All but the earliest pressings of Choba B CCCP featured sleeve notes by Roy Carr, translated from English into Russian. The following is a translation back into English.
“When I was young I asked my Dad if people wanted peace. He said to me, “Yes, people everywhere want peace – it’s usually politicians that cause trouble.” It always seemed tome that the way The Beatles’ music was admired in the USSR tended to prove his point that people the world over have a great deal in common.
In releasing this record exclusively in the Soviet Union, I extend the hand of peace and friendship to the people of the USSR.
There comes a moment when wildly strumming an imaginary guitar in front of a wardrobe mirror is no longer enough. The motivation for anyone purchasing an instrument on impulse is usually the determination to re-run those songs learned from records worn-out by repeated playing. To decipher and master precisely what magic spark it takes to communicate in such a devastating manner. The possibility of fame and fortune don’t really come into it.
Initially, Elvis Presley wanted to be Dean Martin, Paul Simon wanted to be Elvis Presley and Paul McCartney – it would appear – was stricken very early in his youth with a Little Richard fixation.
In time they – and others so bedeviled – eclipsed all those stylists who’d originally transfixed them. Nightly marathon sessions amid the spit and sawdust of Liverpool’s Cavern Club or the Star-Club in Hamburg are where the likes of Paul McCartney learned their skills. Competing with the jukebox and winning, or being able to keep the most unruly customers satisfied was the survival test. Original material was, in the beginning, included with extreme caution.
The Beatles’ initial success was as much down to the spirited cover versions as it was to Lennon and McCartney’s prolific output. However, as their own songs took precedence, the cover versions were soon confined to sound checks and the occasional encore.
The fact remains, no matter how mega any artist becomes, very little coaxing is required to get them to knock out those songs that first prompted them to finally gave up their day job.
July 1987. The third week in July and Paul calls upon two teams of likeminded British musicians to see if it is still possible to make sparks fly and record in precisely the same spontaneous manner as when Elvis, Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry or, for that matter, The Beatles knocked out more hits than Muhammad Ali dispatched contenders.
20 July: The dynamic guitar artistry of Mick Green (the first in a line of great UK players that include Clapton, Beck and Page) was employed, together with hard-hitting support from everyone’s favourite pianist, Mickey Gallagher and drummer Chris Whitten from Julian Cope’s band.
A fact often forgotten is that foremost Paul McCartney is a guitarist – only switching to bass when (the late) Stuart Sutcliffe resigned thus making The Beatles a Fab Foursome. So, for the 21 July session held in Paul’s private recording studio, McCartney took over the role of guitarist (check out his work on Crackin’ Up). Mickey Gallagher remained on piano while The Motors’ former bassman Nick Garvey played anchorman and that in-demand drummer, Henry Spinetti knocked out the back beat.
Run-throughs were brief – Paul much preferred to capture that elusive spontaneity that can only ever be achieved with one-take gambles. And, on the third day, while the studio desk was still smouldering, the 14 tracks contained in this very exclusive collection were mixed down for what was originally a vinyl-only release in Russia.
Here then, is Paul McCartney and his Friends in their natural element – a happier bunch of rock ‘n’ roll musicians you’d be hard pressed to find.
First up, is Little Richard’s frantic arrangement (in preference to Wilbert Harrison’ slower 1959 original) of Kansas City. As with the second Little Richard classic included (Lucille), this depicts Paul at peak performance and sets the upbeat mood for most of the album.
With a voice that easily takes the strain, Paul comes close erasing the echo of that fresh-faced moptop who once so vigorously hollered Long Tall Sally as to almost make one forget Little Richard’s original. It’s doubtful if The Beatles ever surpassed that 1964 shakedown in terms of uninhibited celebration. And that’s what the results of Paul’s ‘one-take sessions’ amount to – a truly spontaneous celebration of style and content.
Little Richard’s influence pervaded The Beatles’ songwriting to the extent that such hits as I Saw Her Standing There and I’m Down were composed as a tribute to his unique style. It must be said, Little Richard was always the most genuinely outrageous of all rock’s seminal stars. An indefatigable performer, he refused to compromise his stance. The self-proclaimed ‘King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’ or the ‘Queen of Scream’, Little Richard’s greatest hits may have sold in the millions, but it wasn’t uncommon (in the mid-50s) for his songs to be banned on radio, only to have them instantly replaced by sanitized white cover versions by the likes of Pat Boone. Even ‘Public Enemy Number One’ Elvis Presley was considered much safer than Little Richard when, in 1956, it came to exposing Young America to such songs as Rip It Up, Ready Teddy, Long Tall Sally and Tutti Frutti.
It’s obvious that Paul has a particular fondness for Kansas City – this being his third outing with the song on disc. Kansas City first appeared on Beatles For Sale, while a less-than-hi-fi treatment surfaces on the historic Star-Club tapes. Third time around, it’s nailed firmly to the floor – being infinitely grittier and electrifying. Both this opening track and Lucille (with its thundering guitar riff) reminds the listener that Paul’s friendship with Little Richard goes right back to pre-Beatlemania marathons at Liverpool dance halls and Hamburg drinking clubs.
Twenty Flight Rock
Almost thirty years after his tragic death in a car crash Eddie Cochran still notches up hit singles in the UK. Always one of the most popular of all US rock visitors to Britain (his tours with Gene Vincent are legend) covers of Cochran’s greatest hits have successfully served everyone from The Who through to Rod Stewart and even The Sex Pistols. However, Twenty Flight Rock – sung by Eddie in the most endearing of all rock ‘n’ roll movies, The Girl Can’t Help It – is probably his most elusive hit. Again it’s all down to perfect timing and it’s because of this that Paul’s spot-on treatment succeeds where all other covers have previously failed.
