Search This Blog

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

5 Terrible Early Versions of Famous Songs

Genius does not emerge fully formed like Athena springing from Zeus' head. For example, it took me 16 drafts to come up with that opening line. The original draft looked like this:

Writing is hard.

And then I went to the kitchen to make a bagel and ended up watching Pawn Star reruns for an hour. When I went back to writing, I had forgotten my original idea, but fortunately had left the TV on the History Channel, heard an interesting fact and then decided to steal it for this blog post.

Pictured above: The creative process.

I'm also pretty sure I swiped the opening line of this article from a fortune cookie.

But that's the way the creative process works. If you were to take a peak at even the most successful artist's rough drafts, you'd be shocked at just how bad (or appalling) some of the early versions of your favorite works truly were. Like these:

5. Yesterday, The Beatles--A Denny's Commerical 
Yesterday, by The Beatles, is one of the most hauntingly beautiful songs ever written. With simple lyrics, it perfectly encapsulates feelings of loss, and separation, while still maintaining hope. As the story goes, Paul McCartney came up with the tune in a dream but the lyrics would have to wait.

As John Lennon explained it in that adorable Liverpool accent we all know and love, "The song was around for months and months before we finally completed it. We made up our minds that only a one-word title would  suit; we just couldnít find the right one. Then one morning Paul woke up and the song and the title were both there, completed. I was sorry in a way, we'd had so many laughs about it."

But did you know? 
The original lyrics, the one that John and Paul spent months laughing about, was an ode to breakfast.

Scrambled eggs
 Have an omelette with some Muenster cheese
 Put your dishes in the wash bin please
 So I can clean the scrambled eggs

Join me do
 There's a lot of eggs for me and you
 I've got ham and cheese and bacon too
 So go get two and join me do

Fried or sunny side
 Just aren't right
 The mix-bowl begs
 Quick, go get a pan, and weíll scramble up some eggs, eggs, eggs, eggs

Scrambled eggs
 Good for breakfast, dinner time or brunch
 Don't buy six or twelve, buy a bunch
 And we'll have a lunch on scrambled eggs

That's not a Weird Al send-up of Yesterday. Those are the original lyrics. Having come up with one of the most hauntingly beautiful tunes ever, Paul McCartney sat right down to pen an ode to something a chicken pops out his ass.

I just created an internet fetish.


Thank god, John and Paul let this one incubate (Pun!) before hatching (Pun!) the final lyrics.


4. Little Richard, Tutti Frutti- Butt Sex
Maybe you don't remember Little Richard. Maybe your parents were cool and listened to something besides 1950's music growing up. Good for you. All you need to know is that Little Richard is right up there with Elvis, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, and Buddy Holly as one of the most important musicians to emerge from the early days of rock and roll. His music was loud, upbeat and infused doo wop with gospel and blues and rock and roll.

Little Richard's signature song was Tuti Frutti. And again, maybe you've never heard it, but it's a catchy, nonsensical, rambunctious sprawling tune that doesn't make a god damn bit of sense, "A whop bop-a-lu-mop, a whop bam boo. Tutti frutti, oh Rudy."

But Did You Know?
And that's because the original draft was an ode to getting anally penetrated by a man.

A wop bop a loo mop, a good goddam
 Tutti Frutti, good booty,
 If it don't fit, don't force it,
 You can grease it, make it easy.

The 1950's were a kindler, simpler time. A naive time. A time when a man could look like this and nobody would suspect he was a homosexual.


Which Little Richard was. In the most flaming sense of the word. And in the 1950's he was so enamored with being gay, he almost wrote the community's national anthem. Think about it. One of rock and roll's earliest signature songs was almost the soundtrack to the most fabulous (Pun!) coming out party ever.


3. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane- Suicide is Painless
In a genre crowded with songs, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, is one of the most recognizable holiday songs around. It's been recorded by dozens of different artists, most famously by Judy Garland and Frank Fucking Sinatra.

In just four verses, this song captures everything that Christmas is supposed to represent--hope and joy and rebirth:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
From now on our troubles
Will be out of sight

But Did You Know?
The original draft of the song presented to Judy Garland was less 'Merry Christmas' and more 'Pass the razor blades.'

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
It may be your last
Next year we may all be living in the past
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Pop that champagne cork
Next year we may all be living in New York.

This was not a tune for a man having a holly, jolly Christmas. It was for the guy who'd just lost his wife and job and was celebrating his first Yule Tide in a motel by the railroad tracks.
So this guy again.


2. Purple Haze, Jimmy Hendrix- Science Fiction Geek
It pains me to write this. Purple Haze is Jimmy Hendrix's signature song. If you haven't heard it, you clearly are not my audience. I, I can't even look at you right now. For the rest of you, you will remember Purple Haze as the song that hippy girl played for you in her darklight-lit basement before giving you your first tab of acid. It played in the background at every smoke-filled college party you went to. It was the song, man. It defined the psychedlic, drug-fueled 1960's--a time when people were pushing their freedoms to the upper limits.
The best freedom is naked freedom.


But did you know?
Hendrix was less concerned with pushing the limits of his freedom and opening the doors of perception, and more concerned with penning an ode to his favorite sci fi writer Philip Jose Farmer. That's right, Jimmy Hendrix, psychedlic guitar god, wrote one of the earliest fan fics.

Try to stifle a yawn as you read this citation on Farmer's book from WikiPedia, "In the story set on a distant planet, sunspots produce a "purplish haze" which has a disorienting effect on the inhabitants."

Oh Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy. Is it any coincidence you died only months after the original Star Trek went off the air?

1. Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Wizard of Oz--Urban Rot and Decay
The Wizard of Oz is one of the most recognizable films of all time and Somewhere Over the Rainbow played no small part in that. It is a beautiful, uplifting meloday sung by Dorothy (Judy Garland) on her small Kansas farm as she imagines a bigger, brighter world beyond her own.
Probably not what she had in mind. But how awesome would that have been?

But did you know?
The original draft read more like a William Faulkner novel than the opening song in a movie that featured a race of people called 'munchkins'.

Somewhere down past the wheat field, way way back,
There's some land that I heard of a miles past the railroad track
Somewhere down past the wheat field, skies are gray
And the people that trudge to work do it day by day
Someday I want to see this spot
Where troubles grow like mildew rot ...so true
And everything revolves around
The money that they all have found -destroying values
Somewhere down past the wheat field, way way back,
Thereís a land that my curiosity wants a crack. (at)
If happy little bluejays fly beyond the wheat field, why oh why can't I?

This version of the song made it all the way to early shootings of the film. The dark lyrics changed the entire tone of the song. How noticable was the difference? Apparently, they couldn't stop Toto from howling throughout the recording. This set off a Rube Goldberg effect of scaring a coop of chickens, showering the set in feathers. Just a few simple verse changes and the Yellow Brick Road would have had to be renamed to the Feather and Chicken Shit Covered Path.