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The Originals Vol. 26

In this instalment, three songs featured are perhaps well known to some in their original form; one original (Galveston) is pretty obscure; and one song may not immediately ring bells until one hears it (German readers of a certain age will recognise it by another name). There are ten versions of Reason To Believe, one of the greatest songs ever written. I”ve posted Tim Hardin”s original separately and the nine cover versions in one file.

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Tim Hardin ““ Reason To Believe.mp3
Johnny Cash – Reason To Believe (1974)
(reupped)
NINE VERSIONS OF REASON TO BELIEVE
Bobby Darin – Reason To Believe (1966)
Scott McKenzie – Reason To Believe (1967)
Marianne Faithfull – Reason To Believe (1967)
The Dillards – Reason To Believe (1968)
Glen Campbell – Reason To Believe (1968)
Cher – Reason To Believe (1968)
Carpenters – Reason To Believe (1970)
Rod Stewart – Reason To Believe (1971)
Billy Bragg – Reason To Believe (live) (1989)
tim_hardin The mark of genius in a song resides in its adaptability. As the various covers featured here show, Reason To Believe (not to be confused with Bruce Springsteen”s song of the same title) is the sort of rare song into which artists can project their emotions, making it their own. The 1966 original by Tim Hardin, who wrote it, is suitably affecting, as befits a lyric of betrayal (the line “Knowing that you lied straight-faced while I cried; still I look to find a reason to believe” is heartbreaking). But in my view, the definitive interpretation of the song, one of my all-time favourites, is that by the Southern Californian country band The Dillards (1968), who inspired bands such as the Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers. It is perfect.

DARINReason To Believe was not a hit for Hardin. A gifted songwriter, he enjoyed his biggest hit with somebody else”s song, Bobby Darin”s twee Simple Song of Freedom, which Darin wrote in return for Hardin providing his big comeback hit If I Were A Carpenter. Darin, by then in his folk phase, also did a very credible version of Reason To Believe. Hardin”s story is tragic. As a marine in Vietnam in the early 1960s he discovered heroin and became addicted to the drug. Added to that, he suffered from terrible stagefright, which is not helpful when you are an entertainer. He died on 29 December 1980 from a heroin and morphine overdose. He was only 39.

The two best known versions arguably are those by Rod Stewart (1971) and the Carpenters (1970). Stewart is a fine interpreter of songs, and his take of Reason To Believe is entirely likable. Stewart”s take was released as a single a-side; in the event the flip side, Maggie Mae, became the big hit.

EDIT: The Johnny Cash version linked to above comes courtesy of Señor of the WTF? No, Seriously. WTF? blog.
Also recorded by: Bobby Darin (1966), Scott McKenzie (1967), Marianne Faithfull (1967), Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (1967), Rick Nelson (1967), David Hemmings (1967), Cher (1968), The Dillards (1968), The Youngbloods (1968), Glen Campbell (1968), Suzi Jane Hokom (1969), Brainbox (1969), The Wray Brothers Band (1969), Ramblin’ Jack Elliott (1970), Andy Williams (1970), The Carpenters (1970), Rod Stewart (1971), Skeeter Davis (1972), Johan Verminnen (as Iemand als jij, 1989), Wilson Phillips (1990), Jackie DeShannon (1993), Don Williams (1995), Paul Weller (1995), Stina Nordenstam (1998), Ron Sexsmith (1999), Rod Stewart (2003), Vonda Shepard (2001) a.o.