Lawdy Miss Clawdy
The story of how, in 1952, white women in New Orleans would visit local record shops and ask for Lloyd Price’s locally-recorded Lawdy Miss Clawdy on the pretext of buying it as a gift for their ‘black maid’ or ‘housekeeper’ has become not just a part of rocklore but an indication as to how music (if not Southern society) was becoming integrated.
Lawdy Miss Clawdy is a pivotal song. It may have become No. 1 Rhythm & Blues Record in both the bestselling charts of such prestigious US music business magazines as Billboard and Cashbox, but more importantly it became one of the first million-selling ‘crossover’ hits: a black oriented record that sell to white fans.
It was Lloyd Price who later persuaded a young Little Richard to send a demonstration tape of his songs to Specialty Records’ boss Art Rupe in Hollywood. The rest is history. Songs like Lawdy Miss Clawdy were tailor-made for the McCartney treatment.
Bring It One Home To Me
One can never underestimate the continued importance of the late Sam Cooke: stylistically, not only did he exert a direct influence on Otis Redding, Smokey Robinson, Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye and Al Green, but he also made a significant impression on ’60s British Beat Groups. It wasn’t just that Rod Stewart modeled his entire style on Cooke, but that acts such as Herman’s Hermits and The Rolling Stones secured worldwide hits with Sam’s songs.
Bring It On Home To Me was the most frequently covered, with The Animals’ version the most acceptable. It says much for this pleading Gospel Blues that both John Lennon and now Paul McCartney shortlisted it for their respective from-the-heart rock ‘n’ roll compilations.
Don’t Get Around Much Anymore
If ever a song was US government issue by default, it has to be Duke Ellington’s Don’t Get Around Much Anymore. Those opening lines … “Missed the Saturday Dance/Heard they crowded the floor/Couldn’t bear it without you/Don’t get around much anymore” … vividly capture the plight of a million GI Joes a million miles from home, crouched in a fox-hole with a spring-crank portable gramophone and fresh out of clean socks. It was to rival both You’ll Never Know and I’ll Walk Alone for World War Two ‘Our Song’ popularity. Updated, Paul’s arrangement may well be straight to the point, but the original sentiments remain the same.
I’m Gonna Be A Wheel Someday/Ain’t That A Shame/I’m In Love Again
It’s interesting to note that through their individual styles couldn’t be more diverse, when recording their innumerable hits at Cosmo Studios in New Orleans, both Little Richard and Fats Domino employed the very same band of musicians.
The living embodiment of the Crescent City’s rich cultural heritage, Fats Domino has been scoring million-selling hits worldwide since 1949, to the extent that he has amassed more gold record awards than any artist other than Elvis and The Beatles.
There is a timeless consistency common to Domino’s repertoire that attracts successive generations and, without question, Paul McCartney’s understanding of the Fat Man’s special qualities, rendering him the most genuinely skillful of the Big Man’s life-affirming music.
Be it the way he eases comfortably into the brisk characteristic 2/4 New Orleans beat of the confidence-boosting I’m Gonna Be A Wheel Someday, handles the singalong rolling blues Ain’t That A Shame or knowingly defuses the pent-up frustration of I’m In Love Again with one of the greatest of all catch phrases, “Oowee, baby, oowee”, McCartney is in his element.
That’s All Right Mama/Just Because
Paul sings Presley – and two songs from the birth of the legend when Elvis was signed to Memphis-based Sun Records. Owner/producer Sam C Phillips had insisted that if he could discover “a white man with the negro feel”, he’d become a millionaire. He felt that in 19-year-old Elvis Presley he had found such a person.
Paul’s ‘one-take sessions’ have much in common with how Phillips initially recorded Elvis live in the studio. As such, these two tracks come much closer to faithfully recreating the atmosphere synonymous with the legendary Sun Sound rather than concentrating on merely duplicating the sound and nothing else.
This George Gershwin song was integrated into rock ‘n’ roll by that most notorious of rock’s outsiders, Gene Vincent. Stateside, Vincent was never afforded the same kind of God-like status he enjoyed in France and Britain due to the fact that his uncompromising rough-edge working class image was out of favour in an environment where squeaky-clean Fabian and Frankie Avalon dominated. As with Little Richard, Paul’s friendship with Vincent stems from those days when The Beatles took second billing to the American rocker.
Named after its Mississippi-born creator – singer/guitarist Bo Diddley – the ‘Diddley Beat’ is the most unique of all rock’s many blues-based rhythms. A highly distorted hard-edge mix of heavily amplified guitar and pounding jungle drums, the rhythm is said to have derived from both the trademarks’ knock and the barbershop term “shave and a haircut – six bits!”
Not only were Elvis’ early stage antics copied from Bo Diddley’s Apollo Theatre appearances but, together with Chuck Berry, it was Bo Diddley who defined the sound of such Swingin’ Sixties British Beat Groups as The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Yardbirds and Mick Green’s band The Pirates.
In the hands of McCartney and his musicians, this obscure B-side is transformed from underground status to a major league performance.
Midnight Special is public domain and anyone personally rearranging the song has the legal right to claim a composer credit. The legendary blues artist, Leadbelly first claimed it sometime between 1918 and 1925 when serving time for murder in Harlem – an all-black Texas prison.
The prison, which no longer exists, was located near Sugarland just outside of Houston and the words in the song, “Let the Midnight Special shine its ever-lovin’ light on me,” refers to the prison myth that if the light of that train from Houston shone on an inmate he would be freed.
Paul’s easy-action version retain elements of its original blues roots by way of his nimble acoustic guitar pickin’.
New Musical Express
London, May 1988