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Top 10 Famous Songs With Unknown Originals

Saint Cad . . . Comments

I was shocked when I found out in a middle of a discussion about what was a better song, the original or the cover that the “original” version that everyone knew about was itself a cover. Research (because of course I can never be wrong) eventually became number 3 on this list. After that, I’ve been keeping my eyes and ears open, I eventually had ten songs that totally shocked me that the original version is not the one everyone knows about. I hope there are a few surprises in here for you too.

10

Video Killed the Radio Star
Bruce Woolley & The Camera Club

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6ONqpkfNR8

This song is best (only?) known as being the first video on Mtv. An argument can be made that this and the version by The Buggles are the same exact song since Bruce wrote it with Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes who would later form The Buggles. However, since this was released first and has Thomas Dolby on keyboards, I’m crediting it as the original.

9

Susie-Q
Dale Hawkins

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVyLjLJrwaQ

A moderate hit for Hawkins and released just as what would eventually be Creedence Clearwater Revival was in its infacy, it became the first hit for CCR eleven years later as their first single of their first album. CCR reworked the song specifically for airplay on KMPX, an alternative radio station in San Francisco.


8

Moon of Alabama
Lotte Lenya

I’ve always thought that The Doors’ song Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar) didn’t sound like their regular work and I’ve found out why. The song was written in 1925 by Bertolt Brecht and set to music in 1927 by Kurt Weill who was probably not on drugs when it was written. The song was written in English for the German operetta Mahagonny and was sung by his wife Lotte Lenya (who sounds a lot like Lili von Schtupp). The song was later used in the full opera Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny being the only non-German song. That’s right, despite being written by a German for German musical theater, it is supposed to be sung in English and makes an almost perfect drinking song.

7

The Crying Game
Dave Berry

An absolutely perfect song for its circumstances. Named for the movie that it appeared in, it could not be sung by anyone else other than Boy George (If you haven’t seen the movie I won’t spoil it for you). The plaintive singing sets up perfectly the mood of the film as key plot points play out. At least this is what a lot of people think but the song was around for almost 30 years before the movie was named after the song and not the other way around. While emotional in its own way, I’m sure you’ll agree it has a very different feel that the more well-know 1992 version.

6

Piece of My Heart
Emma Franklin

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyRayABncL8

Let’s be perfectly honest here. In the 50’s and 60’s there were many little known R&B songs that were quickly redone in another style by a different singer that became more mainstream. You can attribute that to American society and racial views at that time or you can use it to show the influence R&B has had on American music development. Either way, here is a song that was fairly popular on the R&B charts but became a classic when Janis Joplin sang it a year later with her band Big Brother and the Holding Company.

5

Twist and Shout
Top Notes

With many of these songs, the unknown original and the famous cover sound very similar and are easily identifiable as the same song. The original Twist and Shout by Top Notes sounds nothing like the cover done by The Beatles. The interesting things is that many people think they have heard the original song by the Isley Brothers which sounds like the Beatles’ version but nope, that was a reworking of the Top Notes song as produced by Phil Spector in one of his first assignments as a record producer. The songwriter Burt Berns hated what Spector did with the song and gave it to the Isley Brothers to redo.


4

Hound Dog
Big Mama Thornton

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_nNNIYTy9g

We all know that Elvis did not write his own music and that also in the 1950’s a lot of singers would sing the same songs so it should be no surprise that he was not the first to sing Hound Dog. The song was originally done by Big Mama Thornton and reached number one on the R&B charts with Elvis’ version coming out four years later. I would be natural to think that Elvis did a cover of Thornton’s song but that’s not exactly true. Notice how some of the lyrics are different between Thornton’s and Elvis’ and that some of the more famous lines seem to be missing from Thornton’s version? That’s because Elvis did a cover of the Freddie Bell version done in Las Vegas where Bell changed a few of the lyrics.

3

Killing Me Softly with His Song
Lori Lieberman

One argument about music that everyone can take a side on is whether or not Lauryn Hill’s cover of Killing Me Softly was better than the original version from Roberta Flack. Flack’s song reached number one on the charts and took home three Grammy Awards – two for Flack and one for the song itself and this version of the song was later inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Lauren Hill’s cover won a Grammy for her group The Fugees and helped the album The Score win a Grammy as well. It reached number two in the US and number one in the UK.

