Four Tops – “It’s the Same Old Song”

Four Tops – “It’s the Same Old Song,” Pop #5, R&B #2

By Joel Francis

There’s a good reason why “It’s the Same Old Song” sounds so much like the Four Tops’ previous hit, “I Can’t Help Myself:” both songs are built on the same chords, only in reverse order.

When “I Can’t Help Myself” hit No. 1 in June, 1965, the Tops’ old label, Columbia, tried to cash in by re-releasing a five-year-old Tops single. An upset Berry Gordy countered that Motown needed to quash that single with one of their own – in just 24 hours.

At 3 p.m. Holland-Dozier-Holland sat down to write. Just two hours later, the Tops had finished recording the number and the tune was ready to mix. By 3 p.m. the next day, 1,500 copies of “It’s the Same Old Song” had been pressed and sent to DJs across the country. The icing on this astounding feat of production came in the coming weeks, as the song eventually rose to No. 5 on the charts.

Like “I Can’t Help Myself,” the song is propelled by Funk Brother Jack Ashford’s vibe’s and Richard “Pistol” Allen’s drumming. The bubbly string arrangement also echoes “I Can’t Help Myself.” Unsurprisingly, the end result is a second helping of a joyous melody masking a melancholy lyric. If it ain’t broke….

In the late ’70s two groups proved it was anything but “The Same Old Song” with two very different covers. KC and the Sunshine Band turned in a disco version and Delroy Wilson gave a reggae reading. Neither translation made the charts.