These stories are all extracts from Rock’n’Roll Unravelled
An * with a date, e.g. 26 June* 1967, indicates an associated story in Rock’n’Roll Unravelled, that story might not appear here.
- He’s a Rebel – Phil Spector
- Louie Louie – The Kingsmen
- Love Me Do – The Beatles
- Twist and Shout – The Top Notes (original version)
- Waltz for a Pig – The Who Orchestra
- Original single released as The Crystals Recorded by Darlene Love
- Vikki Carr He’s A Rebel
- Uptown The Crystals
- He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss) The Crystals
He’s a Rebel – Phil Spector
13 July 1962: Phil Spector recording session for He’s a Rebel
Phil Spector was back in the studio to produce his next single, the Gene Pitney penned He’s a Rebel. The song was released as the Crystals follow-up to Uptown, providing Spector’s own Philles label with its first American #1.
At that time music fans would refer to “the latest Phil Spector single” rather than the name of the recording artist. He’s a Rebel demonstrated the interchangeable nature of Spector’s acts. He had recently relocated from New York to the West Coast and this was his first recording session in Hollywood’s Gold Star Studios. The Crystals were not available at the time of recording but Spector was keen to push on because Vikki Carr was already in the process of recording the song. To fill the gap he used the talents of backing group the Blossoms, with lead singer Darlene Love. The first time that the Crystals knew about the record was when they heard it on the radio!
This song introduced arranger Jack Nitzsche to what would become a long recording relationship with Spector. Session musicians known as the “Wrecking Crew” provided the backing, including keyboard player Leon Russell, drummer Hal Blaine, guitarist Barney Kessel and with the sax solo courtesy of Steve Douglas.
He’s a Rebel was not technically the follow-up to Uptown. The Crystals had released He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss) after Uptown but the general outcry at the title and content of the song resulted in the single being quickly withdrawn.
- The Kingsmen Iconic hit version
- Richard Berry and the Pharaohs Writer and original version
- Rockin’ Robin Roberts First garage version
- Paul Revere and the Raiders Recorded at the same time as the Kingsmen’s version
- Rice University Marching Owl Band
- Frank Zappa Parody version, Plastic People
- The Sonics
- The Kinks
Louie Louie – The Kingsmen
30 November 1963: The Kingsmen took Louie Louie into the American charts
The iconic rock song Louie Louie moved out of the garage when the Kingsmen’s version made the American top-20 and then went on to become an international phenomenon.
The song was written and originally recorded by Richard Berry and the Pharaohs, and released on Flip in April 1957. His version made the local charts but he sold the song for few dollars in order to embark on married life. In the early 1960s the song took on a life of its own and it took him 30 years to win back the rights to the writing credit.
The Louie Louie story started in the Pacific North West in March 1961, when Rockin’ Robin Roberts released the first garage version of the song. This became a local hit in the Seattle area and the song was regularly included in local repertoires. It was in the spring of 1963 that the song’s momentum really started to build up. Two bands from the area, The Kingsmen, and Paul Revere and the Raiders, both recorded the song. The Kingsmen’s version won out and a legend was born.
The Kingsmen’s version attracted an FBI investigation to determine if the lyrics were obscene. A lengthy investigation and a 118-page report98 later – they decided not!
Radio stations have devoted entire days to playing it. Louie Louie college parties have rocked to the one song all night long. It has been covered over 2,000 times. As well as straight rock versions by the Kinks and many others, there have been ironic covers from Frank Zappa and stranger versions from the Rice University Marching Owl Band.
Other versions include:
- Pete Best
- Ringo Starr
- Andy White
Love Me Do – The Beatles
6 June 1962: 1st Love Me Do recording session at Abbey Road
Shortly after returning from their third Hamburg trip, Brian Epstein secured the first recording session with George Martin, at EMI’s famous Abbey Road studios.
This was the only Beatles recording session with drummer Pete Best. They recorded four songs: Love Me Do, PS I Love You, Ask Me Why and Besame Mucho, the latter was written by Consuelo Velazquez. This Pete Best version of Love Me Do did not see the light of day until the release of Anthology 1 in 1995.
4 September 1962: 2nd Abbey Road recording session
By the time that the Beatles returned to Abbey Road for their second recording session, Ringo Starr had replaced Pete Best as the Fab Four’s drummer. Just two songs were recorded that day, Love Me Do and How Do You Do It. Producer George Martin was very keen for the Beatles to release the Mitch Murray penned How Do You Do It as their first single but the Liverpudlians were adamant that they only wanted to release their own material as their debut single.
All was not lost for Murray, another very popular Liverpool group Gerry and the Pacemakers released the song as their debut single and scored a British #1. It took the Beatles until May 1963 to hit the top spot, with their third single, From Me to You.
