The latest issue of Uncut , our Beatles special, comes with a free special themed CD; ‘Pre-fabs: the songs that influenced John, Paul, George & Ringo’.
The 15-track compilation includes Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Little Richard and Carl Perkins. See below for full track details.
The Beatles recorded and performed a sizeable clutch of songs by the US rock’n’roll/R’n’B artists who opened the door and influenced them as music-hungry teenagers growing up in ’50s Liverpool.
Their early marathon sets in clubs along Hamburg’s Reeperbahn were stuffed with covers. The first five Beatles LPs, bar ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, contained favourite songs previously recorded by other artists, and both John and Paul went on to record albums of rock’n’roll standards in their solo careers.
Here, in their original versions, we present 15 non-Lennon/McCartney compositions that soundtracked the birth of The Beatles more than half a century ago…
1. Larry Williams – “Dizzy Miss Lizzy”
Written and recorded in New Orleans by Larry Williams in ’58, this song was in The Beatles’ setlist from Hamburg days and appeared on their ’65 album Help! They also covered Williams’ “Bad Boy” and “Slow Down” and another version of “Dizzy” appeared on the Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album, Live Peace In Toronto 1969.
2. Eddie Cochran – “C’mon Everybody”
Cochran recorded this song in ’58, two years before his death. The Beatles covered several Cochran numbers in the early days and George was such a fan that he even acquired one of the singer’s stage shirts.
3 Wilbert Harrison – “Kansas City”
Leiber & Stoller wrote “Kansas City” in ’52 when it was a blues hit for Little Willie Littlefield. But it was the ’58 hit version by Wilbert Harrison and subsequent cover by Little Richard that persuaded The Beatles to add it to the Hamburg setlist. They finally cut it – with adapted lyrics – for ’64’s For Sale.
4. Chuck Berry – “You Can’t Catch Me”
Chuck’s ’56 hit was a Beatles’ favourite from early days and John borrowed the lyric “Here come old flat top” for the opening line of “Come Together”. The steal did not go unnoticed by Chuck’s publisher and the ensuing legal suit indirectly led to Lennon covering the original on ’75’s Rock’N’Roll.
5. Buddy Holly – “Words Of Love”
Recorded by Holly in ’57, this was in the Fabs’ early live sets when Ringo played a packing case to capture the original drum sound. A cover eventually appeared on ’64’s For Sale.
6 The Everly Brothers – “Wake Up Little Susie”
Written by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant and a No 1 for Don and Phil in ’57. When The Fabs played this in early Cavern days, McCartney tried to fool the blues purists by announcing it as a Big Bill Broonzy number.
7. Elvis Presley – “Baby Let’s Play House”
Recorded in Memphis for Sun in ’55, this was the song that gave Elvis his first US chart entry. Lennon later borrowed the lyric “I’d rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man,” for the opening line of “Run For Your Life” on Rubber Soul.
8. Little Richard – “Long Tall Sally”
Written with producer “Bumps” Blackwell as the follow-up to his first hit, “Tutti Frutti”, Little Richard’s intention was to come up with a song so fast that this time Pat Boone couldn’t cover it. He did, anyway. And so did The Beatles, eight years later on a ’64 EP.
9. The Del-Vikings – “Come Go With Me”
This doo-wop hit from ’57 was the song John was singing with The Quarrymen at the Woolton church fête the first time Paul set eyes on him.
10. Big Joe Turner – “Shake Rattle & Roll”
Turner topped the R’n’B charts in ’54 with this Jesse Stone composition, sparking an immediate cover by Bill Haley and another by Elvis two years later. The Beatles recorded it as part of an extended jam during the Get Back sessions in Jan ’69 and it eventually appeared on Anthology 3.
11. The Coasters – “Searchin’”
“Searchin’” was written by Leiber & Stoller for The Coasters in ’57, and it was this song The Beatles played during their failed audition for Decca on Jan 1, ’62.
12. Ricky Nelson – “Lonesome Town”
This ’58 hit was recorded by Paul on his ’99 LP, Run Devil Run. It was also one of Linda’s favourites, as Paul explained when he sang it at her memorial concert at the Albert Hall.
13. Lloyd Price – “Just Because”
New Orleans stalwart Price cut this in ’57 and it left a lasting impression on John, who chose it to close his ’75 covers LP, Rock’N’Roll.
14. Bobby Freeman – “Do You Wanna Dance?”
A white pop standard, covered by everyone from The Beach Boys to Bette Midler, John joined the team when he included it on Rock’N’Roll. Rumour has claimed that Jerry Garcia played guitar on Freeman’s original.
15. Carl Perkins – “Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby”
The Beatles recorded several Perkins songs, but they had a particular affection for this song, a hit for Perkins in ’57.
TRACK LIST: NIGEL WILLIAMSON
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