Jimmy Driftwood ““ The Battle Of New Orleans.mp3
Johnny Horton ““ The Battle Of New Orleans.mp3
Les Humphries Singers ““ Mexico.mp3

jimmy_driftwood Oh, you probably do know the song. And if you don”t, you should. Originally a traditional folk song known as The 8th of January, it tells the story of a soldier fighting with Andrew Jackson”s army against the British in the 8 January 1815 battle of the title. It was first recorded in 1957 and released the following year by Jimmy Driftwood, a school teacher in Timbo, Arkansas. Born James Morris, he is said to have been one of the nicest guys in the folk music scene (not surprisingly, he was a collaborator with the great Alan Lomax). As a history teacher, Driftwood considered song to be a teaching device, and so in 1936 (or 1945, depending which sources you believe) he set the fiddle-based folk song to lyrics “” there were no definitive words, only snippets of recurring phrases “” to benefit his students. In the 1950s, Driftwood was signed by RCA, and eventually recorded The Battle Of New Orleans, with the label”s session man Chet Atkins on guitar. He later wrote another country classic, Tennessee Stud, which became a hit for Eddy Arnold and Johnny Cash (Tarantino fans will know it from the Jackie Brown soundtrack).

johnny_horton_new_orleansShortly after Driftwood recorded The Battle Of New Orleans, the doomed country star Johnny Horton did a cover which relied less on manic fiddling and dropped such radio-unfriendly words as “hell” and “damn”, and scored a big hit with it (he even changed the lyrics for the English market, turning the enemy “British” into random “rebels). Horton released several “historical records” (most famous among them, perhaps, Sink The Bismarck), though it would be unfair to reduce his influence on country music to that. A close friend of Johnny Cash”s, Horton died in a car crash in 1960, widowing his wife Billy Jean for the second time “” she had been married to Hank Williams when the country legend died. Spookily, both Williams and Horton played their last concerts at the Skyline Club in Austin, Texas.

There is a crazy idea on the Internet that associates Horton with the revolting racist records of a fuckwitted spunkbucket going by the name of Rebel Johnny (such as the charming “I Hate Niggers”). I am at a loss to understand how such a confusion could arise and thereby smear the name of a great country star.

les_humphries_mexicoTwo other cover versions are notable. Also in 1959, skiffle legend Lonnie Donegan reached the UK #2 “” but received no airplay on Aunty Beeb until he changed the word “ruddy” to “blooming”. The song was revived in 1972 by the Les Humphries Singers, a multi-ethnc and multi-national English-language ensemble of hippie demeanour that was very popular in West Germany with its Ed Hawkins Singer meets Hair shtick. Humphries, an Englishman, renamed the song Mexico (not a stretch; that country”s name appears in the original lyrics) and scored a massive hit with his outfit”s joyous rendition. Their performances, in English, captured the era”s exuberant spirit of social and sexual liberation. The trouble is, Humphries credited the song to himself, a brazen act of plagiarism. I have found no evidence that Humphries, who died in 2007 at 67, was ever sued for his blatant rip-off.
Also recorded by: Vaughn Monroe (1959), Eddy Arnold (1963), Harpers Bizarre (1968), Johnny Cash (1972), The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (1974), Buck Owens (1975), Bob Weir (1976), Bill Haley (1979)

Johnny O’Keefe – Wild One.mp3
Iggy Pop – Real Wild Child (Wild One).mp3

johnny_okeefe_wild_one Johnny O’Keefe was Australia”s first rock & roll star, notching up 30 hits in his country. Like Elvis, he was born in January 1935. He died just over a year after Elvis, of barbiturate poisoning. Often referred to by the title of his big hit, released in 1958, O”Keefe was the first Australian rock & roll star to tour the United States. But it was while Buddy Holly & the Crickets were touring Australia that the song came to traverse the Pacific. Crickets drummer Jerry Allison went on to record it under the name Ivan as Real Wild Child, enjoying a minor US hit with it.

