Long Tall Sally

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This article is about the song itself. For the Beatles EP, see Long Tall Sally (EP). For the Beatles' album, see The Beatles' Long Tall Sally.
"Long Tall Sally"
US single
Single by Little Richard
from the album Here's Little Richard
B-side "Slippin' and Slidin'"
Released March 1956
Format 7"
Recorded February 10, 1956, at J&M Studio
Genre Rock and roll
Length 2:10
Label Specialty SP572
Writer(s) Enotris Johnson, Robert Blackwell, Richard Penniman
Producer(s) Bumps Blackwell
Little Richard singles chronology
"Tutti Frutti"
(1955)
"Long Tall Sally"
(1956)
"Rip It Up"
(1956)
"Long Tall Sally"
Song by Eddie Cochran from the album Never To Be Forgotten
Released January 1962
Recorded May/June 1956
Genre Rock and roll
Length 1:44
Label Liberty Records
Writer Enotris Johnson, Robert Blackwell, Richard Penniman
Producer Eddie Cochran
Never To Be Forgotten track listing
"Weekend"
(1)
"Long Tall Sally"
(2)
"Lonely"
(3)
"Long Tall Sally"
UK single
Single by The Kinks
B-side "I Took My Baby Home" (R. Davies)
Released February 7, 1964
Format 7"
Recorded January 24, 1964 at Pye Studios (No .1), London
Genre Rock and roll, beat
Label Pye 7N15611 (UK)
Cameo 308 (US)
Producer(s) Shel Talmy
The Kinks singles chronology
"Long Tall Sally"
(1964)
"You Still Want Me"
(1964)
"Long Tall Sally"
Song by The Beatles from the album Long Tall Sally
Released June 19, 1964
Recorded March 1, 1964
Genre Rock and roll
Producer George Martin
Long Tall Sally track listing
Side one
  1. "Long Tall Sally"
  2. "I Call Your Name"
Side two
  1. "Slow Down"
  2. "Matchbox"

"Long Tall Sally" is a rock and roll 12-bar blues song written by Robert "Bumps" Blackwell, Enotris Johnson, and Richard Penniman (known as "Little Richard"); recorded by Little Richard; and released in March 1956 on the Specialty Records label.

The flip side was "Slippin' and Slidin'". Both songs were subsequently released in the LP Here's Little Richard (Specialty, March 1957). The single reached number one on the Billboard rhythm and blues chart, staying at the top for six of 19 weeks,[1] while peaking at number six on the pop chart. It received the Cash Box Triple Crown Award in 1956.[2] The song as sung by Little Richard is #55 on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[3]

It became one of the singer's best-known hits and has become a rock and roll standard covered by hundreds of artists.[4]

The song was originally called "The Thing", recorded in New Orleans by Little Richard.[5]

History[edit]

"Tutti Frutti" had been a big hit for Little Richard and Specialty in early 1956, reaching No. 2 in the R&B charts. Pat Boone's cover version of the song reached No. 12 in the pop charts. Although this meant an unexpected cash income for the Specialty publishing firm, A&R man and producer "Bumps" Blackwell and a proud Richard decided to write a song that was so up-tempo and the lyrics so fast that Boone would not be able to handle it (Boone eventually did record his own version, getting it to No. 8).[1]

According to Blackwell, he was introduced to a little girl by Honey Chile, a popular disc-jockey. Apparently, the girl had written a song for Little Richard to record so she could pay the treatment for her ailing aunt Mary. The song, actually a few lines on a piece of paper, went like this:

Saw Uncle John with Long Tall Sally
They saw Aunt Mary comin'
So they ducked back in the alley.

Not wishing to upset an influential disc-jockey, Blackwell accepted the offer and took the idea to Richard, who was reluctant at first. Nevertheless, the line "ducked back in the alley" was exactly what they were looking for, and Richard kept practicing until he could sing it as fast as possible. They worked on the song, adding verses and a chorus, until they got the hit they wanted.[6] The credit to Enotris Johnson, Richard's adoptive father, was added, probably as an act of benevolence. Featuring a saxophone solo by Lee Allen (as did "Tutti Frutti"), "Long Tall Sally" was the best-selling 45 of the history of Specialty Records.

Recording[edit]

The recording session took place on February 10, 1956 at J&M Studio in New Orleans, the legendary studio owned by Cosimo Matassa on the corner of Rampart and Dumaine where Fats Domino and many other New Orleans luminaries recorded. "Tutti Frutti", as well as many other Little Richard sides, was also recorded there.

The backing was provided by the house top session men: Edgar Blanchard (guitar), Frank Fields (bass), Lee Allen (tenor sax), Alvin "Red" Tyler (baritone sax) and Earl Palmer (drums), plus Little Richard on vocals and piano. Blackwell was the producer.

The music was a fast uptempo number with Little Richard's hammering, boogie piano. Richard plays staccato eighth notes while Palmer plays a fast shuffle. The shuffle was the most common rhythm and blues beat; Richard added the eighth notes, much less common in that time, although now standard for rock music. Together this created an ambiguity in the ride rhythm—known to musicians as "playing in the crack" that came to characterize New Orleans rock and roll. In typical Little Richard style, he sang in the key of F, in a raw, aggressive, exhilarating style with lyrics being about self-centered fun.[4]

Well, Long Tall Sally,
She's built for speed,
She's got everything that Uncle John needs.

