Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: R.E.M.

Radio Free Europe

First recorded by R.E.M. (1981).
Hit version by R.E.M. (US #78 1983).

From the wiki: “‘Radio Free Europe’ was written by R.E.M., and was first recorded and released in 1981 as the group’s debut single on the short-lived independent record label Hib-Tone. The single received critical acclaim, earning the band a record deal with IRS Records. R.E.M. then re-recorded the song for its 1983 debut album on IRS, Murmur.

“R.E.M. formed in Athens, Georgia in 1980. The band quickly established itself in the local scene. Over the course of 1980 the band refined its songwriting skills, helped by its frequent gigs at local venues. One of the group’s newer compositions was ‘Radio Free Europe’. The other members of the band were reportedly awestruck when they heard the lyrics and melodies singer Michael Stipe had written for the song. By May 1981 the band added ‘Radio Free Europe’ to its set-list.”

Yellow River

First recorded by The Tremeloes (1970).
Hit versions by Christie, writer (US #23/UK #1/IRE #1/AUS #16/FIN #1/NOR #1/GER #3 1970), The Compton Brothers (C&W #49 1972).
Also recorded by Elton John (1970), R.E.M. (2003).
Also recorded (as “Tuulensuojaan”) by Danny (1970), (as “Fat Karlsson”) by Singing Guitars (1971), Mziuri Ensemble (1973).

From the wiki: “Written by Tremeloes band leader Jeff Christie, the song was first recorded by the group with the intention of releasing it as a single early in 1970. However, after the success of the Tremeloes then-most recent single, ‘Call Me Number One’, and after considering ‘Yellow River’ too pop-orientated for their future direction, the Tremeloes decided instead to follow-up with another of their own compositions, ‘By The Way’, which met only with very modest Top 40 success. Producer Mike Smith took the group vocals off the recording (leaving behind only the instrumental backing track) and added those of Christie, the songwriter, and releasing the song under the name ‘Christie’, his sole UK chart-topper as a solo artist.