This song has quite the convoluted history. Here is as much of it as I’ve been able to dig up.
“Some Guys Have All the Luck” was written by Jeff Fortgang, for whom I can find no other credits and who appears to have left music to pursue a doctorate shortly after writing this. It was first recorded by the R&B group The Persuaders (best known for “Thin Line Between Love & Hate”) in 1973, for whom it was a number seven hit on the R&B chart. It’s a nice take, but I find switching leads in a personal song like this distracting. That may have soothed egos within the band, but it prevents the song from having the power it might have had.
From there, “Some Guys Have All the Luck” transformed into a reggae standard. How this happened I can’t be completely certain, but this version by Derrick Harriot seems to be well known in reggae circles and at least one source has it released in 1974, so maybe it’s the first one.
Many reggae interpretations would follow, including takes by Maxi Priest, Junior Tucker, the American band The Shakers, and even a raunchy version by white UK toaster Judge Dread.
In 1982, Robert Palmer released a version on his album Maybe It’s Live. What’s notable is that Palmer thought he had written the song himself. The story is recounted in the liner notes to his compilation, Addictions, Volume 1. I remember reading the liner notes from a friend’s copy, but I don’t have it myself, so all I’ve got is a paraphrase from a message board. If you can tell me what the notes actually said, I would appreciate it, and please don’t take this as gospel.
Robert Palmer in the liner notes of his greatest hits record tells the story of how he inadvertently stole the hook to “Some Guys Have All The Luck”.
The way he recounted it, he very often slept with the radio on and that many times he would wake up with great ideas. On one such occasion is when it happened. He had the track all recorded and was playing it for a friend who told him it was a “great cover”.
Robert was dumbfounded and couldn’t believe it. His heart sank when he heard the original and found that the hook was identical not only in melody but lyrically as well. In the end the songwriter allowed him to release his version – although the verses are very different than the Rod Stewart version.
This new-wavey take is indeed very different, especially the verses. The video is pretty cool and sort of disturbing. I’m rather fond of both the song and the video.
Vodpod videos no longer available.
It will probably get me banned from music circles for all eternity to write that the best version of “Some Guys Have All the Luck” to date belongs to…Rod Stewart. Rating a 1984 Rod Stewart song higher than ’70s R&B singers, reggae artists, and Robert Palmer in artsy mode just isn’t supposed to be done (well, maybe Robert Palmer). But I’m sorry, this is the best version.
Improvements to this much-manipulated number include a great keyboard hook and a more efficient chorus. Awesome ’80s power is another bonus. And even though this is from Rod’s sellout days, he still has a tremendous voice that injects a yearning that only the Persuaders version ever came close to. As of this writing, “Some Guys Have All the Luck” is a better pop song than soul, reggae, or new wave song. Am I going to musical hell for writing that? So be it. Listen to them all and tell me which version gets stuck in your head all day.
Vodpod videos no longer available.
I’m sure there are many more version out there–Louise Mandrell even cut a pop-country version called “Some Girls Have All the Luck,” closely modeled on Rod Stewart’s.
Rod Stewart and Robert Palmer sang the song together in 1997. They sang Rod’s version–he had won the “Some Guys Have All the Luck” wars.
Any additions or corrections to this post are welcome.
Aside: Writing this made me really miss Robert Palmer.