Train Kept A-Rollin'
|"The Train Kept A-Rollin'"|
|Single by Tiny Bradshaw|
|Format||10" 78 rpm & 7" 45 rpm records|
|Recorded||Cincinnati, Ohio, October 6, 1951|
|Writer(s)||Tiny Bradshaw, Lois Mann aka Syd Nathan|
"Train Kept A-Rollin'" (or "The Train Kept A-Rollin'") is a song first recorded by American jazz and rhythm and blues musician Tiny Bradshaw in 1951. Originally performed in the style of a jump blues, it was reworked in 1956 as a rockabilly/rock and roll tune by Johnny Burnette and the Rock and Roll Trio featuring an early use of a distorted guitar line. The Yardbirds subsequently added early hard rock elements and later Aerosmith turned it into one of their signature songs and a staple of classic rock radio. "Train Kept A-Rollin'" has been performed and recorded by numerous others artists, with its guitar riff being called "the signature lick of the heavy metal movement".
Tiny Bradshaw and his band first recorded "The Train Kept A-Rollin'" in 1951. It has been described as a "jump opus" and "a vibrant mid-tempo song with a boogie-woogie bass line and a shuffling drumbeat". The song is Bradshaw's best-known recording and features Red Prysock on saxophone. The recording session took place on October 6, 1951 in Cincinnati, Ohio with Leslie Ayers and Lester Bass on trumpets; Andrew Penn on trombone; Ted "Snooky" Holbert on alto and baritone sax; Prysock and Rufus Gore on tenor saxes; Jimmy Robinson on piano; Clarence Mack on bass; Phillip Paul on drums. The introductory section of the song features scat singing by Bradshaw answered by a chorus. His lyrics, with early jazz hipster references, are delivered in Bradshaw's "hearty, grainy" vocal:
- I caught the train I met a real dame, she was a hipster and a gone dame
- She was pretty from New York City, and she trucked on down the ol' fair lane
- With a heave and a ho, and I just couldn't let her go ...
- The train kept a rollin' all night long, and I still wouldn't let her go
Bradshaw's recording was released by King Records in late 1951. It was reviewed by Billboard magazine, which commented: "The singer comes thru with a great vocal on a rockin' novelty, with some solid chorus and ork [orchestra aka swing band] backing. Tune builds all the way. Platter could catch a lot of change." However, it failed to reach the national R&B chart.
Bradshaw's song is based on "Cow-Cow Boogie", a 1942 song about a singing cowboy. Bradshaw rewrote lines such as "a ditty he learned in the city" and "get along, get hip little doggies, and he trucked 'em on down the old fairway" to meet his new scenario. Although the King Records single lists "Bradshaw-Mann" as the songwriters, reissues and subsequent recordings of "The Train Kept A-Rollin'" credit Tiny Bradshaw, Lois Mann (a pseudonym of King Records owner Syd Nathan), and Howard Kay. BMI, the performing rights organization, lists the songwriters/composers as "Myron C. Bradshaw, Sydney Nathan, and Howard Kay". According to author Larry Birnbaum, "Mann's name was plainly added to allow Syd Nathan to siphon off a share of the publishing royalties, as label owners routinely did in those days; as for Kay, his identity remains a mystery". In subsequent recordings, new lyrics are often added to the original.
Johnny Burnette rendition
|"The Train Kept A-Rollin'"|
|Single by Johnny Burnette and the Rock and Roll Trio|
|Format||10" 78 rpm and 7" 45 rpm records|
|Recorded||Owen Bradley studio, Nashville, Tennessee, July 2, 1956|
In 1956, Johnny Burnette and the Rock and Roll Trio reworked Bradshaw's song using a rockabilly/early rock and roll arrangement. The Trio's version features guitar lines in what many historians consider to be the first recorded example of intentionally distorted guitar in rock music, although blues guitarists, such as Willie Johnson and Pat Hare, had recorded with the same effect years earlier.
