Johnny Rivers – Poor Side of Town

This song has always stuck with me because of that odd guitar riff. The song was written by Johnny Rivers and Lou Adler. Johnny had 29 songs in the top 100, 9 top ten hits, and one number one song. This is the one chart-topper Rivers achieved. It hit #1 in the Billboard 100 in 1966.

The song was on his Changes album that peaked at #33 in 1967. With this album, he moved into a more soulful, contemporary direction with his music. Instead of basic guitar-bass-drums, he added orchestral sounds from horns and strings.


From Songfacts

This is Johnny Rivers’ only American chart topper. He co-wrote it with Lou Adler. Marty Paich, who arranged for Mel Torme and Ray Charles, did the string arrangement.

Johnny Rivers: “I had this tune I’d been working on, and I kept playing it for Lou. It took me about 6 months to finish. We cut it with Larry Knechtel, Joe Osborn and Hal Blaine. I did my vocal performances live with the band. I sat and played my guitar and sang. There weren’t any overdubs. So we said it could use some singers and maybe some strings. That’s the time we got together with (arranger) Marty Paich.”

This was a change of direction for Johnny Rivers, who had tired of the upbeat Go-Go sound that provided him with his early hits. However, he found his record company reluctant to tamper with a winning formula. He recalls, “Al Bennett and those guys were goin’ Man. don’t start comin’ out with ballads. You’re gonna kill your career. You got a good thing goin’ with this funky trio rock sound, stay with that.”

Poor Side of Town

How can you tell me how much you miss me
When the last time I saw you, you wouldn’t even kiss me
That rich guy you’ve been seein’
Must have put you down
So welcome back baby
To the poor side of town

To him you were nothin’ but a little plaything
Not much more than an overnight fling
To me you were the greatest thing this boy had ever found
And girl it’s hard to find nice things
On the poor side of town

I can’t blame you for tryin’
I’m tryin’ to make it too
I’ve got one little hang up baby
I just can’t make it without you

So tell me, are you gonna stay now
Will you stand by me girl all the way now
Oh with you by my side
They just can’t keep us down
Together we can make it girl
From the poor side of town

(So tell me how much you love me)
(Come be near to me and say you need me now)

Oh, with you by my side
This world can’t keep us down
Together we can make it baby
From the poor side of town

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

16 thoughts on “Johnny Rivers – Poor Side of Town”

  1. great tune I’d not heard for a long time, thanks! Yep, that guitar really elevates it. Such a good tune it’s surprising no one (at least no one famous) has redone it and had a hit with it since

    Liked by 1 person

      1. That is true he leaves it to our imagination…what is odd is Rivers did so many covers…I don’t think he wrote a whole lot….this one was gold though…number 1

        Liked by 1 person

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