Original Versions of Well Known Songs
Original (and Early) Versions
of Songs You Know and Love.
As Dobie Gray once said, "Other guys (they) imitate us....But the original's still the greatest", and, when it comes to recordings, I would generally agree. There are caveats of course: The Beatles 'Twist and Shout' and 'Money', Otis Redding 'Change gonna come' and 'That's how strong my love is' and Aretha Franklin's 'Respect' immediately spring to mind but, in general, the original recording is the one that stays in the memory the longest, and usually with the most affection. However, buried away in my vinyl collection (unless marked *) are a few original or early version of songs which became popular through other artists. Most of the 'cover' versions do tend to stick close to the original recordings but, in the case of, say, folkie Jake Holmes, the difference between his original and Led Zeppelins (and Yardbirds) behemoth could hardly be greater. Obviously, with 'The house of the Rising Sun' I would have loved to go back to 'Rising Sun Blues' by Tom Ashley and Gwin Foster, the earliest known recording released in 1933, or even the later 1938 'Rising Sun' recording by future country star and music publisher Roy Acuff but I ain't never seen any copies of those in the charity shops I frequent!!! I've been lucky enough to have managed, over the years, to have collected some of the original or early versions on 'various artist' releases and some of the others come from solo artist releases or compilations so, hopefully, there'll be some here that you may not be too familiar with. Usually I start these missives with one that doesn't fit the criteria of the subject but, this time I've included a 'fun' cover version from a band which seems to have disappeared completely into the mists of time. Enjoy the selection and, as I've said before.... if you have any similar recordings in your collection, why not post 'em up to Tim (no need to groan on like yours truly) for us all to enjoy!!
Jake Holmes-'Dazed and confused'. Recorded early 1967. Released June 1967. 'The above ground sound of..'. This from 'Nuggets Vol 10: Folk Rock' US release 1985.
Perhaps one of the best-known songs by Led Zeppelin and, also, one of many where they have played 'fast and loose' with the composer credits. As I start this article I hear that LZ have managed to defend the case regarding the 'similarities' between 'Stairway to heaven' and a song called 'Taurus' by well-known psychedelic band Spirit. Now, not only did LZ and Spirit share the bill on several occasions in the sixties and also regularly perform Spirit's 'Fresh Garbage' as part of a medley during 1969, Robert Plant was injured in a car accident when returning from a Spirit gig in February 1970!!! Plus, there is a an amazing 'similarity' between the initial chord progression of the two songs.... still, an eleven-man jury can't be wrong two out of three times, can they? In the bands defence, and echoing the judgement, there is a difference between 'influenced by' and 'copyright breach'. Anyways, back to 'Dazed...' and here's the original by Jake Holmes. Now here's an interesting character if ever there was one!! Bookending his army career in the late fifties, Holmes recorded initially with his then wife Kathleen (the folk parody album 'Better to be rich than ethnic' as Allen and Grier) and then as part of the Jim, Jake and Joan comedy trio which featured a certain Miss Joan Alexandra Molinsky, later better known as Joan Rivers!! He followed this with another trio, The Feldmans, alongside Tim Rose and Richie Hussan. His initial solo albums for Tower Records ( 'A Letter to Katherine December' and 'The Above Ground Sound of Jake Holmes') were critically acclaimed but sold not one jot, despite the latter including the original versions of the Four Seasons psych opus 'Genuine Imitation Life' and 'Dazed and Confused'. Here, Jake is accompanied with just his own acoustic guitar, Tim Irwin on lead guitar and Rick Randle on bass..... a long way from both the Yardbirds initial live1968 versions and LZ's later version on LZ1. Following the albums release Holmes supported the Page era Yardbirds at a Greenwich Village gig and, later that year was spotted at NYC's Bitter End club by Four Seasons producer Bob Gaudio who signed Holmes to provide lyrics (and title song) for the Four Seasons next (and unsuccessful, Beatle/Hippie/Beach Boys/Maharshi baiting) album 'Genuine Imitation Life Gazette'. Despite the Seasons album's comparative failure Holmes' career as a lyricist took off with the initial, muted success of several songs for Frank Sinatra's almost career ending 'Watertown' album, a couple for Lena Horn and then, most notably, an increasing number of songs for Harry Belafonte. Such was Belafonte's regard for Holmes that 1988's 'Paradise in Gazankulu' album was entirely written by Holmes. Despite this success, Holmes' own recording's sold poorly and, by the late 70's he had started a new 'career' in writing advertising jingles, the success of which led to his new nickname of 'Jingle Jake'! His own stop-start recording career saw him return in the late 90's with the George W Bush-bashing 'Mission Accomplished' and 'I hear Texas' tracks. In June 2010, Holmes filed a lawsuit alleging copyright infringement and naming Page as a co-defendant. The suit was "dismissed with prejudice" on January 17, 2012 after an undisclosed settlement between Page and Holmes was reached out of court in the late 2011... and that's not the only time that happened to Mr Page!!!
