Gene Vincent – Be Bop A Lula

Recorded by Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps in 1956 its influence would be huge on Rock N Roll. The song was released in June 1956 on Capitol Records’ single F3450, and immediately sold well. The song was successful on three American singles charts it peaked at No. 7 on the US Billboard pop music chart, No. 8 on the R&B chart, and also made the top ten on the C&W Best Seller chart peaking at No. 5. In the UK, it peaked at No. 16 in August 1956. In April 1957, the record company announced that over 2 million copies had been sold to date.

The story of how the decidedly un-complex lyrics of “Be-Bop-A-Lula” got written is shrouded in a certain amount of controversy. Officially, Gene Vincent’s business manager, Bill “Sheriff Tex” Davis, is credited as the co-writer, but Sheriff Tex, a savvy 40-year-old from Connecticut, seems an unlikely source of such naïve gem. The story that has the greater ring of truth credits a young man named Donald Graves—a buddy Gene Vincent made in a Portsmouth, Virginia, Veteran’s Hospital. Vincent—born Vincent Eugene Craddock in 1935—had just reenlisted in the U.S. Navy in the spring of 1955 when he suffered a devastating leg injury in a motorcycle accident. That injury would land him in hospital for more than a year, where a fellow patient remembers Vincent and Graves tooling around the facility working out the song that would eventually become a classic. By the time Gene Vincent’s demo tape reached Capitol Records the following spring, however, Graves had been bought out of his share in “Be-Bop-A-Lula” by Sheriff Tex, reportedly for just $25.

In early 1956, Gene Vincent performed the song on a radio show in Norfolk, Virginia, and recorded a demo version which was passed to Capitol Records, who were looking for a young singer to rival Elvis Presley. Capitol invited Vincent to record the song and it was recorded at Owen Bradley’s studio in Nashville, Tennessee on May 4, 1956. Cliff Gallup (lead guitar), “Wee” Willie Williams (rhythm guitar), “Jumpin'” Jack Neal (string bass), and Dickie “Be Bop” Harrell (drums) comprised the band. When the song was being recorded, Harrell screamed twice in the background, he said because he wanted to be sure his family could hear it was him on the record.

 

“Be-Bop-A-Lula” is without a doubt the Gene Vincent song that influenced the Beatles the most. Lennon admitted to Barry Miles in 1969, “That beginning – ‘we-e-e-e-e-l-l-l-l-l!’ – always made my hair stand on end” (Lewisohn 2013, page 94). Significantly, John sang the song live for the first time on the day he met Paul McCartney for the first time. Also significantly, Lennon opened his 1975 album Rock ‘n’ Roll with a cover of “Be-Bop-A-Lula”. The song also is a prime example of early so-called ‘nonsense lyrics’. Although lyrics such as “Be-Bop-A-Lula” contain no literary or semantic meaning, they do have musical meaning. The words “Be-Bop-A-Lula” were chosen because the phonetic articulation of those syllables perfectly fit the music – and any meaning of those syllables is largely coincidental. This style of lyric-writing is something that John Lennon would explore in depth in his songs from the later 60’s, such as “Dig a Pony”, “Come Together”, “Strawberry Fields Forever”, “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey”, and many more. In other words, it’s not much of a stretch from “Be-Bop-A-Lula” to “Goo goo k’joob”.

Vincent also influenced the band’s fashion sense. In the 1963 BBC documentary The Mersey Sound, John Lennon admitted, “[W]e’d always worn jeans ‘cuz we didn’t have anything else … [W]e went back to Germany and we had a bit more money the second time, so we bought leather pants and looked like four Gene Vincents, only a bit younger.

One added note. The first record Paul purchased as a teen was Be Bop A Lula.

Info from Wikipedia and Songfacts.

 

Be Bop A Lula

Well be-bop-a-Lula she’s my baby
Be-bop-a-Lula I don’t mean maybe
Be-bop-a-Lula she’s my baby
Be-bop-a-Lula I don’t mean maybe
Be-bop-a-Lula she’s my baby doll
My baby doll, my baby doll
Well she’s the girl in the red blue jeans
She’s the queen of all the teens
She’s the one that I know
She’s the woman that loves me so
Say be-bop-a-Lula she’s my baby
Be-bop-a-Lula I don’t mean maybe
Be-bop-a-Lula she’s my baby doll
My baby doll, my baby doll
Let’s rock!
Well now she’s the one that’s got that beat
She’s the woman with the flyin’ feet
She’s the one that walks around the store
She’s the one that gets more more more
Be-bop-a-Lula she’s my baby
Be-bop-a-Lula I don’t mean maybe
Be-bop-a-Lula she’s my baby doll
My baby doll, my baby doll
Let’s rock again, now!
Well be-bop-a-Lula she’s my baby
Be-bop-a-Lula I don’t mean maybe
Be-bop-a-Lula she’s my baby
Be-bop-a-Lula I don’t mean maybe
Be-bop-a-Lula she’s my baby doll
My baby doll, my baby doll
Songwriters: Gene Vincent / Tex Davis

8 thoughts on “Gene Vincent – Be Bop A Lula

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