It's the Same Old Song

"It's the Same Old Song" is a song recorded by the Four Tops for the Motown label.[2] It was released in 1965 as the second single from their second album. Written and produced by Motown's main production team Holland–Dozier–Holland, the song is today one of The Tops' signature songs, and was reportedly created—from initial concept to commercial release—in 24 hours. It reached No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 2 on the Billboard R&B chart.[3] It also reached number 34 in the UK.[4]

"It's the Same Old Song"
It's the Same Old Song label.jpeg
Single by Four Tops
from the album Four Tops' Second Album
B-side"Baby I Need Your Lovin'" (Netherlands); "Your Love Is Amazing" (selected countries, namely in the West German, American and Australian markets); "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)" (on one copy in the UK)[1]
ReleasedJuly 9, 1965
Format7" single
RecordedHitsville U.S.A. (Studio A); July 8, 1965
GenreSoul, pop
Producer(s)Brian Holland
Lamont Dozier
Four Tops singles chronology
"I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)"
"It's the Same Old Song"
"Something About You"

Writing and recordingEdit

With the recent release of a previously unreleased version of "It's the Same Old Song" recorded by the Supremes, the truth of the events on how the song came together for the Four Tops is put into question. Holland-Dozier-Holland originally wrote and cut a track of "It's the Same Old Song" for the Supremes in May 1965 before the Four Tops' version in July of that year. This first version would remain unreleased until 2017. A second version was cut in a very similar style to the Four Tops' version would be released in 1967 on The Supremes Sing Holland-Dozier-Holland.

After "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)" hit #1 in June 1965, The Four Tops' former label, Columbia Records, wanting to cash in on the group's success, re-released the Tops' 1960 Columbia single "Ain't That Love". Berry Gordy ordered that a new Four Tops single had to be released within a day's time.[5]

At 3:00 PM that afternoon, the Holland brothers and Lamont Dozier wrote "It's the Same Old Song". Four Tops tenor Abdul "Duke" Fakir recalled:

(Songwriter), Lamont Dozier and I were both a little tipsy and he was changing the channels on the radio. He said, 'It sounds like the same old song.' And then he said, "Wait a minute." So he took "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)" and reversed it using the same chord changes. The next day, we went to the studio and recorded it, and then they put it on acetate, shipped it out to disc jockeys across the country."[6]

The engineering team worked around the clock perfecting the single's mix and making hand-cut vinyl records so that Berry Gordy's sister Esther in the Artist Development department could critique them and select the best ones for single release. By 3 P.M. the next day, 1500 copies of "It's the Same Old Song" had been delivered to radio DJs across the country, and the song eventually made it to number five on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and number two on the R&B chart.

"It's the Same Old Song" is very similar in melody and chord progressions to "I Can't Help Myself", which in turn is even more similar in melody and chord progressions to "Where Did Our Love Go" by the Supremes, who covered "It's the Same Old Song" in 1967. Critic Maury Dean disputes that there is much in common with "I Can't Help Myself", saying that it is "a dynamic NEW treatment, with just a hint of Benny Benjamin's thundering drums echoing" "I Can't Help Myself".[7]

Allmusic critic Ron Wynn calls "It's the Same Old Song" "a tidy little number" with "one of the greatest lyrical hooks -- and titles -- ever."[8] Fellow critic Steve Leggett calls it "wise beyond its era."[9]

Pop music writers and bloggers have noted the similarity of the song's main instrumental riff with the marimba riff in the Rolling Stones song "Under My Thumb" which was first released almost a year later, on April 15, 1966, as part of their album Aftermath.[10][11]