The Trio's guitarist, Paul Burlison, explained that he noticed the sound after accidentally dropping his amplifier, which dislodged a power tube (blues/R&B guitarist Willie Kizart's distorted guitar sound for the 1951 Jackie Brenston/Ike Turner hit "Rocket 88" also has been attributed to damage to his guitar amplifier). Later, "whenever I wanted to get that sound, I'd just reach back and loosen that tube". He utilized this effect with the song's main instrumental feature, a "repeated three-note minor key [guitar] riff". Burlison recounted how he came up with the signature riff:
|“||[I was] in the dressing room with the loose tube. Johnny [Burnett] was playing an E chord and I was playing in a G position but I'd take my fingers off and play in octaves [using the thumb and middle or index finger]. He wasn't singing 'The Train Kept A-Rollin',' it was another song, and I got to doing doom diddle doom daddle doom daddle ... [Later] I told Owen Bradley about it at the Barn, where we cut the stuff, and he said, 'let me hear it'. So I started doing it and he said, 'Well, let's do it'.||”|
Later, authors Gordon and DijkemaIt argued that the guitar sound on "The Train Kept A-Rollin'" could be created with "normal distortion for the time period", i.e., a highly-overdriven early 1950s guitar amplifier. They noted "only the low E string is distorted" with "pretty clean treble strings", whereas with a tube malfunction, all strings would be distorted; the sound could be achieved with the pole piece for the low E string raised "as much as possible without making the string unplayable", thereby allowing it to overload the amplifier more than the treble strings. They also argue that Nashville session guitarist Grady Martin provided the guitar parts for the Trio's recording; they base this on stylistic and technical qualities, since, at the time, Martin was a more accomplished player than Burlison, and these qualities are apparent in his work on other recordings.
The Yardbirds versions
|"The Train Kept A-Rollin'"|
|Song by The Yardbirds from the album Having a Rave Up|
|Released||November 15, 1965|
|Recorded||Sam Phillips Recording Service, Memphis, Tennessee, September 12, 1965 and
Columbia Recording Studios, New York City, September 21–22, 1965
|Genre||Rock, Blues rock, psychedelic rock|
|Label||Epic (LN 24177/BN 26177)|
English rock group the Yardbirds recorded "The Train Kept A-Rollin'" during their first American tour in 1965. Their version is based on Johnny Burnette's adaptation, but incorporates instrumental breaks and different guitar parts, which "represent some of the earliest psychedelic blues-rock". Author Annette Carson added "the Yardbirds propulsive, power-driven version, however, deviated radically from the original ... [their] recording plucked the old Rock & Roll Trio number from obscurity and turned it into a classic among classics".
The song opens with guitarist Jeff Beck simulating a train whistle on guitar, with Keith Relf's double-tracked vocal coming in after twelve-bars. The song was recorded by Sam Phillips at his Phillips Recording studio in Memphis, Tennessee September 12, 1965, with further recording by Roy Halee at Columbia Recording Studio in New York City September 21 and 22, 1965.
"The Train Kept A-Rollin'" was released on the Yardbirds' second American album Having a Rave Up November 15, 1965. The song had its first official UK release in 1977 on the Shapes of Things compilation. The song was a staple of the band's concerts and they recorded several live versions with Beck (BBC Sessions, Glimpses 1963–1968).
On October 3–5, 1966, the Yardbirds recorded a hard rock version with Beck and Jimmy Page on dual lead guitars to be used for their appearance in the 1966 film Blowup. Director Michelangelo Antonioni requested that they perform the song, but permission from the song publisher was not forthcoming. So singer Keith Relf wrote new lyrics to the band's new arrangement and called it "Stroll On", with credits to the five band members. "Stroll On" opens with a new drum part by Jim McCarty and harmonized guitar feedback, before Beck's train whistle simulation. Unlike their earlier song, Relf's vocal is not double tracked and the second twelve-bar guitar solo section features two guitars playing complementary solos. "Stroll On" was released on the Blow-Up soundtrack album in 1967 and appears on the Yardbirds compilation albums Train Kept A-Rollin'/The Yardbirds Story and Ultimate!. For the film, the song is edited to increase its length for the story line.
After Jeff Beck's departure in late 1966, the Yardbirds continued to regularly perform the "The Train Kept A-Rollin'". The original lyrics were used, but the "Stroll On" arrangement was followed with Jimmy Page playing all the guitar parts. Live performances with Page were later released on Live Yardbirds: Featuring Jimmy Page, Glimpses 1963–1968, and Last Rave-Up in L.A..
