Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Beach Boys

Ruby Baby

First recorded by The Drifters (R&B #10 1956).
Other hit versions by Dion (US #2/R&B #5 1963), Billy “Crash” Craddock (US #33/MOR #23/C&W #1 1974).
Also recorded by The Beach Boys (1965, released 1993), Donald Fagen (1982).

From the wiki: “‘Ruby Baby’ was written by the hit songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller (‘Hound Dog‘, ‘On Broadway‘). It was first recorded by the Drifters, who scored an R&B hit with the song in 1956. Dion covered ‘Ruby Baby’ in 1963, scoring a Top-5 hit. In 1974, Billy ‘Crash’ Craddock topped the US Country chart with his cover version.

“The Beach Boys recorded ‘Ruby Baby’ during sessions for their 1965 album Beach Boys’ Party!, but the recording remained unreleased until the band’s 1993 box set Good Vibrations: Thirty Years of The Beach Boys. Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen covered ‘Ruby Baby’ for his 1982 solo album, Nightfly.”


First recorded by The Regents (US #13/R&B #7 1961).
Also recorded by Jan & Dean (1962).
Other hit version by The Beach Boys (US #2/UK #3 1966).

From the wiki: “‘Barbara Ann’ was written by Fred Fassert and was first recorded by The Regents as ‘Barbara-Ann’. Their version was released in 1961. It reached #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and crossed-over, too, as a Top 10 R&B hit. The Beach Boys recorded their version on September 23, 1965 (five days after actress and model Barbara Anne Feldon coincidentally made her first television appearance on Get Smart). Dean Torrence is featured on lead vocals with Brian Wilson. Torrence was not credited on the album jacket but ‘Thanks, Dean’ is spoken by Carl Wilson at the end of the track.

“By late January 1966, ‘Barbara Ann’ was in position to replace ‘We Can Work It Out’ by The Beatles as the next #1 song. However, ‘My Love’, by Petula Clark, unexpectedly vaulted into the #1 position the week ending February 5, 1966. Consequently, ‘Barbara Ann’ peaked at #2 in the US Billboard Hot 100.”

The Boy from New York City

First recorded by The Ad Libs (US #8/R&B #6 1965).
Also recorded by Dave “Baby” Cortez (1965).
Other hit versions by Darts (UK #2 1978), The Manhattan Transfer (US #7/MOR #4 1981).

From the wiki: “‘The Boy from New York City’ was originally recorded by the American soul group The Ad Libs. Released as the group’s first single in 1964, it was produced by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller (‘Hound Dog‘, ‘On Broadway‘). The song peaked at #8 on the US Billboard Hot 100 in February 1965. The Ad Libs would never repeat their chart success.

“The song was later covered by Dave ‘Baby’ Cortez, as a 1965 instrumental; Darts, in 1978; and The Manhattan Transfer, in 1981. The latter two covers became chart hits in the UK and US, respectively. The Ad Libs recording also inspired a response song by The Beach Boys, ‘The Girl from New York City’, from their 1965 album Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!).”

Little Honda

First recorded by The Beach Boys (US #65 1964).
Other hit version by The Hondells (US #9 1964).

From the wiki: “‘Little Honda’ was written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love for The Beach Boys. It was released on the group’s 1964 album All Summer Long, and was also featured on the EP Four by The Beach Boys but was not released as a single until after The Hondells’ version had charted and peaked. The song pays tribute to small Honda motorcycles, specifically the Honda Super Cub. Carl Wilson recalls:

[Brian Wilson] does exactly what he wants to do. I remember [sits back and laughs] — this is so funny — when we did ‘Little Honda’, Brian wanted me to get this real distorted guitar sound, real fuzzy. ‘This guitar sounds like shit,’ I said. ‘Brian, I hate this.’ And he goes, ‘Would you fucking do it? Just do it.’ When I heard it, I felt like an asshole. It sounded really hot. That was before fuzz became a big deal.

“It was during the recording sessions of ‘Little Honda’ (and ‘I Get Around’) when Brian relieved his father, Murry Wilson, of his managerial duties after three years. An attempt at reconciliation on Murry’s part, much of it captured on the tapes for the 1965 recording sessions of ‘Help Me, Rhonda’, cemented the break.

Sloop John B.

