Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Bruce Springsteen

When Will I Be Loved

First recorded by The Everly Brothers (US #8/UK #4 1960).
Other hit versions by Johnny Young & Kompany (AUS #3 1967), Linda Ronstadt (US #2/C&W #1/CAN #1 1975).
Also recorded by John Denver (1966, released 2011), The Bunch (1972), Dave Edmunds & Keith Moon (1974), Tanya Tucker & Phil Everly (1975), Rockpile (1980), John Fogerty & Bruce Springsteen (2009).

From the wiki: “‘When Will I Be Loved’ was written by Phil Everly of the Everly Brothers, who had a US Top-10 hit with it in the summer of 1960. The track was recorded (with Chet Atkins also on guitar) while the duo were contracted to Cadence Records; by 1960 they had moved to Warner Brothers and recording songs in a more mainstream pop/rock style than previously. The belated release by Cadence of ‘When Will I Be Loved’ provided the Everly Brothers with a final rockabilly-style hit.

Peg o’ My Heart

First recorded by Charles Harrison (US #1 1913).
Other hit versions by Henry Burr (US #2 1913), The Three Suns (US #1 1947), Buddy Clark (US #1 1947), The Harmonicats (US #1 1947), Ted Weems & His Orchestra (US #5 1947).
Also recorded by Dropkick Murphys w/ Bruce Springsteen (2011).

From the wiki: “‘Peg o’ My Heart’ was written by Alfred Bryan and Fred Fisher. The song was inspired by the main character, Peg, in the very successful musical comedy of the time, Peg O’ My Heart, starring Laurette Taylor in the title role. It would be first performed publicly by Irving Kaufman in 1912 at The College Inn in New York City after he had stumbled across a draft of sheet music on a shelf at the Leo Feist publishing offices. ‘Peg o My Heart’ would be featured in the 1913 musical Ziegfeld Follies where it gained wide attention.

“The first recording of ‘Peg o’ My Heart’ was made by Charles Harrison, in July 1913. Henry Burr (‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?‘) followed in August 1913 with his rendition. Both proved to be nationally-popular recordings. ‘Peg o’ My Heart’ saw a resurgence of popularity after WWII with numerous covers jockeying for popularity in 1947, including #1 recordings by The Three Suns, Buddy Clark, and The Harmonicats. In 2011, Celtic punk band Dropkick Murphys would revive the song, with a guest appearance by Bruce Springsteen.”

4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)

Written and first recorded by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band (1973).
Hit version (as “Sandy”) by The Hollies (US #85/GER #22/NZ #12/NETH #9 1975).

From the wiki: “‘4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)’, often known just as ‘Sandy’, was written in 1973 by Bruce Springsteen and first appeared as the second song on the album The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle. Van Morrison’s influence can be heard in Springsteen’s songwriting about his hometown, closely paralleling Morrison’s romanticism of his hometown, Belfast, Ireland.

“No singles were released from The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle … except in Germany – the first-ever Springsteen 7-inch issued outside the United States – where Springsteen’s ‘Sandy’ met with no apparent chart success.

“However, ‘Sandy’ became the first song written by Springsteen to chart, anywhere, when The Hollies’ cover version, released in April 1975, hit #85 in the US, and charted higher in a few other international markets (e.g. Top-10 in the Netherlands). While not a big hit unto itself, The Hollies’ use of “Sandy” presaged other artists mining the early Springsteen songbook for material, a notion that would soon be exploited to much greater commercial success by Manfred Mann and others.

Jolé Blon

First recorded (as “Ma blonde est partie”) by Amede, Ophy & Cleoma Breaux (1929).
Hit version by Red Foley (C&W #1 1947).
Also recorded by Waylon Jennings (1958), Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band (1980), Gary “U.S.” Bonds (1981).

From the wiki: “‘Jolé Blon’ is a traditional Cajun waltz, often called ‘the Cajun national anthem’ because of the popularity it had in Cajun culture’; is considered to be the very first Cajun recording. The song was then later popularized on a nationwide scale by a series of renditions and references in late 1940s country songs. There is some mystery to the song’s origin: According to Cleoma Breaux’s daughter, while Amede Breaux is credited with writing the song, it was his sister, Cleoma, who actually wrote the lyrics and Amede sang the song. Dennis McGee claims the original song was written by Angelas Lejeune as ‘La Fille De La Veuve (The Widows Daughter)’ during WWI and Cleoma simply rewrote the lyrics, allegedly about Amede’s first wife.