But this is not the only controversy associated with the song. Lori Lieberman claims to have inspired the song based on a poem she wrote about Don McLean but lyricist Norman Gimbel and music writer Charles Fox disagree and say that Lori talked about the song and Don McLean after they had written it.

Wait! Who?

Lori Lieberman, a Jennifer Aniston lookalike, sang the original version of the song a year before Roberta Flack catapulted it into the national consciousness. While Flack’s version is soul, Lieberman’s is pure early 70’s folk music.


2

Kiss
Mazarati

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qnPfF-aQP9A

Besides being a music polymath, Prince is probably best know for forming bands and making pancakes. Besides his more famous girl bands, Prince (well OK, really his bassist) formed the R&B boy-band Mazarati. If you’re one of the four people that have ever heard of them, then you are familiar with their one hit 100 MPH. That’s because there was another song that they wrote based on a short demo Prince gave them. They expanded the lyrics and wrote the music and it was such a great song that Prince decided he wanted to do the song so he took the song and songwriting credit and as a result, Mazarati did not release the number one and Grammy Award winning song “Kiss” on their album, although to be fair, the Grammy was for Prince’s performance and not the song itself.

1

Lion Sleeps tonight
Solomon Linda & The Evening Birds

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbgJcXIz1L0

OK, I’ll be honest with you. You are not going to hear the famous line “The lion sleeps tonight.” What you will hear is the song done under the original title “Mbube” with the famous style of singing that was actually named for this song that was recorded in 1939 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Starting with Pete Seeger, the song was repeatedly covered and redone. The value of the royalties alone were around $15 million. The song wasn’t copyrighted because back then (unlike today) you had to actively copyright your work – but it wasn’t public domain either and to make things worse, Gallo Records was not interested in protecting Linda’s interests. Pete Campbell – in reality an alias for a team of producers associated with Pete Seeger and the Weavers but not Seeger himself who always supported Linda’s rights – was in the business of claiming the copyright for older songs as his own. He did the same with the now renamed “Wimoweh” and the publishers made a mint while Linda made a pittance (even counting the 10 shillings he sold the song for to Gallo), dying broke in 1962. However under British law, all of the ownership rights went back to Linda’s estate in 1987 – in time to cash in (after a lawsuit of course) on its use in The Lion King.



  • David Hopkins

    10 Last Moral Dilemmas?

  • oldirtykoala

    Didn’t know any of the originals, although I quite appreciate a number of the covers, or the covers covers.

    As soon as I got to no.1 the song instantly started playing over in my head, and it was at this point I realised that Lions don’t actually sleep in the jungle. Wimoweh indeed.

  • Great list and there’s a couple of songs here that I prefer to the better known version(s). Big Mama Thornton knew how to belt out a song & the Lili Von Schtupp reference in number 8 is spot on!!

  • Will Trame

    There were a few here that I wasn’t aware of. I did know about Erma Franklin’s version of “Piece of My Heart”and Big Mama Thornton’s “Hound Dog”. I liked the mention of “Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar)”, one of three Doors covers. The other two were “Back Door Man”, a Howling Wolf tune and John Lee Hooker’s “Crawling King Snake”. And, of course, there was the Doors’ interpretation of “Good Rockin’ (Tonight)” that appeared on the post-Morrison effort “Full Circle”.

    Perhaps a whole list could be compiled on Led Zeppelin “unknown originals”. Actually, this was a pretty good list. It was nice to see a music-related one again.

    • Sister Morphine

      or a whole list on people who covered robert johnson songs.

      post-Morrison effort “Full Circle”. ???? why haven’t I ever heard of this! i’ve actually seen 2 of them in live performance!

      • Will Trame

        After Jim Morrison died, the three surviving band members recorded and released two more studio albums as a trio….”Other Voices” and “Full Circle”, with Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger sharing the vocals. Both albums are relatively obscure and the survivors have really since disowned them. I figure at the time if they just broke up it would solely cast Morrison as being the primary genius. Actually, “Other Voices” is worth a listen if you can find it. Don’t bother looking for “Full Circle”…it was a random collection of jazz, pop and funk.

