John Lennon’s 1975 Rock ‘n’ Roll remains one of the Beatle’s more endearing post–Fab Four efforts. Lennon clearly revered enduring influences like Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Ben E. King and executed a more-than-adequate reprisal of tunes like “Slippin’ and Slidin’ ” and “Stand by Me,” at least for a white guy from a mucky British port town. But it would be wrong to call this disc a labor of love. A labor of life and death is more like it, since Lennon made the record with a not-necessarily-metaphorical gun to his head. Seems that John—unknowingly, he claimed—stuck a couple of lines from Chuck Berry’s “You Can’t Catch Me” into “Come Together.” Unfortunately for Lennon, Berry’s publishing was then owned by Morris Levy, a menacing music-business figure, and he convinced Lennon it wouldn’t be a good idea to refuse to make a disc that Morris could market as a late-night-TV offer. Lennon agreed to record three songs owned by Levy’s publishing company, Big Seven Music. Rock ‘n’ Roll was the result, which just goes to show that even Beatles must bow before greater powers. This rerelease is a piece of real rock history, with the obligatory CD bonus tracks thrown in.
Rock ‘n’ Roll