17 December 2012
“I remember when Rock ‘N’ Roll was just one of the musics…” is an observation made by Paul more than once over the years. It’s an important point to remember about them, that their influences and sources ranged wide, and all of that helped John and Paul become among the most important songwriters of the post-War 20th Century.
This thread is to explore the music they listened to, mainly based on songs that there are known recordings of by them, or are otherwise known to have played a role.
This started off in the “Early Rock ‘n’ Rollers” thread, based on the 4CD pirate/bootleg set, The Songs We Were Singing. I got half the first CD done there (which will hopefully reappear here). Going through the second half of the CD, I realised it didn’t really fit that thread. Marlene Dietrich as an early rock ‘n’ roller?
And I thought a thread like this was long overdue, especially as interest has been shown in recent discussion in the Tune In thread.
Hope others agree and enjoy.
The following people thank Ron Nasty for this post:Von Bontee
17 December 2012
For anyone interested, put together using YouTube, here is the first volume of The Songs We Were Singing: The Music That Inspired The Beatles. The first volume, From Woolton to the Reeperbahn includes songs that figure in the story from 6 July 1957 to the end of 1962. Where possible I have used the version included on the bootleg set.
Lonnie Donegan: Puttin’ on the Style  Performed by The Quarrymen on the day John and Paul met, and one of two songs recorded that day. This live version, recorded at the London Palladium, was released as a double a-side with Gamblin’ Man.
The Del-Vikings: Come Go with Me  Another song known to have been performed by The Quarrymen that day, though no recording of it exists. Famously John didn’t know lyrics and vamped his own. Paul was impressed.
Eddie Cochran: Twenty Flight Rock  Paul’s audition piece in the church hall. A slightly drunk John impressed that the kid knows all the words.
Bill Justis and His Orchestra: Raunchy  George’s audition piece on the top deck of a Corpy bus after a Quarrymen gig.
The Crickets: That’ll Be the Day  In the history books as the first recording to feature John, Paul and George. Unless they recorded In Spite Of All The Danger first.
Eddie Cochran: Hallelujah I Love Her So  Among the Forthlin Road home recordings. Released in January 1960 in the UK, it would be Cochran’s last hit before his death in April of that year.
Duane Eddy & The Rebels: Movin’ ‘n’ Groovin’  Another song from the Forthlin Road recordings.
Les Paul & Mary Ford: The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise  Forthlin Road.
Elvis Presley: That’s When Your Heartaches Begin  Forthlin Road.
Gene Vincent & His Blue Caps: Wildcat  Forthlin Road.
Gene Vincent & His Blue Caps: Ain’t She Sweet  A Beatles version was recorded during the Sheridan Polydor sessions; they’d jam another version during the Abbey Road sessions in 1969. (Few shots of Gene and various Beatles in video.)
Chuck Berry: Memphis, Tennessee  They taped the next few songs during their Decca audition.
The Coasters: Three Cool Cats 
Dinah Washington: September in the Rain  Paul struggles with his vocal on their attempt at this.
Bobby Vee: Take Good Care of My Baby  It’s interesting to note how they were constantly adding current hits to their repertoire even through to the end of 1962.
Buddy Holly: Crying, Waiting, Hoping  There is an alternate overdub of this home demo done in 1964, but this is the original 1959 version The Beatles would have heard first.
This is turning into a long post, so I will make this part 1 of volume 1. I will return later with 16 more tracks that influenced The Beatles.
The following people thank Ron Nasty for this post:Shamrock Womlbs, SpecialCup, Heath, SgtPeppersBulldog, Von Bontee, penny lane
25 December 2017
This is awesome. I always loved The Del-Vikings’ Come and Go With Me. I also liked the version from The Beach Boys
"Dinner with Delores Must be some kind of sin
Like a Brontosaurus She was packin' it in" -Prince
17 December 2012
Part two of my YouTube compilation of the songs on Volume One of The Songs We Were Singing: The Music That Inspired The Beatles, From Woolton to the Reeperbahn.
Fats Waller: The Sheik of Araby  The originals of another couple of tracks taped during the Decca audition. Probably through Paul’s dad, Waller was the source for a couple of songs they did in the early years.
The Coasters: Searchin’  The Coasters were one of the early major influences on their harmonies, along with Phil and Don. To this day Paul enjoys reminiscing over their performances of Searchin’, and their crossing of Liverpool to hunt down the record.
Gene Vincent & His Blue Caps: Be-Bop-a-Lula  The remaining tracks on the first set owe their inclusion to The Beatles final Hamburg club performances in December 1962. This song echoes down the years. Young McCartney’s first single, if I recall correctly. The Star Club version had waiter Fred Fascher on vocals.
Ronnie Hawkins: My Gal Is Red Hot  Also known as Red Hot, this is the rarest of the Star Club recordings as it was incomplete, with only around 30 seconds circulating for a long time. An interesting version of this to include as most often Billy Lee Riley’s 1957 Sun version is the most cited source for this. However, Hawkins version is closer to The Beatles version in terms of attack and arrangement to my mind.
Tommy Roe: Sheila  This is an example of them still hunting out hit songs to perform late into 1962, only having been released in the UK in September of that year, and not peaking (at #3) until 17 October. A week later they’d record an unbroadcast (and long lost) version for the BBC, and it was still in their live act at the end of the year.
Big Joe Turner: Red Sails in the Sunset  Another song that Paul could have brought to the group via his father, as it was a big song in the mid-’30s. Still popular in ’50s, there were several versions they would have been familiar with, including this fine rendition by blues shouter, Big Joe Turner; though Bob Wooler the big one for them was Ray Sharpe’s.
