Obviously this is another phrase for Rock & Roll or Rock And Roll and I'm surprised no-one's noded that, but anyway...

In 1968 Timothy Leary asked John Lennon to write him a campaign song for his campaign to become Governor Of California. Leary's campaign slogan was 'Come Together, Join The Party', and Lennon tried to write a song based around this.

The resulting song, Come Together, was released on the Beatles' last recorded album, Abbey Road, as well as on the B-side of Something. However, there was a problem. Lennon often started writing songs by playing about with someone else's old song, and in this case he'd started from You Can't Catch Me by Chuck Berry. However, the finished song started with a line - 'Here come old flat top, he come groovin' up slowly' - which was directly lifted from Berry's classic.

Though the songs otherwise bore no relation, Berry's music publisher , Arc Music, was owned by the litigious Morris Levy (who, among other things, had recently got Berry 100% of the credit on the Beach Boys' Surfin' USA), and he instigated a nuisance suit against Lennon.

Lennon eventually settled the suit by promising to include You Can't Catch Me plus two other songs published by Levy on a future album. He went into the studio with Phil Spector to record an album of cover versions, but the proceedings were hardly conducive to recording - Spector was going through a divorce with his wife, and at one point took to shooting the walls of the studio, while Lennon was in his lost weekend phase, and at his worst from alcoholism. Spector eventually absconded with the tapes, and Lennon spent a year trying to get them back. When he did, he realised that they were mostly unlistenable (although You Can't Catch Me, Sweet Little Sixteen, Bony Moronie and Just Because were eventually salvaged), and went into the studio for four days to produce the rest of the album himself.

The album, titled Rock 'N' Roll was originally to be lavishly packaged, but Lennon had given Levy a tape of rough mixes of tracks recorded, to show he was complying with the agreement, and Levy through a 'misunderstanding' released these (including the tracks Angel Baby and Be My Baby which would eventually be released on Menlove Ave and Anthology respectively) as Roots on his own mail-order Adam VIII label. As a result, the album was rush released, and Lennon had yet another lawsuit on his hands.

The album itself is one of Lennon's best - with the famous cover photograph of Lennon (plus an out of focus George Harrison, Stuart Sutcliffe and Paul McCartney) in Hamburg enclosing an album where Lennon's vocal performances are better than anything he ever did.

Be Bop A Lula is a brave song to open the album with - Gene Vincent's original is one of the great classics of all time, and no cover version can ever do it justice. Lennon has a good go however, and his vocal, plastered with tape echo, makes this a classic album opener.

Stand By me, on the other hand, is the definitive version. With all respect to the Ben E. King original, Lennon's version is far superior. At the time, Lennon was separated from his wife, alcoholic, and going through one of his periodic nervous breakdowns, and all that pain comes out in his anguished vocals. Of all the songs on the album, this is also the one that sounds most like Lennon's own writing - the need for someone to watch over him was a recurring theme in Lennon's own work , at least during the period before he met Yoko Ono and while he was separated from her.

Rip It Up/Ready Teddy , a medley of two Little Richard covers, doesn't really work too well. The instrumentation is too full for such an uptempo track.

You Can't Catch Me is terrible. The first track from the Spector sessions, it is obvious Lennon's heart wasn't in this, and he may well have deliberately sabotaged the track because he resented having to do it.

Ain't That A Shame, the old Fats Domino track, on the other hand is excellent. Lennon takes the lyric with just the right mix of tongue in cheek humour (the comically low bass vocals towards the end) and seriousness (the almost screamed choruses).

Do You Want To Dance, the old Bobby Freeman song, is a curiosity. Taken at anything but a dance tempo, this is the most Spectoresque track on the album, even though Spector had no input at all into the track. Lennon belows the lyrics and if you weren't listening to the lyric it would be one of the most downbeat songs of the album - this would fit very well on Walls & Bridges.

Sweet Little Sixteen is a competent cover of the Chuck Berry classic, but nowhere near as good as the original.

Slippin' And Slidin', the side 2 opener, is one of Little Richard's more obscure tracks. It's interesting to compare Lennon's take on Little Richard songs with McCartney's. While McCartney (on Long Tall Sally or Kansas City does a decent imitation of Richard's scream, Lennon doesn't bother with impersonation, but conveys the soul of the originals remarkably well.

On Peggy Sue on the other hand, Lennon apes every one of Buddy Holly's vocal mannerisms. Any serious fan of Lennon or the Beatles should obtain a copy of Holly's eponymous solo album, to see just how much Lennon's vocal style, not just on this song but on nearly everything he recorded, owes to Holly. Other than the thicker instrumental track (with piano and extra guitars), this is a note-for-note cover version of Holly's classic.

The medley of Bring It On Home To Me (by Sam Cooke) and Send Me Some Loving by Lloyd Price may well have been a pre-emptive move (Lennon had 'borrowed' some lines from Cooke's track for Remember on the Plastic Ono Band album), but unlike You Can't Catch Me this is one of the best tracks on the album. Lennon obviously had a great affinity for soul and doowop, and it shows on this track, without him descending into the blue eyed plastic soul of so many British singers who cover American R&B.

Bony Moronie is surprisingly the first cover on the album of a track by one of Lennon's favourites, Larry Williams. This is surprising because Lennon had already recorded several cover versions of Williams songs - Slow Down and Bad Boy on the Beatles' Long Tall Sally EP and Dizzy Miss Lizzy on both Help! and Live Peace In Toronto. On this song more than any other one can hear Lennon's joy at just singing his favourite songs from his boyhood.

Ya Ya is a cover of a Lee Dorsey song that had also been done in a perfunctory manner on Walls & Bridges. This is just pure fun - a nonsense song which Lennon evidently loved, as his joking falsetto moments show.

Just Because, an old Lloyd Price song, was apparently suggested by Spector, and Lennon didn't know it, as his joking 'ah remember this one?' introduction shows. This is odd, as Larry Williams had had a minor hit with this, which one would have thought Lennon would have heard. This song, the closing track on the album, was intended at the time to be the last song Lennon would release - and indeed he didn't release another until shortly before his death nearly 6 years later. The change in Lennon's vocal styles in one song, from the joking opener to the anguished scream on the middle eight, to 'Dr Winston O'Boogie's closing goodbye and falsetto on the fade, is quite awe-inspiring.

While this album obviously has no Lennon original songs, it does feature some of the best rock & roll vocals ever, and really deserves a higher reputation than its current status as a curiosity in Lennon's oeuvre.

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