Did you ever hear a hit song and wonder; “WHO wrote that hit song?” Did you ever hear more than one version of it and wonder: “Who really wrote that hit song?” In this series we’ll look at hit songs and answer the question: “Who really wrote that hit song?”
This time we take a look at the tune “No Regrets”. While “No Regrets” was a hit song for Scott Walker and the Walker Brothers in the mid-1970s and was later covered by many other artists, critics such as Nigel Williamson generally agree that no other act “can touch the elegant simplicity of the folk arrangement heard on the original 1968 recording” by the actual songwriter. For those not in the “know”, “No Regrets” is a classic folk-rock song written by 1948-born, American blues and folk singer-songwriter/guitarist Tom Rush. It is the closing cut on his Elektra album The Circle Game which is named after a cover version of a Joni Mitchell tune. (This same album also included his versions of tunes by the not-yet-famous singer-songwriters James Taylor and Jackson Browne.)
Rush’s original is almost four minutes in length and is generally considered a folk standard. Knowing a great song when he heard one, Country star Waylon Jennings recorded the song just two years after its release (in 1970). The following year witnessed Australian pop singer and actress Olivia Newton-John singing the tune on her If Not For You disc.
In addition to the “classic” rendition, Rush decided to re-record his own song. He recorded a significantly-different version for his 1974 Ladies Love Outlaws platter on his current label Columbia. The newer version includes a screaming electric guitar solo.
Although it has been covered by numerous musical acts over the years since its release, perhaps the most famous cover is that of the above-mentioned Walker Brothers. It was the trio’s “comeback single” in the mid-1970s and was also the title cut of its “parent” album. The single belatedly established Rush (who began performing in 1961) as a “Top Ten” songwriter when it hit number 7 on the UK during America’s bicentennial year (1976).
The next decade brought more noteworthy covers to the fore. In 1982 Scottish singer-songwriter/guitarist Midge Ure hit the top ten UK charts with his own version of “No Regrets”. In truth, sources indicate that the number has been covered by “several dozen artists” and crossed over into several different musical genres over the years including such artists as the indie-pop group Luna, folk band Fairport Convention, Ed “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” Bruce, multi-genred Luna Twist member Dirk Blanchart and more recently jazz musician Curtis Stigers. “No Regrets” has been included on many albums over the decades and helped earn Rush continued recognition including being credited as the man who ushered in the era of the singer-songwriter by Rolling Stone magazine.
Rush even has music videos on YouTube which to date (2010) it have received over 4 million plays. Rush commented: “I’ve been waiting 45 years to be an overnight sensation, and it’s finally happened! A video clip of my performance . . . has ‘gone viral.’ I felt terrible at first, thinking I was being accused of being a musical equivalent of Ebola, but my children explained to me that this was a good thing.”
Online sources indicate that “one of the earliest music videos produced (1968) for an artist by a record company, Elektra, can be found at” Rush’s website, www.tomrush.com. In fact, the video has been used to promote his signature song, “No Regrets” for earlier mentioned “The Circle Game” disc. The song was originally part of a thematic group of tracks that follow the cycle of a relationship from its start to its finish–“No Regrets”. Of course, history has shown that while “No Regrets” was first a coda cut, the song itself has been born anew on numerous albums since and may never truly reach . . . the end.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.