Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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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.

From The Beatles Bible: “John Lennon was talked into recording a cover of ‘Just Because’ by Phil Spector for what became the Rock ‘N’ Roll (1975) album, produced in-part because of an out-of-court settlement related to plagiarism charges against The Beatles’ song ‘Come Together‘. Lennon’s unfamiliarity with the song accounted for his bemused spoken introduction: ‘Ah, remember this? Why, I must have been 13 when this came out. Or was it 14? Or was it 22? I could have been 12 actually.’

“This wasn’t, in fact, the original introduction he recorded for the song. Rock ‘N’ Roll was taped in two discrete stages, in Los Angeles in 1973 and New York in 1974. Phil Spector produced the LA recordings, but the sessions came to an abrupt end amid the drunken mayhem that became known as the ‘Lost Weekend’. Lennon was more intoxicated than usual while recording ‘Just Because’ during the Spector session. (During the opening of the six-minute recording Lennon is heard leering at the girl backup singers, and drunkenly sings the lyrics.)

“Lennon eventually realized that the ‘Lost Weekend’ was proving a personal and professional disaster, and he left Los Angeles for New York City to record Walls And Bridges. Afterwards, in October 1974, he set about salvaging the Rock ‘N’ Roll project, this time without Spector. Stripped of his original vocals, the backing track was still usable. Lennon later said he was subconsciously saying farewell to the music industry. Lennon did consider a follow-up album to Rock ‘N’ Roll but, instead, temporarily retired from the music industry for five years after Yoko Ono became pregnant with Sean Lennon.

[Lennon recalled] ‘The last album I did before Double Fantasy was Rock ‘N’ Roll, with a cover picture of me in Hamburg in a leather jacket. At the end of making that record, I was finishing up a track that Phil Spector had made me sing called Just Because, which I really didn’t know – all the rest I’d done as a teenager, so I knew them backward – and I couldn’t get the hang of it.’

‘I started spieling and saying, ‘And so we say farewell from the Record Plant,’ and a little thing in the back of my mind said, ‘Are you really saying farewell?’ I hadn’t thought of it then. I was still separated from Yoko and still hadn’t had the baby, but somewhere in the back was a voice that was saying, ‘Are you saying farewell to the whole game?’

‘It just flashed by like that – like a premonition. I didn’t think of it until a few years later, when I realized that I had actually stopped recording.'”

In retrospect, had Lennon passed away before the recording of Double Fantasy in 1980, ‘Just Because’ might well have been the last song ever recorded by John Lennon. Thankfully, it was not!

Lloyd Price, “Just Because” (1956):

John Lennon, “Just Because” released version (1974):

John Lennon, “Just Because” intoxicated unreleased version (1973):

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