The Paul McCartney Project

Roll Over Beethoven

Written by Chuck Berry

Album This song officially appears on the With the Beatles (Mono) Official album.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1963
Sessions This song has been recorded during the following sessions

Other Chuck Berry songs

Spread the love! If you like what you are seeing, share it on social networks and let others know about The Paul McCartney Project.

Song facts

From Wikipedia:

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. There is a popular saying that a deceased person would “roll over in their grave” if they heard something that would have deeply disturbed them had they been alive. The title line of the song is a reference to how Ludwig van Beethoven would do just that in reaction to the advent of the new musical genre that Chuck Berry was leading. The song has been covered by many other artists and Rolling Stone ranked it #97 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Inspiration and lyrics

According to Rolling Stone and Cub Koda of Allmusic, Berry wrote the song in response to his sister Lucy always using the family piano to play classical music when Berry wanted to play popular music. The line “roll over Beethoven and tell Tchaikovsky the news” refers to how both classical composers would “roll over in their graves” upon hearing how their classical music had given way to rock and roll.

In addition to classical composers Ludwig van Beethoven and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the lyrics mention or allude to several popular artists. “Early in the Mornin’” is the title of a Louis Jordan song and “Blue Suede Shoes” refers to the Carl Perkins song. Finally, “Hey Diddle Diddle” which comes from the nursery rhyme, “The Cat and the Fiddle“, is an indirect reference to Berry’s Chess stablemate Bo Diddley, who was an accomplished violin player. 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” (R&B). Arthur Alexander appropriated the lyric “a shot of rhythm and blues” for the title of his later song.

Later in the song, a “rhythm revue” describes the old style R&B show with many featured artists appearing on one bill in front of a big band.

Release

Berry’s version was originally released as a single by Chess Records in May 1956 with “Drifting Heart” as the B-side. It peaked at #7 on the Billboard R&B chart and #29 on the pop chart. “Roll Over Beethoven” and three other Berry songs appeared on the Rock, Rock, Rock album, ostensibly a soundtrack to the film of the same name, but only four of the twelve songs on the album appeared in the film. […]

The Beatles’ version

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 July 30, 1963 for their second British LP, With the Beatles, and features Harrison on vocals and guitar. In the United States, it was released April 10, 1964 as the opening track of The Beatles’ Second Album. and May 11, 1964 as the opening track of the second Capitol EP “Four by the Beatles“. It was released on Capitol in Canada with “Please Mister Postman” as the B-side. This release reached #68 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and #30 on Cashbox.

In 1994, the Beatles released a live version of “Roll Over Beethoven” on Live at the BBC. This live version was recorded on February 28, 1964 and broadcast on March 30, 1964 as part of a BBC series starring the Beatles called From Us to You. This version of “Roll Over Beethoven” was used in the film Superman III directed by Richard Lester, who also directed the Beatles’ first two films, A Hard Day’s Night and Help!. […]

From The Usenet Guide to Beatles Recording Variations:

  • [a] mono 21 Aug 1963. edited.
    UK: Parlophone PMC 1206 With the Beatles 1963.
    CD: EMI CDP 7 46436 2 With the Beatles 1987.
  • [b] stereo 29 Oct 1963. edited.
    UK: Parlophone PCS 3045 With the Beatles 1963.
  • [b1] stereo remixed from [b] 1964, by Capitol.
    US: Capitol ST 2080 Second 1964.
  • [b2] mono made from [b] 1964, by Capitol.
    US: Capitol T 2080 Second 1964.
  • [b3] stereo remixed from [b] 1976.
    US: Capitol SKBO-11537 Rock and Roll Music 1976.

