Saturday, October 22, 2016

SHG: The Beatles: "Twist and Shout"

The Beatles: “Twist and Shout”
Entered the chart on: 3/21/64
Peaked on: 4/4/64
Weeks at #2: 4
Song at #1: “Can’t Buy Me Love” by the Beatles

The Beatles’ debut appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show created a craze heretofore unseen in popular music. Not even Elvis Presley’s iconic debut caused such a commotion. Of course, a big part of the Beatles’ absolute dominance of the pop charts has to do with the backlog of material they’d accrued; they may have debuted with their then-current single, “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” but they had already been a “thing” in the UK since ’62.

Obviously, the pop music industry, being then as now a den of crass opportunists, rushed to fill the void. Numerous labels—namely Capitol, Swan, Vee-Jay, Tollie* and Atco—all wound up releasing Beatles singles at once. On top of that, MGM blew the dust off of one of the recordings by lounge singer Tony Sheridan featuring the Beatles as the backing band (a rendition of the moldy oldie “My Bonnie”) and that, likewise, charted during this period.

Not wishing to be left out, those clowns at London International assembled a group of girls dubbed the Carefrees, exhumed “We Love You Conrad” from the [stifles laughter] “rock” musical Bye Bye Birdie and thanks to the magic of Mad Libs™ style name substitution, released the result as “We Love You Beatles.” This too hit the charts, despite being utterly worthless.

With all that said, it’s odd that the first Beatles song I should review is a cover, albeit a beloved one. Little known, the Isley Brothers’ version on which the Beatles so obviously based their version is not the original. That honor goes to the Top Notes, whose version was produced by none other than Phil Spector. I have not heard that version, so I need to educate myself...

I have to tell you, after being familiar with later versions, hearing the Top Notes version is...weird. It has a completely different feel, despite being full of the rock energy that the later versions also have. Reportedly, Bert Berns (who co-wrote the song with Bill “Righteous Brothers” Medley) hated what Spector did with his tune, so he helmed the Isley Brothers version himself.

And with all that said, let us finally get round to the serious business of examining Beatlemania in action.

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John Lennon owns this version. His voice on this is kind of like a blown-out speaker, and it totally works for the tune, riding over the top of his and George’s rubber-band-y guitars. And we of course get Paul McCartney’s “woo” in the background, on loan from Little Richard (a fact Little Richard would be glad to point out to you, whether you asked him to do so or not). The harmonized “aahs,” the crack of Ringo’s drums, John’s cat-like scream near the end, it’s all just so perfect.

You really get what a revelation the Beatles must have been listening to this, and you only really understand it when doing a feature like the one I’ve been doing. With a few exceptions (see: Bobby Lewis’ “Tossin’ and Turnin’”) “black music” began going in a direction other than rock & roll, and there were few white artists still doing an effective job of it. We’ve seen Dion and the Kingsmen and, of course, Elvis**, but little in the way of real rock & roll outside of that. To have four kids with funny haircuts from Liverpool going for the spirit of Buddy Holly and absolutely nailing it must have been magical.

Pop music would never be the same. And I mean that in the best way possible.

Rating: 5

*All right, Tollie was a subsidiary of Vee-Jay, albeit one that seemed to exist solely to capitalize on the Beatles success. That’s not strictly true, but it sure feels like it. Incidentally, one of the last singles released by Tollie was Jimmy Cross’ infamous “I Want My Baby Back.”
**Well, Roy Orbison and Gene Pitney had some fine uptempo rockers as well, but we only covered their ballads here at Second Hand Goods.

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