Today marks the first in a new series of posts that I hope to continue: Who Did It First?
Many of the songs we enjoy had lives before they were hits. Sometimes, it’s simply a case of the wrong song at the wrong time. Sometimes, it’s sheer luck that something becomes a hit in the first place. Occasionally I’ll dig out songs with far more famous cover versions so that we can see where these things came from, and perhaps argue who did it better, or worse.
For the first entry I go back to the first day of MTV – August 1, 1981. MTV was very much what we’d today call an AOR station in its earliest days – very rock heavy and very white. This song was featured in the first hour of the broadcast, which, again, no one saw – MTV was only available on cable in Secaucus, NJ on its first day, and it’s highly, HIGHLY unlikely that anyone was staring at it at midnight on the day of the launch who didn’t already work there. But the video ran that day, so it can claim to be a part of history.
PhD consisted of Simon Phillips, Tony Hymas, and Jim Diamond, who took the first letters of each of their last names to name the group. Phillips and Hymas were experienced musicians with the Jeff Beck Group, and Diamond did the singing for the band. Their self-titled debut yielded one British chart hit called “I Won’t Let You Down,” which made #3 on the UK charts. The sound is very early-80s-synth-driven rock.
“Little Suzi’s On The Up” went nowhere until five years later, when Tesla took the song, shortened the title, and struck gold. PhD didn’t completely disappear, though – Hymas and Diamond continued to tour the British club circuit until Diamond’s death in late 2015.
You can hear how the song sounded first by clicking here.