Cover versionsEdit

  • Dutch band The Motions had a Dutch Top 10 hit with a slightly different arranged version in 1966.
  • In 1967, Australian singer Ray Brown (following his split with The Whispers), took his version into the Australian Top 10.[citation needed]
  • In 1967 Siw Malmkvist recorded a version in Swedish, "Samma gamla sång".
  • Claude François released a cover version of the song in French, "C'est la meme chanson".
  • In 1971, Jonathan King covered the song with a completely different arrangement under the name The Weathermen and his version reached the UK Top 20 selling over 250,000 copies.[citation needed]
  • In 1975, The Armada Orchestra included an instrumental version on their debut self-titled LP.
  • Dutch band Pussycat's cover version (with the song title shortened to "Same old song") had a Dutch Top 10 hit with it in 1978.
  • In 1978, KC and the Sunshine Band did a disco-based cover of the song. Anticipated to be a big hit as the lead off single from the band's "Who Do Ya Love" album, and on the heels of a succession of hits by the band, the record was a relative flop. It peaked at #35 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart[17], and at #41 on both Record World's[18] and Cashbox's top singles chart.[19] Bandleader Harry Wayne "KC" Casey cited lack of airplay, especially from R&B outlets, as the source of the record's chart failure. He stated, "[T]he record never got played and… our records go R&B first and then crossover to pop. But this one didn't get the R&B support; it didn't get the airplay.”[20] Casey suggested that -- perhaps due to T.K. Records distribution problems -- the "It's the Same Old Song" single wasn't easily accessible, saying "[W]e’ve had a lot of letters, too, from people who couldn't buy the record anywhere."[20] On May 29, 1978, K.C. and the Sunshine Band performed this song on the TV special "Happy Birthday, Bob," celebrating the 75th birthday of comedian Bob Hope; it was broadcast from the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.[21][22]
  • In 1995, The Pietasters included a cover-version on their second album, Oolooloo.


  • The group appeared in a Velveeta Shells & Cheese commercial, where they spoofed "It's the Same Old Song", with a song called "It's Not the Same Old Side." This commercial features the group performing in outfits of blue and yellow, to match the colors of the Velveeta Shells & Cheese box.
  • The group also appeared in a promo for The Rosie O'Donnell Show, where they also spoofed "It's the Same Old Song", with a song called "It's Not the Same Old Show". The song was featured in the 1967 film Thoroughly Modern Millie.
  • The song appears in the 1984 Coen Brothers film Blood Simple, in both the 99-minute theatrical release and the 96-minute 2001 and 2008 DVD releases. The song is not featured on the official soundtrack for the film, and is not on the 1995 99-minute VHS release.[23]


  1. ^ "It's the Same Old Song The Four Tops - 45cat Search". Retrieved 3 October 2014.
  2. ^ Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 25 - The Soul Reformation: Phase two, the Motown story. [Part 4]" (audio). Pop Chronicles. University of North Texas Libraries.
  3. ^ "Four Tops Awards". Allmusic. Retrieved 2014-03-15.
  4. ^ "Four Tops charts". Retrieved 2014-03-16.
  5. ^ Bronson, F. (1997). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits. Billboard Books. p. 209. ISBN 0823076415.
  6. ^ "The Four Tops". Retrieved 3 October 2014.
  7. ^ Dean, M. (2003). Rock 'n' Roll Gold Rush. Algora. p. 164. ISBN 0875862071.
  8. ^ Wynn, R. "Second Album". Allmusic. Retrieved 2014-03-15.
  9. ^ Leggett, S. "The Definitive Collection". Allmusic. Retrieved 2014-03-16.
  10. ^ Konnikova, Maria (2009-07-30). "Copy Shop". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  11. ^ "Oldie of the week – Under my thumb, or It's the same old song (Stones or The Four Tops?) – FOO Law and Economics". 2009-11-07. Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  12. ^ Flory, Andrew. I Hear a Symphony: Motown and crossover R&B, University of Michigan Press, 2017, USA, p56
  13. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  14. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 Singles, September 11, 1965". Archived from the original on May 10, 2015. Retrieved February 25, 2017.
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Cash Box Year-End Charts: Top 100 Pop Singles, December 25, 1965". Archived from the original on May 10, 2017. Retrieved February 25, 2017.
  17. ^ "KC & the Sunshine Band - Chart history". Billboard. Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  18. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2015). The Comparison Book. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Record Research Inc. p. 276. ISBN 978-0-89820-213-7.
  19. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 6/24/78". Retrieved 2017-10-21.
  20. ^ a b "". Retrieved 2017-10-21.
  21. ^ Wynn, Bob (1978-05-29), Happy Birthday, Bob, Bob Hope, Lynn Anderson, Ann-Margret, retrieved 2017-10-21
  22. ^ DavEvans066 (2015-05-15), KC & The Sunshine Band – "It's The Same Old Song", retrieved 2017-10-21
  23. ^ Beckett, david (March 27, 2013). "Blood Simple – Director's Cut (2013) DVD". Film 365.


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