#429: Twist And Shout by The Beatles
Paul McCartney was born in Liverpool in 1942. He attended the Liverpool Institute High School for Boys and met fellow classmates George Harrison on a school bus. When Paul was 14 his mom died from a blockage in one of her blood vessels. In his early teens McCartney learned to play trumpet, guitar and piano. He was left-handed and restrung the strings to make it work. In 1957, Paul met John Lennon and in October he was invited to join John’s skiffle band, The Quarrymen, which Lennon had founded in 1956. After Paul joined the group his suggested that his friend, George Harrison, join the group. Harrison became one of the Quarrymen in early 1958, though he was still only 14. Other original members of the Quarrymen, Len Garry, Rod Davis, Colin Hanton, Eric Griffiths and Pete Shotton left the band when their set changed from skiffle to rock ‘n roll. John Duff Lowe, a friend of Paul’s from the Liverpool Institute, who had joined the Quarrymen in early 1958 left the band at the end of school. This left Lennon, McCartney and Harrison as remaining trio. On July 15, 1958, John Lennon’s mother died in an automobile accident.
John Winston Lennon was born in Liverpool in 1940. His middle name was after Britain’s current Prime Minister Winston Churchill, during World War II. In 1957, Lennon wrote his first song titled “Hello Little Girl”. It became a Top Ten hit in the UK in 1963 for the Merseybeat band the Fourmost. George Harrison was born in Liverpool in 1943. His father bought him his first guitar in 1956 when Harrison was 13 years old.
Richard Starkey was born in Liverpool in 1940. As a child he was sick with appendicitis, peritonitis and finally tuberculosis. The latter illness had him spend two years in a sanitorium from 1953 to 1955. Out of school for this duration, Starkey remained at home after his return from the sanatorium. He got involved with a skiffle band initially called the Eddie Miles Band which morphed into Eddie Clayton and the Clayton Squares. Starkey next joined Al Caldwell’s Texans which eventually became Rory Storm & The Hurricanes. By the fall of 1959, Starkey changed his professional name to Ringo Starr and his drum solos during their concerts were billed as ‘Starr Time.’ Beginning October 1, 1960, Rory Storm & The Hurricanes began a gig at the Kaiserkeller club in Hamburg, Germany. They alternated sets with The Beatles. On October 18, 1960, with Pete Best on an errand to find drumsticks, Ringo Starr stood in for Best to play a set with McCartney, Lennon and Harrison. This was the first time the Fab Four performed together.
The Quarrymen went through some name changes, including Johnny and the Moondogs. In January 1960, Stuart Sutcliffe joined the band and suggested they name themselves the Beatals as a tribute to Buddy Holly and The Crickets. The name changed to the Silver Beetles in May and in August 1960 they became the Beatles. The name was a cross between the insect cousin of a cricket and a nickname for rock ‘n roll: ‘the beat’. That same month the Beatles hired Pete Best to become the bands drummer. Now a five-piece band, they headed to Hamburg, Germany, on August 17, 1960, for a three-and-a-half month stint. In early 1961 Sutcliffe left the Beatles as they continued to return for more engagements in Germany. On June 22, 1961, Bert Kaempfert produced “My Bonnie”, “Ain’t She Sweet” and eight other songs. Later in 1961, “My Bonnie” climbed to #4 on the Hamburg pop charts and #32 on the German pop charts.
Meanwhile, the Beatles were developing a following back in Liverpool. Between February 9, 1961, and August 3, 1963, the group played at The Cavern Club 292 times. The group got a recording contract with EMI’s Parlophone label in the UK. At the June 6, 1962, studio session, producer George Martin objected to Pete Best remaining with the Beatles due to his poor drumming skills. In August Ringo Starr from Rory & The Hurricanes accepted Paul McCartney and John Lennon’s invitation to became the Beatles new drummer. The first EMI Parlophone single “Love Me Do”/”PS I Love You” climbed to #17 on the UK charts in the fall of 1962. “Please Please Me” climbed to #2 on the UK pop charts in early 1963. And in April 1963 “From Me To You” became the bands first #1 hit on the UK charts staying on top for seven weeks in a row. It also climbed into the Top 20 on CFUN in July 1963. That year “She Loves You” topped the UK charts for six weeks and “I Want To Hold Your Hand” wrapped up the year on top for five weeks in the British Isles.
