This is the second time this song has been mentioned on my blog, indicating the significance it has held for me for many years. Since 1963 in fact, when I was eleven years old, and heard it for the first time. Although I didn’t know back then, this was not the original, which was written and recorded by Richard Berry in 1955, and released in the UK two years later. Then came the second version, from Robin Roberts, in 1960. I didn’t hear that one either.
I had to wait another few years, for the cover by The Kingsmen, which became the most popular recording of the song, and gave the band a worldwide hit, that endures to this day. This group from Oregon went on to make many records after that, but I never heard any of them. For me, one was enough. A driving beat, some not-so great organ playing, and somewhat meaningless (and hard to decipher) repetitive lyrics, all adding up to a timeless classic that was also something of an anthem for the Mods in Britain during the 1960s. And it is much less than three minutes long too.
I carried on playing this well beyond my teens, and never tired of it. I didn’t attempt to delve into it, and never tried to analyse it. I simply enjoyed the good feeling it gave me. It seemed that many others agreed, and the song became lauded as the most covered record in history, with over 1,500 versions known to have been made, including those by Otis Redding, The Beach Boys, and British band The Kinks. Years later, it was again covered by artists as diverse as Motorhead, John Lennon, and Blondie.
It was also brought to new audiences on film soundtracks, including ‘American Graffiti’, ‘This Is England’, ‘Police Squad, and ‘Quadrophenia’. It was also sung by John Belushi’s character in the film ‘National Lampoon’s Animal House’, and there is an instrumental version played by the marching band in the film ‘The Naked Gun’. The song had stood the test of time, and become a cultural icon in the process.
I love it as much today as I did 53 years ago. Can’t say that about many songs.
Here is a clip of the band miming to the song on a TV show.