Roll Over Beethoven

Roll Over Beethoven

Single infobox
Name = Roll Over Beethoven

Caption = Chess single
B-side = Drifting Heart
Artist = Chuck Berry
Writer = Chuck Berry
Released = May, 1956
Format = 7"
Recorded =
Genre = Rock'n'Roll
Length = 2:04
Label = Chess #1626
Producer =
Chart position =

* #2 (US R&B)
* #29 (US Top 100)
Last single ="No Money Down" (1955)
This single ="Roll Over Beethoven" (1956)
Next single ="Too Much Monkey Business" (1956)
Misc ="Roll Over Beethoven" is a 1956 hit single by Chuck Berry originally released on Chess Records, with "Drifting Heart" as the b-side. The lyrics of the song mention rock and roll and the desire for rhythm and blues to replace classical music. The song has been covered by many other artists and "Rolling Stone" ranked it #97 on their list the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Inspiration and lyrics

According to "Rolling Stone"cite web |url= |title=Rolling Stone Review of "Roll Over Beethoven" |accessdate=2007-03-01] and Cub Koda of the All Music Guide (AMG),cite web |url= |title="AMG Review of Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven" |accessdate=2007-03-01] Berry wrote the song in response to his sister Lucy always using the family piano to play classical music when Berry wanted to play contemporary popular music.

In addition to classical composers Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, the lyrics mention or allude to several popular artists. "Early in the morning" is the title of a Louis Jordan song and "Blue Suede Shoes" refers to Carl Perkins's song. Finally, "Hey Diddle Diddle" comes from the nursery rhyme, "The Cat and the Fiddle". Although the lyrics mention "rocking" and "rolling", the music that the classics are supposed to step aside for is always referred to as "rhythm and blues". Arthur Alexander appropriated the lyric "a shot of rhythm and blues" for the title of his later song.

As for the rest of the lyrics, a "rhythm review" describes the old style R&B show with many featured artists appearing on one bill in front of a big band. One phrase that has troubled some cover artists not familiar with the southern idiom for "a little bit more" is "move on up just a trifle further". Neither The Beatles nor the Electric Light Orchestra manage to sing the phrase correctly, despite having done two versions apiece.

Like The Tennessee Waltz, "Roll Over Beethoven" is a self-referential metasong, i.e. a song about the song itself.


Berry's version was originally released as a single by Chess Records in May 1956 with "Drifting Heart" as the B-side.cite web |url= |title=A Collector's Guide to the Music of Chuck Berry: The Chess Era (1955-1966) |author=Dietmar Rudolph |accessdate=2007-03-01] "Roll Over Beethoven" and 3 other Berry songs appear on the "Rock, Rock, Rock" album, ostensibly a soundtrack to the film of the same name, but only 4 of the 12 songs on the album appeared in the film.

There have been many subsequent releases on compilation albums.

Critical acclaim

In 2003, Berry's single was one of 50 recordings chosen that year by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry. RS500S|97|"Roll Over Beethoven" In the accompanying review, they wrote that it "became the ultimate rock & roll call to arms, declaring a new era."cite web |url= |title=The Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Songs of All Time |accessdate=] Koda calls it a "masterpiece" that helped to define the rock and roll genre.

Cover versions

It is one of the most widely covered songs in popular music—"a staple of rock & roll bands" according to Koda—with notable versions by Jerry Lee Lewis, The Beatles and the Electric Light Orchestra. Other covers were performed by Mountain, Status Quo, The Rolling Stones, The Byrds, The 13th Floor Elevators, The Sonics, Gene Vincent, Quartz, Uriah Heep on "Uriah Heep Live" and the Australian band Buster Brown on their 1974 album "Something to Say". In 1992, the English Heavy metal band, Iron Maiden covered it as a B-side to its "From Here to Eternity" single.

