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10 Famous Songs That Were Somehow Recorded In A Single Take –

 

When it comes to famous songs, it’s incredibly easy to forget just how much work goes into their creation. In general, each instrument is recorded on its own track, repeatedly tweaked and altered as the recording process progresses, in order to get the absolutely perfect sound.

Then there are the vocals. Because vocals come from humans, their ability to repeatedly sound awful is quite incredible. Whether the singer’s voice is tired or strained or it’s simply not hitting the notes it’s supposed to, laying down a worthy vocal track can often take hours. Which makes it all the more amazing, then, that there are famous songs out there that were recorded in a single take.

That’s the vocals and instrumentation perfected on the first attempt, spawning some of the most popular hits the music industry has ever seen. From Elvis recording what’s often regarded as the first ever rock-and-roll record to Radiohead playing music in an eerie, abandoned mansion, these are the artists that got it incredibly right on the first go.

 

10. The Beatles – Twist And Shout

 

 

Of course The Beatles were going to be on this list. The band is so legendary and recorded such a massive amount of material that it was almost certain they’d record a song in a single take. Nevertheless it’s still wildly impressive, especially when you hear the context.

Twist And Shout is a 1961 song that was originally written by Phil Medley and Bert Berns. It was recorded for The Beatles’ 1963 debut record Please Please Me, and went on to become one of their most beloved hits.

On the day of recording, John Lennon was suffering from a terrible cold, drinking milk and sucking cough drops in an attempt to try and soothe his throat. Producer George Martin knew that Twist And Shout would be particularly harsh on Lennon’s vocals, and so the song was the last song on the album to be recorded. In fact, by the time they got round to it, the band only had fifteen minutes left in the studio.

Recording the song was a do or die situation. Twist And Shout was recorded in a single take, after which Lennon’s voice was absolutely wrecked. George Martin tried to get the band to record a second take for safety, but Lennon’s voice just couldn’t handle it. And if you think that’s impressive, the whole album was eleven songs in total, recorded in just ten hours.

 

9. The Animals – The House Of The Rising Sun

 

 

Surely the recording of this song must have garnered one of the greatest amounts of profit for the least amount of work in the history of music. Can you imagine creating a song as beloved and iconic as The House Of The Rising Sun in just a single take? That’s exactly what British band The Animals did in 1964.

Of course, The Animals’ version of the song is a variation of the traditional folk song Rising Sun Blues, but it’s still an insanely impressive feat. The song was recorded on the 18th May 1964, and it begins with guitarist Hilton Valentine playing an A minor chord arpeggio, a chord arpeggio which is now incredibly famous. At the time, there was quite a lot of opposition to recording the song, as it clocked in at four and a half minutes, which was regarded as much too long for a pop single.

In the end, though, the song was recorded in a quick studio session between shows while the band was on tour with Chuck Berry. In less than fifteen minutes one of the greatest songs in the history of music was made.

8. Radiohead – Bodysnatchers

 

 

To describe a Radiohead album as critically acclaimed seems a little bit redundant at this point, but nevertheless their 2007 album In Rainbows was praised around the world for its incredible array of songs (it was also the first example of a mainstream artist releasing an album as a pay-what-you-want download).

The single Bodysnatchers was released in 2008 and became the band’s highest charting single in American since Creep in 1993. The recording circumstances, however, are particularly unique. Not only was the song recorded in a single take like the rest of the songs on this list, it was recorded at a dilapidated mansion.

According to the album’s producer Nigel Godrich, he believed that putting the band in an uncomfortable setting would create a unique atmosphere for recording. This is something of a throwback to the Ok Computer recording sessions, which took place at the St. Catherine’s Court mansion in Bath, Somerset.

Interestingly, the two albums are also linked in another way. It’s strongly believed that splicing the tracks from each album together with a ten-second cross-fade creates a single, coherent super-album.

 

7. 2Pac – Hail Mary

 

 

 

 

 

Hail Mary is notable for being the last single released by 2Pac from his final album The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory (at the time, Tupac was going by the new alias Makaveli). But what’s even more notable is how fast the song was written and recorded.

Though many of the songs on this list were recorded quickly, there was still an extremely laboured writing process, or the song was simply a cover of an already-written song. Not in the case of Hail Mary, however, which was apparently written and recorded in less than a single hour.

Apparently it took 2Pac about fifteen minutes to write the song, and the beat was created by producer Hurt-M-Badd in around five. After that, all that remained was for 2Pac to capture it, which he did in a single take, switching the location of the song’s hook moments before recording.

