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 album was released in 7 June 1976, on Capitol Records (catalogue number SKBO 11537) in the United States and on Parlophone (PCSP 719) 10 June 1976 in the United Kingdom, and, at the time, some in the media speculated that the album was released to commemorate the twentieth 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 comes from the song of the same title by Chuck Berry, The Beatles' version of which is included on Side two of the album. The album is primarily made up of cover versions of songs written by significant rock and roll composers of the fifties, including Chuck Berry, Little Richard, 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 on the album. 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 coverEdit
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 Beatles drummer Ringo Starr to complain to Rolling Stone that, "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 cover 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 who photographed the band during their Hamburg days. Lennon had also offered to design the cover, but was declined.
This album is described as "troubled" by Beatles' producer George Martin in his autobiography, as he was asked by the head 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 filtered and remixed every track on the album. 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 example, you can hear the opening notes of the song "Dear Prudence" following the track "Back in the U.S.S.R.". Another can be found towards the end of "Birthday" where you hear Ringo's count-in to "Yer Blues"
When Martin took the remixed tapes back to EMI Records in Britain they refused to use them, citing the Beatles' strict instructions that any re-issues had to be exactly as originally recorded; therefore, George Martin's remixes were not used on the Rock and Roll Music album when released in Britain in 1976.
The UK Parlophone double album PCSP 719 kept the original UK mixes including the 5 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 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) contained the songs on sides three and four.
This time, the British release contained George Martin's remixed versions. The 1980 UK budget releases used the American Capitol double album mixes SKBO 11537, the matrix on the MFP albums confirms this as: Vol 1 SKBO 11531 -A1 - 1 & B1 - 1 Vol 2 SBKO 11531 -A2 - 1 & B2 - 1
The budget-line albums featured new artwork, centred around 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 salesEdit
Album sales benefited from a rather significant wave of Beatles nostalgia that was taking place during the summer of 1976. Interest in The Beatles 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 weren't 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 Charles Manson murders that aired shortly before the album was released. Rock 'n' Roll Music hit #2 on the Billboard chart (kept off the top spot by the album Wings at the Speed of Sound) in the US and #10 on the New Musical Express charts in England.
In both the United States and Great 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 B-Side, but when the made-for-TV movie about the Charles Manson murders was announced for 1976 (which was to be called "Helter Skelter"), Capitol thought better of the connotations and flipped the sides. "Got to Get You" hit No. 7 on Billboard. The British single (Parlophone R 6016), which featured "Back in the U.S.S.R." on the A-Side and "Twist and Shout" on the B-Side, hit No. 18 on the New Musical Express chart.
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)