Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Barry Mann

Only in America

First recorded by The Drifters (1963, released 1996).
Hit version by Jay & the Americans (US #25 1963).

From Songfacts:

“Written by the brilliant Brill Building songwriting teams of Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller (‘Hound Dog‘, 1953; ‘Stand By Me’, 1961; ‘On Broadway‘, 1963) and Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil (‘On Broadway’, 1963; ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin” 1964; ‘We Gotta Get Out of This Place‘, 1965; ‘Never Gonna Let You Go‘, 1982), ‘Only in America’ was first written for and recorded by The Drifters.

“It was written at a time before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had become the law of the land, and the original lyrics when first submitted reflected the racism that existed at the time in the US:

Patches (Dickey Lee)

First recorded by Jimmy Isle (1960).
Hit version by Dickey Lee (US #6 1962).

From the wiki:”‘Patches’ (not to be confused with Clarence Carter’s ‘Patches‘) was written by Barry Mann (‘We Gotta Get Out of This Place‘, ‘Venus in Blue Jeans‘, ‘Never Gonna Let You Go‘) and Larry Kobler imagining a ‘Romeo & Juliet’ scenario. The song tells in waltz-time the story of teenage lovers of different social classes whose parents forbid their love. The girl drowns herself in the ‘dirty old river.’ The singer concludes: ‘It may not be right, but I’ll join you tonight/ Patches I’m coming to you.’

“‘Patches’ was first recorded by Jimmy Isle for Everest Records in 1960 but which did not have any chart impact. Two years later, in 1962, Dickey Lee would cover the song. Because of its teen-suicide theme, the song was banned on a number of US radio stations. Still, it sold over one million copies, was awarded a gold disc, and peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 at #6.

It’s Getting Better

First recorded by The Vogues (1968).
Also recorded by Leonard Nimoy (1968), Pierre Lalonde (1968), The Will-O-Bees (1969).
Hit version by “Mama” Cass Elliot (US #30/MOR #13/UK #8 1969).

From the wiki: “‘It’s Getting Better’ was written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil (‘Make Your Own Kind of Music‘,’Never Gonna Let You Go‘, ‘We Gotta Get Out of This Place‘). The earliest evident recording of ‘It’s Getting Better’ was by the Vogues for their August 1968 album release Turn Around, Look at Me for Reprise Records. Also in 1968, the song was featured on the Leonard Nimoy album The Way I Feel released that October. The first evident single release of ‘It’s Getting Better’ was by French-Canadian singer, Peter Martin (born Pierre Lalonde), in September 1968.

“The folk-rock and sunshine pop trio, The Will-O-Bees, released ‘It’s Getting Better’ as a single in early 1969 but it failed to chart. (The group had also been among the first to record ‘Make Your Own Kind of Music‘, in 1968, previous to Cass Elliot’s hit recording.)

“‘It’s Getting Better’ was covered by Cass Elliot for inclusion on her June 1969 album release Bubblegum, Lemonade, and … Something for Mama. The Wrecking Crew (James Burton on guitar, Hal Blaine on drums, Larry Knechtel on keyboards, and Joe Osborn on bass) — who’d regularly backed The Mamas & the Papas — were among the instrumentalists on the album. Cass’ arrangement peaked at #30 in August 1969 during what was then considered an unusually lengthy 19-week run on Billboard’s Hot 100. Only five other 1969 releases had longer chart runs on the Hot 100. Elliot’s ‘It’s Getting Better’ had a more pronounced chart impact in the UK, reaching #8 in October 1969.”

Make Your Own Kind of Music

First recorded by The Will-O-Bees (1968).
Hit version by “Mama” Cass Elliot (US #36/MOR #6 1969).
Also performed by The Carpenters (1971).

From the wiki: “‘Make Your Own Kind of Music’ was written by Barry Mann (‘Never Gonna Let You Go‘, ‘We Gotta Get Out of This Place‘, ‘Venus in Blue Jeans‘) and Cynthia Weil (‘Don’t Know Much‘, ‘I Just Can’t Help Believing‘, ‘We Gotta Get Out of This Place‘) first recorded in 1968 by New York City-based trio the Will-O-Bees (Janet Blossom, Steven Porter, and Robert Merchanthouse) who regularly performed Mann/Weil compositions. After ‘Mama’ Cass Elliot had a solo hit in the summer of 1969 with Mann/Weil’s ‘It’s Getting Better’ she recorded ‘Make Your Own Kind of Music’ as the follow-up single. Her album Bubblegum, Lemonade, and… Something for Mama was then re-released as Make Your Own Kind of Music, the title cut having been added to the original track listing.”

Venus in Blue Jeans

First recorded (as a demo) by Barry Mann (1961).
First commercial release by Bruce Bruno (1962).
Hit versions by Jimmy Clanton (US #7 1962), Mark Wynter (UK #4 1962).

