Addendum / Songlines: ‘Need your Love so Bad’

I recently had cause to take another look into Fleetwood Mac’s recording of ‘Need Your Love So Bad’ and the amount of information that is available now, as compared to what I had been able to cobble together when writing my books, (going back more than twenty years ago) is striking.

The new information, while still leaving some open questions, does provide a tremendous amount of context that I thought I would share. 

Little Willie John’s original recording of the song was released as the B-side to ‘Home at Last’, released near the end of 1955 as the follow-up to his debut hit, a cover of Titus Turner’s ‘All Around the World’,

The B-side proved far more popular with the record buying public (and most likely the DJs) and the song reached Number Five on the Billboard R & B charts early the next year. *

Little Willie John

Mickey Baker: guitar / Milton Hinton: bass /

Calvin Shields: drums / Robert “Bubber” Johnson: piano /

Willis Jackson & David Van Dyke: tenor saxophones / Reuben Phillips: baritone saxophone

Released, A-side King single (1955)

Little Willie John – Need Your Love So Bad –

Despite its chart position, it would be five years before the first cover appeared. 

This was a by Soul-Jazz singer Dakota Stanton, appearing on her LP “Sings Ballads and the Blues” (which also included a horn-heavy take on Willie Dixon’s ‘My Babe’)

Another four years would pass before Irma Thomas cut a more R & B oriented version for the Imperial label.  This version, and ‘Time Is On My Side’ were released in the U.K. on a four song EP in October of 1965.

Note: these two versions were the first to place the subject pronoun “I” in the title.

Irma Thomas

Unknown musicians

Recorded and released on “I Wish Someone Would Care” (Imperial 1964)

Irma Thomas – I Need Your Love So Bad –

Thomas left New Orleans to record these songs and the rest of her first Imperial LP in Los Angeles with some of the finest session musicians on the West Coast; unfortunately, I have been unable to find any information as to who they might have been.  (Additional information welcome)

In 1966, Soul singer, Sonny Knight covered the song as the A-side of a single on World Pacific.

The arrangement was radically different from the previous recordings, notable especially as the first to use strings in the arrangement.

So, three covers in thirteen years and then, for reasons unknow, five covers of the song were released in quick succession in 1968, three as singles.

First out of the box was Solomon Burke, releasing the song as the B-side to ‘Party People’ in February of that year.

James Brown and the Famous Flames released the song on their LP “I Can’t Stand Myself When You Touch Me” in March.

April saw journeyman Soul singer Ted Taylor release a version as the A-side of a single for the recently formed Ronn label.

Fleetwood Mac’s single arrived in stores in early August in the U.K. and at the end of that month in the U.S. and Canada. *

I don’t believe that it reached the charts in either country.

B. B. King’s version (shortening the title to ‘Need Your Love’) also arrived in July in the U.K. on his LP “Lucille”.  The album would not be released until October in the U.S.

In Christopher Hjort’s “Strange Brew: Eric Clapton & The British Blues Boom 1965 – 1970” (Jawbone Press 2007) he says that John Mayall is the one who suggested the song to Peter Green.

I originally wrote that Green said that it was King’s version that first caught his attention.  Unfortunately, I can no longer find the source of that information. (Again, additional information welcome)

I think I also took Martin Celmins’ description of the song as “…Peter Green’s version of B.B. King’s version…” of the Little Willie John song in his Peter Green biography as further evidence of Green’s familiarity with King’s recording.

Green had long acknowledged King’s influence on his playing, and covered many of King’s songs. 

At the first session in their effort to put ‘Need Your Love So Bad’ on tape, Green also recorded a version of King’s ‘Worried Dream’ which had only been released a few months earlier on the LP “Blues on Top of Blues”

The simple answer as to how Green could say that his interest in the number was sparked after hearing King’s version is to say that he simply mis-remembered. 

Then, researching this new timeline, I discovered that in January of 1968, King did a month-long European tour, from January 11th through the 27th

There were stops in France, Austria, with the majority in Germany and a few in Switzerland.

Cross-referencing the dates, I couldn’t see where Green would have had the opportunity to see any of those shows; however, a bootleg of a show at the Konserthuest in Stockholm, Sweden on January 22 has surfaced.  It is not an “audience recording”, which make me think it was a radio broadcast, and Green may have heard it broadcast over the BBC.

Here is King’s performance of the song from that show:

B. B. King

B.B. King: guitar & vocals /

James Toney: organ / Sonny Freeman: drums /

Lee Gatling: tenor saxophone / Moses Thomas: trumpet

Recorded live at Konserthuest in Stockholm, Sweden

 January 22, 1968

B.B. King – Need Your Love (Live) –

Fleetwood Mac’s first attempt at the song was first recorded with Christine Perfect on piano (which I wish they had stayed with) on April 11th of 1968.

Not happy with the result, Vernon had her switch to a Hammond B3 when they reconvened to try a second time on the 28th of that month.

With the number now in the can, Mike Vernon then had Mickey Baker, the guitarist on Willie John’s original recording, write up an arrangement for strings which were then added to the finished track along with a horn section.

Fleetwood Mac

Peter Green: vocal & guitar / John McVie: bass /

Mick Fleetwood: drums

Additional musician(s):

Christine Perfect: Hammond B3 organ

unknown horns / unknown strings

Recorded April 28, 1968 – Released August 30, 1968

A-side of Blue Horizon single

Fleetwood Mac – Need your Love so Bad –

It would be thirty years before the full length (6:12) original recording would be heard, released on the 1999 box set “Fleetwood Mac – The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions 1967 – 1969”

B.B. King’s studio recording:

B.B. King

B.B. King: guitar & vocal /

Irving Asby: second guitar / David Allen: bass /

Maxwell Davis: organ / Lloyd Glenn: piano /

Jesse Sailes: drums /

Bobby Forte: tenor saxophone

Recorded December 1967

Released, “Lucille” (Bluesway 1968) July (U.K.) / October (U.S.)

B. B. King – Need Your Love –

*Special thanks to Anthony Smith, author of “Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac Worldwide Discography” (Anthony Smith, Morten Strand (with Don Brown) for providing the correct information

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