Single Stories: The Drifters, “On Broadway”
55 years ago today, The Drifters recorded one of their biggest hits, but there’s a funny story behind how they ended up doing so.
Written by two teams of songwriters – Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil collaborated with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller – “On Broadway” started out as strictly a Mann/Weil composition, which is how it was credited when it was first recorded by The Cookies, and the song’s style was what would best be described as a shuffle.
Shortly thereafter, The Drifters were a day away from heading into the studio when Leiber and Stoller noted that the group was still a song short. In turn, Mann and Weil passed along “On Broadway.” Although Leiber and Stoller liked the track, they felt like it needed some tweaking to match The Drifters’ style, so the two twosomes spent the night trying to come up with some changes to make it work.
In addition to changing the music to give it more of a groove, which they did by adding a lead guitar solo by none other than Phil Spector, they also changed the lyrics slightly so that the narrator wasn’t trying to get to Broadway but was already on Broadway and having a tough time of it.
The end result, of course, was a huge hit for The Drifters, climbing all the way to #9 on the Billboard Hot 100. Not bad for a song that was only recorded because they were short on material!
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