First recorded (as an outtake) by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band (1976, released 2010).
Commercially-released by Greg Kihn (1979), Gary “U.S.” Bonds (1982).
Also recorded (live) by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band (1980, released 1998).

From the wiki: “‘Rendezvous’ was written by Bruce Springsteen during the recording sessions for the Darkness On The Edge of Town album but was not included in the album’s final release because Bruce felt it could interrupt the sonic intensity of the album.

“After making a guest appearance with The Knack at L.A.’s The Troubadour club in October 1978, Springsteen first offered the group ‘Rendezvous’ or ‘Don’t Look Back’ for their debut album, Get the Knack, but later had second thoughts thinking his own ‘Rendezvous’ recording would be included in the final mix of Darkness On The Edge of Town and requested they not record it.

“After his appearance with The Knack the group’s Bruce Gary recalls, ‘I asked Bruce if he had any songs that The Knack might use in our stage show, and he offered two unreleased numbers, ‘Rendezvous’ and ‘Don’t Look Back.’ The band selected ‘Don’t Look Back,’ which was ‘Knackified’ and recorded in one take at MCA Whitney studios in April, 1979. The tune was originally scheduled to appear on the Get The Knack album, but was pulled at the request of Springsteen’s management in order to allow him to release the song first.’ (But that did not happen. Ironically, the Knack’s ‘Don’t Look Back’ would ultimately be released first … in 1992 on the compilation album Retrospective, six years before the official release of Springsteen’s own studio recording on Tracks in 1998.)

“Bruce ultimately offered ‘Rendezvous’ to another Springsteen devotee, Greg Kihn (‘because I liked the way he did ‘For You’ on that early album’), who released it in 1979 on the Greg Kihn Band album With the Naked Eye.

“‘Rendezvous’ was covered again in 1982 by Gary ‘U.S.’ Bonds with a recording produced by Springsteen, a Bonds devotee, and Stevie Van Zandt, and backed by Springsteen’s E Street Band. After recording the album, Columbia Records had Bruce Springsteen remove his vocals from the tracks he backed on Bond’s On The Line album (distributed by competitor EMI Records), with some rerecorded with Van Zandt. Even so, Springsteen can still be heard on several of the tracks, including ‘Rendezvous’, but he is not credited in the original liner notes.

Merry Christmas, Baby

Co-written and first recorded by Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers (R&B #3 1947).
Other popular versions by Chuck Berry (1958); Elvis Presley (1971); Bruce Springsteen (1987); Bonnie Raitt & Charles Brown (1992); Cee Lo Green, Rod Stewart & Trombone Shorty (2012).

From the wiki: “‘Merry Christmas Baby’ is an R&B Christmas standard written by Lou Baxter and Johnny Moore. The original 1947 version by Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers is considered to be the definitive version of this song.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

First performed by Eddie Cantor (1934).
First recorded by Harry Reser & His Orchestra (1934).
Popular versions by Bing Crosby & The Andrews Sisters (1943), Perry Como (1946), The Four Seasons (US #23 1963), The Jackson 5 (1970), Bruce Springsteen (1975).

From the wiki: “‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ was written in 1934 by John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie, and first performed on Eddie Cantor’s radio variety show, The Chase and Sanborn How on NBC Radio, in November 1934. Indicative of his effect on the mass audience, Cantor had agreed to introduce the new song, that other well-known artists had rejected as being ‘silly’ and ‘childish’. The song, “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town”, became an immediate hit; the publisher had orders for 100,000 copies of sheet music (the measure in those days of a song’s popularity) the next day; over 400,000 copies of the sheet music were sold by Christmas.

“The earliest-known recorded version of the song was by banjoist Harry Reser and his band. It, too, became an instant hit with orders of more than 30,000 records sold within 24 hours. Bing Crosby & The Andrews Sisters recorded a popular wartime version in 1943. But, it was the Four Seasons who first charted the song on the Billboard Hot 100, reaching #23 in 1963. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band recorded a live version in 1975 that was bootlegged to Rock radio stations until it saw its first release in 1982 as part of the Sesame Street compilation album In Harmony 2.”

From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come)

Written and first recorded by Bruce Springsteen (1979, released 2003).
Hit version by Dave Edmunds (US #28 1982).