Beginning on December 21, 1963, “She Loves You” topped the C-FUN charts for four weeks. It was replaced on January 18 by “Please Mr. Postman”, and on January 25 by “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” for six weeks. On March 7 “All My Loving” took over the #1 spot, subsequently sharing the #1 spot with the B-side “This Boy” through to April 4. After sixteen weeks at #1 the Beatles were knocked out of the top spot by the Dave Clark Five’s “Bits And Pieces”. During their streak at #1 in Vancouver from December 21, 1963, to April 4, 1964, “All My Loving”/”This Boy” kept the #1 hit in the USA, “Can’t Buy Me Love” stalled at #2 here on the west coast. Between December 14, 1963, and September 17, 1966, the Beatles had up to five songs in the Top Ten in Vancouver for 107 out of 146 weeks. Beatlemania reached North America with three appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964. But in Vancouver they were already a craze by December ’63.
In addition to the songs written mostly by Paul McCartney and John Lennon, in the early years the Beatles also recorded covers of other songs. These included “Please Mr. Postman” by the Marvelettes, “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Rock And Roll Music” by Chuck Berry, “Ain’t She Sweet” (Ben Bennie, Eddie Cantor, Gene Austin, Paul Whiteman, Annette Hanshaw and others in 1927), “My Bonnie” (traditional Scottish folk song first published in 1881), “Chains”, a Goffin-King composition recorded first by the Cookies, “Boys” the B-side to “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” by the Shirelles, written by Luther Dixon and Wes Farrell, “Baby It’s You” also recorded by the Shirelles and written by Burt Bacharach, Mack David and Barney Williams (a pseudonym for Luther Dixon), and “A Taste Of Honey” a Top 20 hit in the UK for Acker Bilk in 1963 and the Tijuana Brass in 1965, written by Bobby Scott. The song won a Grammy Award in 1963 for Best Instrumental Composition, originally written for a Broadway play of the same title.
One of the songs the Beatles covered was in a recording session on February 11, 1963, for their forthcoming debut studio album, Please Please Me, was “Twist And Shout”. Internationally, in 1964 the Beatles “Twist And Shout” climbed to #1 in New Zealand, #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, #5 in Australia and Canada, #7 in Norway, #9 in the Netherlands and #10 in Germany. The single also peaked at #2 on the CFUN chart in Vancouver (BC). It was not released as a single in England. As the single peaked at #2 in the USA and #2 in Vancouver in 1964, it didn’t count as a song that charted far better locally in Vancouver compared to the Billboard Hot 100. And that would be that for “Twist And Shout”, except for a film in 1986 titled Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
In June 1986 the John Hughes directed film was released to rave reviews. The film is set in one of the affluent suburbs of Chicago, near the end of the school year, high school senior Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) pretends he is ill in order to stay at home. His parents believe he really is ill, though his sister Jeanie does not. Dean of Students Edward R. Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) suspects Ferris is a repeat truant and commits to catching him. Ferris puts a dummy under his bed covers. The dummy slightly shifts in bed when Ferris’ bedroom door is opened (due to the dummy being tied to a string connected to the door). A sound system plays deep sleep breathing to throw his parents off the ruse. Meanwhile, Ferris convinces his best friend Cameron Frye (Alan Ruck) who is legitimately absent due to illness, to help lure Ferris’ girlfriend Sloane Peterson (Mia Sara) from school on the pretext of her grandmother’s supposed death. Ferris arm-twists Cameron to take his father’s prized 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder for a drive to downtown Chicago to visit the Sears Tower and other sights.
In one of the scenes Ferris gets separated from Cameron and Sloane. They discover that he’s on a float in a German-American parade singing “Danke Schoen” by Wayne Newton and “Twist And Shout” by the Beatles. The soundtrack for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off also included “Beat City” by the Flowerpot Men, “Love Missile F1-11” by Sigue Sigue Sputnik, “Oh Yeah” by Yello, and “BAD” by Big Audio Dynamite. But it was the Beatles “Twist And Shout” that especially benefited commercially from the film’s release.
In September and October 1986 “Twist And Shout” peaked at #3 in Vancouver (BC), #6 in Edmonton (AB), #7 in Calgary (AB) and Toronto, #10 in Louisville (KY) and #11 in Hamilton (ON). The Beatles re-issue stalled at #23 on the Billboard Hot 100. Consequently, this is one of only a few singles that have earned a place on this website’s Countdown owing to its revival. At the time “Twist And Shout” was a twenty-three-year-old Beatles recording. Its appearance in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off gave it exposure to a whole new generation.
