinn, and Dean Martin. Robić would go on to record Yugoslav and German versions of ‘Strangers in the Night’, ‘Stranci u Noći’ with lyrics by Marija Renota and ‘Fremde in der Nacht’ with lyrics by Kurt Feltz.

“Kaempfert originally recorded the melody under the title ‘Beddy Bye’ as part of the instrumental score for the movie soundtrack to A Man Could Get Killed, which went on to win a Golden Globe Award in 1967 for Best Original Song in a Motion Picture.

“It was singer Jack Jone who first recorded a English-language version of ‘Strangers in the Night’ (Bobby Darin was also said to be recording the song) but Frank Sinatra’s recording was rushed into release. Sinatra’s recording reached #1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 (bumping the Beatles out of #1) and the MOR charts. The song also reached #1 on the UK Singles Chart. It has been said record producer Jimmy Bowen was the mastermind behind getting the song off the ground and onto the airwaves before anyone else could. According to Charles Pignone, ‘They did the recording session, and then Jimmy actually pressed some acetates and sent them out to disc jockeys. He actually paid people or paid stewardesses in certain cities to take these acetates on a plane then drop them off at a city to disc jockeys because he was aware that Jack Jones had recorded the song, and it was going to come out in a specific time, and he wanted Frank to get airplay on it.’

“‘Strangers in the Night’ also became the title song for Sinatra’s 1966 album Strangers in the Night, his most commercially successful album. Sinatra’s recording won him the Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance and the Grammy Award for Record of the Year, as well as a Grammy Award for Ernie Freeman for Best Arrangement Accompanying a Vocalist or Instrumentalist.

Bumble Boogie

First recorded by Freddy Martin & His Orchestra (US #7 1946).
Other hit version by B. Bumble & the Stingers (US #21 1961).

From the wiki: “Earl Palmer, René Hall and Plas Johnson were the house band at Rendezvous Records. According to Palmer, the three friends ‘always talked about how we could make some money and not leave the studio. One day I said, ‘Let’s do a rock version of ‘In the Mood”.’ The single, credited to the Ernie Fields Orchestra, became a hit, peaking in the US Top 5 in early 1960. Hall then came up with the idea for B. Bumble and the Stingers, taking the same approach to a piece of classical music. Pianist Jack Fina was approached. His 1946 swing arrangement of Rimsky-Korsakov’s ‘Flight of the Bumble Bee’ for Freddy Martin and his Orchestra, titled ‘Bumble Boogie’, had reached #7 on the Pop charts and was later used in the 1948 Walt Disney animated film Melody Time.

“Using Fina’s arrangement, producer Kim Fowley recorded pianist Ernie Freeman on two tracks, one using a grand piano for the rhythm part, while the other track featured a ‘tack piano’ – a modified upright piano with tacks attached to the hammers that created a tinny ‘honky tonk’ sound. The other musicians on the session, at Gold Star Studios, included Wrecking Crew regulars: Palmer on drums, Red Callender on bass, and Tommy Tedesco on guitar.”

Midnight Confessions

First recorded by The Ever-Green Blues (1967).
Hit version by The Grass Roots (US #5 1968).

From the wiki: “‘Midnight Confessions’ was written by Lou T. Josie and originally recorded by the Ever-Green Blues in 1967 for their album 7 Do Eleven (because The Ever-Green Blues were a 7-piece band doing eleven songs). Their recording caught the attention of producer Steve Barri who was looking for a song for The Grass Roots to record that was a ‘West Coast’ approximation of a Motown-style production. Because of the way The Grass Roots was handled by its producers, it is unlikely that any of the members of the band actually played on their recording of ‘Midnight Confessions’ (members of The Wrecking Crew did) except to provide the vocals and to perform it in concert. Regardless, it was the Grass Roots’ first single to feature a horn section and was ‘a departure’ from the group’s previous singles and thus caused worry for the band members that it might not have become a hit. The Grass Roots, however, did not need to worry as the single became their biggest hit in the United States, peaking at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100.”

Mr. Tambourine Man

Recorded (as a demo) by The Jet Set (1964).
First commercial release by The Brothers Four (1965).
Hit version by The Byrds (US #1/UK #1 1965).

From the wiki: “In 1964, The Byrds – then known as The Jet Set – first recorded ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ as an audition demo prior to being signed to Columbia Records. Two other songs from the session (but not ‘Tambourine Man’) were released by Elektra Records in a one-off deal and had no chart impact. For the Columbia Records recording session leading to their first hit record, The Byrds did the vocals and lead guitar on the recording but session musicians (the infamous ‘Wrecking Crew‘) were brought in to play the other instruments. Hal Blaine, Larry Knechtel and Glen Campbell were among the assorted session players used for The Byrds’ first recordings.

Superstar

Co-written and first recorded (as “Groupie (Superstar)”) by Delaney & Bonnie (1969).
Also recorded by Rita Coolidge (1970), Bette Midler (1970 |1972).
Hit versions by The Carpenters (US #2/CAN #3/JPN #7 1971), Luther Vandross (US #87/R&B #5 1983).

From the wiki: “Accounts of the song’s origin vary somewhat, but it grew out of the late 1969-early 1970 nexus of English and American musicians known as Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, involving Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett, Leon Russell, Eric Clapton, and various others. The song’s working title during portions of its development was ‘Groupie Song’. In its first recorded incarnation, the song was titled ‘Groupie (Superstar)’, and was recorded and released as a B-side to the Delaney & Bonnie single ‘Comin’ Home’ in December 1969.

This Diamond Ring

First recorded (as a demo) by Jimmy Radcliffe (1964).
First released by Sammy Ambrose (US #65 1965).
Hit version by Gary Lewis & The Playboys (US #1 1965).
Also recorded by Al Kooper (1976).

From the wiki: “‘This Diamond Ring’ was written by Al Kooper, Bob Brass, and Irwin Levine in 1964. The song was first recorded as a demo that year by Jimmy Radcliffe in a session produced by Kooper. In 1965, Sammy Ambrose recorded ‘This Diamond Ring’ as the first commercial release of the song. Ambrose, a Miami-born singer, had begun his recording career fronting the Afro-Beats (which included members of Betty Wright’s family). ‘This Diamond Ring’ was covered very shortly thereafter by Gary Lewis & The Playboys. Lewis’s version charted first, #101 on the January 2, 1965; both versions were together in the Billboard Hot 100 the following week; Ambrose’s recording stalled at #65 while Lewis’ version continued advancing to #1, making it to top on February 20.

“None of the Playboys played their instruments on the hit recording and Lewis’s vocals were heavily supported by Ron Hicklin’s overdubs. The music was performed by members of The Wrecking Crew, including Hal Blaine (drums), Carol Kaye (bass) and Leon Russell (keyboard). Snuff Garrett produced the Gary Lewis recording session.

Gentle On My Mind

Written and first recorded by John Hartford (1967).
Also recorded Tompall & the Glaser Brothers (1967).
Hit version by Glen Campbell (US #62/C&W #30 1967 |US #39/C&W #44/MOR #8 1968).

From the wiki: “‘Gentle On My Mind’ won two 1968 Grammy Awards. Hartford himself won the award for Best Folk Performance. The other award, Best Country & Western Solo Vocal Performance (Male), went to Country music singer Glen Campbell for his hit version of Hartford’s song. Hartford reported that he was inspired to write the song after seeing the film Doctor Zhivago when his own memories took over, and that it took about fifteen minutes for him to write down the music and lyrics, and he would record it in-studio on February 2, 1967. Hartford would re-record ‘Gentle On My Mind’ in 1977 for inclusion on the album All in the Name of Love.

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