Money (That's What I Want)

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"Money (That's What I Want)"
Single by Barrett Strong
B-side "Oh I Apologize"
Released August 1959
  • 45rpm
  • 78rpm
Genre Rhythm and blues
Length 2:39
Barrett Strong singles chronology
"Let's Rock"
"Money (That's What I Want)"
"Yes, No Maybe So"

"Money (That's What I Want)" is a 1959 song by Barrett Strong for the Tamla label, distributed nationally on Anna Records. It was written by Tamla founder Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford and became the first hit record for Gordy's Motown enterprise. It went on to be covered by many artists, including the Beatles in 1963 and the Flying Lizards in 1979.


The song was originally released on Tamla in August 1959.[1] Anna Records was operated by Gwen Gordy, Anna Gordy and Roquel "Billy" Davis. Gwen and Anna's brother Berry Gordy had just established his Tamla label (soon Motown would follow) and licensed the song to the Anna label in 1960, which was distributed nationwide by Chicago-based Chess Records in order to meet demand; the Tamla record was a resounding success in the Midwest. The song features Strong curtly demanding that money is what he needs, more than anything else. In the US, the single became Motown's first hit in June 1960, making it to number 2 on the Hot R&B Sides chart and number 23 on the Billboard Hot 100.[2] The song was listed as #288 on Rolling Stone's "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time." Greil Marcus has pointed out that "Money" was the only song that brought Strong's name near the top of the national music charts, "but that one time has kept him on the radio all his life."[3]

Piano and lead vocals were supplied by Barrett. Guitar on the track was played by Eugene Grew.[4]

Virtually all of the records issued were 45's, the 10" 78 format, issued by Anna, is described as "extremely rare."[5]

Writing credits dispute[edit]

Singer Barrett Strong claims that he co-wrote the song with Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford. His name was removed from the copyright registration three years after the song was written, restored in 1987 when the copyright was renewed, and then excised again the next year. Gordy has stated that Strong's name was only included because of a clerical error.[4]

Cover versions[edit]

The song has been covered by many artists, with several of the versions reaching positions in a variety of charts. For example, the Kingsmen reached number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 6 in the US R&B charts in 1964,[6][7] Jennell Hawkins hit number 17 in the R&B charts with her recording in 1962.[8] Jr. Walker & the All Stars reached number 52 on the Hot 100 and number 35 on the R&B charts in 1966[9] and Bern Elliott and the Fenmen reached number 14 on the UK Singles Chart.[10] The best known cover versions were performed by the Beatles and by the Flying Lizards, whose version peaked at number 22 on the US dance charts.[11]

The song was a staple for British beat bands, including the Searchers, the Undertakers, Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes and the Rolling Stones.[12] It was also covered by Freddie and the Dreamers and John Lee Hooker.[13] The song was covered during live performances by the Doors and appears twice on their 2009 released album Live in New York, which covers four sets from January 1970.[14] It also appears on their live album Live in Vancouver 1970 and the bootleg album Boot Yer Butt: The Doors Bootlegs.[15][16]

The Beatles[edit]

Song by The Beatles from the album With the Beatles
Released November 22, 1963
Recorded July 18, 1963
Genre Rock
Length 2:47
Label Parlophone
Producer George Martin
Music sample

The Beatles recorded "Money" in seven takes on July 18, 1963, with their usual lineup. A series of piano overdubs was later added by producer George Martin. The song was released in November 1963 as the final track on their second UK album, With the Beatles.[17]

According to George Harrison, the group discovered Strong's version in Brian Epstein's NEMS record store (though not a hit in the UK, it had been issued on London Records in 1960). They had previously performed it during their audition at Decca Records on January 1, 1962, with Pete Best still on drums at the time. They also recorded it six times for BBC radio. A live version, taped at a concert date in Stockholm, Sweden in October 1963, was included on Anthology 1.[17]


The Flying Lizards[edit]

Single by The Flying Lizards
from the album The Flying Lizards
B-side "Money B"
Released 13 July 1979
Genre New wave[18]
Length 2:31
Label Virgin
Producer(s) David Cunningham
Certification Silver (BPI)[19]

In July 1979 British band the Flying Lizards released a new wave version of the song. An unexpected hit,[20] this version peaked at number 5 in the UK and at number 50 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also peaked at number 22 on the US dance charts.