Rock 'n' Roll Music (album)
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|Rock 'n' Roll Music|
|Compilation album by The Beatles|
|Released||7 June 1976 (US)
11 June 1976 (UK)
EMI and Apple studios, London
|Genre||Rock and roll, hard rock|
|Producer||George Martin, Phil Spector|
|The Beatles chronology|
|Singles from Rock 'n' Roll Music|
Rock 'n' Roll Music is a compilation album by The Beatles that consists of previously released Beatles tracks considered by many to be quintessential "rock and roll". The double album was issued on 7 June 1976 in the United States, on Capitol Records (catalogue number SKBO 11537), and on Parlophone (PCSP 719) in the United Kingdom, four days later; at the time, some in the media speculated that the album was released to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the first meeting between John Lennon and Paul McCartney. (If that was indeed the intention, EMI miscalculated, as the two actually first met in July 1957.) The title, Rock 'n' Roll Music, presumably came from the song of the same name by Chuck Berry, The Beatles' version of which is included on side two of the original two-record set. The album is primarily made up of cover versions of songs written by significant rock and roll composers of the '50s, including Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Carl Perkins and Larry Williams, although some notable Lennon–McCartney originals, such as "Drive My Car", "Revolution", "Back in the U.S.S.R." and "Get Back" are included also. Rock 'n' Roll Music was the first Beatles album to include "I'm Down", which had previously only been available as the B-side of the "Help!" single.
Controversial album cover
Controversy surrounded the album's artwork, which featured an embossed colour portrait of The Beatles against a shiny silver background, with the album's title spelled out in what is presumed to be neon lights. Symbols of the 1950s were used on the inside of the album's gatefold sleeve, including a jukebox, an outdoor movie screen with a picture of Marilyn Monroe, a 1957 Chevrolet, a cheeseburger, and a glass of Coca-Cola. 1950s nostalgia was at a peak when the album was released and Capitol was clearly attempting to cash in on the trend. As The Beatles were a '60s band, the album cover prompted Ringo Starr to complain to Rolling Stone: "It made us look cheap and we never were cheap. All that Coca-Cola and cars with big fins was the Fifties!" Lennon was also critical of the artwork and wrote an angry letter to Capitol Records saying it "looks like a Monkees reject" and instead suggested the use of photos by Astrid Kirchherr or Jürgen Vollmer, both of whom had photographed the band during their Hamburg days. Lennon had also offered to design the cover himself, but was declined.
This album is described as "troubled" by Beatles producer George Martin in his autobiography, as he was asked by Bhaskar Menon, the president of Capitol at the time, to approve the tapes they intended to use, and he was "appalled" because they were some of the early twin-track mono tapes they had made and were going to be transferred to stereo for the issue. Instead of approving the album as it was presented to him, Martin reworked the already mixed tapes for every song. On the older tracks, "Twist and Shout", "I Saw Her Standing There", "I Wanna Be Your Man", "Boys" and "Roll Over Beethoven", Martin reversed the stereo, brought the vocal track away from the edge into the centre, and added a slight echo for a more modern sound. Some of the song editing is not clean: for instance, the opening notes of "Dear Prudence" can be heard following the track "Back in the U.S.S.R.". Another example can be found towards the end of "Birthday", where Starr's's count-in to "Yer Blues" is clearly audible.
EMI Records in Britain refused to use Martin's reworked Capitol tapes, citing The Beatles' strict instructions that any reissues had to be exactly as originally recorded.
The UK Parlophone double album PCSP 719 kept the original UK mixes including the five stereo mixes done for this album, the Long Tall Sally EP and "I'm Down".
In October 1980, the album was divided into two single albums, and released as budget LPs in both the United States and the UK. Rock 'n' Roll Music: Volume 1 (US LP: Capitol SN-16020; UK LP: EMI/Music for Pleasure MFP 50506) contained the songs on sides one and two of the original album, while Rock 'n' Roll Music: Volume 2 (US LP: Capitol SN-16021; UK LP: EMI/Music for Pleasure MFP 50507) consisted of the songs on sides three and four. This time, the British release contained George Martin's Capitol versions
The budget-line albums featured new artwork, based on a picture of the group circa 1964−65. The US editions of the cover set the group in a crowd, while the British cover eliminated the crowd and placed the group against a stark white background.
Chart performance and sales
Album sales benefited from a rather significant wave of Beatles nostalgia that was taking place during the summer of 1976. Interest in the band was undoubtedly boosted by Paul McCartney's "Wings over America" tour, which criss-crossed the United States and Canada shortly after Rock 'n' Roll Music was released. In addition, sales were not hurt by the fact that the album included the song "Helter Skelter", of which a cover version had been spotlighted in a made-for-television movie on the 1969 Charles Manson murders that aired shortly before the album was released. Rock 'n' Roll Music hit number 2 on the Billboard 200 in the US (kept off the top spot by McCartney's Wings at the Speed of Sound), and number 11 on the UK's Top 60 Albums Chart.
In both the United States and Britain, Rock 'n' Roll Music was accompanied by a single compiled from songs on the album. The US single (Capitol 4274), was originally planned as "Helter Skelter" on the A-side and "Got to Get You into My Life" on the reverse, but when the Helter Skelter TV movie was announced for April 1976, Capitol thought better of the connotations and flipped the sides. "Got to Get You Into My Life" hit number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100. The British single (Parlophone R 6016), which consisted of "Back in the U.S.S.R." backed by "Twist and Shout", hit number 19.
All tracks written by Lennon–McCartney, except where noted.
- Side one
- "Twist and Shout" (Medley-Russell)
- "I Saw Her Standing There"
- "You Can't Do That"
- "I Wanna Be Your Man"
- "I Call Your Name"
- "Boys" (Dixon-Farrell)
- "Long Tall Sally" (Johnson/Penniman/Blackwell)
- Side two
- "Rock and Roll Music" (Berry)
- "Slow Down" (Williams)
- Medley: "Kansas City/Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey" (Leiber/Stoller)/(Penniman)
- "Money (That's What I Want)" (Bradford/Gordy)
- "Bad Boy" (Williams)
- "Matchbox" (Perkins)
- "Roll Over Beethoven" (Berry)
- Side three
- "Dizzy, Miss Lizzy" (Williams)
- "Any Time at All"
- "Drive My Car"
- "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby" (Perkins)
- "The Night Before"
- "I'm Down"
- Side four
- "Back in the U.S.S.R."
- "Helter Skelter"
- "Taxman" (Harrison)
- "Got to Get You into My Life"
- "Hey Bulldog"
- "Get Back" (album version)
- Allmusic review
- Keith Badham, The Beatles Diary Volume 2: After the Break-Up 1970−2001, Omnibus Press (London, 2002), p. 186.
- Lewisohn 1988, pp. 59–60, 62, 200–201.
- "Beatles Treasures Unearthed". Gibson. September 15, 2010. Retrieved 18 September 2010.
- Schaffner, Nicholas (1977). The Beatles Forever. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Cameron House. p. 188.
- Russell, Jeff (1989). The Beatles Album File and Complete Discography. Blandford Press.
- Chart Stats, “The Beatles − Rock 'n' Roll Music”, http://www.theofficialcharts.com/search-results-album/_/Rock+'N'+Roll+Music#album (retrieved 10 May 2012).
- Keith Badham, The Beatles Diary Volume 2: After the Break-Up 1970−2001, Omnibus Press (London, 2002), p. 187.
- Chart Stats, “The Beatles − Back in the USSR”, http://www.theofficialcharts.com/search-results-album/_/Back+In+The+USSR#single (retrieved 10 May 2012).