Let's Live For Today History
The complete history of the powerful song (you can read the complete lyrics here), became famous for The Grass Roots version, but originally written and published by The Rokes, was written by Fred Clemens and published on Internet on a site no more on line. We decided hence to make it available anyway to the readers interested in the sixties music history. If the author has the necessity to communicate a new link of the history or to avoid the publication the contact is here.
Let's Live For Today
"When I think of all the worries...." wait, I'm getting way ahead of myself.
Most people associate this song with the Grass Roots. The Grassroots (original spelling) started out as a studio concoction made up primarily of it's 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. As the Grass Roots, "Let's Live For Today" was to be their first release. However, they were not quite the first in line to have recorded this tune.
The song, in it's original form, had it's roots
firmly planted in Italy. Amidst the beautiful scenery and wine and all things
good associated with this wonderful Country, there stood a band calling
themselves the Rokes. David "Shel" Shapiro, Mike Shepstone, Johnny Charlton, and
Bobby Posner made up this popular Italian Beat Band, which actually had it's
origin in the UK. The group debuted in 1964 with an assortment of sides, some
sung in English, but most in Italian. It was the Italian sides that won the Fans
over. Many of the sides were remakes or covers of well established English
language songs, though not necessarily word-for-word translations. For instance,
Jackie DeShannon's "When You Walk In The Room" became "C'e Una Strana
Espressione Nei Tuoi Occhi". The Tremeloes hit, "Here Comes My Baby", became
"Eccola Di Nuovo". They even took two Bob Lind songs and turned them around with
some success. "Remember The Rain" became "E La Pioggia Che Va". And "Cheryl's
Goin' Home" became their all time most popular song in the Summer of 1966 when
they sang it as "Che Colpa Abbiamo Noi" (Arc 4081). It was that release that
inspired a multitude of covers. Not the Bob Lind tune, but the flip side,
"Piangi Con Me" (translation: "Cry With Me").
Unlike many of the Rokes songs where Shel would take on lead vocals, it was Mike who handled the lead on this one, with Shel picking up main vocals on the bridge. The song's popularity took it to new directions in other Latin translations, including "Plora Per Ellis" by els XOXS (from Spain), and "Llora Commigo" by los Beat 4 (from Chile).
But it was when the song found it's way to the
Netherlands in late 1966 that the song would find it's first English words of
expression. A quintet called the Skope, from Herleen, gave the song a new title
as "Be Mine Again" (Fontana YF 278 136). The song even made the Dutch Charts in
January of 1967, peaking at #36 in Holland. Unfortunately, the song was unheard
of outside this immediate area, apparently even going unnoticed by the Rokes.
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 borne. 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. Members included Garth Watt-Roy (guitar, vocals), brother Norman
Watt-Roy (bass, vocals), Curt Cresswell (guitar), and Roy Heather (drums). In
early April, 1967, the Living Daylights version saw release on the Philips label
(BF 1561). It is said that it was this version that got the attention of Grass
Roots member, Warren Entner, who happened to be in Europe at the time.
This is where it gets questionable and speculative. Listening and comparing the Living Daylights version to the Grass Roots, I (personally) find 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 version had yet to be released! Certainly, their Italian original was out there, but the Grass Roots had the Rokes English version nailed, albeit some changes to the bridge, as well as the title lyric. You see, the Grass Roots sang the lyric as "Sha-la La-la-la-la Live for today..." throughout, whereas the Rokes and the Living Daylights sang it consistently as "Sha-la La-la-la Let's live for today...". Could it be that Warren managed access to the Rokes unreleased side, perhaps in the same manner that the Living Daylights got the tune? Again, this is entirely speculation on my part. But the facts do speak for themselves.
Speaking of facts, let's get back on track. The
earliest evidence I could find of the Grass Roots version getting some attention
was over WMCA (AM) in New York. For the week of April 19, 1967, it became the
Station's "Long Shot". It was released on Dunhill Records #4084. One thing that
brought upon my speculation is the fact that the release lacked any writer's
credit on that side, which should have read "(Mogol - Shapiro - Julien)", though
it did note the publisher of the song, Dick James Music.
It wasn't until their "Let's Live For Today" LP was released later that spring (Dunhill 50020) that any credit would be given. On that, "Mogol" was mis-spelled as "Mogal", which leads me to believe that all the Grass Roots actually had on the song was probably a tape of the Rokes original. But again, I'm speculating. Here’s something of an explanation by Rokes member, Bobby Posner:
“Vic Lewis, our English impresario, shagged us
really good. He came over here and wined us and dined us (mind you we were the
ones who paid out the money). He took our single back to England with him. It’s
funny how the Grassroots released Lets live for today before our record, and all
the promotion TV that we had talked about just never happened.”
On the fact track once again, the Rokes version was
finally released in the UK on April 21, 1967 (RCA Victor 1587) and started to
give the Living Daylights version some competition.
