Fifty-three years ago today—on March 22, 1963—the Beatles released their first album, Please Please Me. The last of the 14 tracks? A rambunctious cover of “Twist and Shout”(the original version was recorded by Top Notes in 1961, followed by a chart-hitting version by The Isley Brothers in 1962):
In the June 2013 issue of The Atlantic, Colin Fleming argued that 1963 was “the year the Beatles found their voice”—in part through a series of covers (how appropriate):
In 1963, the Beatles were exploding in England. Their debut LP, Please Please Me, came out in March, followed by their megahit single “She Loves You” in August. Their second album, With the Beatles, and another hit single, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” followed in the fall. Screaming girls, throngs of fans, bushels of albums being sold—this was when it all started.
But the Beatles were also a veritable human jukebox that year. One of their many commitments was to turn up semi-regularly at the BBC, horse around on air, read requests, make fun of each other, make fun of the presenter, and play live versions of whatever people wanted to hear, whether that was their own material or a vast range of covers: Elvis Presley numbers; obscure rhythm-and-blues songs by lost-to-time bands like the Jodimars; Broadway show tunes; Americana; vamps on Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry; rearrangements of girl-group cuts; torch songs. If you wanted to hear what made the Beatles the Beatles, here is where you would want to start.
My wife and I saw The Who on four of their first seven farewell tours, 1982 to sometime in the 1990s. At least twice, their encore was “Twist and Shout.” Pete Townshend called it “the best song we know,” or words to that effect.
I love the Goldberg Variations [posted Sunday]—especially the Rosalyn Tureck version. She repeats the returns, as written, which makes the recording longer—over 70 minutes, I believe. I know of no better music in which to get lost in contemplation.
Enjoying this series.