Long Tall Sally - The Beatles

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"Long Tall Sally" - The Beatles (1964)

One of The Beatles most volatile tracks,  Little Richard’s  "Long Tall Sally" is also the most inescapable cover in The Beatles history stretching from the very earliest days of the group to the very last public concert they gave in 1966.

The Beatles' version is played in the key of G, rather than the original's key of F. It also contains a slightly different bridge, with a showy succession of chords just after the solo that's not present in the original; this was probably taken from Richard's own performance as they had met him and watched his show when playing in Hamburg.

Lennon comments in the Anthology documentary:

“Little Richard was one of the all-time greats. The first time I heard him a friend of mine had been to Holland and brought back a 78 with Long Tall Sally on one side, and Slippin' And Slidin' on the other. It blew our heads - we'd never heard anybody sing like that in our lives and all those saxes playing like crazy.”

McCartney was especially proud of his ability to mimic his hero's vocal delivery.

Beatle scholar Alan Pollack writes:   

“Paul's stylized imitation of Little Richard, the likes of which had not heretofore appeared on an official recording of the Beatles remains so astonishing by itself that one tends to overlook just how outrageous the words of this song are in context of the Beatles' act. Indeed, the strange tale told here about philandering Uncle John, his girlfriend Sally, and their near-miss attempts to keep their antics a secret from Aunt Mary are a far cry from the yearnings of teen love which were the virtually exclusive purview of the group's officially recorded output up until this point in time. “

Pollack points out that The Beatles added some trademark devices to their arrangement of this song; e.g. the prominence of the piano and lead guitar parts. Commenting on Paul's bass line, Pollack says it is predominantly walking throughout except for the final sections in which it changes the whole feel of the music simply by shifting to throbbingly repeated notes.

As the song was cut in just one take, Paul makes a few mistakes in the lyrics: the original's line about "bald-headed Sally," which many rock critics took to mean that Sally was a man, was replaced with "long tall Sally" as in the first verse. Perhaps the somewhat controversial reference to a possible gay subtext was changed on purpose.

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