In this instalment, we thank RH for the original of Here Comes The Night and my new friend Kevin for the original of Dedicated To The One I Love.
EDIT: With DivShare having deleted three accounts, some of these links are dead or probably will go dead soon. I have compiled the originals of the featured song in one file:
The Originals Vol. 12
Comme d’habitude/My Way
When your inebriated uncle grabs the karaoke microphone and sprays it with his saliva in a regrettable attempt to out-sinatra Sinatra his way, he probably won’t wish to contemplate that the song was originally sung in French by a small, somewhat camp blond guy wearing extravagant clothes who died in 1978 while changing a lightbulb as he was having a bath. It is peculiar that one of the most famous songs in the English language was a French number co-written and first recorded by a singer who himself had made a career of translating and performing American songs.
My Way was born Comme d’habitude, Claude François’ elegy to his decaying love affair with singer France Gall. A year before its release in 1968, young songwriter Jacques Revaux offered CloClo, as François is known among his faithful fans, a ballad called For Me, with English lyrics. Michel Sardou has demoed it, but Revoux didn’t like his interpretation (Sardou subsequently recorded the finished article in the year of Claude François’ death). François tweaked the melody, dumped the English and with Gilles Thibault wrote the new lyrics, and gave the whole thing a dramatic, brass punctured arrangement. It became a hit, and played on the radio (or TV, depending on which account you hear) when Paul Anka was holidaying in southern France.
Forty years later he recalled that he thought it was a “shitty record” but acquired the publishing rights anyway, for nothing (a bargain which would later cause a couple of legal quarrels). Back home, he decided to adapt Comme d’habitude for Frank Sinatra, who by then was threatening to quit the rapidly changing music business. According to Anka, he wrote the lyrics imagining what Sinatra might say and how he would say it, in that Rat Pack way of copying the stylings of gangsters who had themselves copied the stylings of movie hoods such as James Cagney and the pathetic George Raft. Sinatra’s impassioned rendition, recorded in early 1969, would affirm Anka’s astute judgment; as he sings it, the Chairman of the Board (and note which soul group covered My Way in 1970) personifies the great fuck you to the world. Anka himself thought he could not do justice to the song, but, possibly pressured by his label, recorded it nevertheless. Here too Anka was astute: his version was fundamentally “shitty”, much more so than Claude François’ original (Paul Anka – My Way).
And so we are left wondering what might have been had Anka taken his 1968 holiday in the Bahamas instead of France. Young English singer David Bowie was invited to translate Comme d’habitude into English. Before his rendition, Even A Fool Learns To Love, could fruitfully cross the channel, Anka had snapped up the rights to the song (it is said that Life On Mars was, musically, his revenge song). And what would your drunk uncle sing then?
Also recorded by: John Davidson (1969), Anita Kerr Singers (1969), George Wright (1969), Hugo Montenegro (1969), Andy Williams (1969), Roy Drusky (1969), Sammy Davis Jr. (1970), Dorothy Squires (1970), Bill Medley (1970), Brook Benton (1970), Chairmen of the Board (1970), Shirley Bassey (1970), Glen Campbell (1970), Nina Simone (1971), Fred Bongusto (as La mia via, 1971), Patty Pravo (as A modo mio, 1972), Elvis Presley (1977), Sid Vicious/Sex Pistols (1978), Michel Sardou (Comme d’habitude, 1978), Nina Hagen (1985), Gipsy Kings (1988), Shane MacGowan (1996), Faudel/Khaled/Rachid Taha (Comme d’habitude, 2000), Robbie Williams (2001), Little Milton (2002), Paul Anka & Jon Bon Jovi (2007), Elli Medeiros (Comme d’habitude, 2008) a.o.
Best version: From zillions of versions to choose from, I think Claude François, far from being shitty, is the most appealing. And, naturally, Sid Vicious’ interpretation.
Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood
The writing credits for Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood list Bennie Benjamin, Gloria Caldwell and Sol Marcus, but the main contributor, Horace Ott, is not credited (due to rivalling writers’ union memberships which prohibited cross-fraternisation on record labels). The song, or at least its chorus, was actually written about Caldwell at a time when she and Ott were breaking up. Happily they reconciled in good time and eventually married, so Ott was not entirely out of the royalties loop.
Nina Simone first recorded the song in 1964 as a slow, soulful blues ballad, her voice so deep in places you’d think it was a man singing it. A year later The Animals took hold of it, and – as they had done with the traditional song House Of The Rising Sun – turned the number inside out, speeding it up, reintroducing the signature opening chords (which almost unnoticeably appeared at the end of Simone’s version) and Alan Price’s glorious organ riff, and giving the soul-rock a bit of a flamenco sound. Twelve years later, in 1977, Leroy Gomez & Santa Esmeralda covered the Animals version, adding a touch of disco to the mix, to produce a dramatic and eminently danceable hit. There are three versions of Santa Esmeralda’s Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood: the album recording (which at 16 minutes takes up the whole side), an extended 12″ version (about ten minutes long), and the standard single which topped the charts in many countries.