Frank Ifield: I Remember You  Originally performed by Dorothy Lamour in the 1942 film The Fleet’s In, Ifield’s May 1962 recording soon topped the UK charts. Not only did they perform this at the Star Club, but Ifield’s version would appear on the 1964 Vee-Jay rip-off, Jolly What! The Beatles and Frank Ifield on Stage.
The Olympics: Shimmy Like Kate  I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate dates back to 1919, with early versions by Louis Armstrong, Anna Jones, and Fats Waller. It appeared under different titles over the years, including Sister Kate and, as with this Olympics version, Shimmy Like Kate. John rather subverted it with his “Shitty Shitty” intro.
Marlene Dietrich: Falling in Love Again  Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuß auf Liebe eingestellt was written for the film Der Blaue Engel [The Blue Angel] and, in its English translation, became Dietrich’s signature tune. It is also known as “Falling in Love Again (Can’t Help It)“. Not only is there The Beatles live version, with Paul on vocals, but there is also a humorous take on it, mixing the German and English lyric, among John’s home demos recorded between 1976 and 1980.
Arthur Alexander: Where Have You Been (All My Life)  Though largely a forgotten figure now, Alexander was a hugely influential figure on the early ’60s British music scene, covered by many including The Rolling Stones and The Hollies. This song, the b-side of Soldier of Love, was covered by Gerry & The Pacemakers.
This is a brilliant video, some more to come from this animator…
Fats Waller: Your Feet’s Too Big  Written in 1936, it was Waller’s version that really popularised the song. Though not credited as a composer on it, he ad-libbed many of the lyrics that are now commonly considered a part of it. This was Al Capone’s favourite song, who once had Waller kidnapped, forcing him to perform it for him at his birthday party.
Chuck Berry: Little Queenie  A double a-side with Almost Grown, this entered The Beatles live act in 1960 and would feature until early 1963. Unusually for a Berry song, Paul was the vocalist on this one.
Bo Diddley: Road Runner  Only a fragment of this exists on the Star Club recordings, part of it often edited in as an intro to other songs. What does exist is more riffing between songs than performance; which is a shame, as it sounds like they could have done a great version of this iconic Diddley track when really going for it.
Buddy Holly: Reminiscing  This is really a King Curtis recording featuring Buddy Holly, but Holly’s death meant that when released as a single in September 1962, trailing a 1963 album it would be the title track of, it was credited to just Buddy.
The song was written by Curtis, and he asked Holly to do the vocal, flying out to Clovis in New Mexico five months before Holly’s death to record it. It is a remarkable performance. A sinuous duet between Curtis’ smoky sultry sax and possibly Holly’s best-ever vocal.
I cannot rave on enough about how great this recording is, and how it’s no surprise The Beatles were performing it within weeks.
Emile Ford & The Checkmates: Red Sails in the Sunset  These last two tracks are versions of songs that have already appeared that they would also have been familiar with.
Chubby Checker: Your Feet’s Too Big 
Next up will be the first half of Volume Two, On the BBC, Yeah! Yeah! which collects together the originals of songs recorded for radio.
The following people thank Ron Nasty for this post:SgtPeppersBulldog
13 April 2018
This is a fascinating topic. Thank you and am looking forward to the great insights.
It could be argued that the Beatles had a lot of other music to influence them. But it could also be argued that they were music poor in the way that they could listen to or be influenced by only the music played around them or from very defined radio sources. Albums were a pretty big luxury to them and hard to get with variety. I guess the point Paul was making is that other music was held in higher regard. The Beatles created an environment and tapped into a time when rock became the predominant force.
As a kid of the 70s and 80s who grew up in a small town, I’m sometimes envious of the ability any teen anywhere has to play on demand any songs they may so choose. However, my age means that during my childhood the 30s, 40s and 50s were not so far removed, the movies and music were in the air, and I’m much more well-versed in that era’s music than someone today, who would have to actively seek those things out. But once they find it, they can delve into it as deeply as they would care to.
17 December 2012
I guess the point Paul was making is that other music was held in higher regard.
Not necessarily “higher regard”, @SunKing. I think he’s reflecting more on a time when rock and roll existed alongside popular songs (not to be confused with the later pop music), jazz, easy listening, big band, country, folk, etc., in the charts and on the radio – which was a primary means of consumption.
As teenagers began to have more disposable income, this saw forms of music that made up the charts change as teenage music increasingly dominated the charts, which in turn affected what radio played, with the creation of stations (like Radio 1) which were aimed at an exclusively teenage market, instead the more general variety, for all the family, channels that had existed previously.
There is also the point that many of the songs they performed in the early years they might know multiple versions of, in different styles, because it wasn’t uncommon to have several different recordings of a hit song.
So, in my opinion, it’s not that, say jazz, stopped being held in “higher regard”, just that it largely stopped being played on services aimed at the new teenage audience, and so the melting pot of all these influences from different forms which I believe helped make the 60s the extremely fertile and innovative era it was musically.
And you can see the change across media during the ’60s. At the beginning of the decade, musicals ruled the album charts, and after PPM they found it increasingly hard to find a place. NME and MM increasingly concentrated on the pop acts because they sold copies, seeing jazz, big band and easy listening get less column inches until they virtually disappeared from the teenage market.
It is the ghettoisation of music he’s referring to, to my mind, and how it has become increasingly aimed at smaller target audiences. Many youngsters might not now be challenged by styles of music they’re unfamiliar with because so much of their listening experience is guided by algorithms looking for things that they will like rather than things they might have to think about, and might dislike.
The following people thank Ron Nasty for this post:Von Bontee
13 April 2018
Hi @Ron Nasty – yes, we agree. I may have been not clear with how I said it. I meant that the non-rock music was held in higher regard then than it is today and back then was played alongside the more pop/youth music. And you’re very right about the algorithms and the effect on how they reinforce things you already have said you like.