LZ albums now feature 'By Page, inspired by Jake Holmes' as composer credits although the 're-writes' to the lyrics are generally acknowledged to have been the work of the then contractually obligated Robert Plant.
Dionne Warwick- 'They long to be Close to you'. (Re)Recorded late 1963. Released September 1964. This from UK Pye International 'Make way for....' album
Not the original version, heart-throb medic Richard Chamberlain first released this Bacharach/David composition as an unsuccessful a-side in September 1963 before it was flipped and 'Blue Guitar' became a chart hit in the US. However, Dionne had done the 'original' demo version in 1962 which Bacharach then re-recorded for her third album in 1964. Dionne came from a musical background, serving her apprenticeship initially in her maternal family's harmony group The Drinkard Singers and then the Gospelaires who later became the Sweet Inspirations. Other members of the Gospelaires included Doris Troy, Cissy Houston and Judy Clay who all went on to varying degrees of solo success during the sixties. Whilst recording behind the Drifters 'Mexican Divorce' single in early 1962, Dionne was picked out by Bacharach and asked if she would like to record some publishing demo's. These included 'Close to you', 'It's love that really counts' and 'Make it easy on yourself', a song Dionne particularly wanted to release as her own single. After hearing that B&D had gifted that song to Jerry Butler, Dionne angrily snapped at the pair "Don't (try to) make me over", inspiring the duo to write her similarly titled first hit single in November 1962. It's success in Europe saw Dionne carry out an extended sell out season in Paris, where she was introduced onto the stage by Marlene Dietrich, and also release a trio of hit singles culminating in 'Anyone who had a heart' in November 1963. Further hit singles followed, in fact Warwick was the second top selling solo female artist in the US (behind Aretha Franklin) during the sixties, with this track initially released on the 'Make way for...' album in late 1964 and, in May 1965, as the flip to 'Here I am'. Of course, the song is best remembered for the Carpenters classic 1970 recording but there were also covers by Dusty Springfield and, in 1971, Bacharach released his own version too. Dionne's career, of course, didn't end there. She branched out in to acting on TV and flm, became a UN Ambassador and continues to record right up to the present time. Still a much under appreciated soul singer in my books......
Jerry Butler-Make it easy on yourself'. Recorded Spring 1962. Released June 1962. Veejay single. This from Charly Records maxi single. Released 1980.
