Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Shake, Rattle and Roll
"Shake, Rattle and Roll" is a prototypical twelve bar blues-form rock and roll song written by Jesse Stone (under his working name Charles Calhoun ). The song was first recorded in 1954 by Big Joe Turner, a blues shouter whose career began in Kansas City before World War II, and this version, at least, features simple verse-chorus form. Bill Haley and the Comets' cover version, released later in the year, had sanitised lyrics in an attempt to be more palatable to white audiences as well as a less bluesy, more "pop" arrangement.
This cleanup of lyrics meant removal of references considered sexual in nature, such as lines about "the devil in nylon hose", "you make me roll my eyes, baby make me grit my teeth", and "you wear those dresses, the sun comes shining through". The most provocative sexual simile in Turner's version of the song, "I'm like a one-eyed cat, peeping in the sea food store", was left untouched in the Haley version, but the following line, "I can look at you 'till you ain't no child no more" was changed. Haley was blind in one eye, which may account for retaining the line. Elvis Presley's 1956 version, which had only limited success, combined Haley's arrangement with Turner's lyrics, though Elvis used Haley's lyrics when performing the song on his first national television appearance.
Music critics are divided as to which is the better recording. Haley's version is peppier and brighter. It fits the definition of rock and roll as a merger of country music and rhythm and blues. Haley had started his career in country music while Turner was a blues shouter. Turner's version is raunchier and sexier. Both recordings are considered classics. The differences between them are the differences between rhythm and blues intended for adults (many of them black) and rock and roll intended for teenagers (many of them white).
Although musical revisionists and American media tried to paint Turner as a victim of the music industry due to Haley's covering of the song, in fact Haley's success helped Turner immensely although Turner was a well-established performer long before "Shake Rattle and Roll". Listeners who hear Haley's version sought out Turner's. The two men became close friends, and performed on tour together in Australia in 1957. In 1966, at a time when Turner's career was at a low ebb, Haley arranged for his Comets to back the elder musician for a series of recordings in Mexico, although apparently Haley and Turner did not record a duet version of "Shake Rattle and Roll".
Haley acknowledged Turner's version in later years by incorporating more of the original lyrics into his live performances, including adding the verse with the lines "I've been over the hill and I've been way down underneath" which was omitted from Haley's original recording.
In 1919, Alfred Bernard recorded a song about gambling with dice with the same title, clearly evoking the action of shooting dice from a cup. The phrase is also heard in "Roll The Bones" by the Excelsior Quartette in 1922. While the phrase was undoubtedly passed along, neither of these songs are direct ancestors of the 1954 hit.
Calhoun later co-wrote "Flip, Flop and Fly " which was musically very similar to "Shake, Rattle and Roll" and followed the same simple verse-chorus form. Both Joe Turner and Bill Haley recorded this song in several versions. Other songs inspired by "Shake, Rattle and Roll" include "Bark, Battle and Bawl" by The Platters and "Jump and Jive and Wail" by Louis Prima.
See also: First rock and roll record
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