Nov 222010

Which songwriter’s live or demo version of a song given away to another artist to record as a hit single do you like best (in live or demo form by original songwriter, that is)? The given-away hit single could not previously have been released in studio form by the songwriter.

Songs that come to mind that fit these criteria include “Because the Night” and “Fire,” by The Boss; “All the Young Dudes,” by David Bowie, and “Come and Get It,” the demo of which Paul McCartney told Badfinger to follow note for note to ensure the gold!


  31 Responses to “Reclaimed Gold?”

  1. ladymisskirroyale

    “Our Lips Are Sealed,” although technically co-written by Jane Wiedlin and Terry Hall, was first recorded by the Go-Gos. Fun Boy Three recorded it a year later.

    And what about all those Prince songs given to his various girlfriends and recorded by them? I’m thinking Bangles (“Manic Monday”), Sheila E. (“Glamourous Life”) etc. I don’t think Sinead was his girlfriend, though, when she recorded “Nothing Compares to You.” (That song, according to Wikipedia, was first recorded as part of an album by The Family, but was not released as a single.)

  2. ladymisskirroyale

    Just thought of a couple more, thanks to Mr. Royale:

    “Me and Bobby McGee,” sung by many prior to Mr. Kristofferson; also the wonderful “Guess I’m Dumb,” written by Brian Wilson but first recorded by Glenn Campbell.

  3. I want to be clear: the fact that Fun Boy Three recorded it for their album a few years later disqualifies them. The song had to have been given away and then only heard performed by its songwriter(s) in a live or outtakes/demo version. FBT actually did release their version on a regular album, right?

    I think you’re right about those Prince songs, though. They don’t appear on his proper albums, do they? But he has performed them live, right?

  4. Kristofferson singing “Me and Bobby McGee” is a case of reverse alchemy, isn’t it?:) Can you actually stomach his butchering of his own song?

    Don’t think I’m picking on you and Mr. Royale, ladymiss, just trying to be clear about the search for the best original songwriter versions of their own unreleased songs that they gave to other artists. Surely matters of taste will come into play, but – thinking of Glenn Campbell – the only thing worse than hearing Kristofferson sing his “Me and Bobby McGee” is hearing Jimmy Webb sing any of the songs he wrote for Glenn!

  5. BigSteve

    Ray Davies’ I Go To Sleep demo was on the Kinka Kinks reissue. It had been recorded by Peggy Lee and Cher, but it’s most famous in the version by the Pretenders.

  6. Now that I think of it Dylan’s got a number of songs he gave to others and never recorded for a proper studio release. Earlier this year I heard his version of “I’ll Keep It With Mine.” I love Dylan and don’t have any major beefs with his outtake version, but thank god for Sandy Denny and Fairport Convention sending that song to goosebump land.

  7. I didn’t know he wrote that song!

  8. In other words, of the Dylan giveaways that spring to mind I don’t know that I prefer the songwriter’s version to the officially released versions by other artists: “The Mighty Quinn,” “If You Gotta Go, Go Now,” stuff he co-wrote with members of The Band… Am I missing an obvious song that Dylan gave away but actually came close to nailing in his own live or demo version? (And I know this is a technicality, but I’m ruling out anything that started life as a demo on The Basement Tapes.)

  9. cherguevara

    I didn’t realize until this week that Jackson Browne wrote Nico’s song “These Days.” I’ve never been much of a Jackson Browne fan, maybe I should reconsider…

  10. BigSteve

    There’s lots of Dylans like this. Mama You Been on my Mind sounds great in the demo version, which is on the Bootleg Series. Rod Stewart’s version is actually not bad.

    Also on the Bootleg Series is that great lazy version of Catfish, the song about baseball player Catfish Hunter. I guess I heard the Joe Cocker version years ago, but I’m pretty sure it’s not as good.

    And I agree that Dylan’s I’ll Keep It With Mine is a mess. It’s hard to believe that Fairport Convention found a song there, though their version is a little smoothed out for my taste.

    The live version of Seven Days on the Bootleg Series is also better than the one on Ron Wood’s solo album, though Wood’s is pretty good.

  11. ladymisskirroyale

    What about Carole King? She wrote all those Brill Building songs.

  12. I’ve never heard Dylan do “Seven Days.” I forgot he (co?)wrote that song. I’ve always liked Wood’s version.

  13. cherguevara

    I think Tapestry actually started out as demos, which is why there are distorted vocals and other crunchy bits.

  14. mockcarr

    Not a great song but I like the Beatles’ demo of That Means A Lot better than the melodramatic hit version by P.J. Proby. I bet Tom Jones could have done much better with his arrangement too.

  15. Agreed, as Tapestry proves, King was more than worthy of singing her own songs. If that album started as demos, then we can almost count them. Regardless, I’m sure her demos of earlier songs she wrote for others have surfaced and worked.

