Thursday, 6 July 2017

" Bésame Mucho", "In the Mood", "Lady Marmalade", "Mustang Sally" etc. - we salute the original versions

"Besame Mucho" was one of the 20th Century's most-recorded songs. Deservedly, I think, because it's lovely - and almost indestructible. The first recorded version appears to have been by the Mexican actor and singer, Emilio Tuero, released in 1941:
The song was inspired by the gorgeous, romantic classical piano piece, "Quejas, o la maja y el ruiseñor" (aka "The Maiden and the Nightingale") from the Spanish composer Granados's piano suite Goyescas, written in 1911.  The Mexican concert pianist and songwriter Consuelo Velázquez's...

...was still in her teens when she wrote "Bésame Mucho"in 194, and, despite the fact that the phrase means "Kiss me a lot", claimed never to have been kissed when she composed it. I probably became aware of the song through Dean Martin's slinky 1962 latin lounge lizard version - or, more likely, the Jet Harris bass guitar version from the same year. 

I had always assumed that "In the Mood" was a Glenn Miller original. Not so - Edgar Hayes and His Orchestra produced the first version in 1938:

It had never occurred to me that the great Benny Goodman's Big Band classic version of 'Sing, Sing, Sing" wasn't the original - but that honour went to Louis Prima (King Louie - the "King of the Swingers / the Jungle VIP" - in Disney's The Jungle Book) who wrote the song and produced the first recording in 1936:

I'm pretty sure that when "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" by The Tokens and "Wimoweh" by Karl Denver - the latest in an endless series of versions of the same song recorded under one or other of those titles - both hit the UK charts in 1961 that we were told it was a "traditional African song". Up to a point, Lord Copper: entitled "Mbube", it was written and recorded by the South African artist Solomon Linda with the Evening Birds in 1939:
Lovers of "Wimoweh" - of whom I am one - might enjoy the slightly deranged Big Band version produced by Jimmy Dorsey in 1952.

"Mustang Sally" is so firmly associated with Wilson Pickett's wonderful recording  that's it's hard to adjust to the fact that the song was written and first recorded by Sir Mack Rice (presumably a New Labour honours recipient) in 1965:

"On Broadway" was The Drifters, 1963, right? Well, yes - but the first recording was by The Cookies, while the first version to hit the record stores was by Phil Spector's The Crystals in 1962:

It's hard not associate "Lady Marmalade" with Labelle's terrific 1974 version - but the song, written by Bob Crewe and Kenny Nolan, was first recorded by The Eleventh Hour earlier that year:
Kim Carnes's "Bette Davis Eyes" was the biggest-selling American record of 1981 - but it was written by Donna Weiss and Jackie DeShannon in 1974, and released on a Jackie DeShannon album that year:

Who can forget gorgeous, pouting Debbie Harry performing "Hanging On the Telephone" with Blondie in 1978? Unfortunately for them, the members of The Nerves who wrote and recorded the song for their one and only release - an EP in 1976 - weren't notably gorgeous (although they sounded like they could pout with the best of them):

I'll end with two of the songs already mentioned in this post: I linked to the Tokens' "The Lion Sleeps Tonight", but here's the actual video, simply because the Happy Hippo animated cartoon that accompanies it was (a) so funny, and (b) such an internet phenomenon when it was first posted in 2006 - 35 million views and counting...

And here is the best version of "Besame Mucho" ever recorded, performed by Leslie Nielsen:

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