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Old Apr 11, 2004, 07:23 PM   #1
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Default Forty years ago, The Beatles ruled the charts; Twist and Shout was No. 2

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(CP) - It was the last of 10 songs recorded in a day-long session and it was never really intended for anything other than album filler. But fate had other plans for a song that eventually became a rock classic.

Forty years ago, the Beatles' version of Twist and Shout helped the Fab Four make music history. It was April 4, 1964, that they held the top five spots on the Billboard Hot 100, a chart domination that will likely never be repeated.

The top spot was occupied by the group's brand new single on Capitol Records, Can't Buy Me Love. The Beatles' first three No. 1 singles in their home country held places three through five - She Loves You was No. 3, I Want To Hold Your Hand was No. 4 and Please Please Me was No. 5.

But it was the song in the runner-up spot that had become an unexpected smash. Twist and Shout, originally an American hit two years earlier for the Isley Brothers, had not been recorded for single release by the Beatles, who were committed to releasing only original material on 45.

"It's a different thing we're going for, it's something new," Paul McCartney (news) once said, recounting what the Beatles had told producer George Martin in 1962 when he tried to get them to record another writer's song for their first single.

"We are now starting a reputation, a major reputation, hopefully, so we must be careful as to what we do."

But the group wasn't averse to taking other people's songs and making them entirely their own on stage, something that helped the Beatles make their name in Great Britain. Their electric live performances included renditions of various American recordings. Twist and Shout was added to the repertoire after the Beatles heard the Isley Brothers' version.

In early 1963, Martin decided to record an album to capitalize on the success of the single Please Please Me, which was climbing the British charts. Eager to capture the energy of the Beatles' stage act, while recognizing there was no time to write enough new material for an entire album, Martin suggested they choose several cover versions to record.

On Feb. 11, 1963, the Beatles arrived at Abbey Road Studios in London to record 10 songs for the album. The cuts were to include future hits like I Saw Her Standing There and Do You Want To Know A Secret, but Martin and the group wanted Twist and Shout on the disc as well. But Martin was also aware there might be problems. Lennon, who sang lead on the song, had a cold and was fighting to keep his voice from deserting him as the day wore on.

"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,"' Martin said in The Beatles Anthology.

Lennon, psyching himself up for his performance, stripped to the waist before tearing into the song. It was over in two minutes and 33 seconds; he and his bandmates had nailed it on the first take. A good thing too, because Lennon's throat was now in shreds and a second take proved nowhere near as good.

"We did two takes, and after that John didn't have any voice left at all," Martin said.

"(It) nearly killed me," Lennon said in a 1976 interview. "My voice wasn't the same for a long time after; every time I swallowed, it was like sandpaper."

His impassioned, desperate performance was chosen to conclude the album, which was named Please Please Me after the first single. It was released to great fanfare in the United Kingdom and spent 29 weeks atop the album chart there. Fans immediately took to Twist and Shout, which the group continued to showcase on stage, and the Beatles' label, Parlophone Records, responded by releasing it and three other album cuts on an extended-play single.

It became the biggest-selling EP in British history and also streaked up the main singles chart, stopping at No. 2. This could have been the end of the song's story. EMI, Parlophone's parent company, couldn't entice its American label, Capitol, to release any of the Beatles' early material.

The Please Please Me album was licensed to Vee Jay Records, a small Chicago-based company. The record and two early singles made no impact upon release and quickly sank out of sight. But when Capitol struck gold with I Want To Hold Your Hand, released in December 1963, Vee Jay tried again.

It re-issued the single Please Please Me and watched it fly up the Hot 100. It peaked at No. 3, behind only I Want To Hold Your Hand and She Loves You. By now the Beatles had visited America and appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. All bets were off as several different record companies, eager to cash in on their limited Beatles product, flooded the marketplace.

Vee Jay was determined not to be left out. It created a subsidiary label, Tollie, and chose Twist and Shout as the first single release. "It was 'anything goes' at that point," says Fred Bronson, author of The Billboard Book of Number One Hits. "Vee Jay wanted to make money off the Beatles, the act that they lost, and that's the record business. Why not?"

The reaction was immediate. Twist And Shout debuted on the Hot 100 at No. 55 on March 14, 1964. It vaulted to No. 7 the following week and on April 4 it hit No. 2, where it stayed for four weeks. It reportedly sold more than a million copies. "If (Capitol) had just waited a couple of weeks to put out Can't Buy Me Love, Twist and Shout could have been a No. 1," Bronson laments.

The story could have ended again at this point. The Beatles stopped performing it live in 1965, a year before they quit touring entirely.

But in 1986, two movies - Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Back To School - both showcased the song to great success. People actually got up and danced in theatres when Matthew Broderick (news), as Ferris Bueller, lip-synched the song after commandeering a parade float.

Capitol, sensing a winner, re-released the single. To the surprise of many people, Twist and Shout hit the Hot 100 again, climbed to No. 23, and has remained a radio favourite ever since.

But its new impact was not confined to chart performance. In the ensuing years, it has acquired a new critical respectability that perhaps had not been there the first time around, when it was just one of many Beatles tunes fighting for a place on the airwaves and the charts.

Veteran rock critic Dave Marsh listed Twist and Shout at No. 177 in his comprehensive 1989 book The Heart of Rock and Soul - The 1,001 Greatest Singles Ever Made.

"A beginning-to-end rave-up that makes the Isley Brothers seem absolutely tame," Marsh wrote. "You can call this groove or soul or you can simply sit back and let it dazzle you."

Author Mark Hertsgaard discussed the song and its recording in his 1995 book A Day In The Life - The Music and Artistry of the Beatles.

"Leading into the last verse, all three stack their voices atop one another before finally exploding into manic shrieks as John sets off on a last dash around the track," he wrote. "When they repeat the exercise to conclude the song, the sense of climax is glorious, as if they have just enjoyed the orgasm of a lifetime."

Bronson says it's a perfect example of how the Beatles repaid the debt they owed to the American influences they had learned so much from.

"They loved American songwriters. They loved American R&B. So here they took a song like Twist and Shout, put it through their filter and sent it back to us. Obviously it was a good formula, because it worked."
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Old Apr 11, 2004, 08:32 PM   #2
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Default Re: Forty years ago, The Beatles ruled the charts; Twist and Shout was No. 2

Great article, Sandra. "Twist And Shout" is a great rockin' number. Thanks for posting this.
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Old Apr 12, 2004, 05:54 AM   #3
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Default Re: Forty years ago, The Beatles ruled the charts; Twist and Shout was No. 2

Oh yeah I remember reading that in a book that it happened on April 4. That must've been pretty cool!
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Old Apr 12, 2004, 08:03 AM   #4
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Default Re: Forty years ago, The Beatles ruled the charts; Twist and Shout was No. 2

John ROCKED on "Twist & Shout!" I remember the Chief Beatle saying he "screamed" the number as opposed to singing it. Damn, he and the other Beatles breathed animus and fresh fun into it because I always thought the Isely Brothers' version was kind of lackluster and tired.

April 4, 1964 was a Saturday.
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