First recorded (as “Histe Up the John B.”) by Cleveland Simmons Group (1935).
First popular version recorded (as “The Wreck of the John B.”) by The Weavers (1950).
Also recorded by Blind Blake Higgs (1952), The Kingston Trio (1958), Johnny Cash (1959), Jimmie Rodgers (1960), Dick Dale & His Del-Tones (1962).
Hit version (titled “The Sloop John B.”) by The Beach Boys (US #3/UK #2 1966).

From the wiki: “According to Blind Blake Higgs, the Bahamanian calypso entertainer, the John B had been a sponger boat that one day went under. That’s not so unusual, all thing considered. So, what made this tragedy so special? One possible explanation is the name of the vessel: to illiterate ears, ‘John B’ sounds like ‘Zombie’. So, when said sloop vanished with no one returning, that’s the stuff where legends are made of.

“The popularity of the song triggered interest in the wreck’s whereabouts. The hull was found and rescued from under the sands of Governor’s Harbor in 1926. John T. McCutcheon, philosopher and cartoonist on holiday with his wife in the West Indies at that time, learned the song and brought the song to New York where poet Carl Sandburg collected it for his songbook The American Songbag (1927).

Come Go With Me

First recorded by The Dell-Vikings (1956).
Hit versions by The Del-Vikings (re-recording US #4/R&B #2 1957), Dion (US #48 1962), The Beach Boys (US #18 1981).

From the wiki: “‘Come Go with Me’ was written by C. E. Quick (aka Clarence Quick), an original member of the doo-wop vocal group The Del-Vikings (also spelled ‘Dell-Vikings’ on Dot records releases, with no dash). The song was originally recorded by The Del-Vikings in 1956 and was released by them on Fee Bee Records with Quick as the lead vocalist. The 1957 re-recording released on Dot Records featured Norman Wright as the lead vocalist.

Blue Christmas

First recorded by Doye O’Dell (1948).
Hit versions by Ernest Tubb (C&W #1 1949), Hugo Winterhalter & His Orchestra with Choir (US #9 1949), Russ Morgan & His Orchestra (US #11 1949), Hugo Winterhalter & Billy Eckstine (US #20 1950), Elvis Presley (1957 |US #40/UK #11 1964), Beach Boys (XMAS #3 1964), Shakin’ Stevens (UK #2 1982), Harry Connick Jr. (MOR #21 2004).

From the wiki: “‘Blue Christmas’ song was first recorded by Doye O’Dell in 1948. It was popularized the following year in three separate recordings: one by Country artist Ernest Tubb, which topped the Country singles chart; one by instrumental bandleader Hugo Winterhalter and his orchestra that charted US Top-10; and one by bandleader Russ Morgan and his orchestra (the latter featuring lead vocals by Morgan and backing vocals by singers credited as the Morganaires) that charted US Top-15. In 1950 Hugo Winterhalter released a new version, this time sung by Billy Eckstine, with shortened lyrics in a variation close to what is now the common standard for this song. This re-recording charted Top-20 in the US.

Cotton Fields

Written and first recorded by Lead Belly (1940).
Also recorded by Odetta (1954), Harry Belafonte (1958).
Hit versions by The Highwaymen (US #13 1961), The Beach Boys (UK #5 1970).

From the wiki: “‘Cotton Fields’ was written by Blues musician Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Lead Belly, who made the first recording of the song in 1940. ‘Cotton Fields’ was introduced into the canon of Folk music via its inclusion on the 1954 album release Odetta & Larry which comprised performances by Odetta and accompanist Larry Mohr at the Tin Angel nightclub in San Francisco. The song’s profile was boosted via its recording by Harry Belafonte first on his 1958 albums Belafonte Sings the Blues and Belafonte at Carnegie Hall. (Belafonte had learned ‘Cotton Fields’ from Odetta and been singing it in concert as early as 1955.) The song entered Pop culture with the #13 hit recording in 1961 by The Highwaymen. The Beach Boys reached the UK Top 5 with a 1968 recording, released as a single in 1970, of ‘Cotton Fields’.”

Surfin’ USA

Inspired by “Route 90” by Clarence Garlow (as a B-side 1952) and “Sweet Little Sixteen” by Chuck Berry (US #2/R&B #1/UK #16 1958).
Hit version by The Beach Boys (US #3/R&B #20/UK #34 1962).