“Twist And Shout” was co-written by Phil Medley and Bert Berns. Bertrand Russell Berns was born in the Bronx to Russian Jewish immigrants in 1929. When he was fourteen he contracted rheumatic fever which damaged his heart. After he recovered, he took piano and learned to read and write music. In 1949 he co-founded Magic Records and found a new talented female recently graduated from high school named Edith Gormezano who soon went by the pseudonym of Eydie Gormé. They got an office at 1650 Broadway and started publishing sheet music. But by the end of 1950 the little record company had folded, with none of the songs they wrote even being recorded. He visited Cuba in the winter of 1957, over a year before the Cuban Revolution. In 1958 he wrote “Way Down By the Cherry Tree” for Capitol Records vocalist Micki Marlo. In 1959 Berns began to work at 1650 Broadway and formed a group called the Beatniks who recorded an obscure tune titled “Beat Generation”.
On February 12, 1960, Bert Berns got a job with Robert Mellin Music as a song plugger for fifty dollars a week. Meanwhile, he kept on writing. He penned “A Little Bit Of Soap” for the Jarmels in 1961, along with having “Twist And Shout” recorded originally by the Top Notes – and then the Isley Brothers. Other notable songs Berns penned were “Tell Him” by the Exciters (1962), “Cry Baby” by Garnet Mimms (1963) and later Janis Joplin (1971), “Here Comes The Night” by Them (1965), “I Want Candy” by the Strangeloves (1965) and later Bow Wow Wow (1982), “Hang On Sloopy” by the McCoys (1965), “Are You Lonely For Me Baby” by Freddie Scott (1967), “Piece Of My Heart” by Big Brother and the Holding Company featuring Janis Joplin (1968) and “Twenty Five Miles” by Edwin Starr (1969). For Bert Berns, writing “take another little piece of my heart” had a double meaning, given his compromised heart from his bout of rheumatic fever in his youth.
Bert Berns also was a producer of several notable hits including “Under The Boardwalk” by the Drifters (1964), “Baby I’m Yours” and “Make Me Your Baby” by Barbara Lewis (both 1965) and “Brown Eyed Girl” for Van Morrison (1967). Berns died at the age of 38 of a heart attack in December 1967.
In 2014 a book retrospective was published about Burns titled Here Comes the Night: The Dark Soul of Bert Berns and the Dirty Business of Rhythm and Blues by Joel Selvin. A musical by Daniel Goldfarb, Piece of My Heart: The Bert Burns Story, debuted Off-Broadway in 2014. And in 2016 Burns son Brett released his documentary BANG! The Bert Berns Story.
Co-writer of “Twist And Shout”, Phil Medley, is sometimes confused with the Righteous Brothers’ Bill Medley. Phil Medley was born in 1916 was a string and horn arranger and conductor. From 1953 his songs were recorded by Dinah Washington, Billy Eckstine, Dion, Gene Pitney, Patti Page, He wrote “A Million To One” for 15-year-old Jimmy Charles in 1960, and the song became a million seller. He later wrote “Killer Joe” for the American-Filipino rock group the Rocky Fellers in 1963.
Though the Beatles split in 1970, “Twist And Shout” was one of a number of post-breakup hits. After 1986 the Beatles appeared again on the UK pop chart in 1995 with their cover of “Baby It’s You” peaking at #7. That same year “Free As A Bird” – composed in 1977 – became a Top Ten hit in the USA and the UK. Their final charting single was “Real Love” in 1996, which was a Top Ten in the UK, America, Australia, Italy, Sweden, Finland and Ireland.
After the split in 1970 Ringo Starr had a number of Top Ten hits including “Photograph”, “It Don’t Come Easy”, “You’re Sixteen” and the “No No Song”. Since 1970 Ringo has released 19 studio albums and 11 live albums. Beginning with A Hard Day’s Night, Starr has also appeared in 38 films, including several as a voice for animation. He has also authored three books: Postcards From The Boys, featuring reproductions of postcards sent to Starr by Paul McCartney, John Lennon and George Harrison, along with his commentary; Octopus’ Garden which is a children’s book based on the song from the album Abbey Road; And Photograph, a collection of 240 photographs of Starr’s that expresses a visual autobiography together with photo captions.
