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.

References:

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

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The Beatles | The Word

24 05 2010

“The Word” is one of my favorite Beatles songs, which makes sense given it’s from my favorite album Rubber Soul. This 1965 release is a real turning point for The Beatles. Although there was always growth from one album to the next, I always thought Rubber Soul took the biggest leap. It represents not just a shift in sound but a new take on lyricism, whereby Lennon and McCartney began approaching their songs in a much more abstract fashion. Many of the lyrics from this period are more open to interpretation than prior attempts. “The Word” may seem like a rather straight ahead tune about love but, in actuality, the message is far more subtle than any love song they had written in their early years. Messaging aside, “The Word” is a simple yet powerful song that features an up tempo, syncopated rhythm accentuated by sharp guitar chords on the 2 and the “and” between the 3rd & 4th beat. The effect is a pushing and dragging feel that creates a great groove. That, along with a sweet 3 part harmony and John’s screaming lead on the chorus and it stands out as one of the bands catchiest “in your face” tunes. Rubber Soul is filled with great material that’s similarly listener friendly while pushing the boundaries of form and expression… “Wait” is a fine example of this quality. As a collection of material, they constantly walk the line between experimental and simple pop sensibility and with great success. Despite The Beatles enormous catalog of great music, Rubber Soul and “The Word” will forever stand as some of their best work.

I recently found this funny video of a post-Beatles Paul. It’s from an interview where he plays a seemingly harmless word association game. By the answers he gives to such mundane triggers as “The Beatles” and “Linda”, one would guess the word is not LOVE but actually it’s more physical cousin, SEX. I especially like how unapologetic he is about the whole thing and how can you blame him. I mean, he’s Paul McCartney. I don’t think the guy has ever had trouble in that department, so…








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