Led Zeppelin performances
Shortly after Keith Relf and Jim McCarty left the Yardbirds in mid-1968, Jimmy Page went about finding new musicians for a successor band. When the future members of Led Zeppelin rehearsed together for the first time in 1968, the first song they played was "Train Kept A-Rollin'". According to John Paul Jones, the room "exploded" when they kicked it off, and they knew they had something. The song was included in their early performances as "the New Yardbirds" and during Led Zeppelin's 1968 and 1969 tours, usually being featured as their opening number and included on several bootleg albums (see Led Zeppelin bootleg recordings). They later revived it for their final tour "Over Europe" in 1980. Though a studio version was never recorded by Led Zeppelin, during his solo Outrider sessions in 1988, Page recorded a version similar to that performed by Led Zeppelin in 1980.
|"Train Kept A-Rollin'"|
|Single by Aerosmith|
|from the album Get Your Wings|
|Released||October 24, 1974|
|Format||7" 45 rpm record|
|Recorded||Record Plant Studios, New York City, December 17, 1973 – January 14, 1974|
|Length||3:15 (single version)|
In 1974, Aerosmith brought "Train Kept A-Rollin'" into the hard-rock mainstream. Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, and Tom Hamilton had performed the song prior to joining Aerosmith. Perry recalled, "'Train Kept A-Rollin' was the only song we had in common when we first got together. Steven's band had played 'Train' and Tom and I played it in our band ... It's a blues song, if you follow its roots all the way back ... I always thought if I could just play one song, it would be that one because of what it does to me". Perry's band began performing the song regularly after he had been moved by the performance of "Stroll On" in Blow Up; Tyler recalled his band opened for the Yardbirds in 1966:
|“||I had seen the Yardbirds play somewhere the previous summer with both Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page in the band ... In Westport [at their supporting gig on October 22, 1966] we found out that Jeff had left the band and Jimmy was playing lead guitar by himself. I watched him from the edge of the stage and all I can say is that he knocked my tits off. They did 'Train Kept A-Rollin' ' and it was just so heavy. They were just an un-fuckin'-believable band.||”|
The song was an early feature of Aerosmith's concerts and a frequent show closer, including for their first gig in 1970. They wanted to record a live version of the song, but producer Jack Douglas persuaded them to record a studio version, which actually consisted of two different versions of the song. The first part was slower, "more groove-oriented", while the second was a spirited rocker. To give the second part more of a live sound, Douglas overdubbed crowd noise from The Concert for Bangladesh, the 1971 benefit organized by George Harrison. Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner, who worked with Lou Reed and Alice Cooper, were brought in to record the guitar parts. According to Hunter, "We [Wagner and I] wanted to keep the solos equal so we'd sit down ... and go through the material so it was totally even ... We didn't want it to look like there was a rhythm guitar player and a lead guitar player, because that's what we both did".
In 1974, "Train Kept A-Rollin'" was included on Aerosmith's second album Get Your Wings. A 3:15 edited version of the song without the audience sounds was released as a single, but it did not appear on the record charts. The song continues to be a highlight of the group's shows and has become a staple of album-oriented rock and classic rock radio. It has become so identified with Aerosmith, that when Jeff Beck (whose 1965 and 1966 recordings with the Yardbirds inspired Tyler and Perry) occasionally performs it, he is often complimented on "his take on Aerosmith's song".
The song is featured on three Aerosmith live compilations: Live! Bootleg (1978), Classics Live (1986), and Rockin' the Joint (2005). On the Rockin' the Joint version, Joe Perry and Brad Whitford can be heard doing a little bit of "The Star Spangled Banner" towards the end. Additionally, the band is known to play two different versions of the song, the regular version of the song, as well as a slowed-down version often called "Slow Train" in the setlists. On at least two occasions, lead singer Steven Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry have performed the song with other artists; in 1992 with Guns N' Roses and in 1995 with Page and Plant. In 2002, the whole band performed the song live with the Japanese hard rock duo B'z. It also appears in the music video game Rock Band, and the master track appears in Guitar Hero: Aerosmith as the final encore in the game. In 2012, Aerosmith performed the song with Johnny Depp, which is included as an extra track on the Music from Another Dimension! DVD.