        • 1gav

          Wasn’t “Full Circle” the album that had a song about hardwood floors or somebody’s ceiling is someone else’s floor? I actually liked the change in “Full Circle”, enjoying that bit of jazz. God help me I probably sold both my post-Doors albums for a couple dollars and a pack of Camels…

          • Will Trame

            “Full Circle” contained a song titled “Hardwood Floor”. The other tune you mentioned I believe was “One Man’s Ceiling Is Another Man’s Floor” by Paul Simon.

    • Maggot

      Big Mama Thornton’s “Hound Dog”.

      As Janis was also mentioned in the list, she has another well known hit that was actually a Thorton song – Ball & Chain. Not to mention another couple of big hits that might not be thought of as having been written and/or recorded by others either, in Summertime (George Gershwin) and Me and Bobby McGee (Kris Kristofferson). Janis didn’t write many of her own songs, but man, I love her.

      Led Zeppelin “unknown originals”.

      Lol, very sly. An interesting tie-in is a song usually identified as being an Aerosmith tune: Train Kept a Rollin. Some may think of it as a Yardbirds song, but even theirs was a cover of Johnny Burnette’s rockabilly version. Which was itself a cover of a song written and recorded by Tiny Bradshaw in the early 50s. But back to the Yardbirds – They also “wrote” a song called Stroll On, which is credited to the band members by name, which at the time included Mr. Plagiarizer himself, Jimmy Page. Stroll On is basically the riff to Train. But, it’s also one of the few Yardbirds songs that features both Page and Jeff Beck sharing lead guitar duties, as can be seen in the 1966 film Blow Up. The song was “written” for the film, but singer Keith Relf just changed up the Train lyrics to avoid copyright infringement.

      • fendabenda

        I have never met met anyone who doesn’t think that “Train Kept a-rolling” is a Johnny Burnette song. Even Lemmy. Sure, some blues people remember Tiny Bradshaw as well. But Yardbirds? No dice, dude.

        • fendabenda

          And.. re-reading your post and my reply… I have never thought of that song as an Aerosmith song. Never. It’s a Johnny Burnette/Tiny Bradshaw song. Possibly occasionally sung by Lemmy.

        • Maggot

          Heh, well sure, you “know” music, so of course, you aren’t as knowledge-lacking about some of these things. But I’ll admit my post there might’ve been biased by my own experiences…like with the Aerosmith reference, as I’m more recalling my own early teen years when their version was released. Same thing for Walkin the Dog off their debut record being a Rufus Thomas number. While all you would hear on the radio was Dream On like every hour, I liked to listen to albums. At 14, 15 years old, did I immediately know about the Johnny Burnette or Rufus Thomas roots? No, but even back then I was an obsessive liner-notes reader and would go back to look for albums by these names at the record store. I didn’t buy a lot of them though, because being a kid, I usually had no money…

          As for the Yardbirds, well growing up during Zep’s heyday and being a HUGE fan, I was naturally interested in Page’s background, which did get me buying some Yardbirds records and I was really into them. So maybe I was exaggerating the Yardbirds connection a bit, based on my own listening experiences. No harm done, eh fenda? :-)

      • Kris Kristofferson wrote Me and Bobby McGee but are you sure he was the first to sing it?

        • Maggot

          Yeah good point, and I did have to double-check it before I made that post. It was on his debut record, released before Janis’ version on Pearl. But he wasn’t the first to record it either. That was Roger Miller.

          • fendabenda

            roger milla? the footballer? no f*ing way! btw, I’ve got a vinyl with the first recording by Dolly Parton on Goldband label when she was 13: “Puppy Love”. Offers, anyone? LOL, I ain’t selling, whatevah you offer… :D

    • Diablo135

      The Erma Franklin version rocks.

  • Awesome stuff

  • PHL

    #3, perfect reminiscing song. :D

  • Alex

    One does not simply forget about the Rolling Stones when mentioning Susie Q.

  • Moobile

    I didnt know about any of them except No.1. I’m pretty sure there was a TV documentary done on the origins of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” Certainly its origins were well known in South Africa.

  • Dark

    And all of the youth nowadays would cry out: “What the hell is this thing…..back then they don’t have good musicians like JB and skrillex”………my faith in the new generation lost in the past………..

    • Darren

      Try and be careful with the word “all” there, not every single one of us id like that.