11 September 1962: 3rd and final Love Me Do recording session at Abbey Road Studios
Producer George Martin had not been satisfied with the second recording of Love Me Do, made on 4 September* with Ringo on drums. When the four Liverpudlians returned for their third trip to Abbey Road, Martin had secured the services of session drummer Andy White. A third version of Love Me Do was recorded, where Ringo took a backseat and played tambourine on Love Me Do and maracas on the UK B-side PS I Love You.
They also recorded several takes of another new Lennon and McCartney song, Please Please Me. This was a different arrangement to the one released as their second UK single. It was more in the style of a slow Orbison-esque ballad. Sadly, none of those takes survived for posterity.
5 October 1962: The Beatles released Love Me Do c/w PS I Love You in Britain
Three versions of Love Me Do exist, with three different drummers. Pete Best was the sticksman for the Beatles’ first Abbey Road recording session on 6 June*. By the time that they returned to the studio for the second visit on 4 September*, Best had been fired and replaced by Ringo Starr. Producer George Martin was unimpressed by Starr’s performance that day and for the third session on 11 September* he hired session drummer Andy White for the recording.
The easiest way to tell which version is being played is to listen out for the tambourine. If there is a tambourine, then Ringo is playing it and Andy White is on drums. Andy White plays drums on PS I Love You, accompanied by Ringo on maracas. Love Me Do was not released as a single in America until the Tollie version on 27 April* 1964, although it was released by Capitol in Canada on 4 February 1963.
Ironically, the initial UK release of Love Me Do had Ringo on drums. The Pete Best version did not see the light of day until the Beatles’ Anthology collection 30 years later.
27 April 1964: The Beatles released Love Me Do c/w PS I Love You in America
The ninth Beatles single to be released in America had the same coupling as the Fab Four’s British debut, released on 5 October* 1962. This, their second release on Tollie, was taken from the third Love Me Do recording session at Abbey Road, on 11 September* 1962 and featured session drummer Andy White, with Ringo sidelined to tambourine.
VINYL HISTORY OF LOVE ME DO:
1962 June 6: 1st recording session at Abbey Road – drummer Pete Best
1962 Sep 4: 2nd Abbey Road recording session – drummer Ringo Starr
1962 Sep 11: 3rd Abbey Road recording session – Andy White drums and Ringo tambourine
1962 Oct 5: UK single released – original copies (red label) with Ringo on drums
1963: released by Capitol in Canada – with Ringo on drums
1963 Mar 22: UK album, Please Please Me released – Andy White version
1963: UK Parlophone changed singles’ label from red to black – also to Andy White
1963 Jul 22: US album, Introducing the Beatles released on Vee-Jay – Andy White…
…track was replaced by Please Please Me on the re-issued album
1964 Apr 27: US single released on the Tollie label – Andy White
1965 Mar 22: 1st release in America from Capitol, The Early Beatles – Andy White
1995 Nov 21: Pete Best’s version was finally made legally available on Anthology 1
Listen for a tambourine to determine which version you are listening to!
- The Top Notes
- The Isley Brothers
- The Beatles Legendary “rattle your jewelry” Royal Command Performance
Twist and Shout – The Top Notes
23 February 1961: The Top Notes recorded Twist and Shout
The original version of Twist and Shout was recorded in New York by the Top Notes. The song was released by Atlantic Records as the B-side of another song recorded that day, Always Late (Why Lead Me On). Phil Spector had recently joined the Atlantic Records team and in a joint effort with Jerry Wexler took this on as one of his earliest productions. The record label credited his involvement as “Supervised by Phil Spector”.
Spector was still learning his craft and was yet to develop his “wall of sound” concept. Bert Berns co-wrote the song and was very disappointed with the final version by the Top Notes. When this single failed to make any impression on the charts he took the song to the Isley Brothers at Wand. This time Berns handled the production personally, giving the Isley Brothers their first hit on both sides of the Atlantic.
The song is probably best known for the cover version by the Beatles, released in the UK on their debut album, Please Please Me. In America the song was included on their first-ever American album, Introducing the Beatles, released on the small, independent Vee-Jay label.
- The Who Orchestra
Waltz for a Pig – The Who Orchestra
14 March 1966: The Who released Substitute c/w Waltz for a Pig (UK)
The Who’s follow-up to their classic My Generation single was also their first release on the new Reaction label. Two versions of Townshend’s Substitute were released, one with the B-side Circles, the other with Instant Party. In reality they were both the same song.
The producer of their earlier Brunswick singles, Shel Talmy, had already recorded Instant Party and he took a dim view of the Who re-recording the song for their new label. He made his point by releasing his version of Instant Party as the B-side for A Legal Matter. To right the wrong, he obtained an injunction which stopped sales and prevented the Who from recording. They rescued the situation by changing the B-side to Waltz for a Pig, performed by the Who Orchestra with a writing credit for Harry Butcher.
This new B-side was actually performed by the Graham Bond Organisation. Drummer and future Cream sticksman Ginger Baker was the writer, credited as “Harry Butcher”.
More stories behind the songs, to be continued…