Released: March 1975
Chart Peak: #6
Weeks Charted: 15
All the advertisements scream "you should have been there." Oh, John, I really with I could have been there. This is nostalgia exactly the way it should be handled, with careful thought and impeccable performance.
Side One starts with "Be Bop-A-Lula." I close my eyes and sit back in my chair and think of how it must have been in 1961 and 1962, the first times that John Lennon and his band (you remember them?) got on the stage of the Jacaranda or The Cavern or the Star Club in Hamburg and played those songs. I can almost feel the closeness of the girls who waited in queues all day pushing towards the stage to see better as the walls sweat with the intense body heat of the crowd. I can see the other bands standing under the archways of the Cavern Club marveling at the amazing dexterity of this band, a group of guys from the streets of their own town making music the way they imagined only black American groups could make it.
- Janis Schacht, Circus, 6/75.
Lennon returns to the music he's always been most at home with -- good, solid rock from the '50s, the kind of music he and an awful lot of the rest of us grew up with. Unlike most LPs of this type, however, Lennon does not simply copy the old songs. They're certainly recognizable, but they are his. And they sound as contemporary and relevant today as the years in which they were hits, which is a tribute to both Lennon and the greats of early rock like Gene Vincent, Ben E. King, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Sam Cooke, Larry Williams, Lloyd Price and others. Fine production throughout from Lennon (at times with help from Phil Spector) and quite possibly the best and most emotional singing Lennon has come up with in years. In short, the record is exactly what the title says: the kind of rock music that will always stand. Expect immediate play on all fronts. Incidentally, LP is far better than other oldies Lennon has cut. Best cuts: "Be-Bop-A-Lula," "Stand By Me," "Sweet Little Sixteen," "Peggy Sue," "Bring It On Home To Me," "Just Because."
- Billboard, 1975.
No doubt mysteries of emotional and rhythmic commitment (soul and groove) determine why this runs out of gas after "Be Bop-a-Lula" and "Stand by Me." But it's also true that covering Gene Vincent and Ben E. King is considerably less perilous than covering Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Fats Domino, whose songs follow. Which may be why "Ya Ya" (Lee Dorsey) and "Just Because" (Lloyd Price) work. Too bad he didn't go for more esoterica -- this could have been another Moondog Matinee. B-
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
It was a common practice in the early 1970s for artists to satisfy record companies' demands for frequent LP releases by recording albums of cover songs (e.g., the Band's Moondog Matinee and David Bowie's Pinups). The story of John Lennon's covers album is a little more complicated, but the result is the same, with the artist tackling songs from the '50s by many of his favorites, from Gene Vincent to Lloyd Price. Of course, these are the kinds of songs that turned up on early Beatles albums, and while Lennon doesn't reinvent them as strikingly as his old group did, he gives them an affectionate, knowing treatment. * * *
- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
Rock 'n' Roll is a splendid collection of rock favorites done in a relaxed manner by Lennon, who's in great voice. * * * *
- Roger Catlin, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.
The remixed, remastered version of Lennon's 1975 Rock 'n' Roll (expanded by four bonus tracks) depicts the man at his most freewheeling. A tribute to the Fifties giants Lennon worshipped -- Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly among them -- Rock 'n' Roll is a genre exercise gone mad. As Lennon and producer Phil Spector spun into a haze of alcohol and drugs, the sessions descended into chaos. Orchestras full of musicians crowded into the studio to play on tunes such as "Be Bob A Lula" and "Bony Moronie," and Spector even fired a gun one night. After Lennon objected to his excesses, Spector ran off with the master tapes. An unauthorized version of the album came out, litigation ensued, and Lennon eventually finished the album on his own.
Amazingly, freed of his zany history, Rock 'n' Roll now plays exactly as it was intended to in the first place. It's a touching, heartfelt tribute to the music that made John Lennon who he was. It's not the album anyone will most remember him for, but these songs may well have meant the most to him. * * * *
- Anthony DeCurtis, Rolling Stone, 11/11/04.
Main Page | The Classic 500 | Readers' Favorites | Other Seventies Discs | Search The RockSite/The Web