And here's the single which upset Dionne so much!. Early 1962 saw Vee-Jay A&R chief Calvin Carter returning to Chicago from New York with a copy of Dionne's Scepter label demo of the song. After playing it, Butler allegedly remarked "Man, it's a great song, and the girl who's singing it, and the arrangement, is a hit.". When Carter confirmed that Scepter had no intention of releasing Dionne's version, Butler was 'ecstatic' and immediately arranged a session in New York with Bacharach in order to duplicate the arrangement on the demo version. Slightly slower than the Warwick version and the more familiar Walker Brothers smash, this does feature an excellent bluesy vocal from Butler enhanced by Bacharach's swirling arrangement and back up vocals. Released in June 1962, the single went on to peak at No 20 on the Billboard Hit 100 chart and No 19 on the R&B chart. This would be Butlers last Top 20 hit for over 5 years, although he would place around a dozen in the lower reaches of the 'pop' chart and the top 30 R&B chart. Born in Sunflower, Mississippi, he moved to the Chicago 'projects' aged three where, as he grew up, music and the church grew more important. It was at church where he met Curtis Mayfield and formed the Northern Jubilee Gospel Singers. Following that, the pair moved to the Roosters, a six piece unit which later slimmed down to the Impressions who, initially, were influenced by Sam Cooke's Soul Stirrers. Following Cooke's entry into secular music, the Impressions took the same path and signed to Vee-Jay, releasing the Mayfield/Butler composed 'For your precious love' as their first single in 1958..... but with the artist credited as 'Jerry Butler and the Impressions'. Perhaps because of this, Butler quickly went solo, even signing Mayfield as his back up guitarist, and was rewarded with a succession of mainly Mayfield penned hits over the next few years. When his solo career did slow down he went on to have some success duetting with Betty Everett. His career was then given a boost in the late sixties with the Northern Soul favourite 'Moody Woman' and hit material composed and produced by the Philly team of Gamble and Huff. Whilst continuing to perform and record, Butler also served on the Cook County Board Commission, surviving the introduction of a controversial tax law which saw him denigrated in the Press but returned with an 80% favourable vote from the public. He now has a successful TV career on the PBS channel introducing music shows relating to soul, R&B and Doo Wop and is Chairman of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation.
For your further delight, I've added a 'sparser' version by the Four Seasons from their curious 1965 album '...…. Sing Big Hits By Burt Bacharach... Hal David... Bob Dylan', which also features (ahem!!) 'spectacular' Valli-fied versions of 'Queen Jane Approximately' and 'Mr Tambourine Man'!!!
*The Top Notes-'Twist and shout'. Recorded 23 February 1961. Released May 1961. US Atlantic single. From 'Phil Spector-The Early Productions'. Ace Records 2010.
Here's one of Phil Spector's infrequent failures..... from a time when he was experimenting with his 'wall of sound' plus regularly traversing the US continent recording in both NYC for Atlantic and at the Gold Star Studio in Los Angeles. The Top Notes revolved around lead vocalists Derek Martin and Howard Guyton (cousin to Dave 'Baby' Cortez) and at one time included Dionne Warwick before she was spotted by Burt Bacharach. After a run of singles as, variously, The Pearls, the Five Pearls, the Sheiks and Howie and the Sapphires, the Top Notes signed for Atlantic Records in 1960. Their initial release was the Spector produced 'Hearts of Stone' in 1960 and, in early 1961 they were summoned to Atlantic's NYC studio to record their third single, the Bert Berns/Phil Medley composition 'Twist and Shout'. Spector assembled (amongst others) King Curtis on tenor saxophone, Bucky Pizzarelli on guitar, and Panama Francis and Gary Chester on percussion and drums respectively. To this mix he then added a ten piece string ensemble plus backing vocals from the Cookies, quite a line up for what was, essentially, a 'dance' record! Spector had already begun recording with additional percussion and strings that year with recordings by Ben E King and this would reach it's peak with singles by the Ronettes, Righteous Brothers and Ike and Tina Turner when recorded at the Gold Star Studio's in Hollywood, utilising the famous 'wrecking crew' as back up. Here, however, Spector's touch seemed to desert him somewhat and the tempo seems too forced even for a 'twist' record and, bearing in mind the personnel involved, it does seem very sparse. About the only 'twist' record I have that seems this frantic is (one of my earliest purchases) Joey Dee and the Starlighters classic 'Peppermint Twist Pts 1/2'. At the completion of the session, Berns is reputed to have told Spector that he had 'killed the feel' and 'messed up the song' and predicted that the record wouldn't sell. Quite how Spector took that isn't known but, shortly after, he formed the Philles label with associate Lester Sill and, although he continued to produce Atlantic artists such as Curtis Lee, Ruth Brown and Jean DuShon, he would soon move his operations to Hollywood. Berns, however, would continue to work out of NYC where he produced (and composed) important singles for Solomon Burke, The Exciters, Barbara Lewis, Wilson Pickett, The Drifters and LaVerne Baker. However, in May 1962, he returned to the studio with 'one hit wonders' the Isley Brothers (1959's 'Shout') to lay down his take on 'Twist and Shout'. Slowing the tempo down and 'borrowing' the structure of 'La Bamba', Berns original intention was to place the track as the flip to a cover version of 'Make it easy on yourself'. However, on completion, he decided to issue the track as the top side and, despite the Isley's lack of confidence in the disc, it reached the Top 40 in the 'pop' charts and No 2 in the R&B charts. The Isley's version is, of course, the template for the Beatles throat shredding debut album closer.