Last updated on February 14, 2016

Lyrics

I'm gonna write a little letter
Gonna mail it to my local DJ
It's a rocking little record
I want my jockey to play
Roll over Beethoven
I gotta hear it again today

You know my temperature's rising
And the jukebox's blown a fuse
My heart's beating rhythm
And my soul keeps a-singing the blues
Roll over Beethoven
And tell Tchaikovsky the news

I got a rocking pneumonia
I need a shot of rhythm and blues
I think I got it off the writer
Sittin' down by the rhythm review
Roll over Beethoven
We're rockin' in two by two

Well if you feel you like it
Well get your lover and reel and rock it
Roll it over and move on up
Just a trifle further
And reel and rock it
Roll it over
Roll over Beethoven
A rocking in two by two

Well early in the morning
I'm a giving you the warning
Don't you step on my blue suede shoes
Hey diddle diddle
Gonna play my fiddle
Ain't got nothing to lose
Roll over Beethoven
And tell Tchaikovsky the news

You know she winks like a glow worm
Dance like a spinning top
She got a crazy partner
Oughta see them reel and rock
Long as she's got a dime
The music will never stop

Roll over Beethoven
Roll over Beethoven
Roll over Beethoven
Roll over Beethoven
Roll over Beethoven
And dig to these rhythm and blues

Officially appears on


With the Beatles (Mono)

Official album • Released in 1963

2:46 • Studio versionA • Mono

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Handclaps
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Handclaps
John Lennon:
Handclaps, Rhythm guitar
George Harrison:
Handclaps, Lead guitar, Vocals
George Martin:
Producer
Norman Smith:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Jul 30, 1963
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Aug 21, 1963
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road


With the Beatles (Stereo)

Official album • Released in 1963

2:45 • Studio versionB • Stereo

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Handclaps
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Handclaps
John Lennon:
Handclaps, Rhythm guitar
George Harrison:
Handclaps, Lead guitar, Vocals
George Martin:
Producer
Norman Smith:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Jul 30, 1963
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Oct 29, 1963
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road


The Beatles' Second Album (Mono)

Official album • Released in 1964

2:48 • Studio versionB2 • Mono • Mono made from [B] by Capitol

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Handclaps
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Handclaps
John Lennon:
Handclaps, Rhythm guitar
George Harrison:
Handclaps, Lead guitar, Vocals
George Martin:
Producer
Norman Smith:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Jul 30, 1963
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Oct 29, 1963
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road


The Beatles' Second Album (Stereo)

Official album • Released in 1964

2:48 • Studio versionB1 • Stereo • Stereo remixed from [B] by Capitol

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Handclaps
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Handclaps
John Lennon:
Handclaps, Rhythm guitar
George Harrison:
Handclaps, Lead guitar, Vocals
George Martin:
Producer
Norman Smith:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Jul 30, 1963
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Oct 29, 1963
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road


The Beatles At The Hollywood Bowl

Official live • Released in 1977

2:28 • LiveL1

George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Mastering, Remix engineer
Voyle Gilmore:
Producer
Wally Traugott:
Mastering

Concert From the concert in Los Angeles, USA on Aug 23, 1964

Session Mixing:
January 1977
Studio:
AIR Studios, London, UK


Live At The BBC

Official live • Released in 1994

2:16 • Radio showL2

Concert From "From Us To You" in London, United Kingdom on Mar 30, 1964


Anthology 1

Official album • Released in 1995

2:22 • LiveL3

Klas Burling:
Producer
Hans Westman:
Engineer

Concert From "Pop '63" in Stockholm, Sweden on Oct 24, 1963


Bootleg Recordings 1963

Official album • Released in 2013

2:29 • LiveL4

Concert From "Saturday Club" in London, United Kingdom on Jun 29, 1963


Bootleg Recordings 1963

Official album • Released in 2013

2:16 • LiveL5

Concert From "Saturday Club" in London, United Kingdom on Dec 21, 1963


Bootleg Recordings 1963

Official album • Released in 2013

2:18 • LiveL6

Concert From "From Us To You" in London, United Kingdom on Dec 26, 1963


Bootlegs


Star Club - Hamburg, Germany - December 1962

Unofficial live

2:57 • Live


Star Club - Hamburg, Germany - December 1962

Unofficial live

2:57 • Live


Looking Through The Bent Backed Tulips

Unofficial live

2:12 • Live


Looking Through The Bent Backed Tulips

Unofficial live

2:18 • Live


The BBC Archives Volume 4

Unofficial album

2:29 • Radio show


Live performances

“Roll Over Beethoven” has been played in 113 concerts.

Latest concerts where “Roll Over Beethoven” has been played








Contribute!

Have you spotted an error on the page? Do you want to suggest new content? Or do you simply want to leave a comment ? Please use the form below!

Your comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.