The Beatles

"Roll Over Beethoven" was a favorite of John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison even before they had chosen "The Beatles" as their name, and they continued to play it live right into their American tours of 1964. Their version of "Roll Over Beethoven" was recorded on 30 July, 1963 for their second British LP, "With the Beatles", and features George Harrison on vocals and guitar.cite book |author=Mark Lewisohn |title=The Beatles Recording Sessions |year=1988 |pages=34, 37 |publisher=Harmony Books |location=New York |isbn=0-517-57066-1] In the United States, it was released 10 April, 1964 as the opening track of "The Beatles' Second Album".cite book |author=Mark Lewisohn |title=The Beatles Recording Sessions |year=1988 |pages=201]

In 1994, the Beatles released a live version of "Roll Over Beethoven" on "Live at the BBC". This live version was recorded on 28 February, 1964 and broadcast on 30 March, 1964 as part of a BBC series starring the Beatles called "From Us To You".cite album-notes |title=Live at the BBC |albumlink =Live at the BBC (The Beatles album) |year=1994 |bandname=The Beatles |format=booklet |publisher=Apple Records |location=London |publisherid=31796]

This version of "Roll Over Beethoven" was used in the film "Superman III" directed by Richard Lester who also directed two films for the Beatles, "Help!" and "A Hard Day's Night."

Electric Light Orchestra

Infobox Single
Name = Roll Over Beethoven

Artist = Electric Light Orchestra
from Album = ELO 2
B-side = "Queen of the Hours"
Released = 1973
Format = 7"
Recorded = 1972 Air Studios
Genre = Rock music, Art rock
Length = 8:09 (album), 4:32 (single)
Label = Harvest Records
Writer = Chuck Berry, Ludwig van Beethoven
Producer = Jeff Lynne
Certification =
Chart position = * UK #6
* US #42
Last single = "10538 Overture" (1972)
This single = "Roll Over Beethoven" (1973)
Next single = "Showdown" (1973)
Misc = Extra tracklisting
Album = Flashback
Type = compilation
prev_track = "Mr. Radio"
prev_no = 4
this_track = "Roll Over Beethoven"
track_no = 5
next_track = "Mama"
next_no = 6

"Roll Over Beethoven" was the second single released by the Electric Light Orchestra and became their second consecutive top ten hit in the UK, as well as a hit in the United States when an edited version of the track was taken from the album "ELO 2" in 1973. ELO's elaborate eight minute reworking of the track included an opening musical quote from Beethoven's Fifth Symphony and clever interpolations of material from the symphony's first movement into Berry's song; the band closed all their concerts using this number, their signature song.

Meat Loaf

Meat Loaf has performed many rock covers for his concerts throughout his career including Chuck Berry songs. His covers of Roll Over Beethoven have been in his "Rock Medleys" with Elvis, Chuck Berry, and Little Richard favorites. Though a cover was never officially released into the medley, being edited out of the CD recording of the tour, it has been on one of Meat Loaf's Objects in the Rear View Mirror singles, recorded for VH-1 in the early 90's according to the CD jacket.

Iron Maiden

Iron Maiden included a cover of the Berry song on the b-side their single "From Here to Eternity", called "Roll Over Vic Vella". The song features different lyrics (written by Steve Harris) about the band's long-time tour manager, Vic Vella.

Cultural references

*In 1973, new owners of New York City classical music station WNCN announced a change of format to rock and roll by interrupting a performance of the "Mozart Requiem" with ELO's version of "Roll Over Beethoven". The station's classical audience was so outraged they successfully petitioned the FCC to force a return to the previous format.cite web |url= |title=A Sad Week for Radio |publisher=Stereophile Magazine |date=1998-12-06 |accessdate=2007-03-01]

*In 1979, a highly truncated version of ELO's version of "Roll Over Beethoven" was the theme song for short-lived NBC-TV fraternity situation comedy, "Brothers and Sisters".

*"Superman III" — "Roll Over Beethoven" by The Beatles and "Earth Angel" by The Penguins can be heard at Clark's high school reunion. Like the use of "Rock Around the Clock" in the first film, the use of these 1950s-era recordings appear out-of-date as Clark's high school days would have corresponded with the late 1960s-early 1970s.

*"Roll Over Beethoven" was the title of a British sitcom starring Nigel Planer in 1983 – 1984.

*"Roll over Beethoven" is the very first line in Common Rotation's song "Post Modern".

*AC/DC references the "Roll Over Beethoven" on a song entilted "Let There Be Rock".

*The Beatles parody band, The Rutles have a song called Blue Suede Schubert, that is probably based on The Beatles' version of the song. The name is a parody of Blue Suede Shoes.

External links

* [ Chuck Berry live television performance]


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