Although the lyrics are light-weight, Little Richard's style triumphs over content and provides a wonderful vehicle for his enthusiastic exhibitionism.[7]

Notes on the lyrics[edit]

  • On the original recording, the opening line states the singer is going to report to Aunt Mary that Uncle John does not, as he claims, have "the misery", a Southern expression meaning generalized weakness and illness.
  • The line in the original recorded version, "Long Tall Sally is built for speed", is a reference to the proverbial African-American distinction in sexual types: "Built for comfort" or "built for speed", terms originally applied to passenger sailing ships. When sung rapidly, this line is sometimes rendered "built sweet", even by Little Richard in a recorded live performance. Though it is not a perfect rhyme with the word "need", it fits through assonance.

Popular culture[edit]

  • In the 1987 film Predator, the song is played while the group of soldiers are traveling in a helicopter. Later in the movie, the character Sergeant Mac Eliot sings the lyrics; "Long Tall Sally, she built sweet, she got everything, that Uncle John need. Aw baby, I'm gonna have me some fun, I'm gonna have me some fun, I'm gonna have me some fun." A sequel, 2010's Predators, called back to the original film by playing the song over its closing credits.
  • There is a long discussion of the song in the 1997 novel Underworld by Don DeLillo. Specifically, characters argue over the ethnic identity of the titular girl.
  • "Long Tall Sally" was sung by Eddie Clendening, portraying Elvis Presley, in the Broadway musical Million Dollar Quartet, which opened in New York in April 2010.[8] Eddie Clendening also covered the song on the Million Dollar Quartet original Broadway cast recording, copyright 2010 by MDQ Merchandising, LLC.[9]
  • Makes an appearance in the game Mafia 2 on the Delta Radio station
  • Makes an appearance in the British show Rock & Chips spinoff Only Fools And Horses
  • On Season 9 of the American Dancing with the Stars, Melissa Joan Hart and Mark Ballas danced the Jive to this song in week 2 of competition.
  • On Season 13 of the American Dancing with the Stars, Kristin Cavallari and Mark Ballas danced the Jive to this song in the finale of season 13.
  • "Long Tall Sally" plays during the opening helicopter scene of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon as an homage to the 1987 film Predator.
  • "Long Tall Sally" plays during the chase scene in the 1988 film Red Scorpion.
  • "Long Tall Sally" appears in Saint's Row IV in the intro scene also as a tribute to Predator and it is the only licensed song in the game to not play on any radio station in the game.

Selective list of recorded versions[edit]

Year Artist Release Notes
1956 Little Richard (single)
1956 Pat Boone[10]
1956 Elvis Presley[10]
1956 Eddie Cochran[10] Never To Be Forgotten Recorded in May or June 1956, posthumously released in 1962
1958 Wanda Jackson[10] (single b/w "Party")[11]
1962 The Rivingtons Doin' the Bird[12] One of two Little Richard covers on this debut Liberty album.
1963 Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps[10]
1964 The Kinks[10] (single) Their first single, produced by Shel Talmy
1964 The Beatles Long Tall Sally (EP) Released again in 1988 on the Past Masters compilation
1964 The Swinging Blue Jeans Blue Jeans a'Swinging One of two Little Richard covers on this debut HMV album.
1971 Cactus One Way...Or Another Their second Atco release.
1973 Elvis Presley Aloha From Hawaii First ever satellite worldwide telecast concert

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Long Tall Sally". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on October 2, 2007. Retrieved November 25, 2006. 
  2. ^ "Little Richard". Kolumbus.fi. Retrieved August 21, 2011. 
  3. ^ "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on April 16, 2007. Retrieved June 2, 2007. 
  4. ^ a b Gillett, Charlie (1996). The Sound of the City: The Rise of Rock and Roll ((2nd Ed.) ed.). New York, N.Y.: Da Capo Press. p. 26. ISBN 0-306-80683-5. 
  5. ^ "The Beatles - Long Tall Sally". Jpgr.co.uk. Retrieved August 21, 2011. 
  6. ^ White, Charles (2003). The Life and Times of Little Richard. The Authorised Biography. London: Omnibus Press. pp. 60–62. ISBN 0-711997616. 
  7. ^ Shaw, Arnold (1978). Honkers and Shouters. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company. pp. 189–193. ISBN 0-02-061740-2. 
  8. ^ Zielinski, Peter James (April 12, 2010). "Photo Coverage: Million Dollar Quartet Opens on Broadway". broadwayworld.com. 
  9. ^ MDQ Merchandising LLC (2010). “Song List” and “Performing Credits”. In Million Dollar Quartet (p. 5) [CD booklet]. New York City: Avatar Studios; and Chicago: Chicago Recording Company.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Birnbaum, Larry (2013). Before Elvis: The Prehistory of Rock 'n' Roll. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 335. ISBN 9780810886384. 
  11. ^ "Italian Newsnotes", Billboard, page 11, August 1, 1960
  12. ^ http://www.discogs.com/Rivingtons-Doin-The-Bird/master/386418

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Why Do Fools Fall in Love" by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers
Billboard R&B Best Sellers in Stores number-one single
April 14, 1956
Succeeded by
"I'm in Love Again" by Fats Domino