One Song/Three Versions – I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself

Wherein I provide a tune and a couple of alternatives to show how other artists approach it. 

“I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” was written in 1961 or ’62 by the towering team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. It was originally recorded by a “lost-to-musical-history” guy named Tommy Hunt. But the first hit version of this song was recorded by big-haired Brit songmeister, Dusty Springfield. (More a hit in the UK than in the States I think though we otherwise loved Dusty.)

Bacharach and David initially gained fame and success by writing songs for Dionne Warwick in this time period. And in fact, Warwick did a version of this song a few years later which is terrific. But in these posts, I typically like to use either the original or the first big hit version (assuming there was one.) Released in 1964, this was Dusty’s third UK hit:

Spotify link

In 2003, the White Stripes released their acclaimed album Elephant which included their even more desperate-sounding slash-and-burn version of the tune. Apparently, it was Meg’s idea to record it and Jack took it and ran to the dark end of the street with it. I guarantee you the great majority of people think Jack wrote this:

Spotify link

Ok, so now how about a powerhouse chugging version of this tune from Cissy Houston that brings it all together? Wikipedia: After a successful career singing backup (with Sweet Inspirations) for such artists as Dionne Warwick, Elvis Presley, and Aretha Franklin, Houston embarked on a solo career, winning two Grammy Awards for her work. Houston is the mother of singer Whitney Houston, aunt of singers Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick, and a cousin of opera singer Leontyne Price.

I should also note that the Sweet Inspirations sang back-up on Dusty Springfield’s classic Dusty in Memphis album (including “Son of a Preacher Man”) and Jimi Hendrix’ (!) “Burning of the Midnight Lamp” from Electric Ladyland. Oh, and Van Morrison’s “Brown-Eyed Girl.”

Here’s Cissy. Now we know where Whitney got her pipes:

Spotify link

31 thoughts on “One Song/Three Versions – I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself

  1. The first and only version i have heard of this tune was Elvis Costello’s. I got it way back on an album called ‘Stiffs Live’. It was when Elvis first came on the scene. I dug it back then and still do. Then years later he and Bacharach hooked up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. More synchronicity. I never heard his version. I listened to it after you mentioned it. Good stuff in that tortured Elvis way. Stiffs Live, eh? Sounds like some of my early dates.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I couldn’t read back then so i didn’t get into all the Elvis bullshit. All I knew was he made good music. I wonder how many people knew he was singing Bacharach/David songs.
        I seem to know a little of your dating habits from a specific book. ‘Party Of One’ sounds like an apt title.

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        1. Hah! Funny. I wouldn’t conflate me with my character 100% any more than I would think you were, oh I don’t know, an alcoholic cop. Little bits of us in there but..

          BTW, as producer of the movie for my book (I promoted you) how goes the financing and casting? I already shot down Dano as too good-looking to play me. I thought of Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill but they’re just too damn sexy. Hey, how old is Big Earl? Does he act?

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Yo’re right. I don’t make a habit of kissing guys in dresses like certain alcoholic cops.

          Earl’s a bad actor in real life but it doesn’t transfer to the screen. H e just won’t listen. Now that I’ve been promoted to producer I will get on those issues.

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        1. Oddly, I hadn’t heard – or don’t remember hearing – any version prior to theirs. To my recollection it was never a hit in the States .

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        2. Yeah, she was pretty big here, just not that song. I’m not sure if it wasn’t released here or what. I think I’ve talked to the UK Tony about the discrepancy in the US/UK charts, even for popular artists. I suppose that carries over to Australia as well. It’s mysterious but sometimes songs resonate here and not there or vice-versa.

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  2. I have the original Tommy Hunt version on my Bacharach box set, which is similar to Dusty’s rendition. I’ll totally pass on the White Stripes’ grating alt-rock version. But Cissy Houston’s soulful take kicks butt! Wow. A great song can come alive with a great performer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Geez, I had to go look up Tommy Hunt. Guess what? He’s not nobody. He was a member of the Flamingos, a ’50’s group most famous for “I Only Have Eyes for You.” They are members of your favorite organization, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 🙂 How about that? I listened to his version. It’s good.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for the tip, I didn’t know that about Hunt, or the Flamingos. The Bacharach collection is amazing. It’s 3 discs that collect well-known songs (Warwick, Springfield, etc.) with obscurities by folks like Hunt, and bigger names like Marty Robbins, Perry Como, Trini Lopez, Shangri La’s (the original “Baby, It’s You,” later covered by four lads from Liverpool). One of us needs to do a comprehensive piece on Burt.

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  3. Man, that Cissy Houston version is ace! There are so many versions of this one… always very good, too (with the exception of The White Stripes).

    First one I heard was Warwick’s, I think. But I always liked Dusty’s until I heard tune Big Maybelle. Hands down my favourite version.

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        1. I can’t quite remember how I got to Big Maybelle, but she’s pretty brilliant, eh? Everything she does is real deep and soulful… what a voice!

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Hm. I’m gonna give it to Cissy on this one, though it’s a close run with the original. I used to dig the ‘Stripes version but I’ve got less and less time for Jack these days.

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    1. I seem to be the lone Stripes supporter on thus one. I still like that band and want to go back and create a Spotify list. I like how Jack jacked up the blues for a post-,punk generation.

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      1. Yeah I used to really like em but I think it boils down to being unable to separate art from artist that turns me off these days (which is where my failed blog headed into a diatribe on). Icky Thump contains some betters though – 300mph Outpour Blues especially

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        1. Sure but if we applied that metric to our beloved artists, then from Mozart to Elvis to Lennon to Woody Allen to, well, you name them, we’d have to reject their art based on their general assholiness. So unless someone’s a serial killer or a Harvey Weinstein, I can only give them the benefit of the doubt.

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        2. A fair point. There are some complete knobjockeys in the game and I suppose while he’s a tad of a berk he’s not offensive. I should lighten up a little

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        3. “Knobjockey,” “berk.” I say old boy, great vocabulary. (I’m positive you never say “I say old boy” but I prefer to believe that you do.)

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