It's the Same Old Song
|"It's the Same Old Song"|
|Single by Four Tops|
|from the album Four Tops' Second Album|
|B-side||"Baby I Need Your Lovin'" (Netherlands); "Your Love Is Amazing" (selected countries, namely in the West German, American and Australian markets); "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)" (on one copy in the UK)|
|Released||July 9, 1965|
|Recorded||Hitsville U.S.A. (Studio A); July 8, 1965|
|Four Tops singles chronology|
"It's the Same Old Song" is a 1965 hit single recorded by the Four Tops for the Motown label. Written and produced by Motown's main production team Holland–Dozier–Holland, the song is today one of The Tops' signature songs, and was notably created—from initial concept to commercial release—in 24 hours. It reached number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #2 on the Billboard R&B Singles chart. It also reached number 34 in the UK.
Writing and recording
With the recent release of a previously unreleased version of "It's the Same Old Song" recorded by the Supremes, the truth of the events on how the song came together for the Four Tops is put into question. Holland-Dozier-Holland originally wrote and cut a track of "It's the Same Old Song" for the Supremes in May 1965 before the Four Tops' version. This first version would remain unreleased until 2017. A second version was cut in a very similar style to the Four Tops' version would be released in 1967 on The Supremes Sing Holland-Dozier-Holland.
After "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)" hit #1 in June 1965, The Four Tops' former label, Columbia Records, wanting to cash in on the group's success, re-released the Tops' 1960 Columbia single "Ain't That Love". Berry Gordy ordered that a new Four Tops single had to be released within a day's time.
At 3:00 PM that afternoon, the Holland brothers and Lamont Dozier wrote "It's the Same Old Song". Four Tops tenor Abdul "Duke" Fakir recalled:
|“||(Songwriter), Lamont Dozier and I were both a little tipsy and he was changing the channels on the radio. He said, 'It sounds like the same old song.' And then he said, "Wait a minute." So he took "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)" and reversed it using the same chord changes. The next day, we went to the studio and recorded it, and then they put it on acetate, shipped it out to disc jockeys across the country."||”|
The engineering team worked around the clock perfecting the single's mix and making hand-cut vinyl records so that Berry Gordy's sister Esther in the Artist Development department could critique them and select the best ones for single release. By 3 P.M. the next day, 1500 copies of "It's the Same Old Song" had been delivered to radio DJs across the country, and the song eventually made it to number five on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and number two on the R&B chart.
"It's the Same Old Song" is very similar in melody and chord progressions to "I Can't Help Myself", which in turn is even more similar in melody and chord progressions to "Where Did Our Love Go" by the Supremes, who covered "It's the Same Old Song" in 1967. Critic Maury Dean disputes that there is much in common with "I Can't Help Myself", saying that it is "a dynamic NEW treatment, with just a hint of Benny Benjamin's thundering drums echoing" "I Can't Help Myself".
Allmusic critic Ron Wynn calls "It's the Same Old Song" "a tidy little number" with "one of the greatest lyrical hooks -- and titles -- ever." Fellow critic Steve Leggett calls it "wise beyond its era."
Pop music writers and bloggers have noted the similarity of the song's main instrumental riff with the marimba riff in the Rolling Stones song "Under My Thumb" which was first released almost a year later, on April 15, 1966, as part of their album Aftermath.
- Lead vocals by Levi Stubbs
- Background vocals by Abdul "Duke" Fakir, Renaldo "Obie" Benson, Lawrence Payton, and The Andantes: Jackie Hicks, Marlene Barrow, and Louvain Demps
- Instrumentation by The Funk Brothers and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (strings)
- Written by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Edward Holland, Jr.
- Produced by Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier
- In 1967, Australian singer Ray Brown (following his split with The Whispers), took his version into the Australian Top 10.
- In 1967 Siw Malmkvist recorded a version in Swedish, "Samma gamla sång".
- In 1971, Jonathan King covered the song with a completely different arrangement under the name The Weathermen and his version reached the UK Top 20 selling over 250,000 copies.
- In 1975, The Armada Orchestra included an instrumental version on their debut self-titled LP.
- In 1978, KC and the Sunshine Band did a disco-based cover of the song. Anticipated to be a big hit as the lead off single from the band's "Who Do Ya Love" album, and on the heels of a succession of hits by the band, the record was a relative flop. It peaked at #35 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart, and at #41 on both Record World's and Cashbox's top singles chart. Bandleader Harry Wayne "KC" Casey sited lack of airplay, especially from R&B outlets, as the source of the record's chart failure. He stated, "[T]he record never got played and… our records go R&B first and then crossover to pop. But this one didn't get the R&B support; it didn't get the airplay.” Casey suggested that -- perhaps due to T.K. Records distribution problems -- the "It's the Same Old Song" single wasn't easily accessible, saying "[W]e’ve had a lot of letters, too, from people who couldn't buy the record anywhere." On May 29, 1978, K.C. and the Sunshine Band performed this song on the TV special "Happy Birthday, Bob," celebrating the 75th birthday of comedian Bob Hope; it was broadcast from the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
- The group appeared in a 1997 Velveeta Shells & Cheese commercial, which first aired in 1996, where they spoofed "It's the Same Old Song", with a song called "It's Not the Same Old Side." This commercial features the group performing in outfits of blue and yellow, to match the colors of the Velveeta Shells & Cheese box.
- The group also appeared in a promo for The Rosie O'Donnell Show, where they also spoofed "It's the Same Old Song", with a song called "It's Not the Same Old Show".
- The song appears in the 1984 Coen Brothers film Blood Simple, in both the 99-minute theatrical release and the 96-minute 2001 and 2008 DVD releases. The song is not featured on the official soundtrack for the film, and is not on the 1995 99-minute VHS release.
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- Konnikova, Maria (2009-07-30). "Copy Shop". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2016-09-29.
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- Whitburn, Joel (2015). The Comparison Book. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Record Research Inc. p. 276. ISBN 978-0-89820-213-7.
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- Beckett, david (March 27, 2013). "Blood Simple – Director's Cut (2013) DVD". Film 365.
- Dennis, Robert (1998). Our Motown Recording Heritage, Part 3: Emergency Release. Recordingeq.com.