When Motown heard Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition’ in 1972, they knew they had a hit. Because of that, rocker Jeff Beck may have been denied a Number 1 hit.
Beck was in the studio when Stevie Wonder wrote the track in a session for what became 1972’s Talking Book album. According to Beck, he laid down the original drum groove for the track while Wonder was out of the room. When Wonder came back, he instructed Beck to keep playing while he joined the guitarist on clavinet keyboard.
Beck also collaborated on the lyrics, and then the two laid down a demo.
Wonder intended for Beck to record ‘Superstition’ as a thank-you gift for Beck’s guitar work on other tracks on the album.
Word has it, as soon as Motown CEO Berry Gordy heard the funky track, he knew it would be a hit. Gordy said Wonder had to record it first. By the time Motown released Talking Book, Stevie Wonder’s version took off like a rocket on the charts.
Wonder offered his version of events during an interview with Rolling Stone, recalling, “Motown decided they wanted to release ‘Superstition.’ I said Jeff wanted it, and they told me I needed a strong single in order for the album to be successful. My understanding was that Jeff would be releasing ‘Superstition’ long before I was going to finish my album. I was late giving them Talking Book. Jeff recorded ‘Superstition’ in July, so I thought it would be out.”
In 1973 Beck teamed with Tim Bogert (bass) and Carmine Appice (drums) to form the power trio Beck, Bogert, and Appice. Their self-titled debut album featured a grungier, blues-heavy take on ‘Superstition.’
Even though Beck understood how he missed out on the opportunity to release ‘Superstition’ first, his disappointment was understandable. “That was the right decision but we were gutted, you know, totally,” he admitted in The Guitar Greats. “We would have had a monstrous, monstrous hit.”