Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Van Morrison

Baby, Please Don’t Go

First recorded by Big Joe Williams’ Washboard Blues Singers (1935).
Also recorded by Muddy Waters (1953), Mose Allison (1960), Georgia Fame (1963).
Hit versions by The Orioles (R&B #8 1952), Them (US #102/UK #10 1964).

From the wiki: “‘Baby, Please Don’t Go’ is a Blues song which has been called ‘one of the most played, most arranged, and most rearranged pieces in Blues history’ by music historian Gerard Herzhaft. Delta Blues musician Big Joe Williams popularized it with several versions beginning in 1935. The song’s roots have been traced back to nineteenth-century slave songs, dealing with themes of bondage and imprisonment. In 1952, a Doo-wop version by The Orioles reached the R&B Top 10 (an early 45 rpm issue available only on red vinyl); Muddy Waters’ 1953 recording recast the song as an electric Chicago Blues ensemble piece, influencing many subsequent renditions.


Inspired by “Midnight Blue” by Kenny Burrell (1963).
Hit version by Van Morrison (1970 |US #92 1977).

From the wiki: “‘Moondance’ was written by Van Morrison and first appeared as the title track on his 1970 album Moondance. According to Morrison, the song started as a jazz saxophone instrumental. ‘I used to play this sax number over and over, anytime I picked up my horn,’ he said.

“Inspiration for ‘Moondance’ song could be traced to Kenny Burrell’s 1963 recording, ‘Midnight Blue’. There are a couple of elements that feed this presumption: the bass line, rhythm guitar and even the whole groove of ‘Moondance’ follows Burrell’s instrumental (and, to a lesser degree, Johnny Lytle’s 1966 Jazz recording, ‘Selim’). Morrison did not release ‘Moondance’ as a single until November 1977, seven and a half years after the album was released.

Wild Night

Written and first recorded by Van Morrison (US #28/CAN #20/NETH #24 1971).
Other hit versions by Martha Reeves (R&B #74 1974), John Mellencamp & Me’Shell Ndegeocello (US #3/MOR #1/CAN #1/UK #34/AUS #18 1994).

From the wiki: “‘Wild Night’ was first recorded by Van Morrison during a session with Lewis Merenstein as producer at Warners Publishing Studio in New York City in autumn 1968. The version released on Tupelo Honey was recorded in spring 1971 at Wally Heider Studios in San Francisco with Ted Templeman as producer. Tom Maginnis in Allmusic describes the song as ‘an effusive three and a half minutes of Stax-inspired R&B.’

Have I Told You Lately

Written and first recorded by Van Morrison (UK #74/IRE #12 1989).
Hit version by Rod Stewart (US #5/UK #5 1993).
Also recorded by The Chieftains & Van Morrison (1996).

From the wiki: “‘Have I Told You Lately’ was written by Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison and recorded for his 1989 album Avalon Sunset. Although it was originally written also as a prayer, and built on the same framework as Morrison’s ‘Someone Like You’, ‘Have I Told You Lately’ quickly became a romantic ballad often played at weddings. ‘Have I Told You Lately’ was listed as #261 on the ‘All Time 885 Greatest Songs’ compiled by Philadelphia radio station WXPN; in 2006, Van Morrison’s original recording was voted #6 on a list of the Top 10 ‘First Dance Wedding Songs’, based on a poll of 1,300 DJs in the UK. The song was awarded a Grammy in 1996, for Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals, for the recording produced by The Chieftains and Van Morrison.”

Gloria (Them)

Written by Van Morrison and first recorded by Them (1964).
Hit versions by Them (US #93/UK #10 1965), The Shadows of Knight (US #10 1966), Van Morrison & John Lee Hooker (UK #31 1993).

From the wiki: “Van Morrison said that he wrote ‘Gloria’ while he performed with the Monarchs in Germany in the summer of 1963. He started to perform it at the Maritime Hotel when he returned to Belfast and joined up with The Gamblers to form the band Them. He would ad-lib lyrics as he performed, sometimes stretching the song to fifteen or twenty minutes. After signing a contract with Dick Rowe and Decca, Them went to London for a recording session at Decca Three Studios in West Hampstead on 5 July 1964.

Here Comes the Night

First released by Lulu (UK #50 1964).
Hit version by Them (US #24/UK #2 1965).

From the wiki: “‘Here Comes the Night’ was written by Bert Berns. Them had intended this song to be the follow-up to ‘Baby, Please Don’t Go‘ but Decca rush-released a recording of the song by Lulu (‘To Sir With Love’, ‘I Could Never Miss You More Than I Do‘) in November 1964.

“The band members of Them were said to be bitterly disappointed by this decision made by Decca and Decca Records co-owner (and Radio Caroline co-director) Phil Solomon. Session musician and songwriter Phil Coulter (‘Puppet on a String’, ‘Saturday Night‘) remarked: ‘They bitched to me a lot but they wouldn’t dare to have said anything to Solomon.’

“Them was said to have a ‘certain grim satisfaction’ as Lulu’s recording reached #50 and then dropped off the charts. Jimmy Page played guitar on Them’s arrangement. Andy White (best known for replacing Ringo Starr on drums on The Beatles’ first single, ‘Love Me Do’) and Tommy Scott performed backing vocals with Coulter on keyboards.

“Them’s ‘Here Comes the Night’ became the group’s second UK Top-10 and their first US Top-40 hit.”