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

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More info on Spector’s Wall of Sound

The Creation | Making Time

12 03 2010

This is a cool video of The Creation playing “Making Time” live in 1966. The footage looks like it was from a TV show or perhaps a fake TV performance for a film. Good song and one of the earliest uses of the bow on electric guitar. In fact it  was guitarist Eddie Phillips who pioneered the violin bow technique, not Jimmy Page. The Creation were a typical old Freak Beat band. It was pop art kind of like the early days of The Who and The Kinks. Phillips once described their sound as “Red with flashes of Purple”.  They were only around for a few years although they had one other hit with “Painter Man”. When they played it live, lead singer Kenny Pickett would spraypaint a canvas during the performance… I think this was a big deal back then. Oddly, Boney M. covered Painter Man for another one of their 70’s disco reinterpretations. Both versions are not really great songs… not as great as “Making Time” anyway.

I also really like this song too. It was one of their singles but never made it too far up the charts. It’s “If I Stay Too Long” from 1967. It’s a lot mellower and has more of an R&B thing. Check it out…


5 02 2010

The Who are playing halftime at this year’s Superbowl. I’m sure this will lead to a lot of Abbott & Castello style “Who’s on 1st” jokes. I’ll spare you the antics and get right to it. I’m a mild Who fan and, as I’m one to do, I like some of their less popular tunes. This Sunday I hope to hear my favorite, “Eminence Front”. It’s from the 1982 album It’s Hard. This album is the second without famed drummer Keith Moon. It was also their last until they returned to the studio somewhat unexpectedly in 2005.  This song features Pete Townshend on vocals. There is a quote from Townshend that says something along the lines of “We gave Roger a guitar so he wouldn’t feel left out on this number”. In the video you will see Daltrey really doesn’t participate on the guitar either. That’s Kenney Jones playing drums. He was Moon’s replacement and continues to work with the remaining members for current projects. Kenney was the drummer for the Faces. You may recall his work with them was a bit more animated and exciting. This track is pretty straight forward with few embellishments but it’s fantastic. It’s a song about excess and false fronts. Townshend often introduces it live with statements like, “This song is about what happens when you take too much white powder. It’s called Eminence Front“.

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