  • Tomorrow Never Knows

    Haven’t heard anyone say anything like that. Maybe you should stop being a cynical whiner and not care for another’s opinion.

  • Darren

    #3 not only was one I was unaware of (like most of the list), but a very beautiful song. Thanks for posting it.

  • oouchan

    I knew of most of these but not all. It’s always surprising to find out who did the original. Celine Dion (whom I just do not like) did one of my favorite songs <I Drove all Night by Cindy Lauper….much to my surprise, I found out that Roy Orbison did it first. I like his version, but still prefer Cindy Lauper’s over all….and Celine Dion’s is just plain awful.

    Good list.

  • and we return to mediocre lists

    • Sister Morphine

      why bother commenting?

  • cambered

    Great list, with some cool surprises… some other notables:

    ‘Song Title’ (Cover Artist) (Original Artist)

    ‘It’s My Life’ (No Doubt) (Talk Talk)

    ‘Blinded By The Light’ (Manfred Mann’s Earth Band) (Bruce Springsteen)

    ‘Wichita Lineman’ (Glenn Campbell) (Jimmy Webb)

    ‘You Can Leave Your Hat On’ (Joe Cocker) (Randy Newman)

    ‘Hard To Handle’ (The Black Crowes) (Otis Redding)

    ‘I Fought the Law’ (The Clash) (Bobby Fuller Four)

    ‘Tainted Love’ (Soft Cell) (Gloria Jones)

    • Will Trame

      Not to deviate from the list topic, but Bobby Fuller did indeed fight the law…and the law won. His death on July 18, 1966, remains shrouded in mystery.

    • Tainted Love is on the other list I mention below. It’s interesting in that she covered her own original before Soft Cell.

    • fendabenda

      “I Fought the Law” was actually made first by Sonny Curtis and the Crickets (Buddy Holly’s band, after Holly was killed).

      • cambered

        Cheers fendabenda… you are, indeed, quite right… and I stand corrected!

  • Cory

    A good deal of this list was nearly unintelligible.

    • Cory

      ah well your dog is stupid

  • dominodonkey

    Good List. Number 6 doesn’t really work in Britain though as Erma Franklin had the big hit when the song was re released after it featured in a Jeans commercial.

  • Truth-Monger

    Great list. #8 was a great find.

  • R Rich

    Great list. Dolly Parton’s song “I Will Always Love You” is a song that would be recognized by country fans over 40 but was made more popular by Whitney Houston in the 90’s. Dolly’s version is superior in my opinion because of her ability to impart tragic emotion that Whitney does not capture. Whitney’s version was a showpiece for her power and range and seemed uninteresting and poppy. It would have been a good bonus song for this list.

    • Norkio

      I think Dolly’s version was a cover as well, wasn’t it? Or, Keith Whitley covered her, then Whitney covered them both?

      • Norkio

        I had to check, it goes: Dolly in ’74, Linda Ronstadt in ’75, Dolly in ’82, Whitney in ’94, Dolly & Vince Gill in ’95. There was also a track by John Doe in the Bodyguard movie that did not chart. Also mentions: Rik Waller, Kenny Rogers, Roger Whittaker.

  • Sister Morphine

    I LOVE cover songs. The first one i was ever aware of was when Joan Jett covered Dirty Deeds…back in the 80s!

    My biggest cover pet peeve is people who think Johnny Cash did Hurt originally!

    • Maggot

      Heh, some may not be aware that Jett’s probably biggest hit I Love Rock and Roll was actually a cover of an Arrows tune. And, since you’re a fellow Stones fan, it’s worth mentioning – they have several hits that some might assume to be “Stones songs” that are actually covers. Not Fade Away, Time Is On My Side, It’s All Over Now, Love in Vain…

      • Sister Morphine

        Not Fade Away just reminds me of Jerry Garcia :(

      • The Stones, my 3rd favorite group of that era, made every song they sang, original or not, their own by the very way they sang it. They may have done a lot of covers, but each came out sounding new and exciting (that’s taking nothing away from the original, just something different).