From the wiki: “‘Route 90’, co-written and first recorded in 1952 by Louisiana stomper Clarence Garlow, served as the basis for two hit songs: Chuck Berry’s ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’ (1958) and ‘Surfin’ Safari’ (1962) by The Beach Boys. Somewhat ironically, it would be Berry – not Garlow (who passed away in 1986) – who would sue The Beach Boys for copyright infringement. Garlow’s only hit song recording was ‘Bon Ton Roula’, which peaked at #7 on the R&B chart in 1950.

Rock and Roll Music

Written and first recorded by Chuck Berry (US #8/R&B #6 1957).
Other hit versions by The Beatles (AUS #1/NOR #1/SWE #1/FIN/GER #2 1964), Humble Pie (US #105 1975), The Beach Boys (US #5/CAN #11/UK #36 1976), Mental As Anything (AUS #5 1988).

From the wiki: “‘Rock and Roll Music’ was written and recorded by rock ‘n roll icon Chuck Berry.

“The sessions for ‘Rock and Roll Music’ took place in May 1957 in Chicago, Illinois, produced by the Chess brothers – Leonard and Phil – and backing Chuck Berry were pianist Lafayette Leake, bassist Willie Dixon, and drummer Fred Below. Chess records issued the song as a single in September 1957 on both the 45 rpm and 78 rpm formats. It reached #6 on Billboard magazine’s R&B Singles chart and #8 on the Hot 100 chart before the year’s end.

“Five decades later, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Berry’s version at #128 on their list of ‘The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time’. The song is also a part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of the ‘500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll’.

Seasons in the Sun

Recorded (in English) by The Kingston Trio (1963).
Adapted from “Le Moribond” by Jacques Brel & Rod McKuen (1961).
Also recorded by Rod McKuen (1964), The Beach Boys (1973).
Hit version by Terry Jacks (US #1/UK #1/CAN #1 1974).

From the wiki: “‘Seasons in the Sun’ is the English-language adaptation of a 1961 song, ‘Le Moribond’, composed by Belgian singer-songwriter Jacques Brel with English lyrics by American singer-poet Rod McKuen (‘Jean‘). The original French-language song included sarcasm and references to the speaker’s wife’s infidelity.

“The Kingston Trio recording was the first cover version of McKuen’s translation in 1963. McKuen would include a performance of his own work on the 1964 album Rod McKuen Sings Jacques Brel.

“Terry Jacks had had considerable success in his native Canada as half of the duo The Poppy Family (‘Which Way You Goin’ Billy’, 1969) with his wife, Susan. He was friends with The Beach Boys, who asked him to produce a song for them – something Jacks was honored to do. Terry played them his arrangement of ‘Seasons in the Sun’ and suggested they record it, thinking it would sound great with Beach Boy harmonies and with Carl Wilson singing lead.

I Can Hear Music

First recorded by The Ronettes (US #100 1966).
Hit version by The Beach Boys (US #24/UK #10/SWE #5 1969).
Also recorded by Larry Lurex (Freddie Mercury) (1973).

From the wiki: “‘I Can Hear Music’ is a song written by Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich and Phil Spector, originally performed by The Ronettes in 1966. Released as the last Ronettes’ single on Spector’s Philles record label, it barely charted – spending only one week on the Billboard Hot 100 at #100.

“The Beach Boys recorded ‘I Can Hear Music’ in 1969 for the album 20/20. This version peaked at #24 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart (and #20 on the Cash Box and Record World charts) in the US. Internationally, it reached #5 in Sweden, #6 in Holland and Malaysia, #7 in Poland, #10 in the UK, #13 in Germany and in Australia’s Go Set chart, and #15 in Ireland.

“In 1973, Larry Lurex (a pseudonym for Freddie Mercury) also recorded a cover version of ‘I Can Hear Music’. The recording is considered the Holy Grail among Queen collectors.”

Do You Want to Dance

Written and originally recorded by Bobby Freeman (US #5/R&B #2 1958).
Other hit versions by The Shadows (UK #2/NETH #1 1962), Del Shannon (US #43 1964), The Beach Boys (US #12 1965), Bette Midler (US #17 1972).

From the wiki: “‘Do You Want to Dance’ is a song written by Bobby Freeman and recorded by him in 1958. Cliff Richard and The Shadows’ version of the song reached #2 in the United Kingdom in 1962, despite being a B-side. It reached #8 in the United States when released by the Beach Boys in 1965 as ‘Do You Wanna Dance?’, and a 1972 cover by Bette Midler (‘Do You Want to Dance?’) reached #17.