First performed and recorded by Elaine Paige (UK #6 1981).
Similar to “Bolero in Blue” by Larry Clinton (1940).
Other hit versions by Barbra Streisand (US #52/MOR #9/UK #34 1982), Barry Manilow (US #39/MOR #8 1982), Elaine Paige rerecording (UK #36 1998).
From the wiki: “‘Memory’, often incorrectly called ‘Memories’, is a show tune from the 1981 musical Cats. Its writers, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cats director Trevor Nunn, received the 1981 Ivor Novello award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically. (Prior to its inclusion in Cats, the tune was earmarked for earlier Lloyd Webber projects, including a ballad for Perón in Evita, and as a song for Max in his original 1970s draft of Sunset Boulevard.)
“The lyric was based on T. S. Eliot’s poems ‘Preludes’ and ‘Rhapsody on a Windy Night’. Composer Lloyd Webber feared that the tune sounded too similar to Ravel’s ‘Bolero’ and to a work by Puccini, and also that the opening – the haunting main theme – closely resembled the flute solo (improvised by Bud Shank in the studio) from The Mamas & the Papas’ 1965 song ‘California Dreamin””.
“Lloyd-Webber asked his father’s opinion; according to him, his father responded ‘It sounds like a million dollars!’ While Lloyd Webber does acknowledge Ravel’s ‘Bolero’, there is no mention of similarity to ‘Bolero in Blue’ written by Larry Clinton, replicating note-for-note the first several measures from Clinton’s composition.
“Elaine Paige, who originated the role of Grizabella in the West End production of Cats, released a version of the song that was a Top 10 hit in the UK, peaking at #6 on the UK Singles Chart in July 1981. She re-recorded the song in 1998 with a slight lyrical alteration, which was included in the video release of the musical. This version reached #36 in the UK Singles Chart in October of that year. Paige also recorded a version for her 1983 album Stages.
“Barbra Streisand recorded ‘Memory’ (recording produced by Lloyd Webber himself) for her 1981 album Memories. When released as a single, Streisand’s cover reached #52 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and #9 on the Billboard adult contemporary chart in 1982. In the UK this version peaked at #34 the same year.
“Barry Manilow released a cover of ‘Memory’ as a single in late 1982; this became the highest-charting version to date on the Billboard Hot 100 when it reached #39 in January 1983. Manilow’s recording also made the Top 10 on the Billboard adult contemporary chart, reaching #8. This version is included on his album Here Comes the Night.
Larry Clinton, “Bolero in Blue” (1940):
Elaine Paige, “Memory” Cats original cast recording (1981):
Barbra Streisand, “Memory” (1982):
Barry Manilow, “Memory” (1982):
Elaine Paige, “Memory” Cats film cast recording (1998):