From Legends of Springsteen:

“Clearly influenced by 1950’s rockabilly style guitar riffs, this song was criminally cut from The River, never put on another studio album, including Tracks. (Bruce did release it in 2003 on the limited edition third disc of his compilation double album The Essential Bruce Springsteen.) That’s a shame, as this might be one of the best Bruce songs to dance to. Seriously, pump it up right now and just try not to tap your toes. It’s nearly impossible.”

Pink Cadillac

Written and first recorded (as a demo) by Bruce Springsteen (1982)
Released as non-album B-side by Bruce Springsteen (US Rock #27 1984).
Other hit version by Natalie Cole (US #5/R&B #9/UK #5/NZ #4/GER #5/SUI #2 1988).

From the wiki: “Bruce Springsteen originally wrote ‘Pink Cadillac’ as ‘Love Is a Dangerous Thing’ in December 1981 with lyrics distinct from the eventual ‘Pink Cadillac’ and first recorded by Springsteen as a solo acoustic demo in early January 1982 during the sessions for the Nebraska album. The automobile imagery was inspired by Elvis Presley’s 1954 rendition of ‘Baby Let’s Play House’ in which Presley replaced the original lyric ‘You may get religion’ with ‘You may have a pink Cadillac’, a reference to the custom-painted Cadillac which was then Presley’s touring vehicle.

Spirit in the Night

Written and first recorded by Bruce Springsteen (1973).
Hit version by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band (US #97 1976 |US #40 1977).

From the wiki: “The original version of ‘Spirit in the Night’ was written by Bruce Springsteen for release on his 1973 debut album, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. Springsteen had recorded 10 other tracks for the album, but Clive Davis, president of the record label that was releasing the album, was concerned that the recorded tracks did not have enough commercial appeal. Springsteen quickly wrote and recorded two additional songs: ‘Spirit in the Night’ and ‘Blinded by the Light‘.

Because these songs were added so late in the recording process, several of Springsteen’s band members were unavailable to record these two songs. As a result, the recording lineup for session was limited to Vini Lopez on drums, Clarence Clemons on saxophone, and Springsteen himself playing all other instruments.

Because the Night

Co-written and first recorded by Bruce Springsteen (1978, released 2010).
Hit version by Patti Smith Group (US #13/UK #5 1978).

From the wiki: “Written by Bruce Springsteen, ‘Because the Night’ song was first recorded by Springsteen during sessions for the Darkness on the Edge of Town album. He was not satisfied with it; the Patti Smith Group was working on Easter in the studio next door, with engineer/producer Jimmy Iovine working on both albums. Iovine gave Smith a tape of the song; she recast it, including ‘Because the Night’ on Easter, becoming the first single released from that album.

Blinded by the Light

Written and first recorded by Bruce Springsteen (1973).
Hit version by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band (US #1/UK #6 1975).

From the wiki: “‘Blinded by the Light’ is a song written and originally recorded by Bruce Springsteen after Columbia Records president Clive Davis, upon listening to an early version of Greetings from Asbury Park N.J., felt the album lacked a potential single. Springsteen wrote this and ‘Spirit in the Night‘ in response. ‘Blinded by the Light’ was the first song on, and first single released from, the 1973 album. But, Springsteen’s version was commercially unsuccessful and did not appear on the music charts.

“According to Springsteen, the song came about from going through a rhyming dictionary and looking for rhymes. The first line of the song, ‘Madman drummers, bummers, and Indians in the summers with a teenage diplomat’ is autobiographical — ‘Madman drummers’ is a reference to drummer Vini Lopez, known as ‘Mad Man’ (later changed to ‘Mad Dog’); ‘Indians in the summer’ refers to the name of Springsteen’s old Little League team; ‘teenage diplomat’ refers to himself. The remainder of the song tells of many unrelated events, with the refrain of ‘Blinded by the light, cut loose like a deuce, another runner in the night’.


First released by Robert Gordon (1978).
Also recorded by Bruce Springsteen (1978, released 2010).
Hit version by The Pointer Sisters (US #2/UK #34 1979).

From the wiki: “Bruce Springsteen envisioned ‘Fire’ as a song which could be recorded by his idol Elvis Presley. Springsteen would later say ‘I sent Elvis a demo of it but he died August 16, 1977 before it arrived.’

“Springsteen did complete a studio recording in 1978 of ‘Fire’ which was one of 52 tracks at least partially recorded which did not make the cut for Springsteen’s album Darkness on the Edge of Town because of thematic inconsistency. Springsteen likely had an especial concern that if included on Darkness on the Edge of Town ‘Fire’ would be Columbia Records’ single of choice despite it being non-representative of the overall album.