The Rokes version made it's way to the US as late as
April 25, 1967, released on RCA Victor 47-9199. That issue, however, was
different from their UK release, having been remixed, as well as chopped off at
the end by about 5 seconds. The remix took away much of impact of what makes the
song so special, sounding almost bland in comparison. Most of the versions
released outside the UK seem to have suffered from the same fate, at least those
from Australia, Turkey and Canada, which used the same master as the US release,
UPKM-4000. For the record, the UK master used was SKAA 2391.
Meanwhile, the Living Daylights version saw release
in the US on Buddah Records #2. It, too, suffered a similar fate as the Rokes,
that being chopped off at the end by about 5 seconds in the transition. The mix,
fortunately, remained intact.
Paul Haney, from Joel Whitburn's Record Research (Billboard), was gracious enough to pass along the following:
"Let's Live For Today" by the Grass Roots was a Billboard Spotlight pick (predicted to reach the Top 60 of the Hot 100) on April 29, 1967. Here is the brief review: "The "Where Were You When I Needed You" group has powerful sales potential with this folk-rock ballad. Lyric content is right up the alley of the teen buying market. If exposed, should prove a smash."
"Let's Live For Today" by the Rokes was a Spotlight pick (predicted to hit the Hot 100) on May 6, 1967. (No review).
"Let's Live For Today" by the Living Daylights was a Spotlight pick (predicted to hit the Hot 100) on May 13, 1967. (No review).
On May 27, 1967, Buddah Records gave the Living Daylights version an extra push by placing full page ads in both Billboard and Cash Box Magazines, billing their version as “THE ORIGINAL HIT ENGLISH VERSION”
I was able to find further background of this US release from chart historian, Randy Price:
“WOR-FM” (New York) “played the Living Daylights' version of "Let's Live For Today." On its survey for the week of May 16, 1967, the Daylights' version is listed as holding at #36. IIRC, it eventually reached the top 20. However, I don't believe WABC or WMCA ever played any other version but the Grass Roots'. “
“The Living Daylights version was listed as #10 on the WOR-FM (New York) survey for June 6, 1967; however, this version was getting played instead of the Grass Roots' rendition, which was nowhere to be found on that survey. As a side note, the original version of "The River Is Wide" by The Forum was #37 on that week's survey.”
By October of 1967, the song made it's way to Japan, with actual inspiration from the Living Daylights. By then, the group had reformed from a quartet into a quintet, having the Watt-Roy brothers as the only common members. The new members included Ron Prudence, Doug Ellis, and Bob O'Nale, and a stereo mix of their full version was released there on Philips SFL-1127.
The Japanese group that was inspired by them were a
quintet called the Tempters, who recorded the song as the flip side of their
then Japanese Hit, "Wasure-Enu Kimi" (Philips FS-1029). They recorded their
version in Japanese.
The song, "Let's Live For Today", has since become a Classic, and a staple amongst Oldies Stations around the world. I can only imagine what may have happened had things not worked out as they did. Some say the episode of the song and it's history is unfair, but in the end, I feel things worked out for the better. The Grass Roots rescued the song from relative obscurity. In the UK, the Rokes and Living Daylights versions did make some smaller Charts, but neither version made the Guinness Chart, which is looked upon as the National Chart by the locals, comparable to Billboard in the US.
For the Record... the song "Let's Live For Today", complete with "Sha-la-la's", has it's roots going back to the early 1960's. Some insist that the hook ("Sha-la La-la-la-la...") was stolen from the Drifters tune from 1961, "I Count The Tears", which Bobby Posner of the Rokes assures me is merely a coincidence. But 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, though in a different manner. That was done also back around 1961. The group was called Robby Robber and the Hi-Jackers, on a Coronet LP (CX 157), LET’S TWIST AGAIN. I'll leave you to speculate on that one.
Oh, and that initial Rokes English version, "Passing Thru Grey"? That recording was thought to be lost and forgotten. But it recently surfaced (in error) on a French issue CD (RCA Victor 86.577) which was supposed to include the Rokes "Let's Live For Today". Apparently when the CD was put together, they were given the master to the wrong song. The track listing shows:
"Let's Live For Today" (actually plays "Passing Thru Grey" instead)
"I’ll Change My Papers"
"Take A Look"
Incidentally, "Ride On" was the flip side when "Let's Live For Today" was issued in the UK as a single, while "I'll Change My Papers" became the flip when issued in the US and elsewhere.
Special Thanks goes out to Joe Baiardi, Bobby Posner, Mike Shepstone, Paul Haney/Joel Whitburn (Record Research), Randy Price, Hitomi Ishikawa, Mike McCann, and Bob Shannon; all of whom without whose help and support with specifics and information, this article would not have been possible.
Copyright April, 2003 Fred Clemens (published only for its interest and being no more available in Internet)