The Beatles Song That Pushed John Lennon’s Voice To The Limit

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The Beatles were always a rock ‘n’ roll band at heart. The Liverpool group may have had many strings to their bow, but from first to last the Fab Four wanted to rock out.

Adding their own frenzied energy to any song they covered, The Beatles took the Isley Brothers’ stomper ‘Twist And Shout’ to the next level. A key component of those Beatlemania live sets, the song accompanied them from Liverpool cellars like the Cavern club all the way around the world.

In all, The Beatles played the song live 374 times, more than any other song in their repertoire. To most fans, though, only one version is the definitive one – that recorded for their ‘Please Please Me’ album.

Fittingly, it closed the record. As George Martin recalls, he placed it last in the recording schedule, determined for John Lennon’s voice to be as raw as possible. As the revered Abbey Road producer recalled in the Anthology book:

“I knew that ‘Twist and Shout’ was a real larynx-tearer, and I said, ‘We’re not going to record that until the end of the day, because if we record it early on, you’re not going to have any voice left…’”

“So that was the last thing we did that night. We did two takes, and after that, John didn’t have any voice left at all. It was good enough for the record, and it needed that linen-ripping sound.”

The results speak for themselves. More in keeping with the R&B original by the Top Notes, The Beatles inject some rock ‘n’ roll into those Isley Brothers harmonies. Quoted in the Anthology book, John Lennon recalled that the song “nearly killed me…”

“My voice wasn’t the same for a long time after; every time I swallowed, it was like sandpaper. I was always bitterly ashamed of it, because I could sing it better than that, but now it doesn’t bother me. You can hear that I’m just a frantic guy doing his best. We sang for 12 hours, almost nonstop. We had colds, and we were concerned how it would affect the record. At the end of the day, all we wanted to do was drink pints of milk.”

‘Twist And Shout’ accompanies the Beatles at some of their pivotal moments – performed on the Ed Sullivan Show, the group also performed it at their iconic Royal Variety Show set.

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