Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Let's Live For Today

I got this email about a week ago ... I always find it interesting how new people continue to discover Forgotten Hits every single day, depending on what they may be searching for ... even if it's an article we did way back in 2009!!!  

Hello Kent -  
I must respectfully disagree with much of the background you wrote about the song "Let's Live For Today". 
Back in the late 1990's I began digging into the background of the Grass Roots favorite of mine. It took a couple of years, but once all the evidence was gathered, I was able to piece together my own take on the song's background, with input from some of the Rokes themselves, Bobby Posner and Mike Shepstone, among others. Their telling of the song's background differs greatly from what you wrote about it. First of all, the Rokes started off as a British group who found a home in Italy. The Living Daylights were not from New York, they were from the UK.  
Rather than try and retell the entire story in this e-mail, you can read my story about it here:   
The finished product was originally published on Bob Shannon's web site in April, 2003. Bob himself initially inspired the digging, whereas I found the pieces and pieced them all together.  
Fred Clemens   

I reviewed Fred's analysis ... honestly, I don't know that it's all that different than mine ... other than one obvious error on my part (the origins of a group called The Living Daylights), I think we pretty much tell the exact same story ... but since we're always in pursuit of "the most accurate truth" I wanted to share it with you today as a means to better explain the history of this song ... released SEVERAL times before The Grass Roots' version finally caught on here in The United States.   

Click here: Forgotten Hits: Let's Live For Today

My piece was designed to be short and to the point ... almost a "script", if you will, for Scott Shannon to use on his True Oldies Channel Rock And Roll Remakes Weekend (which we plugged as part of the original posting.)  

Fred's goes into far more detail (and takes the topic FAR more seriously than WE did!  lol) ... but most of this can be attributed to LOTS of label and foreign release information.  (For the most part, the general HISTORY of the song is pretty identical.)  On the plus side, he also had the opportunity to interview members of The Rokes, whereas my piece was culled from my own research on the topic.  (Ironically, Fred's piece ran on DJ BOB Shannon's website as one of those "Stories Behind The Hits" type features.)     

Fred starts out by chronicling the "roots" and evolution of The Grass Roots ... no arguments here.   

He states:  The Grassroots (original spelling) started out as a studio concoction made of primarily of its producers, Steve Barri and P.F. Sloan.  the "group" was beginning to have some success with a song called "Where Were You When I Needed You", so a real group was needed in an effort to promote the song.  After some searching, which included a west coast group calling themselves the Bedouins, a group called the Thirteenth Floor (not to be confused with The Thirteenth Floor Elevators) was chosen to fill the group's identity.  Headed by lead singer Rob Grill, the group was filled out by Warren Entner, Creed Bratton and Rick Coonce.   

OK, I agree with all of that so far ... and will even take it a step further.  Reportedly the original Grass Roots version of "Where Were You When I Needed You" (it was actually first recorded by Herman's Hermits as part of their "Hold On" film soundtrack nearly a year before) was sung by singer / songwriter P.F. Sloan.  He and co-writer Steve Barri recorded the track with a bunch of studio musicians (including several members of The Wrecking Crew) in 1965.  

The duo had achieved some earlier success as The Fantastic Baggys but never intended to take their efforts beyond the studio walls.  After the record became a hit, however, it became imperative to find a band to tour as "The Grass Roots" in order to cash in on this new-found success.  Once The Bedouins were recruited to "masquerade" as The Grass Roots for live appearances (after a series of auditions held at The Whisky A-Go-Go), they cut the song again, this time with lead singer Bill Fulton handling the lead vocal.  (They also found work as Barry McGuire's back-up band, a fellow Dunhill Records artist hot at the time with his #1 Hit "Eve Of  Destruction".  In fact, if you're ever able to catch Barry McGuire's appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show", that's The Bedouins version of The Grass Roots backing him up on stage!)  

When The Bedouins started complaining about having no control over the direction of their career, they were dumped and replaced by Rob Grill and company (known then as the above-mentioned Thirteenth Floor) ... who recorded the track for a THIRD time for use on The Grass Roots' first album.  (It is the Rob Grill version that has been commercially available ever since.)    

