While it's common for an artist to re-record a new version of another artist's hit song, musicians have even dueled for radio play simultaneously with different versions of the same song. Perhaps the best example of this phenomenon is one of the first.
Carl Perkins hitched a ride to No. 4 on the pop music charts in 1956 with his self-penned Blue Suede Shoes. While traveling to New York City for an appearance on The Perry Como Show, the rockabilly star was seriously injured in a car crash, which prevented him from keeping the momentum going and generating interest in a follow-up record. Meanwhile, his friend, Elvis Presley, also recorded the song. While Perkins recuperated in a hospital, Presley sang Blue Suede Shoes on several television shows en route to his monumental rise to stardom.
Perkins never duplicated his first hit, but his career was revived somewhat in 1964. While on a tour through England, he met four lads from Liverpool who were big fans and who were eager to cover a few of his songs. Perkins was in the studio with the Beatles when they cut such tunes as Matchbox, Honey Don't and Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby.
The British duo Peter and Gordon crossed paths with Philadelphia's own Bobby Rydell when both acts released versions of a John Lennon/Paul McCartney tune, A World Without Love, in 1964. Unfortunately, the British Invasion had overrun the American music scene by then, and Rydell and the rest of the teen idols from that phase of the rock 'n' roll era soon disappeared from the charts.
How the two acts came to record the same song is an interesting story. The two sides vary slightly, but both seem to point to an unknown culprit at a music publishing firm.
Gordon Waller was living at Peter Asher's house in London in the early 1960s around the same time that Peter's sister, Jane Asher, was dating Paul McCartney. During an informal jam session, McCartney played an unfinished version of A World Without Love, and Peter and Gordon asked if they could record it.
"Paul had never written anything for anyone else before," Waller said. "We made a verbal deal that if we recorded any of his songs, we didn't want (the Beatles) to record the same song. That didn't stop anybody else from recording it. Bobby Rydell had a track of A World Without Love, and if my memory serves me well, I remember giving a guy at the publishing company some static about it."
"I was coming off of Forget Him, which was a big million-seller for me (in 1963)," Rydell said. "Then I had put out a song called Make Me Forget, and we were looking for a follow-up record. I guess this was in early 1964. I honestly don't know where (A World Without Love) came from. I was recording for the Cameo/Parkway record label, and I recorded quite a few songs at the time, and that was one of them. I don't know how (the record company) acquired it. All I did was go in and sing it.
"I remember driving to New York with my first manager, Frankie Day, and when we got into the New York area, we picked up WCBS radio. All of a sudden, we heard (Peter and Gordon singing) A World Without Love. My manager went ballistic. He was more upset about it than I was."
"We were touring in England, and we bumped into the Beatles prior to their (success) in America," Day said from his office in Los Angeles. "I got to know their manager (Brian Epstein), and he gave me some songs to listen to, and that was one of them.
"Bobby was real big back then, and I told (Epstein) that I would have Bobby record (A World Without Love) if (Epstein) would guarantee me that he wouldn't offer it to anybody else. I don't know who else he might have offered it to, but at the time, he said that it was clean, which in the record business meant that nobody had recorded it."
Day said he didn't know how Peter and Gordon wound up recording the same song.
"It might have been somebody at the publishing house," Day guessed, "but the Beatles got real big after that, and I just let the issue drop because I didn't want to go looking for a fight."
Said Rydell: "Some disc jockeys played the Peter and Gordon version, and some played mine, and some jockeys, I think, were just fed up with the whole thing. Anyway, to make a long story short, we put it out and sold quite a few records. It charted for me, but I don't think it went real high maybe the top fifty."
Interestingly, Rydell also recalled meeting the Fab Four.
"I was touring England with a singer by the name of Helen Shapiro, who was sort of the (Little) Peggy March of the U.K.," he remembered. "There was a Rolls Royce in front of our bus, and Helen said, 'There are the Beatles.' I had never heard of the Beatles, so I'm looking around the floor of the bus for bugs.
"Anyway, the Rolls Royce stopped, and everybody got out of the car and got on our bus. The Beatles knew who I was, but I didn't know them, so we were introduced, and we shook hands and everything. About a month later, they were on The Ed Sullivan Show."
Visit a Web site maintained by the Bobby Rydell Fan Club.