Monday 13 April 2009

News, Views and Music Issue 27 (Top Five): Best Pre-Beatles Songs

♫ And now the latest in our top fives – the five best pre-Beatles/Beach Boys rock and roll songs and which AAA artists covered them.

5) Well…Alright (originally by Buddy Holly; covered by – gasp – no one!) Why did no one cover this forgotten gem of a song, which shows the roots of Merseybeat era pop far more successfully than more famous Buddy Holly classics like ‘Peggy Sue’ and ‘That’ll Be The Day’? Amazingly the Hollies left it off their whole album of Holly covers both obvious and unusual (‘Hollies Sing Holly’, 1980) despite the factthat it would have fitted their style quite nicely. Stripping the crickets down to a trio, Buddy turns in a deeper and more serious vocal than usual, adding his menacing vocal to one of the first true rock and roll (as opposed to ‘skiffle’) songs recorded with acoustic rather than electric guitars. The addition of a cowbell every half beat in the bar makes the whole thing sound like the missing link between thye sounds of the 50s and 60s, a sound aped by several Buddy Holly fans including Lennon and McCartney, The Hollies and The Kinks. 

4) Louie Louie (originally by the Kingsmen; covered by The Beach Boys – ‘Shut Down Volume Two’ and The Kinks – ‘Kinksize Sessions EP’, available on CD as bonus track on ‘The Kinks’). This track used to be one of the most famous rock and roll records of all time, played by every band starting out in honour of its rebellious drawl and simple chugging chords. But where did all those people go? Nobody seems to remember this song anymore, possibly because – shamefully – of these two rather poor AAA cover versions  which are now far more famous than the real thing. The Beach Boys version features a promising arrangement caught adrift on a sea of tiredness (this was the period when the fivesome were making five albums a year – and it shows on ‘Shut Down’ more than most of their mid-60s LPs) and the curious idea that listeners might actually want to hear the words loud and clear. The Kinks go back to re-creating this song’s slightly-out-of-earshot leering mode, but do it courtesy of some of the worst attempts at double-tracking in recorded history (it took a good couple of years for Ray Davies to learn the knack of doubling his parts successfully). Neither version quite recaptures the menace of the Kingsmen’s original, whose sneer and insistent beat inspired everything from Merseybeat to punk (it was even banned for ‘suggestive lyrics’ in some states of America, even though a study of these same lyrics reveals it all to be just gibberish).

3) Fortune Teller (written by Benny Spellman; covered by The Rolling Stones – ‘Got Live! If You Want It’, The Hollies – ‘The Hollies’ and The Who – Live At Leeds’ (deluxe edition) ). History has forgotten who Benny Spellmen as the original version of this song has practically disappeared without trace, but it became a staple of many bands’ line-ups during the 60s. A comedy tale of a teenager looking for his perfect partner who in desperation goes to see a fortune teller – only to realise later that it’s the very fortune teller who makes hi heart a flutter, this is one of the first genuinely funny rock and roll songs (apart from those written by Chuck Berry, anyway). It’s not just the lyrics that make this song the enjoyable little escapade it is, however – the rhythmic see-sawing melody line and mixture of on and off beats made it one of those songs that bands could take in pretty much any direction. And they did. The Stones version – for some reason abandoned as their second single, left in a vault for two years and then overdubbed with crowd noises so it could appear ‘live’ – is one of the bands’ best early covers, menacing and ungrammatical in true Stones style (‘I’m not passion with the girls I know’; generally speaking they’re better at doing blues covers than rock and roll in their early days, although their Bo Diddley songs are an exception to that). The Hollies coat the song in blissful harmonies and take the song at a rattling pace while letting drummer Bobby Elliott work his way up and down his kit, exploring every avenue while looking for love. The Who go in quite a different way, slowing the song down to a crawl for the first half of the song before letting it erupt into a fire of self-pity and anger over the narrator’s love life. All three versions are superb, showing what a great and adaptable little song this is.   

