American Top 40 PastBlast, 1/18/75: Linda Ronstadt, “You’re No Good”

To cut to the chase: “You’re No Good” was Linda Ronstadt’s first Top 40 hit in over four years, her only Billboard Hot 100 #1 (it’s at #21 on this show and would reach the top four weeks later), and the beginning of a multi-year run of hits that were almost all covers. Granted, Ronstadt wasn’t ever a songwriter, but working with now-producer Peter Asher seemed to make her gravitate toward re-recording major and minor works–often R&B–from the late 50s or 60s, and spinning them into gold. (Asher was doing the same thing at this time with James Taylor.)

Anyway, it’s very near the top (if not the top) of my list of Ronstadt singles from her commercial peak. I dig the range of emotions in her voice, though I think it’s the instrumental solo and coda that really suck me in.

“You’re No Good” was an oft-covered song, and I wanted to highlight a few of the other takes. It seems to be invariably brought up in conversation as a Betty Everett cover, and it’s true that Everett had the highest-charting version prior to Linda, reaching #51 in January 1964. Nice and smoky.

The Merseybeat group The Swingin’ Blue Jeans cut their version shortly thereafter, and it made #97 in August of the same year (#3 in the UK).

I was blown away, however, by the original. It’s by Dee Dee Warwick, who sounds nothing like her older sister Dionne. It made the faintest of chart noises the same time that Everett was getting traction, scoring a #117 peak the weekend of the Kennedy assassination. Simply incredible; distinct from the others, yet a clear ancestor of Ronstadt’s version.

Other acts to have taken on the song include Ike and Tina Turner, Van Halen (whose attempt I’d somehow never heard before writing this up), Elvis Costello, and Wilson Phillips. The truly interested can look those up themselves; here’s Linda.

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