Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Paul Williams

You and Me Against the World

Co-written and first recorded by Paul Williams (1974).
Hit version by Helen Reddy (US #9 1974).

From the wiki: “‘You and Me Against the World’ was the first song written together by Kenny Ascher and Paul Williams and began as a gag song: Williams and Ascher, a member of Williams’s band, had a discussion about their favorite songwriters which led to the spontaneous composition of a song on the subject whose tune, Ascher then realized, had real hit potential. Williams himself debuted ‘You and Me Against the World’ on his 1974 album Here Comes Inspiration, singing it as a traditional love ballad.

We’ve Only Just Begun

First performed by Paul Williams (TV commercial 1969).
First commercial release by Freddie Allen (1970).
Hit versions by The Carpenters (US #2/MOR #1/CAN #1/UK #28 1970), Curtis Mayfield (US ALBUM #21/R&B #3/JAZZ #9 1971).

From the wiki: “‘We’ve Only Just Begun’ was written by Roger Nichols (music) and Paul Williams (lyrics). The song debuted in a wedding-themed TV commercial for Crocker National Bank in California with Williams on vocals. The first commercial single release was originally recorded by Smokey Roberds under the name ‘Freddie Allen’. Roberds had had previous hit song experience, with the group The Parade who charted ‘Sunshine Girl’ into the US Top-20 in 1967.

“When Roberds had heard the ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’ TV commercial, he phoned Nichols, his friend, ascertained that Nichols had indeed co-written it, and then asked Nichols to create a full-length version. Nichols and Williams did so, with Roberds intending to produce it for a band he had just signed to White Whale Records. The band deal fell through; Roberds decided to record the song himself, but couldn’t do so under his stage name for contractual reasons. According to Roberds, his Country-Pop recording of ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’ did well in California but not nationally – which he attributed to promotion and distribution problems.

I Won’t Last a Day Without You

Written and first single release by Paul Williams (1973).
Hit versions by Maureen McGovern (US #84/MOR #19 1973), Diana Ross (B-side US #1 1973), The Carpenters (1972 |US #11/MOR #1/UK #9/CAN #7/JPN #40 1974).
Also recorded by Mel Tormé & Buddy Rich (1978).

From the wiki: “‘I Won’t Last a Day Without You’ was co-written by Paul Williams (‘We’ve Only Just Begun’) and Roger Nichols. He released his version as a single in 1973, but generated no chart success.

“Maureen McGovern covered the song and also released it as a single in 1973 (and included on her album The Morning After), with her arrangement peaking at #84 on the Billboard Hot 100. Diana Ross also covered the song for her 1973 album Touch Me in the Morning, and it was released as the B-side of the title track single release, ‘Touch Me in the Morning’, which became a #1 hit.

“It was in 1972 when Richard Carpenter first learned of the new song from Williams and Nichols, who had already contributed ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’ and ‘Rainy Days and Mondays’ to the Carpenters. Carpenter produced the recording that was included it on the Carpenters’ 1972 album A Song for You, but it would not be released as a single until 1974 when it would go US Top-20 and Top-10 in the UK and Canada.

An Old Fashioned Love Song

Written and first recorded by Paul Williams (1971).
Hit version by Three Dog Night (US #4/MOR #1/CAN #2 1971).

From the wiki: “‘An Old Fashioned Love Song’ was written by the noted songwriter Paul Williams, who originally intended the song for The Carpenters, and it was first recorded by Williams for his album Just an Old Fashioned Love Song.

“This was the first song Williams had written specifically for the Carpenters. But, Richard Carpenter rejected it and so Williams then offered the song to Three Dog Night. The Carpenters never recorded the song, but did perform it live on television with Carol Burnett a few months later on The Carol Burnett Show.”

Let Me Be the One

First released by Nanette (released November 1970).
Also recorded by Cathy Carlson (released January 1971).
Hit album version by The Carpenters (released May 1971)
Hit single version by Jack Jones (MOR #18 1971).
Also recorded by Matthew Sweet (1994).

From the wiki: “The earliest evident recording of ‘Let Me Be the One’, written by Roger Nichols and Paul Williams, was made by Nanette Workman, one of five songs recorded with producer Tommy Cogbill in late June 1970 at American Sound Studio in Memphis, with her arrangement of ‘Let Me Be the One’ released as a UK single in November 1970 (credited to ‘Nanette’) with no apparent chart impact.

“The first recording to receive US distribution was recorded in December 1970 by Ontario, Oregon native Cathy Carlson, and released in January 1971 as the B-side to Carlson’s single, ‘God Bless the Child’. Carlson appeared regularly as a performer on ‘The Tonight Show’ in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, and on the annual Jerry Lewis Telethon for Muscular Dystrophy. Carlson and Lewis were such good friends, he became her daughter’s godfather.