2) Shakin’ All Over (originally by Johnny Kidd and the Pirates; covered by the Swinging Blue Jeans and The Who – ‘Live At Leeds’). One of the noisiest of all 19560s songs, this was the British song that broke the dichotomy of the American rock and rollers and showed that England wasn’t all clean-cut Cliff Richards and Tommy Steeles With pklenty of space for rhythm guitar riffing, electric guitar soloing, drum breaks and bubbling bass lines, this is another song that marked the way forward for bands of the early 60s. The Who turn in a typically energetic and fierce version on their superlative Live At Leeds album, but it’s the largely forgotten group the Swinging Blue Jeans who made perhaps the definitive 60s version of this track. Crystal-clear production, relentless drumming, classic vocals – this version has it all.   

1) Too Much Monkey Business (originally by Chuck Berry; covered by the Beatles – ‘At The BBC’, The Kinks – ‘The Kinks’ and The Hollies – studio version ‘The Hollies’/ live version ‘Long Road Home’ box set). ‘Same thing every day, get up go to school, no need for arguing my objections over-ruled, ahh!’ This is just one of six verses hollered at a break neck speed on perhaps the ultimate pre-Beatles rebel song, one of the best Chuck Berry records around. Hemmed in at school, at work, at home, in the army, life for the teenage rebel in the song is hard – but he finds a certain kind of satisfaction in being kicked out of every one in turn for monkeying around. The Hollies sweetened their version with stunning harmonies but made the rhythm section pounce even morer than on the original, while swapping lead vocals between their three singers Clarke, Hicks and Nash. (Check out the live version, not available until the 2003 box set, which demonstrates the universality of this song by suddenly leaping sideways into lots of other songs, including the Beatles’ ‘I Feel Fine’ and the Lovin’ Spoonful’s ‘Daydream’). The Beatles choose to speed up the tempo, with Lennon delivering one of his best ever lead vocals on a version that remains one of the fab four’s most potent (and forgotten) rockers. Whichever way you do it, this song is a classic!

Well that’s nearly it for another week. Just one final word before we go, a though from Philosophy Phil – ‘the best cure for insomnia is…a good night’s sleep’. Yes, thankyou for that wonderful thought, we’ll see you next week! Keep rocking!

A NOW COMPLETE List Of Top Five/Top Ten/TOP TWENTY  Entries 2008-2019
1) Chronic Fatigue songs

2) Songs For The Face Of Bo

3) Credit Crunch Songs

4) Songs For The Autumn

5) National Wombat Week

6) AAA Box Sets

7) Virus Songs

8) Worst AAA-Related DVDs

9) Self-Punctuating Superstar Classics

10) Ways To Know You Have Turned Into A Collector

11) Political Songs

12) Totally Bonkers Concept Albums

13) Celebrating 40 Years Of The Beatles' White Album

14) Still Celebrating 40 Years Of The Beatles' White Album

15) AAA Existential Questions

16) Releases Of The Year 2008

17) Top AAA Xmas Songs

18) Notable AAA Gigs

19) All things '20' related for our 20th issue

20) Romantic odes for Valentine's Day

21) Hollies B sides

22) 'Other' BBC Session Albums

23) Beach Boys Rarities Still Not Available On CD

24) Songs John, Paul and George wrote for Ringo's solo albums

25) 5 of the Best Rock 'n' Roll Tracks From The Pre-Beatles Era

26) AAA Autobiographies

27) Rolling Stones B-sides

28) Beatles B-Sides

29) The lllloooonnngggeesssttt AAA songs of all time

30) Kinks B-Sides

31) Abandoned CSNY projects 'wasted on the way'

32) Best AAA Rarities and Outtakes Sets

33) News We've Missed While We've Been Away

34) Birthday Songs for our 1st Anniversary

35) Brightest Album Covers

36) Biggest Recorded Arguments

37) Songs About Superheroes

38) AAA TV Networks That Should Exist

39) AAA Woodtsock Moments

40) Top Moments Of The Past Year As Voted For By Readers

41) Music Segues

42) AAA Foreign Language Songs

43) 'Other' Groups In Need Of Re-Mastering

44) The Kinks Preservation Rock Opera - Was It Really About The Forthcoming UK General Election?

