Written by: Davis-Vincent
Recorded: 21-25 October 1974
Producer: John Lennon
Released: 21 February 1975 (UK), 17 February 1975 (US)
John Lennon opened his 1975 album Rock ‘N’ Roll with a version of Gene Vincent’s 1956 hit Be-Bop-A-Lula.
Vincent’s recording was released as a single by Capitol in Britain, where it peaked at number 17 in the charts. In his native USA it fared better, reaching number seven.
The song made a big impression on The Beatles. Lennon claimed to have performed it with the Quarrymen on 6 July 1957 at the garden fete of St Peter’s Church in Woolton, Liverpool, the day he met Paul McCartney for the first time.
McCartney watched the Quarrymen’s performance, and afterwards the pair were introduced by band member Ivan Vaughan. McCartney impressed Lennon by playing a range of songs including Be-Bop-A-Lula, Eddie Cochran’s Twenty Flight Rock and a medley of Little Richard numbers.
I came across the cover photo – the original picture of me in my leather jacket, leaning against the wall in Hamburg in 1962 – and I thought, ‘Is this it? Do I start where I came in, with Be-Bop-A-Lula?’ The day I met Paul I was singing that song for the first time onstage. There’s a photo in all the Beatles books – a picture of me with a checked shirt on, holding a little acoustic guitar – and I am singing Be-Bop-A-Lula, just as I did on that album, and there’s a picture in Hamburg and I’m saying goodbye from the Record Plant.
Be-Bop-A-Lula became a part of The Beatles’ early stage repertoire, although they never recorded it properly. A live version with Fred Fascher on vocals, recorded in December 1962, was later issued in 1977 on the unofficial Live! at the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany; 1962.
The group also performed an impromptu version of the song on 24 July 1969, during a session for Abbey Road. While working on ‘Sun King’/‘Mean Mr Mustard’, John Lennon led The Beatles through versions of ‘Ain’t She Sweet’, Who Slapped John? and Be-Bop-A-Lula.
McCartney performed the song himself on Unplugged: The Official Bootleg, which was recorded and released in 1991.
Another Beatles link to the song was George Harrison’s psychedelic Fender Stratocaster guitar known as Rocky, which had the phrase ‘Bebopalula’ painted on it. The guitar made an appearance during the Magical Mystery Tour film, and it was later used as his slide guitar.
John Lennon’s version for the Rock ‘N’ Roll album was recorded on October 1974. Take two from the session, was also included on the John Lennon Anthology box set, released in 1998, and showed how the song sounded without further embellishment in the studio.
A slightly shorter edit of the John Lennon Anthology take was included on the Wonsaponatime highlights collection, also released in 1998.