Once Bitten Twice Shy

Album: Ian Hunter (1975)
Charted: 14
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Songfacts®:

  • "Once Bitten Twice Shy" is an expression meaning that if you've been hurt, you are less likely to put yourself in that position again. In this song, Ian Hunter sings to a girl who seems to take up with lots of musicians. He knows from past experience that he can't count on her.
  • There's an interesting dynamic in this song, with the girl starting out as a typical groupie, but becoming something more when Hunter takes a shine to her. He first encounters her in the tour bus with the drummer. Before much action can take place between them, he claims her (benefits of being a lead singer, maybe) and takes her in. She soon learns that rock and roll is a hard life with lots of travel and heaters on the bus that don't always work. But as she gets the hang of it, she starts messing around with other guys, much to Hunter's dismay.
  • This was Hunter's first single after leaving Mott The Hoople in 1974. That group is best known for "All The Young Dudes," written and produced by David Bowie, who championed the group.

    Hunter's solo career got off to a good start. He toured both the US and UK in 1975, and "Once Bitten Twice Shy" rose to #14 in the UK. He wasn't able to follow it up with an other hit, and although his sales numbers faltered, he retained fervent fanbase and counted many fellow musicians as supporters; Mick Jones of The Clash and guitarist Mick Ronson were among his collaborators. In the '80s, he did production work for Ellen Foley and Generation X, and wrote a hit for Barry Manilow called "Ships."
  • There's a bit of wordplay going on here:

    I didn't know you got a rock and roll record
    Until I saw your picture on another guy's jacket


    The "rock and roll record" isn't just a vinyl album, it's the girl's history with other guys in bands. When he saw her picture on another guy's jacket, that's the jacket that goes over the vinyl disc in the packaging. Some bands would put photos on the jackets, often of pretty girls.

    The line, "My best friend told me you're the best lick in town" is another bit of double entendre - we can assume it's not her guitar licks that have earned her this reputation.
  • This song isn't Hunter's only document of his rock and roll lifestyle. In 1974 he published a book called Diary of a Rock'n'Roll Star that chronicles a Mott the Hoople tour from 1972.
  • The full version on Hunter's album runs 4:44; the single version was cut down to 3:50. He wrote the song himself.
  • In America, the song is best known for the 1989 cover by the rock band Great White, which went to #5 and gave them their biggest hit. Great White titled their 1987 album Once Bitten in tow with their shark theme. They decided to name their next album ...Twice Shy and include a cover of this song. It was a good fit, as most American's weren't familiar with Hunter's original.

Comments: 21

  • Tony from LondonHello ... the original by Ian Hunter, is still a masterpiece, should not mess around with brilliance
  • Ray from Grandview OhioThere are many songs that were written and performed by the original person/group. Just read more Songfacts and Wikipedia articles to learn. You will be amazed and surprised at the history and reality of musicians and the music.
  • Lecia Carr from Houston TxGreat Song!!
  • Doug from Phoenix, AzMick Ronson's solo erupts with his wah-wah driven Les Paul spewing fire in Rock & Roll glory. Seriously, Hunter / Ronson was THE post glam super-group. Fantastic song in every way. RIP Mick
  • Peter from EnglandIt's a shame Great White wimped out and changed the lyric from "My best friend told me you're the best TRICK in town" to the the senseless "best LICK in town".
  • Rhonda from KentuckyI have always loved Great White's version. Honestly I didn't know this was a cover. So I decided to listen to Ian's original and I loved it.
  • Tony from Ft.lauderdaleHaving been a huge Mott the Hoople and also Mick Ronson fan I prefer the original version, but the Great White version introduced the song to a wider audience, and for that I'm greatful. In fact I just saw Great White open last night for Vince Neil, and they did this song as their encore. I sing along with both versions whenever I hear it.
  • Joe from UsaI've heard garage bands do better covers of Once Bitten, Twice Shy...Great White's cover is every bit as lame as Quiet Riot's cover of Cum On Feel The Noize.

