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1956:

"Roll Over Bethoven" by Chuck Berry
“Roll over Beethoven and tell Tschaikowsky the news"

There is perhaps no more fitting lyric for 1956 than Chuck Berry's announcement that rock and roll had arrived. "Roll Over Bethoven" was Berry's second entry into the top 40 with "Maybelline" preceding it in 1955 and reaching number 5. It entered the top 40 on June 30th at number 29 and then quickly dropped out. I wonder if it had been released after Elvis's first appearance on Ed Sullivan in September if it might not have fared better. Berry's subsequent releases in 1957 would climb much higher on the charts.

The opening guitar riff is vintage Chuck Berry. The imagery of the lyrics seems so appropriate for the time. I can imagine many a teen hearing this new sound in 1956 and wanting to "write a little letter to my local DJ" (or perhaps a phone call was more realistic). "My heart's beatin' rhythm and my soul keeps on singin' the blues" reflects Berry's r & b background. And of course for any adolescent boy, "she wiggles like a glow worm" had abundant meaning -- while the sexual themes of the r & b of the early fifties was being cleaned up considerably for main stream consumption in rock and roll, there was always room for some suggestive lyrics.

 

 

 

LYRICS:

I'm gonna write a little letter,
gonna mail it to my local DJ
It's a rockin' rhythm record
I want my jockey to play
Roll Over Beethoven, I gotta hear it again today

You know, my temperature's risin'
and the jukebox blows a fuse
My heart's beatin' rhythm
and my soul keeps on singin' the blues
Roll Over Beethoven and tell Tschaikowsky the news

I got the rockin' pneumonia,
I need a shot of rhythm and blues
I think I'm rollin' arthiritis
sittin' down by the rhythm review
Roll Over Beethoven rockin' in two by two

Well, if you feel you like it
go get your lover, then 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 rockin' in two by two

Well, early in the mornin' I'm a givin' you a warnin'
don't you step on my blue suede shoes
Hey diddle diddle, I am playin' my fiddle,
ain't got nothin' to lose
Roll Over Beethoven and tell Tschaikowsky the news

You know she wiggles like a glow worm,
dance like a spinnin' top
She got a crazy partner,
oughta see 'em reel and rock
Long as she 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 these rhythm and blues
week debuted highest ranking Date Highest Rank Weeks in Top Twenty Weeks in Top Forty BillBoard Rank Cashbox Ranking GT rank
1956 6 30 29
0 1