Paul McCartney had the most successful solo career of the four. His that included “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey”, “My Love”, “Band On The Run,” “Live And Let Die”, “With A Little Luck”, “Coming Up” and “Silly Love Songs”. He has topped the charts in duets with Stevie Wonder and with Michael Jackson. His most recent international Top Ten hit was with Kanye West and Rihanna in 2015 titled “FourFiveSeconds”. Between 1971 and 2015 McCartney has had forty-eight of his single releases reach the Top Ten in one or more countries internationally. Over the years Paul McCartney had produced records for other recording artists. This includes “A World Without Love” for Peter and Gordon, “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” for Silkie, “Mellow Yellow” for Donovan, “Those Were The Days” for Mary Hopkin, James Taylor’s self-titled debut album James Taylor, Ringo Starr’s self-titled 1973 album Ringo and George Harrison’s 1981 album Somewhere In England.
George Harrison had hits with “My Sweet Lord” and “Give Me Love”. After “My Sweet Lord” appeared on the pop charts in 1970 Bright Tunes sued him for copyright infringement of the song “He’s So Fine” by the Chiffons. Harrison told Rolling Stone in 1979 “The guy who actually wrote ‘He’s So Fine’ had died years before, Ronnie Mack. Bright Tunes Music, his publisher, was suing me. So we went through the court case, and in the end the judge said, yes, it is similar, but you’re not guilty of stealing the tune. We do think there’s been a copyright infringement, though, so get your lawyers together and work out some sort of compensation. But Bright Tunes wouldn’t settle for that; they kept trying to bring the case back into court. They even tried to bring it back into court when I did “This Song.” Harrison released “This Song” as a single describing his frustrations with the plagiarism lawsuit. In 1979 Harrison helped finance with Monty Python film Life of Brian.
John Lennon recorded a number of hits in the early ’70’s, which included “Instant Karma”, “Power To The People”, “#9 Dream”, “Whatever Gets You Through The Night” and “Imagine”. “Imagine” went on to become an inspirational anthem for decades of pop music aficionados. In 1975 Lennon retreated from the music world to raise his new son, Sean. In 1980 he returned to the recording studio to release “Woman” and “Starting Over”. Hopes for a Beatles reunion were dashed when John Lennon was murdered on December 8, 1980, outside his New York City apartment near Central Park. “Woman” and Starting Over” climbed to #1, and “Imagine” climbed to #1 in the UK. (The song also climbed to the UK charts to #6 in 1975 and #3 in 1999).
George Harrison died of lung cancer in 2001. Starr and McCartney have continued to tour.
April 10, 2020
“The Beatles,” Rolling Stone.
David Fricke, “Paul McCartney Looks Back: The Rolling Stone Interview,” Rolling Stone, August 10, 2016.
Ben Quinn, “Paul McCartney ‘saw God’ After Taking Drugs During Beatles Heyday,” Guardian, September 2, 2018.
Stephen Rodrick, “Being Ringo: A Beatle’s All-Starr Life,” Rolling Stone, April 15, 2015.
“Interview: John Lennon and Ringo Starr in Los Angeles,” Los Angeles Times, August 23, 1964.
Mick Brown, “A Conversation With George Harrison: The ‘Fab Four’ is Done For, and George Couldn’t be Happier Doing his Own Thing,” Rolling Stone, April 19, 1979.
Dave Laing and Penny Valentine, “George Harrison: The Most Handsome but Underrated Beatle, he Came into his Own as a Solo Artist and Film Producer,” Guardian, December 1, 2001.
“John Lennon Died 35 Years Ago Today: Read Original Associated Press Story,” Billboard, December 8, 2015.
Johnathan Cott, “John Lennon: The Last Interview: Three days before he died, John Lennon talked with ‘Rolling Stone’ for nine hours. For the first time, we present this extraordinary interview,” Rolling Stone, December 23, 2010.
“C-FUNTASTIC FIFTY,” CFUN 1410 AM, Vancouver, BC, April 18, 1964.
Suzy Evans, “First Look at ‘Piece of My Heart: The Bert Berns Story’ (Exclusive),” Hollywood Reporter, June 13, 2014.
“BANG! The Bert Berns Story,” SXSW.com. Austin, Texas, March 11, 2016.
Joel Selvin, Here Comes the Night: The Dark Soul of Bert Berns and the Dirty Business of Rhythm and Blues, (Counterpoint, 2014).
“A Million To One“, Wikipedia.org.
For more song reviews visit the Countdown.