From the wiki: “‘Venus In Blue Jeans’ was written by Howard Greenfield and Jack Keller (about actress Eileen Berner, whom Keller was dating at the time). Demo’ed by Barry Mann (co-writer ‘Don’t Know Much‘, ‘Never Gonna Let You Go‘) in 1961, the song had its first commercial release in 1962 by New Rochelle, NY, singer Bruce Bruno with no apparent chart impact.

We Gotta Get Out of This Place

Co-written and first recorded (as a demo) by Barry Mann (1965).
Hit versions by The Animals (US #13/UK #2/CAN #13/GER #31 1965), Angels (AUS #7/NZ #13 1987).
Also performed by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band (1976).

From the wiki: “‘We Gotta Get Out of This Place’ was written by the husband-wife songwriting team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, and recorded as a 1965 hit single by The Animals. It has become an iconic song and was immensely popular among United States Armed Forces during the Vietnam War. The song had been intended for The Righteous Brothers, for whom Mann-Weil had already written the #1 hit ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin”, but then Mann gained a recording contract for himself, and his label Redbird Records wanted him to release it instead.

“Meanwhile, record executive Allen Klein had also heard the demo and – without the knowledge of Mann or his producer, Don Kirshner – gave it to Mickie Most, The Animals’ producer. (Most already had a call out to Brill Building songwriters for material for The Animal’s next recording session Two of the group’s hits ‘It’s My Life’ and ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’ resulted from the same call.)

Never Gonna Let You Go

First recorded by Dionne Warwick (1982).
Also recorded by Stevie Woods (1982).
Hit version by Sergio Mendes (US #4/R&B #28 1983).

From the wiki: “Songwriters Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann (‘Don’t Know Much‘, ‘(You’re My) Soul & Inspiration’) composed the song and had originally submitted ‘Never Gonna Let You Go’ to Earth, Wind & Fire, but the group decided not to record the song. Instead, Dionne Warwick first recorded the song and it first appeared on her 1982 album Friends in Love but was not released as a promotional single.

Here You Come Again

First recorded (as a demo) by Barry Mann (1977).
First released by B.J. Thomas (1977).
Hit version by Dolly Parton (US #3/C&W #1/CAN #7 1977).
Re-recorded by Barry Mann (2000).

From the wiki: “‘Here You Come Again’ is a rare example of a Dolly Parton success that she did not write herself; it was composed by the songwriting duo of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil (‘Don’t Know Much‘, ‘(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration’, ‘Never Gonna Let You Go‘). The pair had originally composed ‘Here You Come Again’ in 1975 as a potential comeback hit for Brenda Lee, but Lee declined the offer to record it.

I Just Can’t Help Believing

Co-written and first recorded by Barry Mann (1968).
Also recorded by Bobbby Vee (1969), Leonard Nimoy (1969).
Hit versions by B.J. Thomas (US #9/MOR #1/CAN #18 1970), Elvis Presley (UK #6 1971).

From the wiki: “‘I Just Can’t Help Believing’ is a song written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. The song was most successful after it was recorded by B.J. Thomas and released by him as a single in 1970. It went to #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, and spent one week at #1 on the Easy Listening (adult contemporary) chart. The first recording and single release was by the song’s co-writer, Barry Mann, in 1968 (with no apparent chart success), and as album tracks in 1969 by Bobby Vee, and Leonard Nimoy.

“The song was also recorded by Elvis Presley in 1970 for the documentary Elvis: That’s the Way It Is. The film captures Presley’s Summer Festival in Las Vegas at the International Hotel during August 1970. It is considered one of Elvis’ best live performances as both orchestra and vocals are virtually flawless (even if he does start the performance reading from a lyric sheet). That’s the Way It Is was Presley’s first non-dramatic film since the beginning of his film career in 1956, giving a clear view of Presley’s return to live performances after years of making films. His performance in the film of ‘I Just Can’t Help Believing’ was released as a single in the UK in November 1971, peaking at #6.”

Don’t Know Much

Co-written and originally recorded by Barry Mann (1980).
Hit versions by Bill Medley (US #88/MOR #29 1981), Bette Midler (US #77/MOR #39/CAN-MOR #5 1982), Linda Ronstadt & Aaron Neville (US #2/MOR #1/CAN #1/UK #2/AUS #1/NZ #4/IRE #1 1989).

From the wiki: “Written by Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil and Tom Snow, ‘Don’t Know Much’ had a rich history prior to its success in 1989. It first appeared on Mann’s self-titled 1980 album, released on Casablanca Records. Bill Medley and Bette Midler (under the title ‘All I Need to Know’) then had minor chart successes with the song in 1981 and 1983, respectively.