The year is 1956, and your pre-teen child won’t shut up about this newfangled rock ‘n’ roll fad. “Bah, music hasn’t been any good since Glenn Miller mysteriously disappeared 12 years ago,” you tell him as you wipe the ketchup off your chin from an equally newfangled McDonald’s hamburger. Nonetheless, in a desperate attempt to be seen as the ‘cool parent,’ you decide to treat your child to some of this noisy garbage. You inspect the record store shelves and find a multitude of popular options, ultimately opting for “Long Tall Sally” by…Pat Boone?!
This is a situation that played out word for word literally on an hourly basis in the 1950s, as black artists like Little Richard and Fats Domino were issuing vibrant rock ‘n’ roll recordings that were subsequently “sanitized” for wider audiences (or should I say, whiter audiences? Look at me raging against the machine over here), eliminating what made them so great in the first place. This wasn’t a matter of a merely inferior cover version; this was a cynical attempt to replace the original Little Richard recording. While both landed in the Billboard top 10, time has fortunately favored Little Richard’s version. Pat Boone’s is largely forgotten and disregarded as a prime example of a decidedly low point in rock music history.
He has not taken the rejection well.
But what happens when a white artist who has not just a sincere appreciation for Little Richard but also a genuine shred of soul takes a stab at one of his songs? Enter Paul McCartney, who cut his teeth on Little Richard records and added quite a few of them to the early Beatles repertoire. The band’s cover doesn’t stray too far from the original, but as Little Richard excelled at crafting songs that got in, did their business, and then got out, getting too creative would have probably been a mistake. This is not necessarily a recording that needed to be made, but I’m glad it was. The more “Paul McCartney goes wild behind a microphone” songs committed to tape the better.