Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Ringo Starr

No No Song

Written and first recorded by Hoyt Axton (1974).
Hit version by Ringo Starr (US #3/CAN #1 1975).

From the wiki: “Ringo Starr’s cover of Hoyt Axton’s and David Jackson’s ‘No No Song’ was included on Starr’s 1974 album Goodnight Vienna. The song was released as a single in the US in January 1975, becoming a #1 hit in Canada and a #3 hit in the US. Harry Nilsson provided backing vocals.”

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‘).

Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley

First recorded by Lee Dorsey (1970).
Hit album versions by Robert Palmer (1974), Ringo Starr (1977).

From the wiki: “‘Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley’ was written by Allen Toussaint (‘Java‘, ‘Working in a Coal Mine’, ‘Lipstick Traces (on a Cigarette)‘) and was first recorded by Lee Dorsey (‘Yes We Can Can‘) in 1970 for his album Yes, We Can.

“The song would later be covered by Robert Palmer (as the title track to his 1974 album Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley), and by Ringo Starr on his 1977 album Ringo the 4th.”

Lipstick Traces (on a Cigarette)

First recorded by Benny Spellman (R&B #28 1962).
Other hit versions by The O’Jays (US #48/R&B #28/CAN #19 1965), The Amazing Rhythm Aces (US #104/C&W #88 1979).
Also recorded by Ringo Starr (1978).

From the wiki: “‘Lipstick Traces (on a Cigarette)’ was first recorded by New Orleans singer Benny Spellman in 1962 (with backing vocals done by Imperial Records label mates Irma Thomas (‘Time Is On My Side‘) and Willie Harper). The song was written by Allen Toussaint under the pseudonym ‘Naomi Neville’.”

I’m the Greatest

Written and originally recorded (as a demo) by John Lennon (1971).
Album hit version by Ringo Starr (1973).

From the wiki: “‘I’m the Greatest'” was written by John Lennon in December 1970 as a wry comment on his past as a Beatle, and later tailored the composition for Ringo Starr to sing. With Lennon, Starr, and George Harrison appearing on the track, the song marks the only time that more than two ex-Beatles recorded together between the band’s break-up in 1970 and Lennon’s death in 1980.

“News of the Richard Perry-produced session led to speculation that the Beatles might re-form. The presence on the recording of bassist Klaus Voormann and keyboard player Billy Preston, as supposed stand-ins for Paul McCartney, created a line-up that the press had dubbed The Ladders, the post-Beatles group which Harrison had intended to install with his two former band mates.”

The Lady is a Tramp

First popular recording by Tommy Dorsey & His Clambake 7 with Edythe Wright (1937).
Hit/popular versions by Sophie Tucker (US #19 1937), Frank Sinatra (1957), Ella Fitzgerald (1957), Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga (US #121/UK #188/BEL #21/JPN #33 2011).
Also recorded by Midge Williams & Her Jazz Jesters (1937), Carl Perkins (1960), Alice Cooper (1974).
Also recorded (as “Maureen is a Champ”) by Frank Sinatra (1968).

From the wiki: “‘The Lady is a Tramp’ was a show tune from the 1937 Richard Rodgers and Lorenzo Hart musical Babes in Arms in which it was introduced by former child star Mitzi Green. The song is a spoof of New York high society and its strict etiquette (the first line of the verse is ‘I get too hungry for dinner at eight…’). Early recordings from 1937 include one by Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra (featuring Edythe Wright on vocals), Midge Williams and Her Jazz Jesters, and Sophie Tucker.

Octopus’s Garden

First recorded (as a rehearsal demo) by Ringo Starr with George Harrison (1969).
Hit album version by The Beatles (1969).

From the wiki: “The idea for ‘Octopus’s Garden’ came about when Ringo Starr was on a boat in Sardenia belonging to comedian Peter Sellers in 1968. Starr ordered fish and chips for lunch, but instead of fish he got squid (it was the first time he’d eaten squid, and he said, ‘It was OK. A bit rubbery. Tasted like chicken.’) Then, the boat’s captain told Starr about how octopuses travel along the sea bed picking up stones and shiny objects with which to build gardens. The Let It Be film included a scene in which Harrison is shown helping Starr work the song out on piano.

It Don’t Come Easy

First recorded (as a demo) by George Harrison (1970).
Hit version by Ringo Starr (US #4/UK #4/CAN #1 1971).

From the wiki: “‘It Don’t Come Easy’ was first taped on February 18, 1970 during the sessions for Ringo Starr’s first solo album Sentimental Journey. Although Ringo is givens sole composing credit on the recording, he told VH1 Storytellers that ‘It Don’t Come Easy’ was co-written with George Harrison – that he (Ringo) had written just the first two song lines and the chorus; that George composed the remainder. The demo was recorded by George to help Ringo learn the completed lyrics.

“With Beatles producer George Martin initially handling production, George Harrison plays acoustic guitar and sings at the demo session and directed the other musicians – Stephen Stills (keyboards), old Beatles friend Klaus Voormann (bass), and Starr (drums) with backing vocalists, Pete Ham and Tom Evans from Badfinger. After the basic track was completed, George added two electric guitar parts. At this point the song was titled ‘You Gotta Pay Your Dues’.