Always on My Mind

"Always on My Mind"
Song by Brenda Lee, Gwen McCrae
Published 1972
Writer(s) Wayne Carson, Johnny Christopher, Mark James

"Always on My Mind" is an American country music song by Johnny Christopher, Mark James and Wayne Carson, recorded first by Gwen McCrae (as "You Were Always On My Mind") and Brenda Lee in 1972.

AllMusic lists over 300 recorded releases of the song in versions by dozens of performers.[1] While Brenda Lee's version had stalled at #45 on the country charts in 1972, other performers would reach the top 20 in the United States and elsewhere with their own versions: Elvis Presley in 1972; John Wesley Ryles in 1979; Willie Nelson's Grammy Award winning version in 1982; Pet Shop Boys in 1987; Loretta Lynn in 2016.


Wayne Carson said that he wrote most of the song in 10 minutes at his kitchen table in Springfield, Illinois, and completed the song in studio with the assistance of Johnny and Mark.

Carson, who had the song about a year and one day, was finishing a recording session. Producer Chips Moman asked about recording "that mind" song, but added it would need a bridge. Wayne went upstairs to the studio's old piano, trying to work out a bridge, when Johnny and Mark walked in the door, and he asked for their help to complete his song.

The trio felt that the song was finished and at first could not come up with anything to add, but Wayne explained that Moman was insisting that a bridge be added. So between them, the two-line "Tell me..." bridge was written.

The song was passed to one of Elvis's bodyguards, who gave Presley the cut from the studio. Moman did not produce Presley's recording, but did record the Willie Nelson version years later.

Elvis Presley version

"Always on My Mind"
Single by Elvis Presley
A-side Separate Ways
Released November 1972
Format 7", 45rpm
Recorded March 29, 1972, RCA Studios, Hollywood, California
Genre Country, soft rock , Gospel
Label RCA Records
Writer(s) Wayne Carson, Johnny Christopher, Mark James
Producer(s) Felton Jarvis[2]

Elvis Presley recorded his version of "Always on My Mind" on March 29, 1972, a few weeks after his February separation from wife Priscilla.[3] The song received immense fame and critical appreciation and is considered one of the standout songs of the '70s for Elvis. The song was released as the B-side of the "Separate Ways" single, which reached Gold status in the U.S for sales of over a million copies. It was listed as a double sided hit reaching number 16 on Billboard magazine's Hot Country Singles chart in November 1972.[4] In the UK "Always on My Mind" was the hit song and "Separate Ways" was the B-side. It was voted the #1 song of Presley's recording career in a poll conducted by ITV in 2013.[5]

Chart performance of Elvis Presley's version

1972 Weekly Chart Peak
US Billboard Hot 100[6] 20
US Hot Country Singles (Billboard)[6] 16
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[6] 3
Canadian RPM Country Tracks 4
Dutch Top 40 17
French Singles Chart 56
Swiss Singles Chart 39
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[7] 9

John Wesley Ryles' version

"You Are Always on My Mind"
Single by John Wesley Ryles
from the album Let the Night Begin
B-side "My Angel Got Her Wings Today"
Released October 13, 1979
Format 7" single
Genre Country
Length 3:40
Label MCA
Writer(s) Wayne Carson, Johnny Christopher, Mark James
Producer(s) Bob Montgomery[8]
John Wesley Ryles singles chronology
"Liberated Woman"
"You Are Always on My Mind"
"Perfect Strangers"

In 1979, John Wesley Ryles reached number 20 on the US country charts with his rendition, entitled "You Are Always on My Mind", from the album Let the Night Begin.[9]

A review in Billboard praised the "brightly mixed vocals" and "powerful production".[8]

Chart performance of John Wesley Ryles's version

1979 Weekly Chart Peak
US Billboard Hot Country Singles 20[9]
Canadian RPM Country Tracks 24[10]

Willie Nelson version

"Always on My Mind"
Single by Willie Nelson
from the album Always on My Mind
B-side "The Party's Over"
Released March 6, 1982
Genre Country
Length 3:33
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Wayne Carson, Johnny Christopher, Mark James
Producer(s) Chips Moman
Certification Platinum (RIAA)
Willie Nelson singles chronology
"Heartaches of a Fool"
"Always on My Mind"
"Let It Be Me"
Music sample
"Always on My Mind"

Willie Nelson recorded and released the song in early 1982. It raced to number one on Billboard magazine's Hot Country Singles chart that May, spending two weeks on top and total of 21 weeks on the chart. The song also did very well on Top 40 radio, reaching number five on the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks and staying on this chart for 23 weeks. In the year end charts, it was Billboard's biggest Country hit for 1982. This version also charted in a number of other countries.

Nelson's version would result in three wins at the 25th Grammy Awards in February 1983: songwriters Christopher, James and Carson won Song of the Year and Best Country Song; in addition, Nelson won for Best Male Country Vocal Performance.

This version also won Country Music Association awards in two consecutive years: 1982 Song of the Year and 1983 Song of the Year for songwriters Christopher, James and Carson; 1982 Single of the Year for Nelson, and; contributed to Nelson winning 1982 Album of the Year for the album "Always on My Mind".

Willie Nelson performed the number with Johnny Cash on the 1998 release of VH1 Storytellers: Johnny Cash & Willie Nelson. The song was also featured on a December 2009 ASPCA commercial.

The single was certified Platinum by the RIAA signifying U. S. sales in excess of two million. In 2008, the single was inducted to the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Nelson's version was prominently featured, in its entirety, in a season two (2013) episode of the HBO television series The Newsroom.

