Twist And Shout - The Beatles

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"Twist And Shout" - The Beatles (1963)

“Twist And Shout” has become such a definitive early Beatle song- most people would be surprised to hear that they did not write it.  Composed by Phil Medley and Bert Russell in 1961, a version by The Isley Brothers released the following year became a minor hit.

The Beatles’ version is a complete re-imagining of the original but which changes the pace from reggae staccato to an ambling sexual invitation.

Although The Beatles first recorded it in November 1962 in Paris- that tape has been lost. They performed it nine times for the BBC- yet for some strange reason- none of those versions appeared on the Live At The BBC collection.

Only two other takes of “Twist And Shout” were recorded. The first made it to the album; by the second Lennon's voice had gone, and the session came to a halt.

Producer George Martin wanted a show-stopper with which to close the album, and he had just one song in mind.

He explains in the Anthology documentary:

“I knew that Twist And Shout was a real larynx-tearer and I said, 'We're not going record that until the very end of the day, because if we record it early on, you're not going to have any voice left.' We did two takes, and after that John didn't have any voice left at all. It was good enough for the record, and it needed that linen-ripping sound.”

The star of the track isn’t even Lennon’s vocal- it is Ringo’s very energetic,  powerhouse drumming- played with an incredible intensity.

This is the cover song which changed everything. With this song, the changes they made resulted in the most radical change of character and impact of the original. The Isley Brothers play it in the much higher key of F and the rhythmic swing of their performance and their brassy arrangement gives the song an entirely different feel from the Beatles' rendition. It’s blues in an almost Latin way, as opposed to just hard rock- although wow does it rock. The recording remains immortal as it sounds so fresh each time it is heard.

The reason the Beatle versions of these songs sounded so much better is that unlike the original which was the star and his back-up band- the Beatles functioned musically, as a one unit. Their covers of other artists may not be as “innovative” as the songs they authored- musically- they are much more explosive. Fresher.  It seems they enjoyed singing these cover songs so much more than ones they would later write.  

Music critic Richard Reigel writes:

“I've always suspected that there's a silent understanding (conspiracy?) Among the converted-by-Sgt.-Pepper Beatles partisans that the group's earlier cover versions of other composers' songs somehow don't count in that grandiose history-&-synthesis-of-Western-music Beatles canon. Their reconstitution of the Isley Brothers' "Twist And Shout"  just happens to be one of their lads' most energetic, raucous recordings ever.”

Russian music critic George Starostin commented:

“Songs The Beatles “covered”  like ‘Twist and Shout’ were great because of detail to “melodic backbone.” They existed on the basis of how good the music was- not just because it was a Beatle song. As incredible as these 25 or so cover songs that were recorded- remember that they were recorded in a hurry- without rehearsal- and where no sheet music was written down on paper at the time.”

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