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Tuesday
Jul022013

Vintage Vinyl: Big Joe Turner

Shake, Rattle & Roll. You're probably familiar with the Elvis version. Or maybe you've tapped your toe a time or two to the most successful version by Bill Haley and His Comets. You probably thought the song was about rock & roll. Or maybe dancing? I did for a long time. Until I heard Big Joe Turner's version.

Shake, Rattle & Roll is a dirty little ditty about sex. It was first recorded by Big Joe Turner in '54. In fact, the lyrics were so risque for the fifties that Turner intentionally slurred them on the record. "I get over the hill and way down underneath." That's Joe discussing, as Ross Gellar would say, "The physical act of love." Joe continues with "You make me roll my eyes, even make me grit my teeth" before singing "I'm like a one-eyed cat peepin' in a seafood store." If you don't know what that's a simile for you need to go ask your mama about the birds and the bees again because I ain't gettin' into that here.

The lyrics were altered or cut out altogether for Bill Haley's famous version. Which is a shame because the Big Joe Turner version has some of the best lines in music and I'm not even talking about the dirty parts: "Way you wear those dresses, the sun comes shinin' through" and "you're a devil in nylon hose." Bill does still sing the line "one-eyed cat peepin' in a seafood store" probably because he thought it meant being hungry or figured the average person in the mid-fifties wouldn't get the meaning. Either way, you listen to Joe's version and it's about a sexy woman who blows his mind during sex. Bill's version is about a frigid woman he wants to cook him dinner because he's hungry. Take your pick.

Below is Turner's beautiful, sexy, original version of Shake, Rattle & Roll. I defy you not to awkwardly bob your head when that first waterfall of piano notes trickles into your ears punctuated by some drum exclamation points. This is as good as rock'n'roll gets. And it's so simple. A piano and drum on repeat, throw in some horns, hand claps, top it off with a sax solo, probably recorded all at once while Turner belted it out. No auto-tuning horseshit after laying instrument over instrument until you have this soulless, perfect song, this is raw and awesome.