Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Manfred Mann

Fox on the Run

First recorded by Manfred Mann (US #95/UK #5 1968).
Also recorded by The Country Gentlemen (1970).
Other hit version by Tom T. Hall (C&W #9 1976).

From the wiki: “Note: NOT the mid-’70s hit by Sweet. ‘Fox on the Run’ was first recorded by Manfred Mann as a single issued 29 November 1968. It was introduced to Bluegrass by Bill Emerson and quickly became a Bluegrass favorite, first recorded in that genre by The Country Gentlemen in 1970. In 1976, ‘Fox on the Run’ was covered by Country music singer-songwriter Tom T. Hall whose recording peaked in the US Country Top-10, its highest-charting US performance.”

The Mighty Quinn

Written and first recorded (as “Quinn the Eskimo”) by Bob Dylan (1967, officially released 1985).
Hit version by Manfred Mann (US #10/UK #1/IRE #1/GER #1 1968).

From the wiki: “‘Quinn the Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)’ is a folk-rock song written by Bob Dylan and first recorded during The Basement Tapes sessions in 1967 but was not officially released until 1985. (A 1969 live recording of ‘Quinn’ by Dylan, from the Isle of Wight, was released on Self Portrait in 1970). Meanwhile, the song was picked up and recorded by the British band Manfred Mann, who released it under the title “Mighty Quinn”. Manfred Mann first heard it on a bootleg of Dylan recordings, Dylan’s White Album (said to be the ‘mother of all bootlegs’), at Feldmans Music on Charing Cross Road, London. Dylan says the song was inspired by the Eskimo in the Nicholas Ray film The Savage Innocent (1960), symbol of pure freedom on American soil.”

Let’s Go Get Stoned

First recorded by The Coasters (1965).
Hit versions by Manfred Mann (UK #1 EP 1965), Ray Charles (US #31/R&B #1 1966).
Also recorded by Ronnie Milsap (1965), Joe Cocker (1969).

From the wiki: “‘Let’s Go Get Stoned’ was written by Nickolas Ashford, Valerie Simpson, and Josephine Armstead, and was first recorded by The Coasters in May 1965. It is notable for being one of the first successful compositions by Ashford & Simpson (‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’, ‘California Soul‘, ‘Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing’). Although a non-charter for The Coasters, ‘Let’s Go Get Stoned’ was most memorable because it became a 1966 #1 R&B and Pop #31 hit for Ray Charles, recorded shortly after Charles was released from rehab after a sixteen-year heroin addiction.

“The year prior, in 1965, the UK group Manfred Mann recorded the song for their #1 British extended-play No Living Without Loving, which topped the UK EP charts in December 1965. Joe Cocker covered the song several times live, most notably at the Woodstock Festival in 1969 and on the Mad Dogs & Englishmen live album released 1970.”

Watermelon Man

Written and first recorded by Herbie Hancock (US #121 1962).
Hit versions by Mongo Santamaria (US #10/R&B #8 1963), Gloria Lynne (US #62/R&B #8 1965), Erroll Garner (US #40 1968).
Also recorded by Jon Hendricks (1963), Manfred Mann (1965), Herbie Hancock (1973).

From the wiki: “‘Watermelon Man’ was written by Herbie Hancock and first released on his debut album, Takin’ Off (1962) in a hard bop arrangement featuring improvisations by trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and saxophonist Dexter Gordon. Hancock wrote the piece to help sell his debut album as a leader; the first piece of music he had ever composed with a commercial goal in mind. Hancock has described that, structurally, the composition was one of his strongest works due to its almost-mathematical balance.

“It was while Hancock was filling in for pianist Chick Corea in Mongo Santamaría’s band at a nightclub in The Bronx that Hancock played the tune for Santamaría at friend Donald Byrd’s urging. Santamaría started accompanying Hancock on his congas, then the band joined in, and the small audience slowly got up from their tables and started dancing. Santamaría later asked Hancock if he could record the tune. On December 17, 1962, Mongo Santamaría recorded a three-minute version, suitable for radio, and included the track on his album Watermelon Man (1962).”

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.

Pretty Flamingo

First recorded (as “Flamingo”) by Gene Pitney (1966).
Hit versions by Tommy Vann & the Echoes (US #125 1966), Manfred Mann (US #29/UK #1/CAN #2/AUS #3/NZ #1/IRE #1 1966).
Also performed by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band (1975).