Valentinos. 'It's all over now.' Recorded April 1964. Released June 1964. SAR label single. This from 'Soul from the city Vol 1' compilation. Soul City label released 1969.
This is what's called a 'family' group.... and how! Initially eight year old Bobby Womack strode on stage in 1952 to accompany his father after a string had broken on his guitar. 'Pop' was 'surprised' to find that, not only could Bobby play guitar but he and his four brothers could sing pretty good too. Soon, the Womack Brothers were touring the gospel circuit (as Curtis Womack and the Womack Brothers) with their father and releasing their first two gospel singles in 1954. In 1956 they supported Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers who promised to take an interest in their career. Four years later, Cooke founded the SAR label and invited the group out to California to record. A few days later the whole family turned up in a dilapidated Cadillac, having driven all the way from Cleveland, Ohio, a distance (to quote 'Route 66') of more than '2000 miles all the way'. After two gospel singles, Cooke advised them to follow his lead, record secular songs and, with their first effort ('Lookin' for a love' AKA the gospel song 'Couldn't hear nobody pray') they broached the Top 100 and hit number eight on the R&B charts. Late spring 1962 saw the band back in the studio to record Bobby and sister in law Shirley's new composition 'It's all over now'. Without the bands knowledge, DJ Murray the K (the fifth Beatle, according to Mr K) had received an advance copy and played it to the Rolling Stones at one of their NYC gigs, along with Slim Harpo's 'King Bee'. The Stones management contacted the Womacks and, despite reservations, it was agreed that the Stones would be allowed to cover the song. The band entered Chess studio in Chicago on the 10th June and released their version on the 26th.... them wer't daze!!! That same week the Valentinos version started to climb the charts but, of course, it was the Stones version which saw the biggest sales, rewarding the group with a number 26 placing, their highest chart position at that time. For the Valentinos, however, their time was nearly up as, by the end of 1964, Cooke had been murdered in a seedy motel and the SAR label was disbanded shortly afterwards. Things got decidedly weird when, in early 1965, Bobby not only married Cooke's widow... he even attended the ceremony in a suit which had belonged to Cooke!! The Valentinos split and reformed in 1966 but after signing to Chess records, they again went their separate ways in music until they eventually reformed as back up vocalists to Bobby in the 70's.
Josh Wight-'House of the rising sun'. Taken from reissue of 1956 HMV LP 'The Josh White Stories Vol 1' entitled 'Singer Supreme' released 1962 World Records label.
With Josh, even bullet points would take up an encyclopaedia..... so I will try to be brief (!) by merely giving a few of the major points on his life so, here goes. Born into a church-going family in 1914, White was soon in the gospel choir. Aged seven, he witnessed his father throw a white debt collector out of the house for which 'crime' his father was hospitalised following a severe beating by the locals and then committed to a mental institution. Within months the seven year old was travelling the south collecting money in a tin for various 'blind' black touring musicians. To provoke sympathy, the musicians kept him ill-fed and in rags and, whilst they slept in 'black' hotels, White slept in stables or hedgerows! Aged thirteen he recorded alongside Blind Joe Taggart and became the youngest musician to be (co) credited on a 'race' record. 1930 saw him signed to NYC's ARC label where he recorded as The Singing Christian, Pinewood Tom and Tippy Barton. However, in 1936 he severely damaged his right hand in a bar fight which could have resulted in amputation but he refused to have this carried out. Two years of menial work, and exercise squeezing a soft rubber ball, saw a recovery and his return to music whilst, unknown to White, choral director Leonard De Paur had been searching for the Singing Christian and Pinewood Tom to appear in the musical 'John Henry'. Having found his man (or men!) De Paur put the musical on Broadway in 1940, after short runs out of town, with Paul Robeson as Henry and White as Blind Lemon Jefferson. Despite its short run it provided a huge boost to Whites career and saw him star in films, on radio and records, play at The Library of Congress in