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Early Rock 'n' Roll Covers Assignment Help

Discussion Questions for Early Rock 'n' Roll Covers:

"Shake, Rattle, and Roll": original version recorded by Big Joe Turner, 1954; cover version by Bill Haley and the Comets, 1954

"Mystery Train": original version written and recorded by Junior Parker, 1953; cover version by Elvis Presley, 1955

What are the main similarities and differences between the original and cover versions of each of these songs?

Compare and contrast the vocal performances of Big Joe Turner and Bill Haley, and Junior Parker and Elvis Presley in their versions of these songs.

In each case, do you think that the cover version was a "rip-off" of the original, or that it was a new treatment of the original?

In your opinion, which version has a better "feel"? Why?

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1. The major areas of similarities and differences between Big Joe Turner original and Bill Haley’s version of Shake, Rattle and Roll lies in the use of instruments. Some of the instruments like saxophone, drums and guitar were there in both the songs but Haley’s rendition was special due to the extra incorporation of piano and bass and this was also followed by a section of rhythmic guitar. Turner’s version is highlighting blues features while, on the other hand, an energetic bass line marks Haley’s cover. Haley’s peppier brighter version can be also segregated from Turner’s one by the lyrics. "I've been holdin' it in, way down underneath / You make me roll my eyes, baby, make me grit my teeth” were used by Turner to focus more on his affinity towards blues which was changed in Haley’s version. 

2. With the generation and trend, the music industry has gone through a major change which can be also noted through the songs of Junior Parker and Elvis Presley, especially the variety shown with the song “Mystery Train.” The peak of difference between the two was seen in the tone of the vocal performance. It is because of the separate choice of instruments that Parker’s version sounded more melancholier Elvis Presley’s with an upbeat tone. To make it sound like a country root song, Presley had deliberately used trombone and drums along with guitar and drumsticks. The tempo and rhythm was more like blues as Parker was inclined to that kind of music.

Coming from a Blues background, Joe Turner used to sing songs with lower pitch and stressed more on the lines unlike Haley who had a history with Rock N’ Roll. Whatever be the lyrics, his vocal tone used to make it sound lighter and so the listeners also felt quite relaxed by listening to it.

Elvis used to choose instruments carefully to fit with his higher pitch and his songs sounded more like country songs due to his annunciation of the words in a particular way. It is completely different for Junior Parker as he concentrated more on the melancholy feeling of the song which gave more weightage to the lyrics. 

3. Shake, Rattle, and Roll got a new form altogether with Haley’s cover and for the first time the listeners got to feel peppier by listening to this song. This fresh feeling was not accepted by all as they became annoyed with it. The same rhythm and beats got a new tone with a change in the bass line.

The entire singing style was a new one in case of Elvis Presley’s version which listeners started appreciating from the start. 

This is a general human tendency to always fall for the original one and it happened for the Turner song also. Listeners liked the original version of Blues more than the peppier Haley version that was too energetic to listen on a repeat mode. The soothing effect grabbed more attention. 

4. In my opinion,I would listen to Elvis Presley’s  morethan Junior Parker’s. It is the lightness of Presley’s Mystery Train that causes the desire to listen to it more than once but the feeling is still not like Haley’s cover. Parker’s melancholy version cannot be heard all the time.

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