Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Nilsson

Only You (And You Alone)

First recorded by The Platters (1954).
Hit versions by The Hilltoppers (US#8/UK #3 1955), The Platters (US #5/R&B #1 1955 |UK #18 1957), Frank Pourcel (US #9/R&B #18/CAN #3 1959), Ringo Starr (US #6/MOR #1/UK #28 1975), Reba McEntire (C&W #13 1982).

From the wiki: “‘Only You (And You Alone)’ (often shortened to ‘Only You’) was composed by Buck Ram, originally intended for the vocal group The Ink Spots.

“Instead, The Platters, with whom Ram was then working as manager and vocal coach, would first record ‘Only You’ in 1954 but the results were disappointing and Federal Records decided to shelve the recording. The following year, in 1955, another attempt at the song was made by the vocal quintet – with astounding results. ‘Only You’ became the Platters’ first charting single, peaking at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topping the R&B chart.

“Platters bass singer Herb Reed later recalled how the group hit upon its successful version: ‘We tried it so many times, and it was terrible. One time we were rehearsing in the car … and the car jerked. Tony went ‘O-oHHHH-nly you.’ We laughed at first, but when he sang that song – that was the sign we had hit on something.’

“‘Only You’ was the only Platter’s recording on which songwriter and Platter’s manager Ram played the piano. The Platters’ re-recording also beat out a rival cover version by The Hilltoppers (‘Marianne‘).

Without Her

Written and first recorded by Harry Nilsson (1967).
Hit album version by Blood, Sweat & Tears (1968).
Also recorded by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass (1969), Harry Nilsson (remix 1971).

From the wiki: “‘Without Her’ was written by Harry Nilsson (‘Everybody’s Talkin’‘, ‘Without You‘) and appeared on his second album (his first for RCA Victor), Pandemonium Shadow Show, in 1967. The album proved to be the watershed of his career, attracting the attention of publicist Derek Taylor, who ordered a case of albums, sending them out to various industry people he believed would be interested, and The Beatles who invited Nilsson to London. (Nilsson covered ‘You Can’t Do That’ in an arrangement that quoted lyrics from more than 10 other Beatles songs. It became a Top 10 hit in Canada.)

“‘Without Her’ would be revamped for Nilsson’s 1971 ‘best-of’ album Aerial Pandemonium Ballet, one of the first ‘remix’ albums ever produced.


Written and first recorded by Nilsson (1967).
Also recorded by Al Kooper (1968).
Hit versions by Three Dog Night (US #5/CAN #4 1969), Johnny Farnham (AUS #1 1969).

From the wiki: “‘One’ was written by Harry Nilsson and recorded in 1967. It appeared initially on Nilsson’s third album, Aerial Ballet, released in 1968. Nilsson wrote the song after calling someone and getting a busy signal. He stayed on the line listening to the ‘beep, beep, beep, beep…’ tone, writing the song. The busy signal was expressed musically to become the opening notes of the song.

Everybody’s Talkin’

Written and originally recorded by Fred Neil (1966).
Hit version by Nilsson (US #113/CAN #35 1968 |US #6/MOR #2/UK #23/CAN #1 1969).

From the wiki: “‘Everybody’s Talkin”, written and first released by folk singer Fred Neil in 1966, describes the singer-songwriter’s desire to retreat from other people to live by the ocean.

“It was hurriedly composed towards the end of the session, after Neil had become anxious to put a wrap on the album he was recording so he could return to his home in Miami, Florida … a retreat to the ocean, as it were … and Neil’s other ‘job’ with The Dolphin Project. Manager Herb Cohen promised that if Neil wrote and recorded one final track, he could go. ‘Everybody’s Talkin” was the result – and Neil’s recording was finished in one take!

Without You

Written and originally recorded by Badfinger (1970).
Hit versions by Nilsson (US#1/UK #1 1971) and Mariah Carey (US #3/UK #1 1994).

From the wiki: “Paul McCartney once described this ballad as ‘…the killer song of all time.’

“At the time of writing the members of Badfinger shared residence in Golders Green, London. One evening, in the midst of the parties, songwriting, touring, in Golders Green, Pete Ham and his girlfriend were about to go out for the evening. But, just as they were leaving, Tom Evans said he had an idea for a song – Ham said, ‘Not tonight, I’ve promised Bev.’ But she thought he would be wondering if he had done the right thing later, if he went out, – she told him – ‘Go into the studio, I’m fine about it..’ He said, ‘Your mouth is smiling, but your eyes are sad.’