The Beatles – Rock-n-Roll Music

For my debut guest column at the wonderful “I <3 Rock-n-Roll”, what could be better than than this? It’s an album that I obsessed over as a child, it’s arguably the greatest rock-n-roll band of all time, and it’s a band that Ray can’t stand. 🙂

It would be silly to attempt to sum up the size and scale of influence that The Beatles have had on rock-n-roll and the art of music in general. For me, my first exposure to the music of The Beatles was through a cartoon. When I was a kid in the 70s, a Pittsburgh-based public access TV station began re-airing the Beatles cartoon series. Each 30-minute episode was divided into two 15-minute cartoons, with each cartoon’s plot revolving around a Beatles song. I tuned in religiously, and I loved every single song.

This infatuation, of course, led me to harangue my mother until she bought me some Beatles albums. Of all the albums that I wish I had cared for and saved as a child, “Rock-n-Roll Music” is the one my heart aches for the most. A double album released in 1976, it is a 28-track compilation of both original material and (perhaps more importantly) cover songs. The Beatles cut their teeth as performers in British and German clubs playing amphetamine-fueled originals as well as interpretations of their idols’ music, and “Rock-n-Roll Music” attempts to showcase that era.

With almost half of the songs being Larry Williams, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Carl Perkins covers, this album highlights the influence that America’s rock, rockabilly, and R&B pioneers had on The Beatles. Songs like “Long Tall Sally”, “Roll Over Beethoven”, “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” and “Slow Down” are classics in their own right, and here they are executed with that unmistakable early Beatles sound. The rest of the album is a collection of some of the best Beatles-penned rockers, including “I Saw Her Standing There”, “Drive My Car”, “Revolution”, “Helter Skelter”, and possibly my favorite Beatles song, “Taxman”.

But the music was only half of what I loved about this album; the other was the physical product itself. The jacket was shiny silver – different than any other record that I owned at the time – with a portrait of the band on the front. Being a double album, it opened to a larger picture inside and a detailed listing of the songs. Ironically enough, the album’s artwork is dominated by 50’s-era imagery (neon, a jukebox, Marilyn Monroe, etc) even though The Beatles didn’t form until 1960 (perhaps in homage to their influences?).

If you can appreciate the scene in “Almost Famous” where the main character leafs through his big sister’s albums with fascination, then you can appreciate my love of this album and what it represents to me. It was a cornerstone of my musical youth and, even though the copy I owned is long sold at a garage sale, I still think about the countless hours I spent listening to it. In fact, writing this review inspired me to finally purchase another copy via eBay. Even at that, it won’t be that same.

Thanks Ray – glad to be here.

1 Comment

  1. ray said,

    February 16, 2009 @ 4:19 pm

    Thanks for joining, James. And I’ll try to overlook the fact that you’re deliberately needling me with your album selection 🙂

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