      • fendabenda

        What are you talking about, Not Fade Away is a Buddy Holly song…. oh, I noticed what you did there… too late. :(

  • vinceinhouston

    Very cool list! I’m curious about the #2 song. Prince was extremely prolific and notorious for giving completed tracks to other artist for them to do. Most of the time, complete re-recordings of the tracks were done. However, for a lot of the bands closest to him the vocals were merely muted and new vocal were recorded. In some cases, his vocals were only turned down & used as backing vocals. The Family used this last method for some tracks on their self titled album which featured “Nothing Compares 2 U”, which Sinead O’Connor famously covered. Prince also gave himself a fake name in the credits of that album.

    I know Prince wrote Mazarati’s 100 mph, and I want to say I read something at the time that mentioned Kiss among the tracks he originally provided for them on that album. However he wasn’t completely happy with the results they got and the rest became history. That was years ago so I can’t be sure of the source.

  • Salo Has

    In the jungle the mighty jungle the lion sleeps tonight… (Everybody ) Awinaweb awingaweb…

    • Leeann

      We-de-de-de
      De-de-de-de-de
      De-we-um-um-a-way
      We-de-de-de
      De-de-de-de-de
      We-um-um-a-way
      :))

  • jesherman

    For the most part, music lists don’t interest me, but this one did. Two points:

    1. Herman’s Hermit’s I’m Henry The 8th was originally a music hall song written in the early 1900s. Herman just sang the chorus; there’s a lot more to the song than most people know.

    2. Lotte Lenya is most famous in America for playing Bond Villain Rosa Klebb in From Russia With Love.

    • Maggot

      Funny, Lotte Lenya’s real name actually sounds like the makings of a good name for a Bond Girl, a la P.ussy Galore, Mary Goodnight, Honey Rider, Plenty O’Toole, Holly Goodhead…

      • fendabenda

        Let alone my Swedish girlfriend, Lotta Goodstuff…

  • Sister Morphine

    and my favorite “Killing Me Softly” is by Luther Vandross

  • jer187

    Mbube is amazing. I’ve had it on my iPod for years. So haunting.

  • jer187

    I also would say that “Goodnight Irene” would have a place on this list. The Leadbelly version is much darker than the pop version.

  • I think this post could stand to have a few modern hip hop songs that have basically taken a single riff from old artists and made it their whole beat. Like MIA’s Paper Planes.

  • honkster7

    Unchained Melody – The Righteous Brothers , first recorded by Todd Duncan

    in 1955 , ten years before The Righteous Brothers .

    Black Magic Woman – Santana , first recorded by Peter Green’s ,

    Fleetwood Mac in 1968 .

    Fleetwood Mac is a bit of a stretch (hardly unknown) but 99 out of 100 people would probably only remember Santana’s version .

    • Will Trame

      Good call on Fleetwood Mac. Not many people realize that they began as a British blues band in 1967 and released a number of largely ignored albums before the Lindsey Buckingham//Stevie Nicks era. I recall the Mac’s version of “Black Magic Woman”. Also interesting is when the late Bob Welch was in Fleetwood Mac in the early 70s the group cut his “Sentimental Lady” on I believe was the “Bare Trees” LP; Welch later recut it on his first solo disc in 1977. Welch also wrote a song called “Silverheels” which appeared on “Heroes Are hard To Find”. A relatively obscure group called Blaze covered that tune in late 1976.

      • cambered

        Nothing against the Nicks-Buckingham combination, but I prefer the Peter Green era Fleetwood Mac. ‘Black Magic Woman’ and ‘Albatross’ are all time favourites of mine.

        Thanks for reminding me, think I’ll take a listen.

        • THANK YOU!! The nicks era stuff wasn’t bad but as far as I’m concerned Green is in another league altogether ,a true blues virtuoso .

          • cambered

            You know it, bro.

  • bka

    sourcing these and re-issuing the originals is now an industry:
    http://www.amazon.com/Heard-First-Original-Versions-Famous/dp/B001CDF040

  • I actually redid the list and sent it in as a submission to replace this list. I guess it didn’t work out since that list was not a top 10 but a top 12 so you may see a “10 more …” list in the future.

  • mazerati is a double burn. after prince took back “kiss” and it hit #1, he gave mazerati “jerk out”, a song originally written for another one of prince’s project bands, the time. mazerati relased it and it went exactly nowhere, after which the time re-recorded it and it became another #1. sometimes you just can’t win.

  • Very informative list but too American.

