Top Ten Cover Versions Of “Roll Over Beethoven”



“Roll Over Beethoven” was Chuck Berry’s signature song, arriving in 1956 when Rock & Roll was still getting its engine running, and capturing the imagination of musicians ever since. The song’s so good, we gotta listen to it ten times.

 

1. The Beatles (1963)

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The Beatles took Chuck Berry and plugged him into the Atomic Age. It Rocked just as hard as the original, but it was so incredibly clean and precise, so well played and sung, that they made it their own. I love that the two big egos beside him let Harrison take lead vocal – which was fantastic – because this is a guitar player’s song. And after the second note of the guitar solo you knew that George had already one-upped Chuck Berry himself.

 

2. Electric Light Orchestra (1973)

Look, if you’re going to go over the top, you might as well go way over. Sure the orchestral stuff is pretty cheese by today’s standards, but Jeff Lynne could always get brilliant sounds out of his guitar and his band, and this was a triumph of production just like #1 above. It’s just that the damn thing never ends.

 

3. Mountain (1971)

Leslie West took the “Roll” out of the equation and turned it into an up-tempo heavy blues number, because back then many people inexplicably believed that the blues were more important than early Rock & Roll. But it still cooks.

 

4. John Lennon (1972)

John was the big Chuck Berry fan in The Beatles, George was more of a Carl Perkins guy. In a memorable performance together on the Mike Douglas Show in 1972, Lennon declared that Chuck Berry was synonymous with Rock & Roll. This version starts a little slow but eventually Rocks out full-on Lennon-style.

 

5. Leon Russell (1964)

He beat ELO to the punch 10 years earlier by opening a version of the song with a classical music introduction. Russell built on Jerry Lee Lewis’ version of the song, but he is such a great singer and player that he really knocks it out of the park.

 

6. M. Ward (2012)

Down through the ages this song will survive if nothing else as a great little workout for any half-decent Rock band. M. Ward stays pretty true except for the weird harmony effect in the verses, which gives it just the right amount of hipsteresque detachment.

 

7. The Sonics (1965)

These pioneers of Garage Rock were clearly more influenced by the Beatles version with all the handclaps and harmonies, and as always they got the feel right, even if the sonic fidelity is so bad it sounds like it was produced by somebody’s housecat.

 

8. Rory Gallagher (1979)

This version shows you what the song is like in the hands of a Seventies guitar god. He rips maybe the best solo on this list, and the drunken, faded Rock Star rambling by Scottish singer Frankie Miller is just an added bonus.

 

9. Rolling Stones (1963)

It’s funny, the Stones covered so many Chuck Berry tunes, but this one somehow fell outside their wheelhouse. Maybe there wasn’t enough innuendo for Mick to sink his teeth into. It’s still good, but for whatever reason it doesn’t quite seem to click. For one thing they are playing it too fast.

 

10. George Jones & Johnny Paycheck (1980)

This one’s of the so-bad-it’s-good variety, scoring high marks for its camp value. I wasn’t sold until the girls’ voices sealed the deal in the chorus. It’s actually a pretty cool guitar effect in the solo. Quite the musical artifact.

 
Photo: By Masahiro Sumori (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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