linda ronstadt “struggled” with recording her smash 1967 hit with the Stone Poneys, “Different Drum.” Linda fell in love with the original different version of the song. But when it came time to lay down her vocals In the studio, she faced a distinctly different arrangement than the tune’s original version. Linda later admitted she was glad producers “didn’t listen to me” about releasing the other version.
‘Different Drum’ was initially written by The Monkees Mike Nesmith, who called the song ‘mountain music’
The Monkees Mike Nesmith wrote the tune in the early 1960s. “Different Drum” was originally recorded by the Greenbriar Boys in 1964. This slow, country-tinged version was the one that Linda fell in love with ahead of recording the song. According to an interview with Nesmith published by rebeat magazinethe songwriter discussed the success of “Different Drum” and how it impacted his life.
Mike discussed the differences between his version of the song and the one Ronstadt made infamous. “Well, that was how I wrote the song — how it is on Hits. It’s got the twang, and it’s got the balance, and it’s got all that stuff. That’s a real kind of mountain music,” he shared.
He continued, “That’s the home-style backyard, a hot Saturday afternoon, and fruit jars full of iced tea. That’s where that comes from. I sang ‘Different Drum’ for John Herald of the Greenbriar Boys like that. He took it home and turned it into the ballad that it became. Linda heard the ballad and made us all rich.”
However, Linda didn’t expect the version she would make famous to sound so distinctly different from the song she originally fell in love with.
Linda Ronstadt ‘struggled’ with recording ‘Different Drum’ but was glad producers ‘didn’t listen to me’ about releasing it
Linda discussed the song in an interview with npr. She initially heard the Greenbriar Boys’ version and believed the tune was a hit. However, she wanted to record it in a “folky way.” Initially tracked with just a guitar and mandolin, the record company ultimately decided the orchestration wouldn’t work. She was shocked when she faced an entirely different studio arrangement.
“They said, ‘well, we want to do it again, but we’re going to get a different arrangement.’ I had no idea there would be all these musicians,” said Linda. “It turns out they were all good players. Don Randi was playing. Jimmy Gordon was the drummer. Don Randi was playing the harpsichord. I played piano. I was just shocked.”
However, she didn’t know how to phrase the words to the new arrangement. “It suddenly wasn’t how I was used to singing it, so it knocked me off my stride. And I think we went through it twice. And it was a hit. You know, what was I supposed to know? I mean, I was just shocked.”
She concluded, “I didn’t want them to use it because I felt like I was struggling with the singing. And I thought that showed, you know, so clearly. So when they put it out, it was lucky they didn’t listen to me.”
Mike Nesmith said Linda Ronstadt infused the song with ‘passion and sensuality’
In an interview with the Wall Street JournalMike claimed that Linda’s version of his song was infused with “passion and sensuality.”
“I first heard Linda’s record on the radio in Philadelphia while riding in a limo with the Monkees. No one in the car believed I had written the song. Linda did more for that song than the Greenbriar Boys’ version. She infused it with a different level of passion and sensuality,” he shared.
“Coming from the perspective of a woman instead of a guy, the song had a new context. You sensed Linda had personally experienced the lyrics—that she needed to be free.” Mike continued.