Roll Over Beethoven

Album: Chuck Berry Is On Top (1956)
Charted: 29
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  • This song is about the rock 'n' roll craze that was taking over America. Beethoven and Tchikovsky were classical composers who were being bumped aside by rock. At the time, many critics dismissed rock music as a passing fad.
  • Berry was careful to write lyrics that told a coherent story, which in this case follows a young many as he pursues his favorite music. Berry also took care to deliver his lyrics clearly so a wider audience could understand them. This helped him avoid the fate of many Little Richard songs: more popular, but sanitized covers by Pat Boone.
  • Berry started writing this song to rib his younger sister, Lucy, who played classical music on the family piano. Chuck was telling her to yield the instrument so he could play rock and roll. The song ended up taking a different turn, but that's where the title came from.
  • The line, "Early in the mornin' I'm a givin' you a warnin'" is a tribute to Louis Jordan's 1947 track "Early In The Mornin'."

    Jordan, a jump-blues innovator, certainly earned the tribute: his 1946 song "Ain't That Just Like A Woman" has a guitar intro (played by Carl Hogan) that Berry lifted for "Roll Over Beethoven."
  • The Beatles released a version of this song in 1963, which they played at most of their early live shows. The following year, The Beach Boys released "Fun, Fun, Fun," which copied the intro to "Roll Over Beethoven" nearly note for note.
  • This was used in the 1992 movie Beethoven, which is about a Saint Bernard.
  • The Electric Light Orchestra covered this in 1973, mixing in some of Beethoven's music. It was their biggest hit at the time, going to #6 in the UK and #42 in the US.

    ELO was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 7, 2017, less than a month after Berry's death. They opened the ceremony with a performance of this song in tribute to Berry.
  • For a February 4, 1977 primetime special celebrating 25 years of American Bandstand, Berry performed this song joined by Seals & Crofts, Gregg Allman, Junior Walker, Johnny Rivers, the Pointer Sisters, Charlie Daniels and Doc Severinsen. This was one of the first "all-star jams" that would later become commonplace. This performance served as a showcase for the musicians, who were introduced as they performed by Paul Williams. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • Iron Maiden spoofed this on their song "Roll Over Vic Vella," which was used as the B-side to the single for "From Now to Eternity" It's one of the few singles that featured a photograph of the band performing as cover art. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Brett - Edmonton, Canada
  • Leon Russell often covered this song. He performed it on the musical variety show Shindig! in 1964.

Comments: 22

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn this day in 1956 {June 7th}, "Roll Over Beethoven"* by Chuck Berry peaked at #2 {for 1 week} on Billboard's Most-Played R&B Records on Juke Boxes chart, for the week it was at #2, the #1 record for that week was "My Blue Heaven" b/w “I'm In Love Again" by Fats Domino...
    And also at the time, "Roll Over Beethoven" was at #9 on Billboard's Best Selling R&B Records In Stores chart...
    Between 1955 to 1972 the St. Louis, Missouri native had twenty-two records on the Billboard's R&B charts, thirteen made the Top 10 with two reaching #1, "Maybellene" for eleven weeks in August of 1955 and "School Day (Ring! Ring! Goes The Bell)" for five weeks in April of 1957...
    Chuck Berry, born Charles Edward Anderson Berry, passed away at the age of 90 on March 18th, 2017...
    May he R.I.P.
    * "Roll Over Beethoven" was Chuck Berry's first of two of his records to peak at #2 on the R&B chart, his other #2 record was "Johnny B. Goode" for one week in June of 1958...
    And from the 'For What It's Worth' department, the remainder of the Top 10 of 'Most-Played R&B Records on Jukeboxes' chart on June 7th, 1956:
    At #3. "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You" by Elvis Presley
    #4. "Corrine, Corrina" by Big Joe Turner
    #5. "Fever" by Little Willie John
    #6. "Treasure of Love" Clyde McPhatter
    #7. "Long, Tall Sally" by Little Richard
    #8. "I Want You To Be My Girl" by The Teen-Agers
    #9. "Little Girl of Mine" by The Cleftones
    #10. "Ruby, Baby" by The Drifters
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn August 15, 1961, the Velaires performed "Roll Over Beethoven" on the Dick Clark ABC-TV weekday-afternoon program 'American Bandstand'...
    At the time the song was in it's first week on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #92, five weeks later it would peak at #51 {for 1 week} and it spent 7 weeks on the Top 100...
    "Roll OverBeethoven" was the Iowa quartet's only Top 100 rcord...
    Five years earlier in 1956 Chuck Berry's original version of the song peaked ar #29 on the Top 100 and at #7 on Billboard's Hot R&B Singles chart...
    Two other covered versions have charted on the Top 100, the Beatles {#68 in 1964} and the Electric Light Orchestra {#42 in 1973}...
    Country singer Narvel Felts covered the song in 1982, his version peaked at #64 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles chart.
  • Jennifur Sun from RamonaUnderstand that after a while George hated singing this song, I loved their version of it, and the Stones as well.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn June 16th 1956, the 'Giant Rock 'n Roll Revue' show* began two days of live performances at the Hippodrome Theater in Cleveland, Ohio {the Home of the Rock 'N Roll Hall of Fame}...
    One of the acts that performed was Chuck Berry, and at the time his "Roll Over Beethoven" was at #29 on Billboard's Top 100 chart, and that would also be its peak position on the chart...
    And on June 7th, 1956 it peaked at #2 on Billboard's R&B Most Played on Jukeboxes chart; at the time "My Blue Heaven" b/w “I'm In Love Again" by Fats Domino was at #1...
    * Must have been a great show; some of the other acts on the bill were Clyde McPhatter, Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers, The Diamonds, Don Cherry, Lonnie Donegan, and Johnny Burnette.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn February 11th 1964, The Beatles appeared for the first time in concert in the U.S.A.; the concert was at the Coliseum in Washington, DC...
    They opened their twelve song set with a covered version of "Roll Over Beethoven"; and their final song was covered version of another great R&B song, Little Richard's "Long Tall Sally"...
    The concert's three opening acts were Tommy Roe, the Caravelles, and the Chiffons...
    R.I.P. John and George.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn July 21st 1973, the Electric Light Orchestra performed "Roll Over Beethoven" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
    Three months earlier on April 22nd, 1973 it entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #90; and the day after this appearance on 'Bandstand' the song would reached it's peak position, #42, and spent 16 weeks on the Top 100...
    On March 15th, 1964 the Beatles' covered version of the song entered the Top 100 at position #79, it stayed on the chart for 4 weeks, peaking at #68...
    And on August 8th, 1961 the Velaires' version entered the chart at #92, it reached #51 and spent 7 weeks on the Top 100...
    In 1970 Jerry Lee Lewis, in a duet with Linda Gail Lewis (his sister), released his covered version, it peaked at #71 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles chart...
    (All the above versions are on You Tube).
  • David from Philadelphia, PaRoll over Beethoven isn't listed as a Beatles song on this site. Other Beatles' cover songs are listed as Beatles songs, but not this one.
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScHaving heard Chuck Berry's version, I now think it ties with the Beatles version for my favorite of Roll Over Beethoven.

