Pop Archives

AC/DC - Baby Please Don’t Go (1975)

(Big Joe Williams, from Traditional, also attrib. to Mary 'Signifying' Johnson)
Australia Australia
#26 Sydney #10 Melbourne #7 Adelaide

On High Voltage, the first Australian album by AC/DC, the world-dominating hard rock band formed in Sydney in 1973 by Malcolm and Angus Young, brothers of The Easybeats’ George Young. High Voltage and the next four AC/DC albums were produced by George Young with fellow Easybeat Harry Vanda (see Friday On My Mind).

By the time of the album’s Australian release in February 1975, the band’s line-up included lead singer Bon Scott, drummer Phil Rudd and bassist Mike Evans, although Rudd and Evans did not join in time for the November 1974 sessions for High Voltage (see band chronology at AC-DC.net).

Outside Australia, High Voltage (1976) was a different album, with tracks from the Australian High Voltage (1975) and from the second Australian album, TNT (1975). It did not include Baby Please Don’t Go, later released on 74 Jailbreak (1984) along with four other early Australian tracks.

This was AC/DC’s only single release of a cover: all of their later singles were originals. They made it their own, though, based on Them’s version, with a faster tempo, twin lead guitar machine-gun style riffs and a build-up borrowed from Deep Purple’s Child in Time, all punctuated by Bon Scott’s distinctive moaning and wailing. One could say it is also Angus Young’s tribute to Jimmy Page, his idol, who was responsible for the distinctive lead guitar work on Them’s version. Terry Stacey (contributed)

References: 1. Ian McFarlane, Encyclopedia of Australian Rock & Pop.
2. 74 Jailbreak review at AMG. AC/DC biography at AMG.
3. M.C. Strong, Great Rock Discography. 4. AC/DC Discography at Electric Shock.
Further reading: 1. Comprehensive
AC/DC site Electric shock at ac-dc.net.
2. Milesago‘s detailed band history. 3. Wikipedia entry on High Voltage.

Thanks to David Taranto for clarification.

Budgie - Baby Please Don’t Go (1973)

(Big Joe Williams, from Traditional, also attrib. to Mary 'Signifying' Johnson)

Influential version?

On 1973 album Never Turn Your Back On A Friend, by British heavy metal band in a Black Sabbath vein, originally from Cardiff. The original album credits show band members Tony Bourge and Burke Shelley as writers.

There is a school of thought that this may have influenced AC/DC’s version. See, for example, George Sarostin’s review at Only Soltaire:

And the way they add in extra riff in between verses makes me strongly suspect that this version actually served as the blueprint for AC/DC’s take on the same song – I haven’t been able to confirm my hypothesis, but unless Budgie “borrowed” their interpretation from somebody else, this simply cannot be a coincidence.

Gary Glitter - Baby Please Don’t Go (1972)

(Big Joe Williams, from Traditional, also attrib. to Mary 'Signifying' Johnson)

Track on Glitter, debut album by early 70s glam rock phenomenon Gary Glitter, real name Paul Gadd (b. 1944). By the time he emerged as Gary Glitter, he was a seasoned trouper: as Paul Raven he had recorded for Decca in 1960 and was produced at Parlophone by the pre-Beatles George Martin.

Paul Raven co-produced Thane Russal’s seminal 1966 version of Security, popular in Australia but not in its home country.

References: All Music Guide and Wikipedia entries on Gary Glitter.

Version alert from Clay Galvin who points out that the AC/DC song Little Lover has the lines You had my picture on your bedroom wall/ Next to Gary Glitter.

Them - Baby Please Don’t Go (1965)

(Big Joe Williams, from Traditional, also attrib. to Mary 'Signifying' Johnson)
Influential version
#10 UK #21 Sydney #40 Melbourne #7 Adelaide

Single on Decca, B-side of Gloria, by Belfast band formed 1963, fronted by Van Morrison, probably the version best known by rock audiences before AC/DC.

This was Them's second single, produced by Bert Berns. Gloria became the A-side on Parrot in the US and is probably more familiar to many listeners.