    But who expects the "Duh!" generation to know better?
  • Bill from Bowling Green, OhTo all of you that have said the Gr.White version is better I say you don't know good music. No one, and I mean no one can do this tune better than the Master himself, Ian Hunter!
  • Peter from London, United KingdomThe Hunter version is an original piece of work. The Great White version is a copy, with nothing new brought to the song. You pays your money and you takes your choice, but I prefer the real thing. As for voices, nobody, but nobody, sings like Ian Hunter, like him or not.
  • Anita from Gotham City, United KingdomI just heard Once Bitten Twice Shy on the radio - I knew it straight away from the intro, I loved this when it came out and am really pleased that I remembered (along with most of the words) it was Ian Hunter without Mott, although I hadn't realised Mick Ronson was on it too - also a hero since I saw David Bowie being Ziggy at Hammersmith Odeon in 1973. I've never heard another version of this song. It's very English, but I suppose I'll give the american version a listen.
  • Ed from Canton, OhIan Hunter's voice is an acquired taste. I personally like the very British sound. I am surprised all the posts here are from the States, that is why there is favoritism towards Great White.
  • Markshark from Denver, CoIan Hunter possesses a unique flair for nuance, and combined with his eccentric talent it provides a depth of interpretive performance which is largely inaccessible to, and completely unnoticeable by, new-age rock punks - who are bereft of any redeeming or substantial musical taste whatsoever. Great White's overbearing and stiff 2-dimensional reading of this hit succeeds in robbing Ian's obscure jewel and hawking it to a naive 80's audience who ignorantly lap-up moronic hair band pap with the self-deluded belief they are consuming genuine wholesome music. Although I'm sure it's usually nice to get royalties (I hope Hunter gottem) and exposure/credit for penning a decent song, Great White's pretend/plastic version is no more delicious, and barely more memorable, than a corporate grocery store birthday cake - which accounts for the WINCING REFLEX exhibited here by older fans.

    The Hunter/Ronson pairing is one of Rock's Most Overlooked/Underrated Duos Of All Time, which demonstrates all the ability, subtlety, and accomplishment that Great White and its fans were never intellectual enough to ever dream - let alone have any awareness - of. Yeah, Great White's throwaway rendition fills the bill IF you want to switch your brain off and rock out to 110 decibels of wild youthful abandon - but only True Music connoisseurs would have the ability to appreciate the superior depth and musicianship offered by the Ian Hunter/Mick Ronson original. Take a listen of Ian Hunter's LIVE, Welcome To The Club -- there are more valid musical recordings here than in the entire output of the Hair-Sex Band Craze (which grew out of the Glam scene which Ian Hunter/Mott the Hoople helped create) combined! Sorry to kick on you hearty Great White fans, but their version CANNOT intoxicatedly hold a Bic lighter of a candle to Ian Hunter's -- in fact, what's more: only the integral strength of Hunter's original composition could allow it to survive intact enough to deliver a hit, despite the ghastly sophomoric reading that Great White subjected it to!!! Without Ian Hunter - and a stupid fire-bug road manager - Great White would be an unknown fleck on the landscape of Rock; and even WITH the aforementioned, Great White amounts to merely an overexposed FLASH IN THE PAN (pun intended).
  • Jim from Long Beach, CaI love Ian's better that Great White's version. Ian is a great songwriter. I hope he plays this in his Mott reunion shows. Even thou he did this in his solo years..
  • Paul from Rothesay, Nb, CanadaI'm with the Ian Hunter fans on this one. When David Foster told Neil Young he was a bit off key, Neil said "That's my style". Having said that, Ian's voice just has a lot of character. A shame that Great White turned this into a generic hair band romp.
  • Eugene from Minneapolis, MnAre you kidding me? Ian's version is sickening in an extremely negative adjective. Ian sounds very much off key on this performance. Yeah, he wrote, but it doesn't mean that he gets to sing it. How demeaning! Great White took this song to new heights. I had no idea this was a cover until now. I did not even finish listening to the original for it was beyond horrid. Now that's LAME, hugely.
  • Dennis from Orlando, FlI have been listening to this song since the ORIGINAL release by Ian Hunter in 1975. There have been numerous covers, and none of them measure up! Great White's version? It absolutely SUCKS! Played side by side, the Hunter/Ronson combo cannot be matched! Great White's attempt is at best LAME!
  • Velvetnose from Memphis, TnIan Hunter's version of the song is far superior to Great White's (weak, but still thankful) version. Fact is the guitar is much more prominent than the drums and Mick Ronson absolutely was a phenom on this number.
  • Nora from Orlando, FlI really love this songboth by Ian HUnter &by Great White thier cover "Rocks"
  • Max from Laconia, NhI do agree. The Great White one is soooo much better... the drum solo is pretty cool
  • Joshua from La Crosse, WiGreat White's version is the far superior one, IMHO.
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