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Second Time Around

February 17, 2016

Sometimes a musician will create lightning in a bottle and write and record a song that storms the charts. Other times, it takes a little time—or a lot of time—for that song to become a hit.
Sometimes a musician will create lightning in a bottle and write and record a song that storms the charts. Other times, it takes a little time—or a lot of time—for that song to become a hit.

“A Little Less Conversation”

Take 1: In 1967, singer-songwriter Mac Davis and his writing partner, Billy Strange (a session guitarist with the famous “Wrecking Crew”), were hired to write songs for Elvis Presley to sing in his movies. Their tune “A Little Less Conversation” appeared in the 1968 movie Live a Little, Love a Little—one of the King’s final movies—and reached #69 on the pop charts.

Take 2: Twenty-three years later, the song appeared on the soundtrack of the 2001 remake of Ocean’s Eleven, as a definitive Las Vegas-type song. Dutch DJ Junkie XL heard the song and liked it, and then did a remix, adding in a thumping modern drum beat. The remixed version of “A Little Less Conversation” went to #1 in ten countries in 2002. (But not in America—it only made it to #50.)

“Hello, It’s Me”

Take 1: Todd Rundgren is one of rock’s most prolific and influential producers, but he started his career as a performer. In 1968, he fronted a pop-rock band called Nazz. The group’s first single was “Open My Eyes,” with Rundgren’s “Hello, It’s Me” as the B-side. Boston radio station WMEX preferred the B-side and added it to their playlist, where it quickly became the station’s most-played song. Few other stations were interested, although the success in Boston propelled it to #68 on the national chart.
Take 2: Rundgren left Nazz in 1970 to start a solo career. In 1972, he re-recorded “Hello, It’s Me” as a slower, more soulful ballad for his album Something/Anything? It became a monster hit, reaching #5. It was the biggest hit Rundgren would ever have.

“Pretty in Pink “

Take 1: British New Wave band the Psychedelic Furs first recorded this song about a bewitching woman for their second album, 1981’s Talk Talk Talk. The song stalled at #43 on the British charts and didn’t get any airplay in the United States.
Take 2: American filmmaker John Hughes was a huge music fan, often helping to pick the songs on his movies’ soundtracks. In 1986, he made a movie called Pretty in Pink, partially inspired by the obscure (to Americans) single by the Psychedelic Furs. The movie was a hit and so was the song, hitting #41 on the Billboard Hot 100 and introducing the group to mainstream American audiences.

“Here I Go Again”

Take 1: After splitting with his wife in 1981, ex-Deep Purple singer David Coverdale wrote this bluesy rock song about having to face life alone. It was included on his band’s (Whitesnake) 1982 album Saints ’N’ Sinners, but neither the album nor single were hits.
Take 2: In 1985, while recording another Whitesnake album, Coverdale came down with a sinus infection that made singing extremely painful. His six-month convalescence put the album behind schedule. In order to finish the album quickly, they re-recorded “Here I Go Again,” but updated it to sound more radio-friendly, like the “hair metal” popular at the time—bands like Bon Jovi and Poison. It worked—the new version of “Here I Go Again” went to #1.

“Hanky Panky”

Take 1: In 1959, Tommy Jackson formed a band in Niles, Michigan, called Tom and the Tornadoes. (Jackson was 12.) Five years later, they renamed the group the Shondells and recorded their first single, “Hanky Panky,” an obscure song by New York songwriters Jeff Barry and Ellie Grenwich. Released by Snap Records, it was a hit in the upper midwest, but they couldn’t get the song released nationally. In 1965, Jackson and the other Shondells graduated high school, and the band broke up.
Take 2: In late 1965, a DJ in Pennsylvania named Bob Mack found a copy of the record and started playing it at parties, where it got so popular that Pittsburgh radio stations started playing it, too. In April 1966, a Pittsburgh radio DJ tracked down Jackson and asked him to perform the song there. Jackson went. He had no band, but hired a local group called the Raconteurs, then changed his last name to “James,” and sold the master for “Hanky Panky” to Roulette Records. Roulette released it nationwide and in July 1966, it went to #1.
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Kevin Komonyi
Kevin Komonyi
February 17, 2016 11:15 pm

Actually, the solo version of Rundgren’s “Hello It’s Me” has a faster pop tempo than Nazz’s original soulful version.

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