So that's the group history in a very quick nutshell.  (For more on this ... and an INCREDIBLY in-depth interview with several of the members of The Grass Roots who passed through their revolving door line-up over the years, we STRONGLY recommend the Jeff March / Marti Smiley Childs book "Where Have All The Pop Stars Gone? Volume 2".  I should point out that it was the record label, Dunhill Records, who owned the name "The Grass Roots", which is how they were able to bestow it on so many variations of the band in these early years.)   

Our 2009 report states:  The song that we all know today as "Let's Live For Today" was originally recorded in Italian by a group called The Rokes ... they released it as "Piangi Con Me" ("Cry With Me") which, I guess, got a fair amount of airplay in Italy back in 1965.  Fred's article concurs with this so far.

Then a group called The Skope (according to Fred Clemens, from The Netherlands) heard the song and attempted to do a literal English translation of the lyrics ... all of a sudden "Piangi Con Me" became "Be Mine Again". They released THAT as a single ... and it quickly proceeded to bomb.  Clemens, however, states that the record charted at #36 on The Dutch Charts in January of 1967 ... but I've not seen any documentation of this claim ... nor does he offer it in his article.

Here's where we start to differ.  In 2009, I wrote:  Next, a New York group called The Living Daylights liked the melody enough to re-write the lyrics and, for the very first time, "Piangi Con Me" and "Be Mine Again" became "Let's Live For Today". Although The Living Daylights record got a little bit of airplay in New York City ... enough to make it a Top Ten Hit on the WOR Survey (see below), it STILL wasn't a hit nationally, as most people outside the New York market never had a chance to hear the song.

Apparently THIS is incorrect information ... despite charting Top Ten on WOR in New York, The Living Daylights were NOT a New York-based band ... but rather another group from England.  Clemens reports that (per chart guru Randy Price, who we consult with regularly), WOR simply chose to play The Living Daylights' version of the song over The Grass Roots' hit ... despite this fact, it never really made much of a dent on the national US charts.

But quite honestly that's the ONLY discrepancy I've been able to find ... so I'm not quite sure I understand why Fred wrote "I must respectfully disagree with much of the background you wrote about the song."  What else about our report do you disagree with?  We pretty much cover everything you did, point for point.  (If I'm missing something here, please let me know ... 'cause I just don't see it!)  Again ... our goal is to present "the most accurate truth possible" ... so the LAST thing I want to do is post incorrect information ... but I can't find another single discrepancy!   

Fred Clemens states:  It was only a couple of months later that The Rokes decided on an English language version of their now Italian classic.  That song would be called "Passing Thru Grey".  After recording the tune, it was decided by their publisher in London (Dick James Music) that the lyrics were in need of a change.  So, with some new words by the publisher's writing staff, "Let's Live For Today" was born.  The Rokes recorded the song expecting to have it released in the UK right away.  But somehow or other, the song came into the hands of another group from the UK, The Living Daylights, first.  The Living Daylights were a band from Newcastle.  In early 1967, The Living Daylights' version saw release on the Philips label.  It is said that this was the version that got the attention of Grass Roots member Warren Entner, who happened to be in Europe at the time.   

Here's where Fred Clemens loses me ...   

In comparing The Living Daylights' version and arrangement to the one recorded by The Grass Roots, he states that he finds "little comparison in terms of arrangement and style.  In fact, I'd have to say that The Grass Roots version more emulates The Rokes arrangement and sound than The Living Daylights version.  The problem is that The Rokes' English version had yet to be released! 

Clemens then goes on to speculate (his word, not mine) on how The Rokes' new version of the song may have come into the hands of Warren Entner and The Grass Roots.  In that on at least three occasions during the course of his article Clemens admits "this is entirely speculation on my part", I'm not quite sure how he can justify stating that HIS version of the story is far more definitive than mine ... but I will acknowledge the fact that there IS a lot more detail offered in the way of foreign pressings and variations between these recordings in his accounting ... so it's still highly recommended if you're looking to piece together more details regarding this song's convoluted origins!  

My article states that somewhere between the time that The Living Daylights' version started getting airplay and charting in America and The Grass Roots' hit version was released, The Rokes went back into the studio and cut ANOTHER new version of their song ... in English this time ... calling it "Let's Live For Today" as the song had now come to be known.  (Clemens says The Rokes re-recorded their English version BEFORE The Living Daylights cut their take ... but that it sat in the can for a while, eventually being released AFTER The Living Daylights' version started to circulate.  The exact timeline of these events may be tough to ever prove or ascertain ... suffice to say that BOTH versions seemed to appear at right around the same time.)

