Re-writes

The theme in the overwhelming majority of Spector soul songs is the pain of love, rather than the happiness of love. Each story focuses on two people, the singer and the lover. That is, unlike stories often found in country music and soul music, in Spector soul the third party exists but does not get attention.

For example, in country and soul music there are a lot of songs about triangles, either with a secret third party (when the singer is cheating) or an open third party (when the singer has a rival). However, the stories about the pain of love in Spector soul are not about cheating or rivalry.

With few exceptions, the pre- “Lovin’ Feelin'” songs that became Spector soul covers already had a theme about the pain of love. Typically, therefore, the only change between the originals and the remakes was the production, from the absence to the presence of wall of sound.

Occasionally, however, the lyrics of a song were rewritten, and it was probably for the commercial consideration.

The original “First Love Never Dies” by Jerry Fuller (1961) lacks a wall of sound. It has a spoken bridge, reminiscent of a doo-wop song:

Darling, it seems just like yesterday
That we’ve each went our separate ways
One last kiss and then we said goodbye

In the cover by the Cascades (1964, unreleased until 1998), there is no wall of sound. Although the spoken bridge is eliminated, the lyrics are kept (except for the deletion of “Darling, it”), and the lyrics are sung to the song’s melody. Later in the song, new lyrics are added, which are sung to a new bridge:

When you’re young, you sometimes make mistakes but then
Where love is strong, it never hurts to try again

In the cover by the Walker Brother (1965), there is a strong wall of sound. The added lyrics from the Cascades version are not sung (i.e., the new bridge is eliminated). The spoken bridge is also eliminated, and the original lyrics are replaced with new lyrics, which are sung to the song’s melody:

Whenever I feel lonely
I’m thinking of you only
One last kiss and then we said goodbye

The change in the lyrics separates the singer from his lost love. That is, in the original recording Jerry Fuller speaks to her (“Darling….”), but Scott Walker does not. This difference is predictable because, as I show in my discography, in Spector soul a singer does not directly address a lover after their romance has ended.

The most remarkable change in the lyrics of a song from the pre- “Lovin’ Feelin’” original to the post- “Lovin’ Feelin’” cover occurs in “Before I Loved Her.” First released by Johnny Maestro in 1962, it is a celebration of the happiness of love.

Before I loved her, life passed me by
Oh I was a lonely guy

Before I loved her, the world could tell
My heart was an empty shell

Before I loved her, I felt so small
I was a no one with nothing at all

Before I loved her, and took her hand
I was a no one, a nothing, a poor empty shell of a man

But that was before I loved her

The version in 1965 by Mike Clifford, however, has completely different lyrics.

Before I loved her, I was a man
My heart was at my command

Before I loved her, I never cried
Yes, I always had my pride

Before I loved her, oh I was strong
Yes, I would never do wrong

Before I loved her, I stood so tall
I said that no girl in the world could break me or make me crawl

But that was before I loved her

The original “Before I Loved Her” was composed by Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, who wrote, among many other Spector soul songs (and a huge catalog of other great records), “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.” The Cameo record label for Mike Clifford’s cover gives no credit to an arranger or a producer. However, in the development of the Spector soul discography, I brought the change in lyrics to the attention of record collector, Anthony Reichardt. Reichardt looked into it and found out that Clifford claims Jack Nitzsche was responsible.

Nitzsche, after Spector himself, is the most important creator of wall of sound soul records. The research by Reichardt resulted in Nitzsche’s getting the production credit for Clifford’s version.

With the phenomenal success of “Lovin’ Feelin’,” and the impact it had on the record industry, it seems fair to speculate that Nitzsche understood that, for commercial reasons, a new version of “Before I Loved Her” should be in sync with the times. So Nitzsche not only gave the remake his characteristic heavy wall of sound, he also replaced the original theme with one that expressed despair, the pain of love.

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