 

6. U2 – Elvis Presley And America

 

 

 

 

This one is a little bit sneaky. According to Bono, he believed that his recording of Elvis Presley And America (which is found on U2’s 1984 album The Unforgettable Fire) was simply a first draft, and that it could be improved upon later. Producer Brian Eno, however, had a different idea.

Eno encouraged Bono to improvise a bunch of lyrics while he listened to the some music for the first time. The music in question was an altered variation of the music found on A Sort Of Homecoming, the album’s opening track.

Unbeknownst to Bono, Eno was attempting to capture something utterly raw and spontaneous, and used this first take for the final product.

 

 

5. Bob Dylan – Rain Day Women 12 & 35

 

 

 

When it first released, Rainy Day Women 12 & 35 was massively controversial. During the 60s, songs featuring extensive drug references were extremely taboo, so it’s understandable why the chorus €œeverybody must get stoned might be considered a little out there. Nevertheless the song is one of Bob Dylan’s most beloved hits, and its recording has spawned a massive legacy in and of itself.

The recording took place in Columbia’s Nashville studio on March 10th 1966 and features a massive array of instrumentation, from tuba to trombone to piano, bass and drums. Really, it’s one of those songs that just can’t be described adequately with words, and demands to be listened to.

In essence, it sounds like there are about fifty people in the recording booth at once, playing music, shouting randomly and having a lot of fun. The story goes that the song was recorded in a single take, with every musician smoking a huge amount of marijuana before playing in order to get suitably stoned.

Listening to the song, it’s not difficult to believe that some of the musicians might be in a slightly…different…frame of mind.

 

4. Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes

One take, two Grammy Awards €“ now that’s impressive. Bette Davis Eyes is a song originally written by Donna Weiss and Jackie DeShannon, but it was massively popularised by American singer Kim Carnes (whose other hits include More Love, Crazy In The Night (Barking At Airplanes) and I’ll Be Here Where The Heart Is).

Carnes recorded her version of Bette Davis Eyes in 1981 in just a single take, and it spent nine weeks at the number one position on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. In fact, it was Billboard’s biggest single of the entire year.

Produced by Val Garay and taken from the album Mistaken Identity, the song won the Grammy Awards for both Record of the Year and Song of the Year. Talk about instant success.

 

3. Elvis Presley – That’s All Right

 

 

Elvis Presley…the King of Rock and Roll. He’s an artist that needs absolutely no introduction, regarded as one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century. What you might not know, however, is that the first single he ever released (titled That’s All Right) was recorded in just a single take.

That’s All Right was originally written by Arthur Big Boy Crudup, an American Delta blues singer. Elvis’s version of the song was recorded at Sun Studios on 5th July 1954. Elvis, guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black were taking a break between recordings when Elvis began to play around with a more up-tempo version of the song. Moore and Black joined in, and producer Sam Philips suddenly became interested, asking the trio to start again so that he could record it.

In 2004, Rolling Stone speculated that Elvis’s recording of the song was technically the first rock-and-roll record ever.

 

 

2. Eminem – Lose Yourself

 

 

Kim Carnes may have won two Grammy Awards for Bette Davis Eyes, but Eminem managed to bag an Oscar for his song. Released in 2002 from the soundtrack to the film 8 Mile, Lose Yourself was massively acclaimed, and won the Academy Award for Best Original Song (making it the first rap song to ever win the award).

Since then, the song has gone on to be regarded as one of the greatest hip hop songs of all time. So how was it recorded?

According to a Rolling Stone interview with the song’s engineer and mixer Steve King, Eminem (who wrote the song on set during breaks during filming) had been unable to spend much time in the studio due to filming commitments, and was desperate to lay the song out.

When it finally came time to record, Eminem did all three verses perfectly in just a single take, shocking everyone in the studio (it’s not uncommon for rap songs to be recorded in sections due to their high demand on the artist’s vocals).

 

 

1. The Velvet Underground – Sister Ray

 

What’s more impressive than recording a wildly successful single in a single four or five minute take? Recording a wildly celebrated song about drug use, violence and homosexuality in a single seventeen-and-a-half minute take.

That’s exactly what American rock band The Velvet Underground did for their 1968 album White Light/White Heat. It’s pretty incredible across seventeen minutes the band details an entire narrative that contains eight characters and features transvestites, an orgy and an encounter with the police.

Before recording the massively long song, the band decided on using a single take, accepting whatever faults might occur during recording. Apparently the recording engineer was so overwhelmed by what he perceived to be absurd that he walked out of the booth, refusing to listen to the material, and asking the band to come get him when they were finished.

 

 

 

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