    Fact I just learned: The phrase "Early in the morning" is a reference to a song of the same name by singer and saxophonist Louis Jordan whose music was an influence on Berry.
  • Nick from London, United KingdomJohn Lennon: 'Chuck Berry is one of the all-time great poets, a rock poet you could call him. He was well advanced of his time lyric-wise. We all owe him a lot, including Dylan. I've loved everything he's ever done. He was in a different class from the other performers, he was in the tradition of the great blues artists but he really wrote his own stuff. I know [Little] Richard did, but Berry really wrote stuff, just the lyrics were fantastic, even though we didn't know what he was saying half the time'.
    Beatles version of Roll Over Beethoven:
    'Move on up, just, try for further... think I got it off the writer sitting down by the rhythm revue... she winks like a glowworm'.
    Chuck Berry sings:
    'Move on up just a trifle further... rolling arth-r-itis sitting down at a rhythm revue... wriggles like a glowworm'.
    Nick Duckett

  • Steve Dotstar from Los Angeles, CaI vote for the Beatlesversion of this tune...
    George took heed listening to Chuck Berry on an
    early airplane flight, getting advice how to play it!He asked" how did you get that sound?"
  • Bianca Sanchez from Alburquerque, NmLove dis song It's Good when The Beatles sing it, but it truly is a Chuck Berry origanal!
  • Josh from TorontoAnother awesome legend by Chuck :)
  • Cyberpope from Richmond, CanadaI have an MC5 cover single of this song! (Awesome!)
  • Billy J from San Antonio, TxAlvin Lee and Ten Years After did a live cover of this song(Anthology)and Little Sixteen,really rocks
  • Ian from Lethbridge, CanadaThe guitar solos on this song are absolutely delicious! I love this song!
  • Vickie from Sydney, AustraliaI love The Beatles version! It's so foot tapping. You go George Harrison!
  • Jonathan from Stamford, Cti have a version of this by the byrds, it's pretty good but too short.
  • Ken from Louisville, KyIn their early club and dance hall days, Paul McCartney would sing lead on this song. When they recorded their second album, they gave it to George Harrison to sing, since he had not written any songs yet.
  • Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, ScYeah ben! I completely agree with you! The ELO version is awesome! Love the Beatles' live version of it though, too! Might be my favorite! Never heard the original. Where can I find it?
  • Ben from Perth, CanadaELO's version of this is awesome a must hear... the piano violins and everything in the songs makes it stand out... sends shivers down my spine when i hear it!!!
  • Mia from Elk River, MnGreat live version by The Beatles! Thank you, Chuck!
  • Brad Wind from Miami, FlThe Beatles' version of "Roll Over Beethoven" was a mild hit in Canada (B-side: "Please Mr. Postman") and was scheduled for a March 1964 release in the US -- until EMI in the UK told the US Capitol Records that the single to be released then would be "Can't Buy Me Love."
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