Beatles For Sale album artworkWritten by: Berry
Recorded: 18 October 1964
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith

Released: 4 December 1964 (UK), 15 December 1964 (US)

Available on:
Beatles For Sale
Anthology 2
Live At The BBC

Personnel

John Lennon: vocals, rhythm guitar, piano
Paul McCartney: bass guitar, piano
George Harrison: acoustic guitar
Ringo Starr: drums
George Martin: piano

Written by Chuck Berry, ‘Rock And Roll Music’ was a staple of The Beatles’ live repertoire between 1959 and 1966. They recorded it for their fourth UK album, Beatles For Sale.

The song had been a hit for Berry in 1957. The Beatles selected it for Beatles For Sale, along with a number of other rock ‘n’ roll standards, when they were running short of original material.

This is an old Chuck Berry thing which we used to do at The Cavern, and we’ve tried for that old-type clipped down-in-the-valley echo on it. There’s some piano going, too. George Martin, John and I on the keyboard all at once!
Paul McCartney
Disc, 14 November 1964

A later live version, recorded at the Nippon Budokan Hall in Tokyo in June 1966, shortly before The Beatles abandoned touring, appears on Anthology 2.

In the studio

‘Rock And Roll Music’ was one of John Lennon’s great vocal performances, and a thrilling rendition by the group as a whole. Owing to their familiarity with the song, it took The Beatles just one take to record.

The basic track was recorded with drums and bass on track one, two guitars on the second, and Lennon’s vocals on track three. Afterwards Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Martin all overdubbed a piano part on a Steinway together.

The Beatles recorded it on 18 October 1964. During the same nine-hour session they also recorded ‘Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!’, ‘Mr Moonlight’, ‘I Feel Fine’, ‘I’ll Follow The Sun’, ‘Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby’ and ‘Words Of Love’. ‘Rock And Roll Music’ was the penultimate song to be tackled.

BBC recording

In addition to their EMI studio version, The Beatles also recorded ‘Rock And Roll Music’ once for BBC radio.

The session was for the Saturday Club show, and was recorded at the BBC’s Aeolian Hall in London on 25 November 1964. The show was broadcast on Boxing Day.

The Beatles recorded two songs during the session – ‘Rock And Roll Music’ and ‘Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!’ – along with banter with host Brian Matthew.

When the 26 December edition of Saturday Club was broadcast, four songs from The Beatles’ 17 November 1964 session for Top Gear were also included. They were ‘I’m A Loser’, ‘Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby’, ‘I Feel Fine’, and ‘She’s A Woman’.

The performance of ‘Rock And Roll Music’ was included on the 1994 collection Live At The BBC.

Lyrics

Just let me hear some of that rock and roll music
Any old way you choose it
It’s got a back beat, you can’t lose it
Any old time you use it
It’s gotta be rock roll music
If you wanna dance with me
If you wanna dance with me

I’ve got no kick against modern jazz
Unless they try to play it too darn fast
And lose the beauty of the melody
Until they sound just like a symphony

That’s why I go for that rock and roll music
Any old way you choose it
It’s got a back beat, you can’t lose it
Any old time you use it
It’s gotta be rock and roll music
If you wanna dance with me
If you wanna dance with me

I took my lover on over ‘cross the tracks
So she can hear my man awail a sax
I must admit they have a rocking band
Man, they were blowing like a hurricane

That’s why I go for that rock and roll music
Any old way you choose it
It’s got a back beat, you can’t lose it
Any old time you use it
It’s gotta be rock and roll music
If you wanna dance with me
If you wanna dance with me

Way down south they had a jubilee
Them Georgia folks they had a jamboree
They’re drinking home brew from a wooden cup
The folks are dancing, they got all shook up

And started playing that rock and roll music
Any old time you use it
It’s got a back beat, you can’t lose it
Any old time you use it
It’s gotta be rock and roll music
If you wanna dance with me
If you wanna dance with me

Don’t care to hear ’em play a tango
I’m in the mood to take a mambo
It’s way too early for a congo
So keep on rocking that piano

That’s why I go for that rock and roll music
Any old time you use it
It’s got a back beat, you can’t lose it
Any old time you use it
It’s gotta be rock and roll music
If you wanna dance with me
If you wanna dance with me

Previous song: ‘Baby’s In Black’
Next song: ‘I’ll Follow The Sun’