For Old Time's Sake, Man!

Published March 30, 2012


If you were born in the Sixties, like I was, it’s a good chance that you'll remember the song ‘Hello, This Is Joannie’, which was a hit in 1978. And if you’re an Elvis fan, like I am, you might be familiar with songs such as ‘I Gotta Know’, which was the B-side of ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’ but also a hit in its own right, and ‘The Next Step Is Love’, a classic song recorded in 1970. And if you’re a fan of John Waters, which I am, you may be familiar with the movie Pecker, which featured a 1960 hit entitled ‘Happy-Go-Lucky-Me’ on its soundtrack.

So, what has all this got to do with ABBA? Well, all the above songs were written and/or recorded by American singer Paul Evans, and are just a random selection of his many accomplishments. And what, exactly, does he have to do with ABBA? Well, as regular readers of this blog will be aware, I’ve run a little series of “pre-ABBA songs by Andersson & Ulvaeus recorded by prominent international artists”. First there was Lonnie Donegan’s recording of ‘I Lost My Heart On The 5.42’, and then there was Andy Williams’ version of ‘If We Only Had The Time’. To tell you the truth, though, I had sort of given up on stumbling across any more such examples.

However, a couple of weeks ago I was going through some old cuttings when I was reminded of a statement made by Björn and Benny in a 1972 interview. They talked about their 1970 hit ‘Hej gamle man!’ (“Hey, Old Man!”) and mentioned that it had been recorded by “some country guy” in America. Well, did you think I was going to be satisfied with that tiny morsel of information? Of course not! I contacted a friend at Universal Music Publishing who informed me that the “country guy” in question was Paul Evans, that the English lyrics were written by Evans in collaboration with Paul Parnes, that their version was entitled ‘For Old Time’s Sake’, and that the song was released as the B-side of Paul Evans' single ‘Think Summer’ on Laurie Records in 1971.

I quickly realised that the song wasn’t available on CD, but fortunately I found a copy of the single on eBay. But what was the back story of the song? Contrary to the present-day situation, Swedish pop songs were not high currency in the international music business in the early Seventies, so I was curious how the recording came about. Of course, knowing that Stig Anderson made every effort to have Andersson/Ulvaeus songs published and recorded by foreign artists, I had a hunch how it may have come about. Paul Evans himself was kind enough to fill in the blanks. “[Music publisher] Stanley Mills (September Music) got the American rights from Stig at a MIDEM convention and asked Paul Parnes and I to write the English lyric,” Evans wrote in an e-mail. “I recorded the song for Laurie Records. Of course, at the time I had no idea who Benny and Björn were (or were going to be).”

Naturally, as the B-side of a single that was not a hit (as far as I’ve been able to ascertain), the song probably didn’t make much of an impression at the time. The British release of the single on the London label in 1971 also failed to chart. But now, more than four decades later, ‘For Old Time’s Sake’ has one definite claim to historical fame: as far as I can tell, it’s the earliest recording of an Andersson/Ulvaeus song by an American or British artist – it might even be the earliest non-Scandinavian recording for all I know. Please feel free to correct me if some cover version of ‘Isn’t It Easy To Say’ or ‘A Flower In My Garden’ has slipped my mind!

Click here to listen to Paul Evans’ recording of ‘For Old Time’s Sake’. It’s a bit different to the original in that it cuts the number of verses in half: instead of two verses before each chorus, Evans and Parnes obviously felt one was quite enough, and placed all their bets on the catchy chorus (except towards the end of the song, where there are indeed two verses before the last chorus).

“I know that Stanley wouldn't have taken the song nor would Paul Parnes and I have agreed to write the lyrics if we didn't love it,” Paul Evans concludes. “I guess we were all good talent spotters.”

Click here to visit the official Paul Evans site.