Day 250: “Twist and Shout”

When was it recorded?   Feb. 11, 1963

When was it first released, and on which album?   Mar. 22, 1963 on “Please Please Me”

Who wrote it?   Bert Berns & Phil Medley

Have I heard this song before?   Oh yeah

What my research dug up:

American songwriters Bertrand “Bert” Russell Berns and Philip “Phil” Medley wrote “Twist and Shout,” originally titled “Shake It Up, Baby.”

Phil Spector – who has become a staff producer at Atlantic Records the year before – produced “Shake It Up, Baby” as performed by the group The Top Notes. They were the first band to record the song.

(That’s… odd. Sorry but I’m so used to the other two bands’ versions here, and to now hear how different the original was is just a little mind-bending.)

Berns was not happy with Spector’s treatment of his song, and, quoth Wikipedia, “went out to show Spector how it should be done.” Of course, he got help from the Isley Brothers. They released their “Twist and Shout” single Jun. 16, 1962.

The Isley Brothers’ version of “Twist and Shout” peaked at #17 on the US Pop charts and #2 on the US R&B charts. It was the Isley Brothers’ first Top 40 hit, and its popularity led to numerous cover versions.

The Beatles covered “Twist and Shout” many a time during their career.   According to the Beatles Bible, “The earliest known version… was recorded for the BBC’s ‘Talent Spot’ radio show on 27 November 1962… Unfortunately the recording has since been lost.”

More readily available is the next chronological version from Dec. 1962, live at the Star-Club in Hamburg.

“Twist and Shout” was the final song recorded during the Beatles’ epic Feb. 11, 1963 session for “Please Please Me,” near 10:00 PM.

“I knew that ‘Twist And Shout’ was a real larynx-tearer and I said, ‘We’re not going to record that until the very end of the day, because if we record it early on, you’re not going to have any voice left.’ So that was the last thing we did that night. We did two takes, and after that John didn’t have any voice left at all. It was good enough for the record, and it needed that linen-ripping sound.” — George Martin (Anthology)

It certainly didn’t help that John had a massive cold that evening.

“The last song nearly killed me. My voice wasn’t the same for a long time after; every time I swallowed it was like sandpaper. I was always bitterly ashamed of it, because I could sing it better than that; but now it doesn’t bother me. You can hear that I’m just a frantic guy doing his best.” — John Lennon (Anthology)

Of course he did his best. No one’s ever going to argue “Twist and Shout” isn’t the Beatles’ rawest track, almost matching the intensity of their pre-fame live shows.

In the US, “Twist and Shout” peaked at #2 on the Billboard chart, barred from the top spot by “Can’t Buy Me Love.” In the UK, both the single and an EP featuring the track (also called “Twist and Shout”) hit #1.

Weirdly, “Twist and Shout” reentered music charts twice after the Beatles’ split. In 1986, the song got a boost after appearing in pivotal scenes of the films “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “Back to School.” The single peaked at #23 on the Billboard Hot 100 and stayed in the charts for seven weeks. According to Wikipedia, “Its overall chart longevity, combined with its original four-week run at #2, statistically makes it the Beatles’ second most successful single in the U.S. next to ‘Hey Jude.’”

In 2010, after the Beatles’ catalogue became available on iTunes, “Twist and Shout” charted at #48 in the UK. Wikipedia also noted this was “[t]he highest charting Beatles track in the aftermath of their new availability on iTunes.”

The Fab Four recorded “Twist and Shout” nine times for BBC Radio, but only one of these versions has been officially released – the version from Aug. 6, 1963’s “Pop Go the Beatles.”

“Twist and Shout” was a staple of the Beatles’ live show until the end of their touring days. The Fab Four often used it as the finale piece. Quoth the Beatles Bible, “It was the final song at their Sunday Night at the London Palladium performance on 13 October 1963, widely held to signal the start of Beatlemania.” They also used it to close the Royal Command Performance on Nov. 4, 1963. A recording of this appearance appeared on “Anthology 1.”

There’s loads and loads (and loads) more videos of “Twist and Shout” out there now, but I figured I would limit myself to the official releases.  That said, it’s hard for me to get sick of this one.  It’s just so good.  To quote the Beatles Bible, “‘Twist And Shout’ showcased The Beatles at their primal, glorious, rock ‘n’ roll best.”  And what a way to remember them.




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