    • Wait until my next list. Just submitted it and there are a couple of British bands on it. Care to take a guess which ones?

  • MyAngelLover

    Anyone remember the movie “Susie Q”? It was a 1996 Disney Channel movie. I remember watching it all the time. This list made me think of it.

  • Cataline

    How could you forget “Hey Joe” by the Seeds?

  • kenfrombaltimore

    Lotte Lenya is also famous for playing one of James Bond’s most insidious adversaries, Rosa Kleb, Spectre’s Number 3, in “From Russia with Love.”

  • Billy bob joe

    This list made me contemplate suicide it was that awful and blring

    • But you didn’t commit suicide before posting so I guess I failed

  • Snampy

    Entry Number 10-A much better version of the song!

  • Sister Morphine

    I finally had time to listen to them all. The original Killing Me Softly was so horrible. Similar to Natalie Merchant (10,000 Maniacs) covering Because the Night. I love Natalie Merchant, but she doesnt have the passion Patti Smith did to cover that song.

    Often when I hear a cover that’s bad I wonder how they even had the nerve to try!

  • Like many others, I was aware of some of the originals, but not all. It was great to learn of, and hear!, the first versions of songs we automatically associate with later covers by more recent and (arguably) more famous singers.

    Because I was an early, and fanatic, Blues and R&B fan (not to mention my parents having had a huge collection of 78’s, mostly R&B and vocal harmonies by groups such as the Ink Spots), I’d heard the original versions of Susie Q, Hound Dog, and Piece of My Heart. By the time the more famous covers were released I was older and came to prefer them (at least for the moment). Still, trying to compare Franklin with Joplin is an exercise in futility. Both women had their own fantastic way of presenting their songs, making them their own.

    Great list. Great effort. Thanks for this!

    • fendabenda

      I heard the original Dale Hawkins version of Susie Q before I ever heard the other version (I was a rockabilly kid). What is strange (to me) is that I have heard both artists play Susie Q live. Dale Hawkins a few years ago and John Fogerty this summer. I prefer the original, but Fogerty has some good songs of his own. :)

      • Okay fenda, I’m jealous you got to see Dale Hawkins live! I’ve seen Fogerty live…I spent my entire adolescence going from one concert to another (when I wasn’t studying my brains out), so I saw just about everyone (Maggs, I think, can match me almost concert for concert).

        • Maggot

          I’m a little younger than you I think, so you’ve probably seen quite a few that I am jealous of. My concert-going didn’t start until about 1976, but during the late 70s I probably saw about every big name band you can think of headlining at the time. Except for lame ones that I didn’t care for, like the Eagles and whatnot. Hehe.

          • fendabenda

            I saw Mountain in the 80’s. I’m still recovering. F*ing LOUD! (And I’ve seen my share of metal concerts as well… Mountain was still loud). :D

          • Yes, you are a little younger. I started going to concerts, and coffeehouses where future big-name bands were the house bands, in 1966. Living in L.A., I had access to every venue from there to San Francisco in a heartbeat.

            I saw the Doors at the Whiskey, Janis Joplin with Big Brother & the Holding Co. at the Hollywood Bowl…the Bowl held an amazing number of great concerts! Also, the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium was a very active venue (I saw the Who, my favorite band, there). The Stones, the Beatles, blah, blah, blah…but my fav. still has to be the Monterey Festival, which preceded Woodstock by two years and included such fantastic names as Jimi Hendricks! We just slept there for the three days of the fest, although that wasn’t supposed to happen.

          • I even ran into Dylan in a Hollywood coffeehouse one night in 6he summer of ’66. It was an “open mic” night, so he heard me read my poetry! What a complete thrill that was!

          • fendabenda

            segues, you braggadocio you… :) I have never lived in L.A., just in the wild woods of Sweden and Finland, wrestling with bears and blonde wimmen (the latter are great, I ain’t complaining at all). :D I have met Michael Rooker once, though, and Michael Monroe twice. :D

          • Maggot

            segues, you braggadocio you

            Haha, not to be outdone (lol kidding, segues still has me beat by a mile), among the bands that I have seen in clubs and small venues pre-fame are The Tubes, The Ramones, Journey (sans Steve Perry era), Pat Traverse, Mötley Crüe, Y&T, Tesla, MSG, and many others that I wouldn’t exactly call “famous”, but at least achieved airplay status. Far cries from Dylan though.