It took almost three decades before O”Keefe”s song would reach the higher regions of the charts when Iggy Pop scored a UK Top 10 and US Top 30 hit with his David Bowie-produced track, as Real Wild Child (Wild One), in 1986. It isn”t clear which version inspired Mr Osterberg, but in 1982 Albert Lee recorded it under the same title.
Also recorded by: Jerry Lewis (1958; released in 1974), Jet Harris (1962), Billy Idol (1987), Christopher Otcasek (1989), Joan Jett & the Blackhearts (1993), Lou Reed (1993), Status Quo (2003), Wakefield (2004), Everlife (2006)


Dave Edmunds – Queen Of Hearts.mp3
Juice Newton ““ Queen Of Hearts.mp3

dave_edmonds Here”s one of those songs that some might know better in its original version, and others as the hit cover. Queen Of Hearts was a UK #11 hit for Dave Edmunds “” previously featured in this series for covering Smiley Lewis” I Hear You Knocking “” in 1979, and two years later a US #2 hit for the unlikely-named Juice Newton. She will return to this series soon when her other big hit of 1981, Angel Of The Morning. Newton earned a Grammy nomination for best country song for her version, and it was her remake that inspired the veteran French singer Sylvie Vartan, who once performed on a bill with the Beatles, to record her French take on the song (retitled Quand tu veux , or When You Want It). A couple of years earlier Newton had tried to have a hit with another British song, but her version of It”s A Heartache lost out in the US to that by Welsh rasper Bonnie Tyler. Later Newton enjoyed a #11 with Brenda Lee”s Break It To Me Gently.
Also recorded by: Rodney Crowell (1980), Sylvie Vartan (as Quand tu veux, 1981), The Shadows (1983), Lawrence Welk (1984), Ramshackle Daddies (2003), Melanie Laine (2005), Valentina (2007)

don_ho_galvestonDon Ho ““ Galveston.mp3
Glen Campbell ““ Galveston.mp3

Jimmy Webb sat on the beach of Galveston on the hurricane-plagued Gulf of Mexico when he wrote this song, which might appear to be about the Spanish-American war but was just as applicable to the Vietnam War, which in 1966 was starting to heat up (“While I watch the cannons flashing, I clean my gun and dream of Galveston” and “I”m so afraid of dying”). The composer subsequently said it was about the Vietnam War but at other times also denied it. Whatever Webb had in mind, its theme is universal about any soldier who”d rather be home than on the killing fields.

glen_campbell_galvestonWebb had previously written By The Time I Get To Phoenix (first recorded by Johnny Rivers), which Glen Campbell would have a hit with. He later wrote Wichita Lineman especially for Campbell. Galveston would complete the trinity of Webb hit songs for Campbell, who in 1974 recorded a whole album of Webb numbers. The original of Galveston was recorded by the relatively obscure Don Ho, a Hawaiian lounge singer and TV star who was known for appearing with red shades and died in 2007 aged 76. Campbell later said that, while in Hawaii, Ho turned him to Galveston. Campbell sped it up a bit to create his moving version. Apparently, after “giving” the song to Campbell, Ho would not sing it any more.
Also recorded by: Lawrence Welk (1969), Jim Nabors (1968), The Ventures (1969), Roger Williams (1969), Jimmy Webb (1971), The Lemonheads (1997), Of Montreal (2000), Joel Harrison with David Binney (2004)

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  1. June 12th, 2009 at 03:34 | #1

    I like Johnny Cash’s version of “Reason to Believe” from the 1974 album John R. Cash.

  2. Shub
    June 12th, 2009 at 10:32 | #2

    The Billy Bragg cover is wonderful. Thank you!

  3. June 12th, 2009 at 11:19 | #3

    Banal comment time:

    Reason to believe, never heard this one before, great song, wildly different versions.

    The lyrics are great, repetitive though, aren’t they…

    I love Don Ho’s Galveston – I always liked this song, but this massacres Glen Campbell’s version!! (“if sheee cooould fuh-get me”). Wicked!!

    All good stuff.

  4. June 12th, 2009 at 12:16 | #4

    Señor, I’ve never heard Cash’s version. I’m intrigued. It’s pretty difficult finding versions of Reason To Believe anyway.

    Shub, it is great, isn’t it. Right up Bragg’s alley too.

