Now look, far be it from me to criticize anyone (stop laughing), and the Beatles probably don’t need my 55-year Monday morning quarterbacking, but I’m gonna call it like I see it. They screwed up here. John Lennon was usually the go-to guy for Chuck Berry covers–of the nine the Beatles tackled (seven of them exclusively for the BBC), he sings all but one of them. George Harrison takes over for “Roll Over Beethoven,” and while he does a solid job, I can’t help but think John really would’ve taken it to another level. In fact, he did lead vocals during live performances until 1961, but no recordings seem to exist of this variation. But a 1972 rehearsal where John sings the track backed by Elephant’s Memory, a jazz-rock hippie outfit he and Yoko endorsed during that stretch of the early 70s where John felt a need to write a mediocre song about every anti-establishment figure who sneezed, proves my point.
He followed this up with a bed-in to protest the arrest of some guy who sold pot to a duck.
As much as I love George Harrison, John Lennon is one of the greatest rock singers ever and he almost definitely would have given a more dynamic flair to this cover. That said, it’s a good song and the guitar work remains electrifying.