            Aside from the Ramones (who I’d met earlier that day at a record store promo), Crüe was particularly memorable to me, because even though they weren’t very musically sound, I could tell they were going places. Y&T (then Yesterday and Today, RIP Phil Kennimore) was a regular at a small club I liked in San Francisco and I saw them there many times and met Dave Meniketti, one of my guitar-playing idols back then, a couple times too. Met the boys from Van Halen coming out of a local radio station after doing an interview a month or so after releasing their debut. The record was getting airplay and they were becoming a hit, but at the time, the L.A. strip sensations weren’t very well known yet in northern Calif.

            And fenda, when you saw Mountain, was the late Felix Pappalardi still with them? Of course the big man is the main draw, but it would’ve been even more special to have seen their classic lineup.

          • It was kind of a “right place, right time” kind of thing. Also, poor Uni student that I was, and totally looking the part of “girl-friend of a band member” (tall, skinny, straight hair long enough to sit on), I managed to just walk into a lot of the venues without paying, usually using the artists entrences (which were fantastically easy to enter when I stop to consider it).

            I did see every band who was anyone at the time. I was relentless. That I did all that and still managed to get my undergrad Uni degree in 4 years astounds me. A fair number of bands played at my school, for free, too. It was a time when bands did that kind of thing. Weekends, I’d travel up to SF if someone I wanted to see was appearing there, at the Cow Palace, for example or at one of the big freebies at Golden Gate Park. I had a ’66 GTO at the time, and I learned how to detach and reattach the odometer so all the extra miles couldn’t be traced.

            Earlier, while still in high school, my brother and a group of friends were in a fairly successful local band, for which I was the driver. I’d get into venues like the Whisky and the Hullaballoo for free.

            fenda, I’m a little jealous about your getting to lie in the woods of Sweden & Finland! Growing up in L.A./Hollywood was not all it was cracked up to be. Sure, I got to do and see a lot of things other people in other places might not have access to, but I also had a great deal of access to stuff I ought not have had access to, and the pressure to give in was too much for me…true, I managed to survive all of it, quite well, but I knew people who didn’t survive. I could give you a long, sad, story but I won’t. Suffice it to say that a lot of people I knew would have been better off living anywhere but where we did live! I was lucky. Period.

  • Canadianguy

    Knew about all of them but #10.

  • Canadianguy

    Everybody knows that Led Zeppelin covered and “borrowed” songs by Willy Dixon…

    But how many people know that Dazed and Confused was a cover:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTsvs-pAGDc

    PS. Jimmy Page had also recorded it with the Yardbirds.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvULLSCMqv0

    • Canadianguy

      Sorry for being dazed and confused, but it’s Willie Dixon, not Willy Dixon.

      • getalife

        picky much?

  • Canadianguy

    Check your favorite songs and artists at this website:

    http://www.coversproject.com/

    • Karen

      that would have been awesome, but it doesnt look updated much since 2009…unless i’m viewing things wrong.

      and my favorite cover of all time is Mudvayne covering King of Pain by the Police (in case anyone cares)

  • fendabenda

    I bet you didn’t know that Bill Haley’s biggest hits weren’t his originals (if there’s anyone old enough here to even remember who Bill Haley was).

    “See You Later, Alligator” (original by Bobby Charles on Chess), “Shake, Rattle and Roll” (Big Joe Turner on Atlantic), and Rock Around the Clock” (Sonny Dae and his Knights on Arcade). Bill Haley and the Comets did make smashing versions of these tunes, I’m not disputing that… :)

    Not to mention, Bill Haley’s first big hit “Crazy Man Crazy” actually was his own tune.

  • Ilikesmesomemusicandpot

    “blue suade shoes” by Elvis is also a cover the original was sung by Carl Perkins , also “smoke two joints” by sublime was originally sung by The Toyes

    • fendabenda

      True, too. Carl Perkins was supposed to go to New York and perform his latest single Blue Suede Shoes in a TV show… but he crashed his car and never made it to the show in time. One of his brothers (who played in his band at the time) was badly injured and a bit later died. Carl himself was in hospital for a while. He couldn’t cash in on the initial success of his single “Blue Suede Shoes” because he was lying in hospital. Elvis made a cover version of the song and it did quite well.