  16. misterioso

    BigSteve, forgive the pince-nez, but the version of Mama, You Been on My Mind on the Bootleg Series is an outtake rather than a demo, unless you mean the version on the new Witmark demos volume of the Bootleg Series.

  17. misterioso

    He wrote it, performed it a few times in 1976, and then dropped it.

  18. alexmagic

    The Prince version of Manic Monday was what immediately came to mind. He’s done it live and the demo version of him doing it for/with Apollonia is floating around somewhere.

    Incidentally, this is also the origin of the “lost Springsteen original” game. I kept trying to convince someone that it was actually Springsteen, not Prince, who wrote Manic Monday for The Bangles, and it eventually turned into claiming that he also wrote Hazy Shade of Winter and some of the lyrics for Walk Like An Egyptian.

  19. alexmagic

    I like the Bowie original of All The Young Dudes a lot, but I’m just so used to hearing the Mott version that it’s the “right” one for me. Oats and I were discussing recently that there could have been a beneficial work arrangement if Lou Reed had written a few more songs for Bowie and his band to improve, allowing Bowie to donate a few more songs for Mott the Hoople to nail, and Ian Hunter could have, in turn, saved a few quality songs for someone else to do. Let’s say Def Leppard?

    As to the McCartney demo of Come and Get It, it’s impressive to hear because of how competely he laid it out for them (not just “here’s a good song”, but “here’s a good song, and if you do it exactly like this, it will be a hit” and he was right) and that he could just put something like that together by himself, but the actual Badfinger recording is superior thanks to the harmonies.

    Speaking of the harmonies, am I right that it’s the way “news” turns into a chanted “oooohhh oooooohhh” that is the secret key to what makes All The Young Dudes as good as it is?

  20. I prefer Springsteen’s live version of “Because The Night” to Patti Smith or 10,000 Maniacs.

    I prefer Prince & NPG’s (w/ Rosie Gaines) version of “Nothing Compares To You” to Sinead O’Conner

    Did Billy Joel or Bob Dylan get their “Make You Feel My Love” out 1st? I like both better than the Garth Brooks version that came out slightly later (but may have been the biggest hit)

    Elvis Costello’s verison of The Other End Of The Telescope is better than the Till Tuesday version. That entire record (all This Useless Beauty) is made up of songs that he wrote for other people. Some were released, some were not.

  21. Off topic (sorta), but isn’t “Manic Monday”, just a slowed down version of “1999” with new lyrics?

  22. Kimberly Rew-penned “Going Down to Liverpool” is way better done by the Banlges than Katrina and the Wave’s version.

  23. cherguevara

    I prefer Nilsson’s version of Cuddly Toy over the Monkees’.

  24. I don’t know how much of a hit either song was but Southside Johnny covered the Fever and his version can’t hold a candle to the Boss’ demo which, at least in Philly in the 70’s and 80s was the musical equivalent of a great white whale (or great white wail maybe).

    Also, I prefer Bruce’s version of From Small Thing, Mama, Big Things One Day Come to Dave Edmunds’ version.

  25. Bruce’s “From Small Things…” is a good one, cdm. I always forget about that song.

  26. cherguevara

    By the way, I do mean the demo and not the version of Pandemonium Shadow Show:

  27. My favorite version of I’ll Keep it With Mine is the Dylan solo piano version that I believe was a Witmark demo. It was on Biograph. I’m not sure if that’s what you’re referring to as “a mess”, because there is the other recording with the Band in late ’65 that really doesn’t work at all, and I’d like to think that you didn’t hold one of the bootlegged gems that I’ve treasured for about 40 years in such low esteem. The Fairport version doesn’t really work for me, it’s too stiff or something. My favorite non-Dylan version of that is on Rainy Day, that album of 60’s covers put together by David Roback. The Bangles girl sings it very nicely and they use a stripped down but nearly identical version of the arrangement from Nico’s Chelsea Girl album, which would have been very good but for the vocalist.

  28. By the way, I feel that the Bowie clip on this post goes a long way to explaining why it took 30 great songs for Mr. Mod to finally decide that he thought Bowie was good. Bowie is one of the most unpleasantly mannered performers that I can name.

  29. BigSteve

    I think we’re talking about the same version. It was on Biograph, Dylan on piano and harmonica. It just seems that he hasn’t quite finished writing the song yet. Also his piano playing there is about as good as mine is.

  30. BigSteve

    Bruce’s version of Pink Cadillac is also a million times better than Natalie Cole’s, though I think it was a B-side not a demo.

  31. shawnkilroy

    “Ian Hunter could have, in turn, saved a few quality songs for someone else to do. Let’s say Def Leppard?”

    quote of the month!

    rock town GOLD!

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