“‘Pretty Flamingo’ was written by American songwriter and producer Mark Barkan. His first major success as a writer was with “The Writing on the Wall”, a 1961 US Top-5 hit for Adam Wade which he co-wrote with Sandy Baron and George Paxton (credited as George Eddy). Barkan had further success with Lesley Gore’s Top-5 hit ‘She’s a Fool’ (co-written with Ben Raleigh). He would later go on to write material for The Monkees, The Archies, and, perhaps most notoriously, The Banana Splits whose theme song – ‘The Tra La La Song (One Banana, Two Banana)’ – he co-wrote with Ritchie Adams (‘Tossin’ and Turnin”, ‘After the Lovin”) and with whom he was the music director for the two seasons The Banana Splits Adventure Hour was televised.

“The song describes a woman—whom ‘all of the guys call […] ‘Flamingo’, ’cause her hair glows like the sun and her eyes can light the sky’ – for whom the singer has fallen, and his plans to win her affection. Barkan’s daughter said that it was based on a girl who lived above a parking lot in his neighborhood: Barkan and his friends used to call out to her.

“The original demo of the song was recorded by noted New York City vocalist Jimmy Radcliffe ((‘This Diamond Ring‘), stylized for The Drifters. But songwriter Barkan was dissatisfied with the overly-produced results and had Radcliffe recut the song with a pared-down arrangement.

“Gene Pitney recorded the first version of ‘Pretty Flamingo’ in February 1966, for his album Backstage (I’m Lonely). But, Pitney’s recording was not released as a single when the album shipped to stores in June 1966, two months after Manfred Mann’s recording was released as a single and a month after the song topped the UK Singles Chart in May 1966. Also released as a single in the US, ‘Pretty Flamingo’ peaked at #29 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August 1966.

“Simultaneous with Manfred Mann’s single release in the United States, a single recorded by American band Tommy Vann & the Echoes was also released. Although favorably reviewed by Billboard (‘Exciting performance of the No. 1 British tune will give the original disk a strong battle for top position …’), and receiving strong regional radio airplay, Vann’s effort managed only to ‘bubble under’ the Hot 100, peaking at #125.

“Manfred Mann’s recording included future Cream bassist Jack Bruce, who briefly joined the group when he was ‘between bands’ having left The Graham Bond Organisation and not having yet co-founded Cream.

“After Barkan’s death in 2020, Paul Jones of Manfred Mann said: ‘I’m a little bit ashamed to admit that not only did I never meet him, but I never even got in touch to say thank you for the song. But I would like to thank him posthumously.'”

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’.

Handbags and Gladrags

Originally recorded by Chris Farlowe (UK #33 1967).
Also recorded by Mike d’Abo, composer (1970), Kate Taylor (1971).
Other hit versions by Chase (US #84 1971), Rod Stewart (1969 |US #42 1972), Big George (2000), Stereophonics (UK #4/IRE #3 2001).

From the wiki: “‘Handbags and Gladrags’ was written by Mike d’Abo (Manfred Mann). In November 1967, singer Chris Farlowe was the first to release a version of the song, produced by d’Abo. It became a #33 hit in the United Kingdom for Farlowe from the album The Last Goodbye. In 1969, Rod Stewart recorded a version for his album An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down.

Do Wah Diddy Diddy

First recorded (as “Do-Wah-Diddy”) by The Exciters (US #78/R&B #47 1963).
Other hit versions by Manfred Mann (US#1/UK #1 1964), 2 Live Crew (R&B #62 1987), The Blue Melons (UK #70 1996), DJ Otzi (UK #9 2001).

From the wiki: “‘Do Wah Diddy Diddy’ was written by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, and first recorded by The Exciters, in 1963. The Exciters were formed from an all-girl group, The Masterettes, before adding a male singer and renaming themselves The Exciters after auditioning for producers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Their first hit record, arranged by George ‘Teacho’ Wiltshire and produced by Leiber and Stoller for United Artists Records, was ‘Tell Him’, which reached #4 on the U.S. Top-40 chart in early 1963. (The song had previously been recorded unsuccessfully, as ‘Tell Her’, by Gil Hamilton later known as Johnny Thunder.) According to Jason Ankeny at AllMusic, the Exciters ‘signified a sea change in the presentation and perception of femininity in popular music, paving the way for such tough, sexy acts as the Shangri-Las and the Ronettes.’

“Trivia: Dusty Springfield was on a stop-over in New York City en route to Nashville to make a country music album with the Springfields in 1962, when she heard the Exciters’ ‘Tell Him’ playing while taking a late-night walk by the Colony Record Store on Broadway. The song helped Springfield decide to embark on a solo career with a Pop/Soul direction.

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