The earliest cover versions

The present day notion of an artist recording primarily his own material was far from being established in the early 1960’s. True, some of The Beatles’ biggest influences, mainly early rock and rollers like Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and Little Richard wrote a lot of their own records. But more typically people like Elvis Presleyand the Everly Brothers, not to mention all the vocal and girl groups like the Coasters and the Shirelles relied heavily on outside writers. This was probably even more true in the UK: songs were written by “professional songwriters”, picked up by record companies’ “A&R men” and performed by “recording artists”. Thus if Lennon/McCartney wanted to be considered “real” song writers they had to get their numbers covered by other people. Well, this is my theory anyway! And Lennon/McCartney succeeded pretty well: all four new original numbers on The Beatles’ debut LP were instantly covered as singles by other people!

The Please Please Me LP was recorded during a rest day (yeah, right…) from a tour of the UK, head lined by the 17 year old pop star Helen Shapiro. John and Paul had offered “Misery” to her but when she (or her management – sources differ) rejected the tune, Kenny Lynch, another artist on the tour promised to record it. His somewhat poppier version of the song, with strings and slightly altered lyrics (or were these the original words?) was to become the first ever Lennon/McCartney cover version, hitting the shops a week before The Beatles’ version! It also featured a guitar part by session veteran Bert Weedon, something that reportedly upset John Lennon, clearly in an anti-establishment mode!

Although Misery was not a hit, Lynch had seven UK hit singles and also co-wrote hits for other artists, like Sha-la-la-lee for the Small Faces. Later on he became a very popular actor and even appeared on the sleeve of the Wings’ Band On The Run LP some ten years later!

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Misery – and all the rest of his 1960’s material can be found on a CD called Nothing But The Real Thing, on RPM Records.
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The Kestrels, a West Country vocal group with a four year recording career already behind them, were another act on the Shapiro tour to be offered a Lennon/McCartney number. They imaginatively reworked “There’s A Place” as an attractive piece of uptown soul, but sadly the single would join the ranks of their other non-hits, when released in April. Group members Roger Greenaway, Roger Cook and Tony Burrows would find success later in the decade – but more of them when we reach David and Jonathan

“There’s A Place” is available on the compilation CD “Beat Beat Beat Volume One” on Castle Records

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Duffy Power was and remains a fine soul and jazz singer with a long and chequered career. He’d even been a part of promotor Larry Parnes’ stable along with Johnny Gentle (remember him?), Billy Fury and others. In February 1963 he was a labelmate of The Beatles on Parlophone which probably explains how he ended up recording “I Saw Her Standing There” in the same month The Beatles did! On the initial recording he was backed by the Graham Bond Quartet, featuring jazz guitarist John McLaughlin, as well as future Cream members Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker. Unsurprisingly The Beatles deemed the version too jazzy and unrecognisable and vetoed it’s release. A slightly poppier remake was done in March, this time with Big Jim Sullivan on guitar, but when released in April, a competing version had already been released by actor Anthony Newley . Sales were split and neither record was a hit.

Both of Power’s versions can be heard on the CD “Leapers and Sleepers” on RPM Records.
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(Billy J will have to wait untill tomorrow – duty calls)

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Published in: on May 30, 2007 at 10:36 am  Leave a Comment  

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