Roll Over Beethoven

With The Beatles album artworkWritten by: Berry
Recorded: 30 July 1963
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith

Released: 22 November 1963 (UK), 10 April 1964 (US)

George Harrison: vocals, lead guitar, handclaps
John Lennon: rhythm guitar, handclaps
Paul McCartney: bass, handclaps
Ringo Starr: drums, handclaps

Available on:
With The Beatles
Live At The BBC
Anthology 1
On Air – Live At The BBC Volume 2

Originally a hit for Chuck Berry in 1956, Roll Over Beethoven was sung by George Harrison on The Beatles’ second album.

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The Beatles were huge fans of Berry’s music; between 1957 and 1966 they covered more songs written by him than by any other writer.

If they want things like Sally and Beethoven, we can do that standing on our ears.
John Lennon, 1964
Anthology

The vast majority of The Beatles’ Chuck Berry covers were sung by Lennon. Indeed, he sang Roll Over Beethoven until 1961, when George Harrison took over on lead. It remained in the group’s set until the end of their US tour in September 1964.

It became one of three vocal spots for Harrison on With The Beatles, the others being Devil In Her Heart and his own Don’t Bother Me.

I sang Roll Over Beethoven for With The Beatles – it was a song I liked. I had the Chuck Berry record and I used to sing it in the clubs.
George Harrison
Anthology

Roll Over Beethoven opened the second side of With The Beatles, the group’s second UK LP, which was released on 22 November 1963. In America it opened The Beatles’ Second Album, released on 10 April 1964.

Today, Roll Over Beethoven is something of a curiosity; for many young listeners, the music of Berry and The Beatles is as far removed in time as the great classical composers. At its time of writing, however, the song neatly summarised the ‘us and them’ attitude of teenagers towards their parents’ music.

In the studio

Roll Over Beethoven was recorded in five takes on 30 July 1963, after which The Beatles added overdubs and the final guitar chord, which was edited on 21 August.

The Beatles also recorded Roll Over Beethoven seven times for BBC radio. The first was on 24 June at the Playhouse Theatre, London, and was first broadcast five days later on the Saturday Club programme.

The final radio version, recorded on 28 February 1964 and first broadcast on 30 March on From Us To You, was released on 1994′s Live At The BBC.

A live performance, from The Beatles’ 24 October 1963 show at the Karlaplansstudion in Stockholm, Sweden, was included on Anthology 1 in 1995.

Lyrics

I’m gonna write a little letter
Gonna mail it to my local DJ
It’s a rocking little record
I want my jockey to play
Roll over Beethoven
I gotta hear it again today

You know my temperature’s rising
And the jukebox’s blown a fuse
My heart’s beating rhythm
And my soul keeps a-singing the blues
Roll over Beethoven
And tell Tchaikovsky the news

I got a rocking pneumonia
I need a shot of rhythm and blues
I think I got it off the writer
Sittin’ down by the rhythm review
Roll over Beethoven
We’re rockin’ in two by two

Well if you feel you like it
Well get your lover and reel and rock it
Roll it over and move on up
Just a trifle further
And reel and rock it
Roll it over
Roll over Beethoven
A rocking in two by two

Well early in the morning
I’m a giving you the warning
Don’t you step on my blue suede shoes
Hey diddle diddle
Gonna play my fiddle
Ain’t got nothing to lose
Roll over Beethoven
And tell Tchaikovsky the news

You know she winks like a glow worm
Dance like a spinning top
She got a crazy partner
Oughta see them reel and rock
Long as she’s got a dime
The music will never stop

Roll over Beethoven
Roll over Beethoven
Roll over Beethoven
Roll over Beethoven
Roll over Beethoven
And dig these rhythm and blues

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6 Responses to “Roll Over Beethoven”

  1. julio

    I love the fact that the very first concert the Beatles gave in the U.S. (Washington Coliseum) starts off with George rocking this song. You would think that they would start off with one of their big hits sung by Paul or John but they gave it to George. Love it.

    Reply
  2. appmanga

    The lyrics are just off a bit in a couple of places, and understandable if your ear isn’t use to American dialects, particularly those of the South. It’s not “Just jump around and reel and rock it”, it’s “Move on up just a trifle further, and reel and rock with one another”, instead of “Hey, little little”, it’s “Hey diddle diddle”, the well known line from the nursery rhyme about the cat with a fiddle.

    Reply
    • Joe

      Thanks. I’ve a feeling I copied+pasted the words from a lyrics site, and didn’t check them too closely.

      Where I’ve included lyrics (on cover versions only) I tended to include what The Beatles sang instead of what the original recording contained, so these might be different from what Chuck Berry sang (I haven’t checked). But any corrections are always welcome.

      Reply
  3. Riffking

    I’ve been working my way thru the BBC2 collection, and this performance is incendiary and probably very indicative of the impact the Fabs had on live audiences. The rhythm section is on fire throughout…and the stripped-down nature of the BBC stuff provides a rawness often missing from the studio recordings, revealing, once again, what a great live unit these guys were.

    Reply
  4. David

    I’ve often wondered why George always sings “dig TO these rhythm and blues” – I think he does so on every version of his that I’ve heard. Presaging his later passion for gardening, maybe!

    Reply

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