45) Mono and Stereo Mixes - Biggest Differences

46) Weirdest Things To Do When A Band Member Leaves

47) Video Clips Exclusive To Youtube (#1)

48) Top AAA Releases Of 2009

49) Songs About Trains

50) Songs about Winter

51) Songs about astrology plus horoscopes for selected AAA members

52) The Worst Five Groups Ever!

53) The Most Over-Rated AAA Albums

54) Top AAA Rarities Exclusive To EPs

55) Random Recent Purchases (#1)

56) AAA Party Political Slogans

57) Songs To Celebrate 'Rock Sunday'

58) Strange But True (?) AAA Ghost Stories

59) AAA Artists In Song

60) Songs About Dogs

61) Sunshiney Songs

62) The AAA Staff Play Their Own Version Of Monoploy/Mornington Crescent!

63) What 'Other' British Invasion DVDs We'd Like To See

64) What We Want To Place In Our AAA Time Capsule

65) AAA Conspiracy Theroies

66) Weirdest Things To Do Before - And After - Becoming A Star

67) Songs To Tweet To

68) Greatest Ever AAA Solos

69) John Lennon Musical Tributes

70) Songs For Halloween

71) Earliest Examples Of Psychedelia

72) Purely Instrumental Albums

73) AAA Utopias

74) AAA Imaginary Bands

75) Unexpected AAA Cover Versions

76) Top Releases of 2010

77) Songs About Snow

78) Predictions For 2011

79) AAA Fugitives

80) AAA Home Towns

81) The Biggest Non-Musical Influences On The 1960s

82) AAA Groups Covering Other AAA Groups

83) Strange Censorship Decisions

84) AAA Albums Still Unreleased on CD

85) Random Recent Purchases (#2)

86) Top AAA Music Videos

87) 30 Day Facebook Music Challenge

88) AAA Documentaries

89) Unfinished and 'Lost' AAA Albums

90) Strangest AAA Album Covers

91) AAA Performers Live From Mars (!)

92) Songs Including The Number '100' for our 100th Issue

93) Most Songs Recorded In A Single Day

94) Most Revealing AAA Interviews

95) Top 10 Pre-Fame Recordings

96) The Shortest And Longest AAA Albums

97) The AAA Allstars Ultimate Band Line-Up

98) Top Songs About Sports

99) AAA Conversations With God

100) AAA Managers: The Good, The Bad and the Financially Ugly

101) Unexpected AAA Cameos

102) AAA Words You can Type Into A Caluclator

103) AAA Court Cases

104) Postmodern Songs About Songwriting

105) Biggest Stylistic Leaps Between Albums

106) 20 Reasons Why Cameron Should Go!

107) The AAA Pun-Filled Cookbook

108) Classic Debut Releases

109) Five Uses Of Bird Sound Effects

110) AAA Classic Youtube Clips Part #1

111) Part #2

112) Part #3

113) AAA Facts You Might Not Know

114) The 20 Rarest AAA Records

115) AAA Instrumental Songs

116) Musical Tarot

117) Christmas Carols

118) Top AAA Releases Of 2011

119) AAA Bands In The Beano/The Dandy

120) Top 20 Guitarists #1

121) #2

122) 'Shorty' Nomination Award Questionairre

123) Top Best-Selling AAA Albums

124) AAA Songs Featuring Bagpipes

125) A (Hopefully) Complete List Of AAA Musicians On Twitter

126) Beatles Albums That Might Have Been 1970-74 and 1980

127) DVD/Computer Games We've Just Invented

128) The AAA Albums With The Most Weeks At #1 in the UK

129) The AAA Singles With The Most Weeks At #1 in the UK

130) Lyric Competition (Questions)

131) Top Crooning Classics

132) Funeral Songs

133) AAA Songs For When Your Phone Is On Hold

134) Random Recent Purchases (#3)

135) Lyric Competition (Answers)

136) Bee Gees Songs/AAA Goes Disco!