As Steve Turner tells it in Van Morrison: Too Late to Stop Now, Them associate Dougie Knight introduced Van Morrison to Baby Please Don't Go through John Lee Hooker's version. The lead guitar featured, as Turner puts it, "a lick… inspired by Paul Burlison's riff on The Train Kept A'Rollin' by Johnny Burnette". The Originals website also cites Mose Allison as an influence.

The lead guitar on Baby Please Don't Go has often been attributed to session musician Jimmy Page, but Them guitarist Billy Harrison has strongly maintained that he is heard on the record, although Page may have been in the studio.

Baby Please Don't Go was also recorded in 1960s Australia by Adelaide's Blues Syndicate (single on Leedon, 1966) and by Shepparton's Modes (live at Battle of the Sounds national final, 1966, released 1987 on Ugly Things 3).

References: 1. M.C. Strong, Great Rock Discography. 2. Song history at The Originals. 3. Bert Berns discography. 4. Jimmy Page Sessionography (archived at Wayback Machine). 5. Australian version alerts from Terry Stacey. 6. Steve Turner, Van Morrison: Too Late To Stop Now (1993). 7. 'Baby Please Don't' Go Riff Was My Work at Van Morrison News (2007).

Thanks to Andrew at Antipodean Beat and to Steve re: Billy Harrison detail.

Mose Allison - Baby Please Don’t Go (1960)

(Big Joe Williams, from Traditional, also attrib. to Mary 'Signifying' Johnson)
Influential version

Influential, hard-to-categorise jazz-blues singer, songwriter and pianist (b.1927).

According to The Originals, Mose Allison's version of Baby Please Don't Go was an influence on Van Morrison and Them.

Van Morrison and Georgie Fame, along with Ben Sidran and Mose Allison, recorded the 1996 album Tell Me Something: The Songs of Mose Allison.

References: 1. Song history at The Originals. 2. All Music Guide biography of Mose Allison. 3. Wikipedia entry for Tell Me Something.

John Lee Hooker - Baby Please Don’t Go (1949)

(Big Joe Williams, from Traditional, also attrib. to Mary 'Signifying' Johnson)
Influential version

Well-known version recorded by Mississippi blues man (1917-2001) who moved to Chicago in the 40s and became an influential figure in modern electric blues and rock.

According to Steve Turner in Van Morrison: Too Late to Stop Now, John Lee Hooker's version was a significant influence on Van Morrison and Them's recording (see above).

This is one of numerous blues recordings of Baby Please Don't Go: Arnold Rypens also lists versions by Big Three Trio (1940, as I'm Gonna Walk Your Leg), Lightnin' Hopkins (1948), Big Bill Broonzy (1952), Muddy Waters (1953, writer credit to him, McKinley Morganfield), and Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee (1959).

Further reading: John Lee Hooker biography at All Music Guide.

Big Joe Williams - Baby Please Don’t Go (1935)

(Big Joe Williams, from Traditional, also attrib. to Mary 'Signifying' Johnson)
Original version

Baby Please Don’t Go is probably derived from an old blues/folk song, recorded as Don’t You Leave Me Here, by Hull & Reid in 1927.

Big Joe Williams seems to have been the first to record it as Baby Please Don’t Go.

Big Joe Williams (1903-1982) was an influential Delta blues man, born in Crawford Mississippi, who travelled the USA widely during a career spanning several decades.

The ultimate origin of Baby Please Don't Go is difficult to pin down. See, for example, the 1999 usenet discussion at rec.music.bluenote.blues (archived at Google groups). For further sources, and a discussion of the attribution to Mary 'Signifying' Johnson, see Arthur Rypens' The Originals website.

Reference: Barry Lee Pearson's account of Big Joe Williams at All Music Guide.



Papa Harvey Hull And Long Cleeve Reid - Don’t You Leave Me Here (1927)

(Papa Harvey Hull - Long Cleve Reid from Traditional)

An old blues/folk song, apparently a source of Baby Please Don’t Go.

See the 1999 usenet discussion at rec.music.bluenote.blues Google groups.

Some sources spell Cleeve as Cleve.

The Orioles - Baby Please Don’t Go (1952)

Red herring

Same title but not the same song as ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’ by AC/DC.

Record on Jubilee that inspired James Brown’s Please Please Please: see commentary at The Originals.