    Chris, you think that’s banal? You have high standards indeed. I really like to get comments like yours…

  5. June 12th, 2009 at 12:28 | #5
  6. June 12th, 2009 at 13:06 | #6

    Fantastic! Thank you!

  7. June 12th, 2009 at 20:33 | #7

    Love Queen Of Hearts – both versions, and Reason To Believe is such a great song. Where does the Scott Walker version come from? I’ve never heard that before.

    Tim Hardin was a fantastic songwriter, Scott covered his track Black Sheep Boy on Scott 2 (also covered by Weller at some point) and The Small Faces did several songs of his back in the day.

  8. June 12th, 2009 at 23:20 | #8

    It’s McKenzie not Walker, Simon. From “The Voice of Scott McKenzie”

  9. June 13th, 2009 at 00:12 | #9

    Awesome – I’m always excited to see a new Originals post. Amazing to see that songs you know well are covers!

  10. June 13th, 2009 at 00:51 | #10

    Can’t wait to hear the Bragg and Darin covers of Reason to Believe, or the O’Keefe version of Wild One. Thanks! I love this series.

  11. head of music
    June 13th, 2009 at 11:46 | #11

    very perfect blog, great info ;)

  12. W
    June 14th, 2009 at 16:40 | #12

    A rare case with Tim Hardin where his original version is the best. A great song, (though If I Were A Carpenter remains his masterwork!) Thanks for another great post – I love this series. W.

  13. Billie
    June 15th, 2009 at 04:58 | #13

    Tim Hardin was such an underrated singer-songwriter. I love his bare-bones recording of “Misty Roses,” another of his compositions. I had started a collection of versions of “Reason To Believe.” Thanks for the Scott McKenzie, Cher and Carpenters versions. And Johnny Cash!

    Great post, as always. Many thanks!

  14. June 15th, 2009 at 06:31 | #14

    lol, that’s baby brain for you, I just see ‘scott’ and 1967 and there’s only one person that comes to mind everytime!!

  15. June 15th, 2009 at 07:44 | #15

    Thanks for the tip, Simon. When I compiled the mix I was actually thinking of your love for ’60s soul — and that you’ll have all; of these songs already.

  16. RH
    June 16th, 2009 at 19:36 | #16

    Fantastic grouping of originals.Wonderful job.Been looking for that Don Ho Galveston for a long time.

  17. July 23rd, 2009 at 21:18 | #17

    Absolutely brill. I’ve gone from skimming the blog to delving deeper into the posts and have to remember to come up for air now and then. You have so many hidden treasures in your musical Schatzkiste that I probably won’t get much sleep anytime soon.
    Find of the day – Les Humphries Singers. My mum had the album (they were very popular in East Germany too :) and Mexico was my favourite. I remember singing it with my brother and sister, or trying to rather. Back then I must have been 10 or 12, not a word of English and we would learn the lyrics phonetically. And I recall the the song being rather fast-paced for someone who had no clue what they were singing :)
    Catchy tune tho, got me hooked again.
    Thanx for another trip down memory lane.

  18. Markis
    November 1st, 2009 at 21:08 | #18

    Somebody did mind that Les Humphries did take credit for Mexico because on a LHS compilation LP from 1974 it is corrected to Trad. adapt. Humphries.
    Thanks for the history of the origin of the song.

  19. Steve
    January 3rd, 2010 at 00:46 | #19

    Senor,

    I was so excited to finally find the Johnny Cash version of ‘Reason To Believe’- ‘I’ve been looking everywhere, man…’ for the ‘John R. Cash’ LP with no luck so far.

    The mediafire link you posted is down- could you either re-post it or send me the mp3? I know it’s a lot to ask from a stranger, but I would greatly appreciate it.

    Thanks & hope you have a great new year.

    Steve
    (wolfestevem@gmail.com)

  20. January 3rd, 2010 at 12:20 | #20
  21. Steve
    January 3rd, 2010 at 19:56 | #21

    Thanks so much for re-upping the Cash version- it’s a great one.

    Love this blog!

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