A few years back, I spotlighted the classic Gerry Goffin-Carole King song “Up on the Roof,” first recorded by the Drifters in 1962, about seeking escape from the drudgeries and pressures of life by climbing up the stairs to the roof and drifting into space. Like so many of their songs, it struck a nerve with everyone who heard it.
In 1966, Goffin and King crafted another tune that did the same – “Goin’ Back,” about seeking escape not on a rooftop, but in a time when life’s freedoms and constraints intertwined without hindering the other. Goffin’s lyrics glisten with the epiphany that cynicism and fear are learned traits that come with adulthood, while King’s gauzy melody floats as if on the edge of memory. It’s a great song, obviously, and has been covered numerous times through the decades, though identified primarily with Dusty Springfield and the Byrds.
The first person to release it, however, was Goldie, born Genya Zelkovicz, who emigrated with her parents and sister from Poland to the U.S. in 1947; the rest of their family perished in the Holocaust. In the early ’60s, she found a modicum of succes with the Escorts, which featured future producer Richard Perry, and then Goldie and the Gingerbreads, an all-girl rock band she formed with drummer Ginger Bianco. They relocated to England in 1965, where they opened for such bands as the Rolling Stones and Yardbirds, and, in early 1966, entered the studio with Rolling Stones manager/producer Andrew Loog Oldham to record “Goin’ Back.”
Unfortunately for Goldie, she and/or OIdham changed the lyrics in several spots without first seeking permission (a requirement of copyright law) and then released the single. The changes didn’t go over well with Goffin and King, though, and the 45 was pulled within a week. (They obviously came to terms at some point, as the song can now be found on various Immediate Records compilations.) Anyway, after briefly considering releasing the song herself, King recruited Dusty Springfield to sing it – according to The Complete Dusty Springfield book, she was impressed by Dusty’s gorgeous rendition of Goffin and King’s “Some of Your Lovin’.” Goffin tweaked the lyrics and, in mid-June 1966, Dusty joined producer John Franz at Philips Studio in London and created a masterpiece.
The single topped out at No. 10 on pop charts in the U.K. that summer, but wasn’t released in the U.S. until late in the year – and then only as a track on the first pressing of Dusty’s Golden Hits set (the second pressing, released the following year, dropped “Goin’ Back,” “Some of Your Lovin’” and “My Colouring Book” and added “Stay Awhile”). As a result, it wasn’t until The Dusty Springfield Anthology in 1997 that most U.S. fans could buy it on a domestic release. (The original mono version, for what it’s worth, beats the stereo mix, but it’s not on YouTube. It can be found on the Complete A and B Sides compilation.)
A year later, with the Summer of Love fading toward winter (Oct. 20th, 1967, to be precise), the Byrds released their version of the song as a single. Theirs is probably the best-known version in the U.S., though it only peaked at No. 89 on the charts. The single mix, by the way, differs slightly from the version found on The Notorious Byrd Brothers album, which was released in January 1968.
Carole King herself recorded a wondrous version of it for her classic 1970 debut album, Writer. If you listen closely, you’ll hear James Taylor on backing vocals.
In the years since, a host of talented folks have recorded it, from Eydie Gormé’s sweet, if brassy supper-club version in 1971…
…to Nils Lofgren in 1975, who covered it for his critically acclaimed self-titled album.
That same year, Bruce Springsteen covered it when he and the E Street Band played the Roxy in L.A. on October 18th. (This, by the way, is Diane’s favorite version. Mine, on the other hand, is Dusty’s. But there truly are no bad versions of the song that I’ve heard.)
A decade later, in 1985, Ian McNabb and Icicle Works produced a touching version for their Seven Horses EP.
In 1997, the Pretenders’ cover was featured over the closing credits of the original (U.K.) version of the Fever Pitch film.
Jumping ahead a few years, Diana Ross included a sweet rendition of it on her 2001 anthology, Love & Life: The Very Best of Diana Ross.
And, finally, the version that led me on this journey: Jakob Dylan and Beck’s collaboration on “Goin’ Back” for the 2019 Echo in the Valley film and soundtrack, which sports a heavy (to my ears, at least) Tom Petty vibe. Diane and I watched the movie last night for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed it – highly recommended. It then led me to thinking of Dusty, Carole, Nils and the many other cover versions. What better way to spend a morning and early afternoon than listening to them?