Twist & Shout

19 08 2010

It’s a song that almost everybody knows and loves. Made famous by The Beatles, “Twist & Shout” was written by Phil Medley and Bert Russell (aka Bert Berns). It was originally recorded in 1961 by the Top Notes. This original version was considered one of very few Phil Spector flops. It was just a year after he  came to Atlantic Records and had yet to perfect his “wall of sound” style. See if you can even recognize the tune…

In 1962, one of the songwriters, Bert Berns, sought out to revive what he knew was a great song. He thought that Spector and The Top Notes simply didn’t do it justice, missing the feel completely. Berns decided to produce the version he intended with the help of ever popular soul group The Isley Brothers, which went on to reach #17 in the Billboard Hot 100 and was #2 on the R&B charts.

Ultimately, the version that forever lives on as the most popular and recognizable is that of The Beatles. Recorded in 1964 for their debut album Please Please Me, it reached #2 in the charts just a month after the release. Remarkably, that same week each of the top 5 songs were all Beatles tracks. It’s an amazing moment that truly reflected the magnitude and impact of the Beatlemania phenomenon that was sweeping the world. Interestingly, producer George Martin saved this song for the final 15 minutes of the recording session as an attempt to salvage what was left of John’s vocal chords. Lennon’s voice was suffering through the entire 10 hour recording period. Knowing it would take every last bit of energy to get it right, Martin fed it to him with just minutes to spare. John absolutely killed it on the first take. It sounds as though he gives every bit of heart and soul he could muster. Which, was  very fortunate because he later admitted that he couldn’t sing for days afterward so even if they wanted a second take, he never could have done it.

This 1963 live performance (below) from the  Royal Variety Show is a great example of the tune. All the lads sound great but John’s lead is fantastic, as if he was born for  it.

There are plenty of other covers out there. Of them, there are only a few that are worth mentioning. One of which is THIS ONE from The Who. And, probably THIS ONE from Bruce Springsteen. If you look hard enough you can also find versions by The Tremeloes, The Shangri La’s, The Mamas and The Papas, Salt + Peppa, many, many more (including Celine Dion) but compared to The Beatles there is no point in even bothering with them.


More info on “Twist and Shout”

More info on Phil Medley and Bert Russell

More info on The Top Notes

More info on The Isley Brothers

More info on The Beatles

More info on Please Please Me

More info on Phil Spector

More info on Spector’s Wall of Sound

Rain, Rain… Go Away

25 01 2010

It poured all morning in NYC. Total deluge. I went out to walk the pup and came back completely soaked regardless of how “prepared” I was. It made me think of some of my favorite rain tunes. Sorry, Doors fans there is NO “Riders on the Storm”. It’s just seems a little tired.

First, there’s Led Zeppelin’s “The Rain Song”. I really like the richness of the studio version. It includes all of Jimmy Page’s guitar parts and both John Paul Jones’ bass and Mello-Tron work. But if you want it LIVE (albeit a little stripped down)… here it is. It’s not the Song Remains the Same footage (here) as I thought it was a little too campy with all the extra medieval Robert Plant sequences. I just can’t take that stuff seriously.

Next, is Traffic’s “Rainmaker”. It seems like nobody knows this one but I like it… a lot. I used to work in an industry where rain would equal a day off.  This was my anthem as I used to play it  to summon the rain gods when I wanted to go home early.

Finally, this is blues great Freddie King’s version of “Ain’t No Sunshine”. It’s a Bill Withers tune and for the record: nobody does it like Bill. His is definitely the best one but I am reserving it for another post about the man. That said, I will add one nice anecdote: When Withers first came to the recording session for Ain’t No Sunshine, he didn’t even realize he was coming to work. He thought he was just the songwriter on the gig. You know… hang out, watch the artist, give notes. Then he gets there and they want him to sing and play guitar. What humility! The guy ends up producing a hit that has spanned decades and been covered a crazy amount of times. Just wait for the Bill Withers post, it’s got some great stuff in it.

*alright, alright… I caved: Riders on the Storm

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