Chart performance of Willie Nelson's version

1982 Weekly Chart Peak
Australian Kent Music Report[11] 39
Belgian Top 40 (Flanders)[12] 31
Canadian RPM Country Tracks 1
Canadian RPM Adult Contemporary Tracks 4
Canadian RPM Top Singles 10
Dutch Singles Chart 17
Irish Singles Chart 8
US Billboard Hot Country Singles 1
US Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks 2
US Billboard Hot 100[13] 5
UK Singles Chart 49
1982 Year-End Chart Position
Canadian RPM Top Singles 70
US Billboard Hot 100[14] 22
US Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks[14] 8
US Billboard Hot Country Singles[14] 1
US Cashbox Top 100[15] 31

Pet Shop Boys version

"Always on My Mind"
Single by Pet Shop Boys
from the album Introspective
B-side "Do I Have to?"
Released November 30, 1987
Format 7", 12", cassette, CD
Genre Synthpop, Euro disco
Length 3:56 (single mix)
8:10 (extended mix)
9:04 (album version)
Label Parlophone6171
Writer(s) Mark James, Johnny Christopher, Wayne Carson Thompson
Producer(s) Julian Mendelsohn, Pet Shop Boys
Pet Shop Boys singles chronology
"Always on My Mind"
Alternative cover
Cover for the US release
Music sample
"Always on My Mind"

In 1987, the Pet Shop Boys performed a synthpop version of "Always on My Mind" on Love Me Tender, a television special on the ITV network in the UK. Commemorating the tenth anniversary of Presley's death, the programme featured various popular acts of the time performing cover versions of his hits. The Pet Shop Boys' performance was so well-received that the duo decided to record the song and release it as a single.

This version became the UK's Christmas number one single that year. It went on to top the charts for four weeks in total, and reached number four on the US Billboard Hot 100.[16][17]

The Pet Shop Boys version introduces a harmonic variation not present in the original version. In the original the ending phrase "always on my mind" is sung to a IV-V7-I cadence (C-D7-G). The Pet Shop Boys extend this cadence by adding two further chords: C-D7-Gm7/B-C-G (i.e. a progression of IV-V7-IIIb-IV-I).

In November 2004, The Daily Telegraph newspaper placed the version at number two in a list of the fifty greatest cover versions of all time.[18] In October 2014, a public poll compiled by the BBC saw the song voted the all-time best cover version.[19]

In the video for Pet Shop Boys' version of "Always on My Mind" (an excerpt from their surreal music film It Couldn't Happen Here), Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe are seated in the front of a taxi cab, when an eccentric passenger gets in, played by notable British actor Joss Ackland. At the end of the song, he gets out of the car, which drives away. Standing alone, he mutters: "You went away. It should make me feel better. But I don't know how I'm going to get through", which is part of the lyrics for another Pet Shop Boys track, "What Have I Done to Deserve This?", which was released earlier in the year.

In 1988, the duo remixed the song for their third studio LP, Introspective, combining it with an acid-house track called "In My House".

In 2008, Konami used the song for Dance Dance Revolution X which was released for both arcades and the Sony PlayStation 2 console. In 2010, the song was re-used for Dance Dance Revolution X2 which was released for arcades.

Chart performance of Pet Shop Boys' version

Chart (1987/1988) Peak
Australian Singles Chart[20] 10
Austrian Singles Chart[21] 2
Belgian Singles Chart (Vl)[22] 2
Canadian Singles Chart[23] 1
Dutch Singles Chart[24] 5
European Singles Chart 1
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[25] 1
French Singles Chart[26] 22
German Singles Chart[27] 1
Irish Singles Chart[28] 2
Italian Singles Chart[29] 9
New Zealand Singles Chart[30] 8
Norwegian Singles Chart[31] 3
Polish Singles Chart[32] 1
South African Singles Chart[33] 3
Spain (AFYVE)[34] 1
Swedish Singles Chart[35] 1
Swiss Singles Chart[36] 1
UK Singles Chart[16] 1
US Billboard Hot 100[17] 4
US Billboard Dance/Club Play Songs Chart[17] 8
US Billboard Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales Chart[17] 12

Other cover versions

Preceded by
"Mountain Music"
by Alabama
Billboard Hot Country Singles
number-one single

May 8–15, 1982 by Willie Nelson
Succeeded by
"Just to Satisfy You"
by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson
Preceded by
"Single Women"
by Dolly Parton
RPM Country Tracks
number-one single

June 5–12, 1982 by Willie Nelson
Succeeded by
"Listen to the Radio"
by Don Williams
Preceded by
"Fire and Smoke"
by Earl Thomas Conley
Billboard Hot Country Singles
number-one single of the year

1982 by Willie Nelson
Succeeded by
"Jose Cuervo"
by Shelly West
Preceded by
"China in Your Hand" by T'Pau
UK number one single
December 20, 1987 – January 9, 1988 by Pet Shop Boys
Succeeded by
"Heaven Is a Place on Earth" by Belinda Carlisle
Preceded by
"Reet Petite" by Jackie Wilson
UK Singles Chart Christmas number-one single
1987 by Pet Shop Boys
Succeeded by
"Mistletoe and Wine" by Cliff Richard
Preceded by
"Wishing Well" by Terence Trent D'Arby
Canadian RPM Singles Chart number-one single
May 21, 1988 – May 28, 1988 by Pet Shop Boys
Succeeded by
"Beds Are Burning" by Midnight Oil


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External links

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