  • johnnycoolkids

    House of the Rising Sun?!?!?!!?!??!?!?!?!?!??!!??!!?!?!?!?!

  • Ross

    Interesting list, but only because there were some good songs on it. Premise of the list itself made no sense.

  • fendabenda

    I was surprised by the Top Notes at #5. I really thought “Twist and Shout” was an Isley Brothers’ original. Well, live and learn.

  • Xarocho

    Ahem, Ritchie Valens’ La Bamba is a cover, a very bad one I might add…

    • fendabenda

      No, not at all. His version is actually very good version… of a traditional song. So his version was a cover of… what, exactly???

  • izardoz

    David Bowie’s hit China Girl was a cover of his own song he wrote with Iggy Pop, for Iggy’s “the Idiot” album. The origianl is just as good IMHO.

  • greg
    • vinceinhouston

      That’s very cool, sir!

    • Maggot

      Good call. I had the pleasure of meeting Dick Dale last summer at the California State Fair by the way. Cool guy, chatted a bit, had my photo taken with him, autographed a couple CDs, then watched him perform later that evening to a small crowd, sitting like 5 feet away. The guy is a freaking god.

  • Great list, really enjoyed the originals.
    One omission I’d have liked to see is ‘the first time ever I saw your face’
    Most people think Roberta Flack sang it oroginally and that Johnny Cash covered it with his great version but it was in fact
    Peggy Seeger
    Who sang the original. Like many of the above it’s a very different version of the song but excellent nonetheless.

  • fendabenda

    DAMN! My balcony has been OverTaken by Blue Tits! I’m not joking, dudes, this is like Hitchcock’s film The Hemorroids… I mean, The Birds. Gotta go fight them.

  • Carlos

    i knew 4 and 1. my art teacher told us that mbube was a folk song that was used when the men would go out to hunt. Or that the women would sing it while waiting for the men to return. Not sure it was so long ago

  • fendabenda

    They were trying to make a nest on my balcony (the f*ing blue tits). I found a half-made nest. I like birds, they’re ok, but stay away from my balcony!!!

  • Sardondi

    What is this perverse refusal to take three seconds to include any kind of date with the information provided? No dates makes the list of very limited use. What a waste.

  • Patwell James

    “Girl You Know It’s True” by Numarx. Everyone knows the Milli Vanilli one that came out a year later and was an international smash hit – but not only did the Milli Vanilli frontmen not sing it, that group didn’t even do it first. It was originally by the rap group Numarx from Maryland. Their original version is pretty dreadful, though… really poor, sparse arrangement.

  • mitchsb

    Only 2 of these did I know about. One is The Crying Game. I own the soundtrack for that album and the original is on it. The other is Kiss (partially). I do know about Mazarati. But, as I have never heard anything they did, I never knew they did the song originally.

  • Masa

    Lori Lieberman is great. Just great.

    I don’t see the point im making covers of “Killing me softly”. No-one can be better than the original!

  • Dave K

    #3 explains SO MUCH. Although I enjoy both Don McLean and Roberta Flack, I was always puzzled by the idea of one inspiring the other. Too much genre bending there.

  • 34GG

    What? If number 1 is allowed to collect royalties for the song used in The Lion King, how the hell was Avril Lavigne able to get away with her stupid Hey Hey You You Girlfriend whatever the heck song?

  • Jenna

    Celine Dion’s “Taking Chances” was a cover originally done by Kara DioGuardi’s band Platinum Weird.

  • Coffers

    I’ll be honest, I was only aware of the Erma Franklin version of ‘Take a Little Piece of My Heart’. Having since heard the Janis Joplin version I’m pretty happy I’d never heard it before.

  • eeveeta
  • It’s fascinating how the world has changed. Before Bob Dylan came along, no one ever assumed the singer wrote the song. As a matter of fact, the reverse was usually assumed. Singers were respected as interpreters and sometimes there was a bit of thrill in hearing different singers do a song in their own style. No one ever thought Bing Crosby or Frank Sinatra or Patti Page or Fred Astaire wrote their own songs.

    But what also amazes me is people’s ignorance. Many albums specifically list who wrote the songs. Does no one read liner notes?