137) The Best AAA Sleevenotes (And Worst)

138) A Short Precise Of The Years 1962-70

139) More Wacky AAA-Related Films And Their Soundtracks

140) AAA Appearances On Desert Island Discs

141) Songs Exclusive To Live Albums

142) More AAA Songs About Armageddon

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159) A (Not That) Short Guide To The 15 Best Non-AAA Bands

160) The Greatest AAA Drum Solos (Or Near Solos!)

161) AAA Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame Acceptance Speeches

162) AAA Re-Recordings Of Past Songs

163) A Coalition Christmas (A Fairy Tale)

164) AAA Songs About Islands

165) The AAA Review Of The Year 2012

166) The Best AAA Concerts I Attended

167) Tributes To The 10 AAA Stars Who Died The Youngest

168) The First 10 AAA Songs Listed Alphabetically

171) The 10 Best Songs From The Psychedelia Box-Sets ‘Nuggets’ and ‘Nuggets Two’

172) The 20 Most Common Girl’s Names In AAA Song Titles (With Definitions) 

180) First Recordings By Future AAA Stars

185) A Tribute To Storm Thorgerson Via The Five AAA Bands He Worked With

188) Surprise! Celebrating 300 Album Reviews With The Biggest 'Surprises' Of The Past Five Years Of Alan's Album Archives!

190) Comparatively Obscure First Compositions By AAA Stars

193) Evolution Of A Band: Comparing First Lyric With Last Lyric:

200) The Monkees In Relation To Postmodernism (University Dissertation)

202) Carly Simon's 'You're So Vain': Was It About One Of The AAA Crew?

217) AAA 'Christmas Presents' we'd most like to have next year

221) Dr Who and the AAA (Five Musical Links)

222) Five Random Recent Purchases

223) AAA Grammy Nominees

224) Ten AAA songs that are better heard unedited and in full

225) The shortest gaps between AAA albums

226) The longest gaps between AAA albums

227) Top ten AAA drummers

228) Top Ten AAA Singles (In Terms of 'A' and 'B' Sides)

229) The Stories Behind Six AAA Logos

230) AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!! The Best Ten AAA Screams

231) An AAA Pack Of Horses

232) AAA Granamas - Sorry, Anagrams!

233) AAA Surnames and Their Meanings

234) 20 Erroneous AAA Album Titles

235) The Best AAA Orchestral Arrangements

236) Top 30 Hilariously Misheard Album Titles/Lyrics

237) Ten controversial AAA sackings - and whether they were right

238) A Critique On Critiquing - In Response To Brian Wilson

239) The Ten MusicianS Who've Played On The Most AAA Albums

240) Thoughts on #CameronMustGo

241) Random Recent Purchases (Kinks/Grateful Dead/Nils Lofgren/Rolling Stones/Hollies) 

242) AAA Christmas Number Ones 

243) AAA Review Of The Year 2014 (Top Releases/Re-issues/Documentaries/DVDs/Books/Songs/ Articles  plus worst releases of the year)

244) Me/CFS Awareness Week 2015

245) Why The Tory 2015 Victory Seems A Little...Suspicious

246) A Plea For Peace and Tolerance After The Attacks on Paris - and Syria

247) AAA Review Of The Year 2015

248) The Fifty Most Read AAA Articles (as of December 31st 2015)

249) The Revised AAA Crossword!

251) Half-A-Dozen Berries Plus One (An AAA Tribute To Chuck Berry)

252) Guest Post: ‘The Skids – Joy’ (1981) by Kenny Brown

254) Guest Post: ‘Supertramp – Some Things Never Change’ by Kenny Brown

255) AAA Review Of The Year 2018

256) AAA Review Of The Year 2019 plus Review Of The Decade 2010-2019

257) Tiermaker

258) #Coronastock

259) #Coronadocstock

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