front of Eleanor Roosevelt and also at Roosevelts inauguration. Despite this, he was not allowed to tour in front of the US troops as he was considered 'too controversial' but, conversely, his popularity with the white folk audience increased dramatically. Hit singles followed, 'Jelly, jelly', 'Waltzin' Matilda', 'Joshua firt the battle of Jericho' and, in 1947, his first recording of 'House of the rising son'....phew!!, got there eventually!!! It was shortly after the recording that, despite huge tours of US and Europe, he ran foul of the McCarthy witch-hunts but, even though he quoted the controversial 'Strange Fruit' as part of his statement to the committee, he was viewed as a 'friendly witness' by 'white liberals' and the black musicians thanks to a controversial statement about political comments Robeson had allegedly made. As a result he became the only artist 'blacklisted' by both the Left and Right, which had a severe detrimental effect on his career for many years. In 1950 he relocated to London where he was soon granted a radio programme on the BBC.... and I suspect that's where many of us gained our first exposure to the folk blues of the black America's!!! The recording I have is not the 1947 version (that's the year I was born, folks), it's from a re-issue of his 1956 release 'Stories Vol 1' and features a lovely spoken intro not heard on his original recording. He would re-visit the song on several occasions during his career as well as appearing before another President (Kennedy) before his death, whilst still 'ostracised' in his own country, in 1969.
* Barry Mann-'We gotta get outta this place'. Recorded June 1965. Unreleased at the time. Released on 'The Red Bird Story' double CD Charly Records. Released 2011.
Warning!! warning!!!!........Controversy alert...… Here's the original demo version of the Animals goodie from mid 1965 by it's composer Barry Mann and what a stink that caused when that was released, Jake sued LZ for composer credit on 'Dazed and confused', Dionne had a spat over 'Make it easy on yourself', the Valentino's were reluctant to release 'It's all over now' to the Stones (but they didn't send the royalty cheques back I suppose), Bert Berns disliked Spectors production methods and now here's another occasion where there was an issue over a cover version. Mann had penned "She Say (Oom Dooby Doom)" by the Diamonds, a top twenty charter in 1959, co-comped the number four charter 'I love how you love me' by the Paris Sisters (swoon!!) and placed his own single ('Who put the Bomp') high in the charts in 1961 before teaming up his with wife-to-be Cynthia Weil as a composing 'team' at Aldon Music, housed adjacent to the famous Brill Building. And what a team!! 'Bless You', 'Uptown', 'Blame it on the Bossa Nova', 'I'm gonna be strong', 'Walkin' in the rain' and 'Saturday night at the movies' were just some of their hits in the next three years before, in mid 1964, they composed 'You've lost that lovin' feeling' (with a crafty Spector co-comp for 'gone, gone, gone, whoa, whoa, oh' allegedly!!) for the Righteous Brothers, a song that, in many surveys, is the most played song on American radio and TV in the Twentieth Century (between 8 and 14 million plays!). Mann recorded a piano only demo of 'We gotta get outta this place' at Aldon, ostensibly for the Righteous Brothers but, unknown to Mann, a copy found its way to lawyer/hustler Allen Klein in early 1965. At that same time Mann re-started his recording career with the Red Bird label (home to Shangri Las, Dixie Cups, Bessie Banks and, for a short period, Tiny Tim!!) and went in to the studio to record his version. Meanwhile, over in NYC, Klein passed the demo to Mickie Most who had been scouring the Brill Building for songs for the new Animals line up after Alan Price's defection. His search had already netted 'It's my life' and 'Don't bring me down' and 15th June 1965 saw the band record their version of 'We gotta….' for release on 16th July. Mann was incandescent with the escape of his demo recording and insisted that Red Bird pull the release of his version, which remained unreleased until 2011. Instead, he put out his only Red Bird release, 'Talk to me baby' which, although it failed to chart, is a cracking song in the typical Red Bird style. The Mann/Weil 'team' have continued to be successful since then with their score of recorded songs totalling around 650 at the end of the last decade.
Here's the original Aldon demo: Strangely I can't find the Red Bird version!!!
