Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Up on the Roof

First recorded (as a demo) by Little Eva (1962).
Hit versions by The Drifters (US #5/R&B #4 1963), Kenny Lynch (UK #10 1962), Julie Grant (UK #33 1963), The Cryan’ Shames (US #85 1968), Laura Nyro (US #92 1970), James Taylor (US #28 1980), Robson & Jerome (UK #1 1995).
Also recorded by Carole King (1970).

From the wiki: “‘Up on the Roof’ is a song written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, first recorded as a demo in 1962 by Little Eva – their 14-year old babysitter whose singing career Goffin and King had helped launched with ‘The Loco-Motion’ and who the songwriting pair often used for demos. The song was then recorded and commercially released first by The Drifters in July 1962, becoming a major hit in early 1963, peaking at #5 the week of February 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #4 on the US R&B Singles chart.

“In the UK the Drifters’ version of ‘Up on the Roof’ failed to reach the Top 50, being trumped by two local cover versions, sung by, respectively, Julie Grant and Kenny Lynch (‘Mountain of Love‘).

“The Kenny Lynch version, which largely replicated the Drifters’ original, was the more successful, reaching #10 UK. The Julie Grant version, which reached #33 UK, was reinvented as a Merseybeat number. Its producer, Tony Hatch, would later be inspired to write Petula Clark’s iconic hit ‘Downtown’, which itself was originally envisioned as being in the style of the Drifters, with whom Hatch had hoped to place it.

“Co-writer Gerry Goffin would cite ‘Up on the Roof’ as his all-time favorite of the lyrics he’d written. After Carole King suggested that he write lyrics for the tune which had occurred to her while she was out driving, with King suggesting ‘My Secret Place’ as the title, Goffin kept King’s suggested focus of a haven, modifying it with his enthusiasm for the movie musical West Side Story which contained several striking scenes set on the rooftops of Upper West Side tenements.

“Garage band The Cryan’ Shames recorded a cover of ‘Up on the Roof’ in 1967 for the album A Scratch in the Sky, from which it was released as a promotional single that peaked at #85 on the Billboard Hot 100, marking a departure for the group away from the heavy British Invasion and Byrds influences of their debut album (Sugar and Spice, 1966) into the territory of a more California sunshine pop-flavored sound. Co-writer King herself covered ‘Up on the Roof’ for her solo recording debut Writer (1970), from which it was issued as a single with no chart impact.

“That other giant ’60s-’70s singer-songwriter, Laura Nyro (‘Stoney End‘, ‘Wedding Bell Blues‘, ‘And When I Die‘), made a rare recording of a non-original song when she recorded ‘Up on the Roof’ for her 1970 album Christmas and the Beads of Sweat. Nyro’s single release of the tack afforded her her sole Billboard Hot 100 appearance with a #92 peak.

“James Taylor, who had played guitar on Carole King’s own cover of ‘Up on the Roof’ for her 1970 album Writer, remade the song with a new arrangement for his own 1979 album, Flag. Issued as the album’s lead single, it peaked at #28 in July 1979 and would become Taylor’s final Top 40 hit as a solo artist. (‘Her Town, Too,’ a duet with J.D. Souther, would peak at #11 in 1981.)

“‘Up on the Roof’ had its most successful UK incarnation via a 1995 remake by Robson & Jerome, released as a double A-side coupled with their remake of ‘I Believe’. The single reached #1 on the UK Singles chart.

“In 2004, The Drifters’ ‘Up on the Roof’ was named #113 on Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list. It is one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.”

The Drifters, “Up on the Roof” (1962):

Kenny Lynch, “Up on the Roof” (1962):

Julie Grant, “Up on the Roof” (1963):

The Cryan’ Shames, “Up on the Roof” (1968):

Carole King, “Up on the Roof” (1970):

Laura Nyro, “Up on the Roof” (1970):

James Taylor, “Up on the Roof” (1980):

Robson & Jerome, “Up on the Roof” (1995):