Saturday, April 12, 2008

Boss Tracks; Twist & Shout, The Isley Brothers

The second single on my doormat yesterday was "Twist & Shout" as performed by the "Isley Brothers". It is debatable if this version had any impact on Springsteen. The Beatles' performance on the Ed Sullivan show is often cited as a huge influence on Springsteen. The Isley Brothers rarely if at all. Still a lot of Springsteen's stage theatrics originate directly from the Isleys, especially the use of dynamics during the encores. Whenever you hear Springsteen coaching the audience through a song with "a little bit softer now" and than back to madness by going louder and louder, you are watching a stage trick that was exploited most effectively and famously by the Isley Brothers. Released in 1962, two years before the Beatles' land mark performance, "Twist and Shout" was a huge hit at the tail end of the Twist craze, a dance started by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters in 1959 on an obscure B-side caledd simply "The Twist". The craze reached its hight when Chubby Checker picked up the song and made his own version. Chubby and many other artists would milk the craze for all that its worth. There are literally hundreds of "Twist" songs. As a phenomenon it is so deeply engraved in our collective subconscious that it is hard to find a more effective encore to a show.

"Twist & Shout" was written by Phil Medley and Bert Russel (aka Bert Berns) but heavily indebted to another monster hit, "La Bamba" . It was originally produced by Phil Spector for Atlantic records, where he was a staff producer at the time. Spector used the Top Notes to perform the song and botched the job. The single failed to get any chart action. Berns then took his song to Wand to produce it himself, creating one of the most memorable hits that was to come out of the Twist craze. Though Berns is hardly ever mentioned as an influence on Springsteen, it is remarkable how many singles Berns produced that Springsteen took a liking to. Berns, in his peak years that made him legendary, produced singles for a broad array of artists and owned quite a few labels himself. Amongst the artists he worked with are impressive names like Solomon Burke, LaVern Baker, Wilson Picket and Them featuring Van Morrison. Berns often worked with top musicians on his sessions. As was the case on "Twist & Shout". That infectious guitar line, that should be mandatory knowledge for any R&R guitar player, comes courtesy of Cornell Dupree, a highly respected sessions musician and Jazz cat. "Twist & Shout" has been a main stay in Springsteen repertoire over the years, often pulled out when the night is really cooking as the ultimate show stopper, it is not uncommon for the Boss to stretch this sucker out over the 10 minute line, guaranteed to leave the audience drained and feeling they just witnessed a legendary show!.

"Twist & Shout" - The Isley Brothers
"Twist & Shout" - Bruce Springsteen, June 22nd 2003, Gothenburg.

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