Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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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.

“Barrett Strong is also remembered for his work as a songwriter, particularly in association with producer Norman Whitfield. Among his most famous work at Motown, Strong wrote the lyrics for many of the songs recorded by The Temptations. Together, Whitfield and Strong wrote some of the most successful and critically acclaimed soul songs ever to be released by Motown, including ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine‘, ‘War‘, ‘Smiling Faces Sometimes‘, and the long line of ‘psychedelic soul’ records by The Temptations, including ‘Cloud Nine’, and ‘Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone‘ (for which Strong received a Grammy Award in 1973).

“Jennel Hawkins covered the song in 1962, charting the R&B Top-20 with her recording.”

“According to The Beatles Bible, ‘Money’ was a clear attempt by the group to emulate the success of ‘Twist And Shout’, and the show-stopping finale of ‘Please Please Me’. According to George Harrison, the Beatles discovered Strong’s version in Brian Epstein’s NEMS record store (though not a hit in the UK, it had been issued on London Records in 1960).

“The cover songs recorded for With The Beatles were chosen by whoever liked them. It was interesting that when I joined The Beatles we didn’t really know each other, but if you looked at each of our record collections, the four of us had virtually the same records. We all had The Miracles, we all had Barrett Strong and people like that. I suppose that helped us gel as musicians, and as a group.”

– Ringo Starr

“The Beatles had previously performed it during their ‘failed’ audition at Decca Records on January 1, 1962, with Pete Best still on drums at the time before recording ‘Money’ again, in seven takes, for EMI Records on July 18, 1963, with Ringo Starr now installed on drums. A series of piano overdubs was later added by producer George Martin. The song, along with two other Motown covers, was released in November 1963 as the final track on their second United Kingdom album, With the Beatles.

“The Beatles’ version was not released as a single. But, two other covers recorded by other (white) groups in 1963-64 did chart. In the UK, Bern Elliot & the Fenmen peaked at #14; in the US, The Kingsmen (‘Louie Louie‘) peaked at #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #6 on the R&B chart in 1964. In `1979, The Flying Lizard’s ‘new wave’ recording was an unexpected chart hit.

“John Lennon would re-visit ‘Money’ in 1969 during his performance of the song at Live Peace in Toronto 1969, backed by a band that included Eric Clapton, Klaus Voorman and Alan White – an early Plastic Ono Band conglomeration.”

Jennel Hawkins, “Money” (1962):

The Beatles, “Money” Decca audition (1962):

The Beatles, “Money” live TV performance (1963):

Bern Elliot & The Fenmen, “Money” (1963):

The Kingsmen, “Money (That’s What I Want)” (1964):

John Lennon, “Money” (1969):

The Flying Lizards, “Money” (1979):

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