Also recorded by: Joe Cocker (1969), Little Bob Story (1975), Helen Schneider (1981), Gary Moore & Friends (1981), The Costello Show (1986), Lou Rawls (1990), Francesca Pettinelli (1994), Robben Ford (1995), Eric Burdon Brian Auger Band (1998), Cyndi Lauper (2003), Laura Fedele (2005), New Buffalo (2006), Yusuf Islam (2006), John Legend (2006)
Best version: Santa Esmeralda’s, in any format.
Dedicated To The One I Love
The “5” Royales’ name screams ’50s novelty band. That they were not. Indeed, they were cited as influences by the likes of James Brown (who recorded their song Think), the legendary Stax musician Steve Cropper and Eric Clapton. By the time the band from Salem, North Carolina released Dedicated To The One I Love in 1958, their heyday was past them, and the single did not do much in two releases. Likewise, the Shirelles’ cover, recorded in 1959 (with Doris, not Shirley, doing lead vocals) initially flopped. It became a hit only on its re-release in 1961 to follow up the success of Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, reaching #3 in the US pop charts. The Mamas and the Papas’ 1967 cover did even better, getting to #2. As on the Shirelles’ recording, the second banana took lead vocals; it was the first time Michelle Phillips, not Mama Cass, sang lead on a Mamas and Papas track. Funny enough, by then she had stopped sleeping with the two men in the group.
The “5” Royales – Dedicated To The One I Love
The Shirelles – Dedicated To The One I Love
The Mamas and the Papas – Dedicated To The One I Love
Also recorded by: The Lettermen (1967), The Temprees (1972), Stacy Lattisaw (1979), Bernadette Peters (1981), Bitty McLean (1994), Linda Ronstadt (1996), Laura Nyro (2002)
Best version: The “5” Royales’ is tighter and more cohesive than either the Shirelles’ or Mamas & Papas’. And the guitar!
Whether this is a case of lesser or better known originals depends on one’s musical development – and on whether one can abide by Tom Waits’ voice. I can’t stand Waits’ voice at great length and find it impossible to listen to a whole album by the man, and therefore gratefully welcome good cover versions of his songs (of which there are a few). A couple of lyrical tweaks aside, Springsteen took few liberties with Waits’ 1980 song when he featured a live version of it on the b-side of the ghastly Cover Me in 1985. That is the same take that appears on the Live 1975-85 box set. One would, of course, expect Brooce to have empathy with a Jersey Girl; he has assembled a whole lyrical harem of girls from New Jersey in his catalogue, half of them called Wendy or Mary. Springsteen had long included the song in his live shows, once, in 1981, even performing it with Waits (EDIT: thanks to my friend John C in Canada, posted here on YouSendIt) . That should discount the rumours that Waits wrote Jersey Girl as a Springsteen parody – though it certainly sounds like one. The song was, according to Waits, written for his new wife and later songwriting collaborator, Kathleen Brennan, who was brought up in New Jersey.
Tom Waits & Bruce Springsteen – Jersey Girl (live)
Also recorded by: Pale Saints (1995), Holly Cole (1995)
Best version: If there’d be one with Waits’ arrangement and Springsteen’s vocals…
Here Comes The Night
Sometimes in pop, as we have already seen in this series (and see again), a song written for a particular artist is not always the first to be recorded by them. Or, in this case, by Them. Here Comes The Night was written by Bert Berns, the Brill Building graduate whose songwriting credits included Twist And Shout, Hang On Sloopy, Tell Him and Piece Of My Heart, as well as production credits for the likes of Solomon Burke, the Drifters and Wilson Picket. His splendid career was cut short by his sudden death at 39 from a heart attack in late 1967. Somehow, possibly because they were labelmates on Decca with Them, Lulu & the Luvvers (she ditched the backing band in 1966; the same year Van Morrison ditched Them) got to go first with Here Comes The Night in 1964. This, their third single flopped, reaching only #50 in Britain. Them’s version, with Jimmy Page on guitar, was released in May 1965, peaking at #2 in the UK and #24 in the US.
Lulu & the Luvvers – Here Comes The Night
Them – Here Comes The Night
Also recorded by: David Bowie (1973), Van Morrison (1974), The Rivals (1980), Miki Honeycutt (1989), Graham Bonnet (1991), Dwight Yoakam (1992), Native (1994).
Best version: I’m rather partial of Van Morrison’s live recording on It’s Too Late to Stop Now.