When was it recorded? Jul. 16, 1963
When was it first released, and on which album? Nov. 30, 1994 on “Live at the BBC”
Who wrote it? Kent Westberry and Marijohn Wilkin
Have I heard this song before? No
What my research dug up:
American musicians Kent Westberry and Marijohn Wilkin wrote “I Just Don’t Understand” sometime prior to 1961. The song’s title is especially appropriate since information regarding the creation of this song is scarce.
Wikipedia didn’t have shit on Kent Westberry, so I had to go first to another, related musician’s fan site and then to his MySpace page. His MySpace page. It’s 20-fucking-14. Anyway…
- Composed or co-wrote over 500 songs (most country/western tunes)
- Played bass in Carl Perkins’ band before forming The Memory Makers (his own group)
- 1920- 2006
- “The Den Mother of Music Row”
- Wrote numerous songs (again, mostly country, but some pop/rock) for musicians such as Lefty Frizzell, Eddie Cochran, and Mick Jagger
- Most famous for “One Day at a Time” (“with some assistance by her former protégé, Kris Kristofferson” [Wikipedia])
Somehow these two songwriters came together and wrote “I Just Don’t Know.” Swedish-American performer Ann-Margret recorded the song for her debut album, “And Here She Is: Ann-Margret.”
Ann-Margret Olsson is an actress, singer, and dancer still active today. Quoth Wikipedia, “She has won five Golden Globe Awards and been nominated for two Academy Awards, two Grammy Awards, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and six Emmy Awards. In 2010, she won her first Emmy Award.” Before all that, she scored a record deal in 1961. According to Wikipedia, “[Ann-Margret] had a sexy, throaty singing voice, and RCA attempted to capitalize on the ‘female Elvis’ comparison by having her record a version of ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ and other songs stylistically similar to Presley’s.” Hell, her first album even featured Elvis’s backup singers, the Jordanaires. Here’s her original recording of “I Just Don’t Understand.”
“I Just Don’t Understand” was a minor hit for Ann-Margret, peaking at #17 on the American Billboard charts.
The Beatles recorded their cover of “I Just Don’t Understand” for “Pop Go the Beatles” on Jul. 16, 1963. It aired Aug. 20. Unlike the last few covers I’ve, uh, covered, the Fab Four only performed this once. It appears on the compilation “Live at the BBC.”
… I like it. I think I prefer John’s vocals (and the Beatles’ cover overall), but that fuzzy guitar in the original is just great. It reminds me of the Black Keys, which should give you some idea of how surprised I am to hear it on an Ann-Margret track.