Written by: Holly-Allison-Petty
Recorded: 21-25 October 1974
Producer: John Lennon
Released: 21 February 1975 (UK), 17 February 1975 (US)
John Lennon recorded a version of Buddy Holly’s 1957 hit Peggy Sue for his Rock ‘N’ Roll album. It was recorded late in 1974 and released the following year.
It was written by Buddy Holly, Jerry Allison and Norman Petty, and released by Buddy Holly and The Crickets in July 1957. It was originally titled Cindy Lou after Holly’s niece, but Allison suggested it be changed to Peggy Sue, the name of his then-girlfriend and future wife.
The Beatles were all fans of Holly’s music, and recorded his song Words Of Love in 1964 for Beatles For Sale. But the connection goes further back still: The Quarry Men had recorded That’ll Be The Day in 1958 in a small Liverpool studio.
In their early days The Beatles performed a number of Holly’s songs live, including That’ll Be The Day, Peggy Sue, Everyday, It’s So Easy, Maybe Baby, Think It Over, Raining In My Heart, and Crying, Waiting, Hoping. Their name was also partly inspired by The Crickets. If that wasn’t proof enough of their love for Holly, Paul McCartney later bought his songwriting catalogue.
On 10 September 1971, shortly after moving to New York City, John Lennon was recorded performing a number of songs on an acoustic guitar in the room at the St Regis Hotel he was temporarily living in with Yoko Ono. It was the soundtrack to Clock, a film which chronicled the passing of an hour on the hotel room’s wall clock. In addition to Peggy Sue the tape included versions of Honey Don’t, Lend Me Your Comb, Mailman, Bring Me No More Blues, and early drafts of Mind Games and New York City.
Peggy Sue was performed again on 9 October 1971, Lennon’s 31st birthday, during a party held at a Syracuse hotel room. Lennon and Ono were joined by Klaus Voormann, Allen Ginsberg, Jim Keltner, Mal Evans, Neil Aspinall, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr and others, who drunkenly sang a number of songs into the small hours.
I have been doing that since I started. Buddy Holly did it and, in fact, I used to sing every song that Buddy Holly put out.
Despite his obvious fondness for the song, Lennon didn’t record Peggy Sue until the October 1974 sessions for Rock ‘N’ Roll. An alternative version from the sessions was included on the 1998 box set John Lennon Anthology, but was edited to excise most of the final minute.
Perhaps as a reference to Holly being one of the few white artists to be covered on the album, Lennon preceded the outtake with the direction: “OK, dynamics with tension, fun and laughter for all. Honky rock. A-one, two, a-one two three four…”