Evie Sands. 'I can't let go'. Recorded November 1965. Released December 1965. Blue Cat single. Unreleased in UK. From 'Red Bird Story Vol 1' Charly Records 1985.
No controversy on this single, but there certainly was on it's predecessor, the super soulful 'Take me for a little while'. Evie had recorded that song for the Red Bird offshoot Blue Cat in August 1965 but, echoing the Barry Mann single, a copy of the demo was stolen by a Chicago record promoter who took it to Chess Records. They were seeking a follow up to Jackie Ross' charter 'Selfish One' and having recognised it's potential, rushed Ross into the studio. Within 48 hours the disc was in the shops and being heavily promoted on the radio stations, a week before Evie's version was due to be released. Blue Cat/Red Birds immediate legal action saw the radio stations reluctant to play either version until the legal matters were settled, with Chess eventually agreeing to withdraw the Ross version. By this time the heat had gone from the Sands version with only local plays in Los Angeles and a few other cities and Sands retreated to the studio to record the follow up, 'I can't let go', co written by Al Gorgoni and Chip Taylor (composer of 'Wild Thing', 'Anyway you that want me' and many others..,, and brother to actor Jon Voight fact fans). On it's release in December radio stations were reluctant to get behind this superb single following the previous problems and, as a result, the single failed to sell. And this would prove to be the story of Sands career path for the rest of her career. 1967 saw her record the original version of 'Angel in the morning' which, on release, saw it quickly sell out its initial 10,000 pressing but, unfortunately the release coincided with Blue Cat/Red Birds bankruptcy. The song then became a success a few months later for then unknown Merrilee Rush. Further minor hits followed for Cameo Parkway, A&M and Buddah and others until Sands eventually retired, short term, from music in 1979. However, after a one-off album release in 1982, a chance meeting with Taylor in 1996 saw her reinvigorate her career which continues to this day. Sands output has always featured her 'soulful' voice and, more recently she has even become lead guitarist for the alt-rock Chaos Band but, unfortunately her recording career at Blue Cat was so short that her two singles are the only evidence of what was, perhaps, the epitome of her 'blue eyed soul' period which so influenced so many other sixties girl singers.
and, as a bonus, even more soulful Evie!!!:
Nina Simone -'Wild is the wind'. Recorded October 1959. Released late 1959. 'At the Town Hall' album. Colpix label. Taken from US copy.
Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in Tryon North Carolina, the sixth of eight children, Nina displayed her talent playing the piano by ear at age three. Throughout her school years she played piano in her mothers Methodist chapel before leaving High School as valedictorian of her class and recipient of 'bursary' collected locally to enable her to attend the Julliard in NYC. Following her studies there she applied for the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia but despite her obvious talents her application was rejected, which Simone attributed to racism. Desperate for money, she started teaching music to students of the Institute before auditioning, in 1954, for the Midtown Bar and Grill as a pianist. She was told that the vacancy was for a pianist/vocalist and as she had never sung publicly before, and would be 'working in the fires of hell' according to her mother, she changed her name to Nina Simone to protect herself and families reputation. Her deep, sensual voice soon attracted critical acclaim and, in 1957, she signed to the King Records subsidiary Bethlehem label where, despite the insistence of label owner Syd Nathan, she recorded an album in one 13 hour session based on the songs which she had been playing in concert. Her first US hit came from this session ('Porgy') as did her surprise 1985 UK hit, 'My baby just cares for me'. Following the release of the 'Little Girl Blue' album Nina signed for Colpix in 1959 and for her debut on the label, she was recorded live at the Manhattan Town Hall on 15th September, from which 'Wild is the wind' (first recorded by Johnny Mathis in November 1957) is taken. However, for some reason, some of the tracks from the concert were replaced by studio recordings and, although this 'appears' to be 'live', this version proved an influence on perhaps the best known version by David Bowie. To say Nina was 'temperamental' is something of an understatement (shots fired at managers and shop assistants, payphones torn from walls etc), witness her fury at the Animals version of 'Don't let me be understood', but Bowie had met Simone backstage and, presumably, gained permission to 'borrow' the vocal styling of 'Wild is the wind' more or less wholesale as there were no reported outbursts of plagiarism. Nina went on to become one of America's greatest jazz and soul artists, civil rights activist and exponent of cultural forms of dressing and grooming as well as recording almost 50 albums before passing away in 2003.
