Musicology – The Beatles’ Rock ‘n’ Roll Music

The Beatles - Rock and Roll Music

When thinking of another Musicology entry, I thought about other influential bands and songs that helped shape who I am.  For that, I have to credit my parents, whose extensive record collection (all on vinyl) was the source of entertainment for me and my siblings for the first few years of our lives.  Fortunately for me, my parents had pretty good taste.

Back then, music wasn’t something you put on to listen to in the background while you did something else.  Music was always front and centre, demanding and expecting your attention from the first crackle and pop of the needle on the vinyl.  Care had to be taken with the equipment, and records were fragile things to handle carefully.  To this day, I still have the discipline to return CDs and DVDs to their covers once I’ve finished with them.

The Beatles - Rock & Roll Music album cover
The Beatles – Rock & Roll Music album cover

Through that record collection, I was introduced to some great bands.  The Rolling Stones.  Creedence Clearwater Revival.  Led Zeppelin.  The Doors.  However, the largest section of the record collection was reserved for probably the greatest band of all time, The Beatles.

You Can’t Do That

Sgt Peppers insert card
Sgt Peppers insert card

My parents’ collection of Beatles records was far from complete, but it held the important ones (well, important to me, anyway).  It included Rubber Soul, Please Please Me, Revolver, Yellow Submarine, Let It Be and Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (with the cardboard insert left in tact, regardless of my attempts to cut out the items!).  But the one that held the most fascination for me was the compilation album, Rock ‘n’ Roll Music.

The first thing that attracted me to the album was the album cover and artwork.  There are hands on the album!  Someone is already holding the album!  Five-year-old me spent hours trying to get my time hands in the exact same positions, but of course never could.  And the inside of the gatefold sleeve was an explosion of colour and “old music kind of things”.  I was too young to work out most of the imagery on the inside of the sleeve was from the fifties and the Beatles were a sixties band.

Inside the gatefold of Rock 'n' Roll Music
Inside the gatefold of Rock ‘n’ Roll Music

At the time, I had no idea of the concept of a compilation album – as far as I knew, bands recorded those songs specifically for each and every album that was released.  The songs from the album were recorded between 1962 and 1970, with Sgt Peppers and Abbey Road the only two Beatles albums not represented.

I Call Your Name

The first album is dominated with cover songs, with ten of the fourteen songs not a Beatles song.  Larry Williams, Carl Perkins and Chuck Berry are the only songwriters to have multiple songs performed on the album.  Other songwriters appearing on the album include Phil Medley, Richard Penniman and Berry Gordy.

The record starts very strong, with Twist and Shout and I Saw Her Standing There opening side one.  I Remember in the mid-80’s Twist and Shout went through a resurgence in popularity due to the song featuring in the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  Some people went as far as asking when “this new band The Beatles” would be touring, not aware of the Beatles breaking up in 1970 and John Lennon’s death in 1980.  The rest of the first side of the album is early Beatles cuts – Boys was a Please Please Me take, while Long Tall Sally was recorded during the A Hard Days Night sessions.

The second side is entirely made up of cover songs.  They start and finish with Chuck Berry classics – Rock and Roll Music and Roll Over, Beethoven were both songs from very early Beatles days.  In the middle of the side is Money (That’s What I Want), originally written by Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford.  Gordy had just started Motown Records, and seven moths later Barrett Strong’s recording of Money (That’s What I Want) became Motown’s first hit song.  The Beatles recorded their version in 1963, having played the song since at least 1961.

It’s Breaking My Heart

The third side (it is a double album, after all) starts with Williams’ Dizzy, Miss Lizzy.  The song was recorded in 1965 and used as the final track on the album Help!  Track three is Drive My Car, which was one of my favourite tracks of the album.  Looking back, Drive My Car (along with track seven, Revolution) set the stage for me to love bass-heavy rock songs.  On this record, the version of Revolution was the slow bluesy version – not the trippy multi-track version of Revolution 9.

Side Four of the album is pure Beatles, no covers, and all rock n roll.  Taxman, written by George Harrison, is the only non-Lennon-McCartney track.  Starting with the triplet of Back In The U. S. S. R., Helter Skelter and Taxman, this shows the Beatles at their rocking-est (that’s a word now).  The horns on Got To Get You Into My Life add a bit of a big-band feel to the track list, which is brought back into the rock fold with the boisterous Hey Bulldog.  The rocking Birthday and Get Back finish the album.

Gets It While She Can

This album would have to be one of the first, if not the first, album I ever heard.  And it was a pretty great album to have stumbled upon, covering multiple styles, writers and performances.  There are the Lennon and McCartney harmonies.  The straight-up pop-rock songs of the early sixties.  The experimental distortion of the late sixties.  And the development of the songwriting throughout the career of the band.  The album has since been split into Volumes I and II with different artwork.  It has pretty much disappeared into the shadow of Anthology.  If you can hunt down this album, go get it and relive my childhood for me!