Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Roll Over Beethoven, Kansas City (Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey), The Beatles (1964, 1965)
There are many, many, many Beatles songs I'd have liked to be a witness to in the recording studio. But as I've tried to decide which of the many early tunes to select for my running list (the later songs will be a separate post), I kept coming back to the covers they did of songs originally recorded by the artists who were their inspiration.
Recognizing that these songs were released in each instance the previous year in the UK on entirely different albums, it was in 1964 that my whole world turned upside down when the Beatles blew onto the American scene. I was 11 when they turned up on the Ed Sullivan Show, and to say that I was transfixed would be an understatement. Like the girls who were immortalized screaming in the audience, I was a complete nutcase over the lads, and when they were doing pure rock and roll, which these songs are, they were the very personification of something else that was pure - joy. And in those days I was big on soaking up joy, even if it was other people's, wherever I could find it. Listening to them rearranged my molecular structure, there's no doubt about it.
These songs in particular are special to me for two reasons. You cannot listen to George Harrison's licks on Roll Over Beethoven and not understand how important he was to the Beatles - regardless of whether that was ever truly appreciated or allowed to flourish in his lifetime - and how much in love with R&B this guy was. On this song, he had the opportunity to pay homage to Chuck Berry, whom he idolized, and he took it.
In the case of Leiber & Stoller's Kansas City, which had been recorded by numerous people, the medley with Little Richard's Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey as performed by Paul McCartney seemed to be his corresponding homage to Little Richard. Although we knew Paul could scream out with the best of them from I Saw Her Standing There, to hear something this comparatively raw coming out of what appeared to be the most angelic looking young man was an unforgettable experience for a repressed young girl.
I was too young to have ever heard the earlier versions of any of these; indeed, before the Beatles, I had never listened to a single thing beyond what my parents listened to. When the Beatles came to the New World, their lives changed forever. And so did mine.