'Barry McGuire-California Dreaming'. Rec. November 1965. Rel. December 1965.'This Precious Time'. Dunhill. From 'Dunhill Folk Rock Vol 2 v/a'. Big Beat. Rel. 1988
You know.... it's only as I'm preparing these potted 'histories' that I'm finding out how many controversies are involved! And this ain't no different to the above recordings. After serving his apprenticeship as a fisherman and a pipefitter McGuire began singing in bars in Pasadena, releasing his debut single, 'The Tree', in 1961 before going on to form a folk duo with Barry Kane, imaginatively called, errrr…. Barry and Barry!! 1962 saw the duo popular enough to appear at the Troubadour in 1962 where they were offered membership within the New Christy Minstrels as well as continuing as a duo. McGuire became the lead singer on their novelty hit 'Three wheels on my wagon' that same year. Further hit singles and albums, as well as featured spots on the Andy Williams Show followed but, by early 1965 McGuire was growing frustrated with the groups conservative image and musical output and went solo. After signing to Dunhill he was teamed as the featured vocalist for songs written by their 'new kid on the block' P. F. Sloan. The first fruits of their collaboration was released in August 1965, the dystopian vision of 'Eve of Destruction,' which owed not a little to some of Bob Dylan's slightly earlier songs. Despite it's million selling achievement, McGuire was soon viewed as an anachronism as folk diversified thanks to artists such as the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Kaleidoscope and others. Despite this, there were a couple more good singles, 'Sins of the family' and the title track to his second album 'This Precious Time', which featured the original version of 'California Dreaming'. John Phillips had written the song in late 1963, even before he formed the Mamas and Papas, when he and Michelle were staying in an extremely cold New York hotel. He had a particularly vivid dream about the clement weather in California, woke Michelle up and, together, they finished composing the song. When McGuire signed to Dunhill his first act was to recommend the label to sign his good friends John and Mama Cass's newly formed Mamas and Papas and, at this point, Phillips handed over the song to McGuire and label owner Lue Adler for consideration for McGuire's second album. Bringing in LA's famed 'wrecking crew' drummer (Hal Blaine, the man behind the Beach Boys, Phil Spector's 'wall of sound' and many others), P F Sloan on guitar and production duties and, crucially, the Mamas and Papas on back up vocals, the song was quickly recorded and then put to one side whilst other tracks for the album were completed. And here's where the stories about what happened next diverge: Initially, it appeared that when Adler heard the finished master he realised that McGuire's vocal style was not ideally suited to the song but, crucially, that the 'background' vocals were particularly outstanding. Adler called Phillips back in and, together, they wiped McGuire's vocals from the master and simply recorded a new lead vocal over those of McGuire's, along with a replacement flute solo in the instrumental break. Alternatively, McGuire's version is that after the session ended, Phillips actually wiped the vocals, called in the rest of the M&P's and added the new vocals and flute solo and then, crucially, pressed Adler to rush release the single..... and all without telling his 'friend' McGuire. It's certainly true that the single was released very quickly, around two weeks before the McGuire album was issued, and it's also a fact that relationships between the former friends cooled rapidly so it does seem that McGuire's version is probably correct. Whatever the truth, the M&P's version is now regarded as a classic, as is the chart storming debut album which followed soon after.
