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Rolling Stones songs: Twenty Flight Rock
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So I walk one, two flight, three flight four/ Five, six, seven flight, eight flight more…
Written by: Fairchild/Cochran
Recorded: Live at Capitol Center, Largo, Madison, USA, Dec. 8 1981
Guest musicians: Ian McLagan (piano)
“Twenty Flight Rock” is a song originally performed by Eddie Cochran in the 1956 film comedy The Girl Can’t Help It, and released as a single the following year. The song was published in 1957 as written by Ned Fairchild and Eddie Cochran, by American Music Incorporated and Campbell, Connelly and Company. Cochran’s contribution was primarily on the music. His version is rockabilly-flavored, but artists of a variety of genres have covered the song.
The first version of “Twenty Flight Rock” was recorded by Cochran in July 1956 at Gold Star Studios, with Connie Smith on the bull fiddle and Jerry Capehart thumping a soup carton. Cochran re-recorded the song sometime between May to August 1957. This later version was released in the United States (Liberty 55112) with “Cradle Baby” as a flipside. It was a moderate seller, but was more popular in Europe and had steady sales for a long period. The song is from the point of view of a boyfriend whose girlfriend has an apartment on the twentieth floor; the building elevator is not operating; consequently the boyfriend has to climb the stairs, making him too tired to “rock” by the time he reaches her.
The song follows the twelve-bar blues format, using the device of counting upwards (“One flight, two flight, three flight, four/five, six, seven flight, eight flight, more”) in the refrain in a manner similar to “Rock Around the Clock”. The final verse ends on a surprisingly morbid note compared to other pop songs of the time: “All this climbin’ is a-gettin’ me down. They’ll find my corpse draped over a rail.”
The barely 15-year-old Paul McCartney used “Twenty Flight Rock” as his first song when he auditioned for John Lennon on July 6, 1957 in Liverpool, England. The 16-year-old Lennon, introduced that day to McCartney at St. Peter’s Church Hall prior to a church garden fete, was impressed by his new acquaintance’s ability to play the song on the guitar. The good first impression of McCartney’s performance led to an invitation to join the Quarrymen—Lennon’s band that would eventually evolve into the Beatles. On The Beatles Anthology, McCartney noted that: “I think what impressed him most was that I knew all the words.”
Cochran appeared in the film The Girl Can’t Help It performing “Twenty Flight Rock” as a tongue-in-cheek example of the supposed lack of talent required to perform rock and roll. The guitar solo was edited out in the movie. The song also featured in the film The Delinquents (1989)
From the Rolling Stones – All the Songs, The Story Behind Every Track book:
“Twenty Flight Rock” was composed by Eddie Cochran and Ned Fairchild. Cochran made two recordings of it at the famous Gold Star Studios on Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles. The first recording dates from July 1956, the second from 1957 (sometime between May and August) Like all self-respecting rock ’n’ roll numbers, it is a song based on the twelve-bar blues but played in a much more upbeat style. The words celebrate adolescent love and its joyful optimism: Ooh, well I got a girl with a record machine / When it comes to rockin’ she’s the queen. The problem here is that the girl lives on the twentieth floor and the elevator is broken. Eddie Cochran famously sings “Twenty Flight Rock” in Frank Tashlin’s movie The Girl Can’t Help It (1956) in a scene intended to persuade audiences of the merits of this new style of music. Mission accomplished! So much so that twenty-five years later, the Rolling Stones were able to come up with a particularly successful cover version of the song, much to the great delight of Keith Richards, as is obvious in the band’s performance of the song in Hal Ashby’s live concert film, Let’s Spend the Night Together (1983)
Categories: Can You Hear the Music?