On February 10, 1956 at J&M Studio in New Orleans, Little Richard recorded “Long Tall Sally”, a rock’n’roll song written by Robert “Bumps” BlackwellEnotris Johnson, and Little Richard. Richard recorded it for Specialty Records, which released it as a single in March 1956, backed with “Slippin’ and Slidin’“. Beide nummers zouden later ook op zijn debuutalbum staan, Here’s Little Richard uit 1957. Long Tall Sally stond 19 weken op 1 in de Rhythm and Blueshitlijst in de Verenigde Staten while peaking at number six on the pop chart. The song as sung by Little Richard is listed at number 55 on Rolling Stone’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It became one of the singer’s best-known hits and has become a rock’n’roll standard covered by hundreds of artists, including Elvis Presley and the Beatles.

Tutti Frutti” had bee, a big hit for Little Richard and Specialty in early 1956, reaching number two in the R&B charts. Pat Boone’s cover version of the song reached number 12 in the pop charts. Although this meant an unexpected cash income for the Specialty publishing firm, A&R man and producer “Bumps” Blackwell and a proud Richard decided to write a song that was so up-tempo and the lyrics so fast that Boone would not be able to handle it. (Boone eventually did record his own version, however, which reached number 18.)

According to Blackwell, he was introduced to a little girl by Honey Chile, a popular disc-jockey. Apparently, the girl had written a song for Little Richard to record so she could pay the treatment for her ailing aunt Mary. The song, actually a few lines on a piece of paper, went like this:

Saw Uncle John with Long Tall Sally
They saw Aunt Mary comin’
So they ducked back in the alley

Not wishing to upset an influential disc-jockey, Blackwell accepted the offer and took the idea to Richard, who was reluctant at first. Nevertheless, the line “ducked back in the alley” was exactly what they were looking for, and Richard kept practicing until he could sing it as fast as possible. They worked on the song, adding verses and a chorus, until they got the hit they wanted. The credit to Enotris Johnson, Richard’s adoptive father, was added, probably as an act of benevolence, but the girl got no credit apparently. Featuring a tenor saxophone solo by Lee Allen (as did “Tutti Frutti“), “Long Tall Sally” was the best-selling 45 of the history of Specialty Records.

The recording session took place on February 10, 1956 at J&M Studio in New Orleans, owned by Cosimo Matassa on the corner of Rampart and Dumaine where Fats Domino and many other New Orleans luminaries recorded. Many other Little Richard sides were also recorded there.

The music was a fast uptempo number with Little Richard’s hammering, boogie piano. Richard plays staccato straight eighth notes while drummer Earl Palmer plays a fast shuffle. The other musicians were Alvin “Red” Tyler on baritone saxophone, Frank Fields on double bass and Edgar Blanchard, guitar.

The Beatles were admirers of Little Richard, and regularly performed his songs during their live act. “Long Tall Sally” was the most durable song in their live repertoire, lasting from their earliest days as the Quarrymen in 1957 through to their last public concert at San Francisco‘s Candlestick Park on August 29, 1966. The band asked their press officer, Tony Barrow, to make an audio tape recording of the concert for posterity (the recording has since circulated heavily among bootleggers), but the 30-minute tape ran out at the end of the second verse of “Long Tall Sally”—making the last moments of the Beatles’ final live show lost to history.

As with the majority of their Little Richard remakes, Paul McCartney sang lead vocals, as he could closely imitate Richard’s vocal style. Het is ook het zoveelste bewijs dat de opdeling John Lennon, de rocker, en Paul McCartney, de balladsinger, totaal niet opgaat. Toch gebeurt het dikwijls, in de film Backbeat schrok men er zelfs niet voor terug om desnoods de werkelijkheid de nek om te draaien. Zeer tot Pauls ongenoegen: “One of my annoyances about the film Backbeat is that they’ve actually taken my rock ‘n’ rollness off me. They give John Long Tall Sally to sing and he never sang it in his life.”

Alhoewel ik Pauls verontwaardiging volkomen kan begrijpen, was het volgens mij enkel te wijten aan het feit dat de acteur die John vertolkte (Ian Hart) een betere versie kon zingen dan diegene die gestalte gaf aan Paul (Gary Bakewell). Alhoewel, elders op mijn blog, vermeld ik dat de acteurs, al werden ze eerder om hun “body language” dan om hun gelijkenis geselecteerd, niet echt zingen, maar dat daarvoor een beroep werd gedaan op professionals als Dave Pirner van Soul Asylum (voor Pauls stem) en Greg Dulli van The Aghan Wigs (voor die van John). Waarom dit dan op z’n minst voor dit ene nummer niet kon omgedraaid worden als bleek dat Pirner het niet aankon, is me een raadsel. (Voor de volledigheid vermeld ik ook nog dat de acteurs zich ook niet om de instrumenten diende te bekommeren, want die werden bespeeld door studio-muzikanten als drummer Dave Grohl van Nirvana, bassist Mike Mills van REM en de gitaristen Don Fleming van Gumball en Thurston Moore van Sonic Youth.)

Over instrumenten gesproken, pas nu valt mij op dat stijve hark George Martin piano zou spelen op de Beatles-versie die opgenomen is in de studio (er bestaan nog meerdere live-versies, o.a. op de BBC-cd’s). En verdorie! Georgie boy doet dat niet eens zo slecht, luister maar:

Also in 1964, the Kinks recorded “Long Tall Sally” as their debut single, released in February of the same year. The Kinks’ version was a modernized arrangement of the song, omitting the piano and moving away from R&B and toward a contemporary rock sound met een goede mondharmonica solo (van wie?). The single was backed by “I Took My Baby Home”, from their debut album released later in the year. (Wikipedia)

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