Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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The Fool on the Hill

First recorded (as a demo) by Paul McCartney (1967).
Hit album/EP version by The Beatles (1967).
Also recorded by Sharon Tandy (1968).
Hit single versions by Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 (US #6/MOR #1/AUS #14 1968), Eddie Fisher (1968), Shirley Bassey (UK #48 1969).

From the wiki: “‘The Fool on the Hill’ was written by Paul McCartney (but credited to Lennon-McCartney) and was his major contribution to the Magical Mystery Tour EP and album, released in late 1967, and to the Magical Mystery Tour TV film broadcast on Boxing Day (December 26), 1967. McCartney recorded a solo demo version of the song in the on 6 September 1967. The recording of the song by the group began in earnest on 25 September and was completed in two days, with flutes added a month later.

[From the Beatles Bible]: “The Beatles’ 1968 authorized biography contains a lengthy passage in which writer Hunter Davies observed Lennon and McCartney as they composed ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’, at McCartney’s house in London. It showed how they were content to be distracted while waiting for inspiration to arrive.

Paul then went back to his guitar and started to sing and play a very slow, beautiful song about a foolish man sitting on the hill. John listened to it quietly, staring blankly out of the window, almost as if he wasn’t listening. Paul sang it many times, la la-ing words he hadn’t thought of yet. When at last he finished, John said he’d better write the words down or he’d forget them. Paul said it was OK. He wouldn’t forget them. It was the first time Paul had played it for John. There was no discussion.

“McCartney said the song relates to someone like Maharishi Mahesh Yogi: ‘Fool on the Hill’ was mine and I think I was writing about someone like Maharishi. His detractors called him a fool. Because of his giggle he wasn’t taken too seriously …’

“Alistair Taylor, in the book Yesterday, reported a mysterious incident involving a man who inexplicably appeared near him and McCartney during a walk on Primrose Hill and then disappeared again, soon after McCartney and Taylor had conversed about the existence of God. This allegedly prompted the writing of the song.

“Music service Allmusic lists more than 100 cover versions of the song. Sergio Mendes and Eddie Fisher both released singles of the song in 1968. Fisher’s recording would actually be the first version of the song to make any US singles charts – in this case, Record World‘s non-rock survey; it would also be his last US promotional single to chart. Mendes’ Brasil ’66 vocal group reached #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 (and spent six weeks at #1 on the Billboard Easy Listening chart) with their 1968 recording.

“South African singer Sharon Tandy recorded ‘The Fool on the Hill’ in 1968 at Stax studios (a rarity for a white singer) for the Atco label, but it received no chart success in the US or the UK. Shirley Bassey charted in the UK with her 1969 recording that was also included on her 1970 album of pop covers, Something.

“Nine years after the disbandment of Eurythmics, Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart reunited on stage to pay tribute to the Fab Four with their performance of ‘Fool on the Hill’ for the 2014 TV special The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to The Beatles.”

The Beatles, “The Fool on the Hill” from Magical Mystery Tour (1967):

Eddie Fisher, “The Fool on the Hill” (1968):

Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66, “The Fool on the Hill” (1968):

Sharon Tandy, “The Fool on the Hill” (1968):

Shirley Bassey, “The Fool on the Hill” (1969):

Annie Lenox & Dave Stewart, “The Fool on the Hill” TV special The Beatles: The Night That Changed America (2014):

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