Regardless, this version unfortunately bombed, too!  (Thanks to the three-strikes-and-you're-out rule, The Rokes were virtually never heard from again ... despite being the FIRST band to actually record SOME version of this classic '60's hit!)  It did see release here in The States, however, on the RCA Record label, which Fred shows in his in-depth article.  The Living Daylights' version was pressed as Buddah Records #2 ... and The Grass Roots' hit version was released a short while later on Dunhill.  

HYSTERICAL SIDENOTE:  Under the heading of WAY too much information, some time back a famed Chicagoland sportscaster shared with all of our Forgotten Hits Readers that he lost his virginity to this tune!!!  (Now THAT's a "Coppock's Topic" for a whole 'nother day!!!  lol)  

But wait!!! Believe it or not, there's even MORE to this story!!!  

Way back in 1961 The Drifters recorded a song called "I Count The Tears" ... give a listen to THIS tune and see if the chorus doesn't sound just a little vaguely familiar.  

According to Carl Wiser's Songfacts website (, who interviewed Geoffrey J. Felder, son of legendary songwriter Doc Pomus (who WROTE "I Count The Tears" for The Drifters), his father never pursued any type of legal action against any of the parties involved with the various recorded versions of the song we all know and love as "Let's Live For Today". Here's what he had to say about it on the Songfacts site:   

The "Sha-la-la" chorus is very similar to The Drifters' hit "I Count the Tears," which Pomus and Shuman wrote. Pomus was upset about the obvious similarity, and even though lawyers called him to suggest that he should sue, he did not. The main reason was because he was not that kind of person. If you were a thief and stole from him, as long as he could still support himself and his family (and no one was physically injured of course) he would let it go. He felt that you'd get what you deserved in the end. The other reason was that at the time the song was released he was under contract with Hill & Range (later to become Warner / Chappell) and they would have had the authority to sue and not him.   
-- Geoffrey J. Felder, son of Doc Pomus  

Clemens disputes this connection as well.  He states:   

Some insist that the hook (Sha-La-La-La-La-La) was stolen from The Drifters' tune from 1961, "I Count The Tears" ... But Bobby Posner of The Rokes assures me that this is merely a coincidence.  An even odder coincidence would be a different song of the same title ("Let's Live For Today") also using "Sha-La-La"'s as part of the lyric that was also done back around 1961.  The group was called Robby Robber and the Hi-Jackers and was released on a Coronet LP "Let's Twist Again".  Again Clemens won't commit to a definitive correlation:  "I'll leave you to speculate on that one."  

Listen to both tracks and see what YOU think ... I'm sticking with MY original theory that it was The Drifters' track that most inspired the creation of "Let's Live For Today".  (Actual this one's a no-brainer if you ask me!!!)

Oh yeah, one more thing ... (as if all of this isn't already complicated enough) ...   

Did you know that there are actually TWO sets of lyrics sung on The Grass Roots' hit version? Original pressings featured the lyrics "I need to feel you inside me / deep inside me".  Deemed just a little too explicit for 1967 radio, an edited, "cleaned-up" version was quickly put together changing the lyrics to "beside me", which became the most-common, "accepted" version of the hit.  Apparently, however, the two different vocal mixes were unintentionally used for the mono and stereo pressings of their "Let's Live For Today" LP without the label realizing that they'd mixed the tracks.  Because of this, mono pressings of the LP say "I need to feel you ..." "inside me" / "deep inside of me" while stereo versions of the same LP say "beside me"!!!  (Naturally, we've got both of THOSE tracks for you here today, too!)

Sadly, we lost Rob Grill in 2011 after a long illness from which he never really recovered.  Those last years were NOT easy ones for him ... but his recorded legacy will live on for my decades to come.  Rob's wife Nancy posted this announcement the day he died ... ironically listening to the song "Let's Live For Today" at the moment he passed!   

My dear husband Robert Frank Grill, 67, of Mt Dora, Fl, passed away peacefully in my arms at 11:37 a.m. (EST), while listening to one of his favorite songs ... "Let's Live For Today."  He loved his fans and he loved The Grass Roots! 
Thank you for all of your prayers, love and support during this time.
Nancy Grill