The Turtles-'Eve of destruction'. Recorded Mid 1965. Released October 1965. 'It ain't me Babe' album. White Whale label. This from US Rhino label re-issue 1982
Back in 1964, P.F.Sloan had already released several solo singles, recorded with Steve Barri as Skip and Flip as well as under a plethora of other names such as Philip and Stephan, The Rally-Packs, The Wildcats, The Street Cleaners, Themes Inc., and The Lifeguards. Lou Adler signed them as songwriters at Screen Gems and then, when he launched Dunhill in 1964, he doubled their wages to take them with him. Sloan and Barri had touted several songs, including 'Eve of Destruction, to the Byrds in 1965, none of which they recorded but, around this time, ex-surfing group The Crossfires decided to get in on the 'folk-rock' boom. Initially known as The Tyrtles (wonder where they got that idea from?), then The Turtles and signed to White Whale records, they soon hit with a Bob Dylan cover ('It ain't me Babe') and began looking around for songs for their first album. Step forward P.F. Sloan who, after also offering the song to the Mamas and Papas, presented it to the Turtles. Sensing a hit, White Whale pressured the group into recording it and wanted to issue it as the next single but the band insisted on one of their own songs, 'Let me be', and were rewarded with a Top 30 placing. The recording by the Turtles pre-dated the McGuire version by some weeks (although Sloan had already recorded his own solo version... which I don't have!!) but their 'It ain't me Babe' album didn't come out until a couple of months after McGuire's single so any release of the track as a single would have resulted in split, or lack of sales. It would take the Turtles a couple more (unsuccessful) singles before they found their feet (or is that flippers?) as one of the finest harmony groups around with singles such as You Baby', 'Happy Together' and 'Eleanor' until, after critically acclaimed albums and singles, the band grew disgruntled with White Whale (they were the only successful group on the label) and finally disbanded in 1970.
Wilson Pickett-If you need me'. Recorded April 1963. Released May 1963 Double L single. This from 'Great Wilson Pickett Hits'. Released 1967. Marble Arch label.
I pretty much covered Pickett's early life and how 'If you need me' was recorded by Rufus Thomas so lets look briefly at Pickett's career prior to then. Pickett's father had moved from the farm lands of Prattville Alabama in the early fifties to take employment on the production lines at General Motors in Detroit. Wilson followed aged fourteen when life with his abusive mother proved too much and was soon part of his local gospel choir. It was there that, in 1955, his vocal 'testifying' vocal style bought him to the attention of the Violinaires, a 'second string' (ouch!!) six piece gospel choir who did release a few albums on the Chess label in the sixties. As an aside, Humble Pie recorded their 'Grooving with Jesus' on the 1974 album 'Thunderbox'. Pickett also spent some time performing with the Spiritual Five, a group which was the first outfit which Z Z Hill joined in the mid fifties. Following Sam Cooke's move to secular music, many choirs began recording r&b material, sometimes merely re-writes of popular gospel tunes, and the Violinaires were no different. 1955 saw the re-release of previous single, 'Another soldier gone' as the Question Marks before they were confident enough to issue singles under their own name. As their (limited) success grew, Pickett stepped up to the microphone to take the lead vocals on their r&b, gospel crossover 1957 single 'Sign of the Judgement' before he moved on to join the Falcons in 1960 following their two hit singles 'Just for your love' and 'The Teacher'. The group signed to the Lu Pine label for 'I found a Love' in 1962 and 'Has it happened to you yet' in '63 before signing to Lloyd Price's new Double L label that year where Pickett established a long running musical partnership with Eddie Floyd. 'I found a love' piqued the interest of Atlantic boss Jerry Wexler who called Pickett and Floyd in and asked if they had any other material. It was at this time that Pickett handed over his recording of 'If you need me' which Wexler said he was interested in, without mentioning that he would be recording it with Solomon Burke. Pickett left the meeting and sat back to wait for a call until, in early April, Burkes version started to receive airplay. Double L immediately pushed Pickett's single out in May but they were always playing catch-up, especially bearing in mind Atlantics greater budget and recognition by the radio stations. However, Pickett soon bounced back with 'It's too late' which saw him at No 7 in the R&B charts, a success that soon had Wexler purchasing the whole Double L organisation to cut down the competition and, at a stroke, sign both Pickett and Floyd.
*Inner Scene-'Communication Breakdown'. Recorded 1969? Unreleased. International Artists label. This from 'Never Ever Land' v/a CD. Released 2008. Charly label
Information on Inner Scene is non-existent, Julian Cope purports the band were from LA, the Record Collector opined that their 'garage punk' version of 'Communication Breakdown' was' adorably meek and clumsy', even the sleeve notes to Never Ever Land seem unsure even when it was recorded, and where! So here, for your delectation and delight..... and nothing to do with original or early versions, it's THE INNER SCENE...…..