Recognition and legacy
The Johnny Burnette Rock and Roll Trio rendition of "Train Kept A-Rollin'" is included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's exhibit of the "500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll". The song has been performed and/or recorded by numerous musicians during the last several decades and "practically all of the many covers of 'The Train Kept A-Rollin' ' are modeled on the Yardbirds' version". To illustrate their variety, some examples of notable artists include: Jeff Beck, Bon Jovi, Paul Burlison, Dread Zeppelin, Alex Chilton, Hanoi Rocks, Colin James and the Little Big Band, Imelda May, Riot, Metallica, Motörhead, The Nazz, Shakin' Stevens and the Sunsets, Skid Row, Screaming Lord Sutch, Sugarloaf, Ten Years After, The Tragically Hip, and Twisted Sister.
- Grendysa, Peter (1992). Blues Masters, Volume 5: Jump Blues Classics (CD notes). Various artists. Rhino Records. pp. 4, 8. R2 71125.
- Koda, Cub. "The Train Kept A-Rollin' — Song review". Allmusic. Rovi Corp. Retrieved February 4, 2014.
- Birnbaum, Larry (2012). Before Elvis: The Prehistory of Rock 'n' Roll. Scarecrow Press. pp. 30–53. ISBN 978-0-8108-8629-2.
- Nielsen Business Media, Inc. (23 February 1952). Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. pp. 80–. ISSN 00062510.
- "Repertoire Search (title) — Train Kept A Rollin". BMI Search. BMI. Retrieved February 5, 2014.
- BMI lists Howard Kay as a cowriter with Nathan/Mann and Henry Glover on four other songs.
- Forte, Dan (1991). Guitar Player Presents Legends of the Guitar — Rock: The '50s, Vol. 2 (CD notes). Various artists. Rhino Records. pp. 2–3. R2 70561.
- Gordon, Vince; Dijkema, Peter (2011). Rockabilly: The Twang Heard 'Round the World: The Illustrated History. Voyageur Press. p. 99. ISBN 978-0-7603-4062-2.
- Palmer 1981, p. 231.
- Morris, Chris (1991). Howlin' Wolf: The Chess Box (Box set booklet). Howlin' Wolf. MCA/Chess Records. p. 6. CHD39332.
- Palmer 1981, pp. 237–238.
- Escott, Colin (1990). Junior Parker, James Cotton, Pat Hare: Mystery Train (Liner notes). Junior Parker, James Cotton, Pat Hare. Rounder Records. p. 2. CD SS 38.
- Palmer, Robert (1981). Deep Blues. Penguin Books. p. 222. ISBN 0-14-006223-8.
- Shepard, John (2003). Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World. Performance and Production. Vol. II. Continuum International. p. 286.
- Russo, Greg (1998). Yardbirds: The Ultimate Rave-Up. Crossfire Publications. p. 29. ISBN 0-9648157-3-7.
- Carson, Annette (2001). Jeff Beck: Crazy Fingers. Backbeat Books. p. 44. ISBN 0-87930-632-7.
- It has been suggested that additional recording was necessary because Relf, exhausted and/or "in his cups", couldn't finish his vocals in Memphis. Clayson 2002, p. 84.
- Shadwick, Keith (2005). Led Zeppelin: The Story of a Band and Their Music 1968–1980 (1st ed.). San Francisco: Backbeat Books. p. 12. ISBN 0-87930-871-0.
- Koda, Cub; Russo, Gregg (2001). Ultimate! (Media notes). The Yardbirds. Rhino Records. pp. 40, 46. R2 79825.
- One published sheet-music chart titled "Train Kept A Rollin' (Stroll On)" is credited to Beck, Relf, Page, Chris Dreja, and Jim McCarty; despite inclusion of "Stroll On" in the title, it appears to be the score for "Train Kept a Rollin'".
- Davis, Stephen (2003). Walk This Way: The Autobiography of Aerosmith. It Books. pp. 48, 108–109. ISBN 978-0-06-051580-5.
- Shadwick 2005, p. 31.
- Steven Rosen, "Led Zeppelin's 1977 Tour - A Tragic Ending!", Classic Rock Legends.
- Lewis, Dan; Pallett, Simon (2005). Led Zeppelin — The Concert File. Omnibus Press. pp. 20–80. ISBN 1-84449-659-7.
- Prato, Greg. "The Train Kept A Rollin' — Song Review". Allmusic. Rovi Corp. Retrieved August 26, 2013.
- "Train Kept a Rollin'". Allmusic. Rovi Corp. Retrieved February 4, 2014.
- "500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 1995. Retrieved June 2, 2013.
- "Train Kept A-Rollin' — Search Results". Allmusic. Rovi Corp. Retrieved June 2, 2013.