Producer Mark Ronson has topped the charts with “Uptown Funk,” but his first big hit was “Valerie,” off his 2007 all-star covers collection, Version. However, at that time, many listeners, particularly in the U.S., probably mistook “Valerie” for an Amy Winehouse solo song. And many definitely didn’t realize it was originally a Zutons song.
“I didn’t even know ‘Valerie’ before Amy played it for me,” Ronson, who co-produced Back to Black, the iconic sophomore album by Winehouse, who died five years ago today. “We were in the studio, and I said, ‘Do you know any indie-band sort of songs?’ Because that was the theme on Version — Kaiser Chiefs [covers] and those kinds of rock bands. And Amy said, ‘Yeah, I like this song by [Liverpool indie band] the Zutons; they play it down at my local [pub].’
“The first time she played it for me, I was like, ‘OK.’ I wasn’t particularly… I didn’t get it, you know? Obviously she did, because she’d sung it in the shower and she knew the ins and outs of that song. She knew what a great song it was.”
Eventually Ronson and Winehouse convened in Brooklyn, where Winehouse for the first time met many of the musicians who’d actually played on Back to Black. But the famous remake of “Valerie” — which went to No. 2 on the U.K singles chart, and was later performed by future “Uptown Funk” singer Bruno Mars during a Winehouse tribute at 2011 VMAs — almost never happened.
"We played this kind of downtempo, mellow version of it,” says Ronson. “And then as everyone’s packing up their guitars and literally slamming the cases shut, I was like, ‘Oh! Could we just try one way where it’s just like… I know it’s dumb, but where it’s like, bonk-chk-a-bonk, like an oversimplified version?’ Everyone was like, ‘Ugh, Jesus Christ,’ and took their guitars out. We played it [again], probably did two takes, and it was great. And that’s the version that people know.
"It was one of those things where there are so many reasons where it could not have existed,” Ronson says. “But I’m glad it does.”