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Bruce Springsteen Reveals The Beatles Song That Was the First Rock Song He Learned to Play

Showbiz CheatSheet logo: MainLogo Showbiz CheatSheet 2/1/2023 Ross Tanenbaum

The Beatles were incredibly influential to a young Bruce Springsteen, who wanted to be a rock star. He saw the cover of their first album and knew then that anyone could become a successful musician if they made excellent music. When learning guitar, a song by The Beatles became the first rock song that Springsteen learned to play. 

The Beatles had an immediate impact on Bruce Springsteen at a young age

Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen | Samir Hussein/WireImage © Provided by Showbiz CheatSheet Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen | Samir Hussein/WireImage

Springsteen was immediately struck when The Beatles first made waves in America. Growing up in New Jersey, the “Thunder Road” singer had never heard anything that sounded like them. In his book Born to Run, Springsteen recalled hearing The Beatles for the first time. He said he ran to the nearest phone to call his girlfriend and tell her about the fab four from Liverpool.

“I first laid ears on them while driving with my mom up South Street, the radio burning brighter before my eyes as it strained to contain the sound, the harmonies of ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand.’ Why did it sound so different? Why was it so good? Why was I this excited? My mom dropped me off at home, but I ran straight to the bowling alley on Main Street, where I always spent my first after-school hours hunched over the pool table sipping a Coke and eating a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. I slammed myself into the phone booth and called my girlfriend, Jan Seamen. ‘Have you heard The Beatles?’”

The first rock song Bruce Springsteen learned to play was ‘Twist and Shout’

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“Twist and Shout” was first recorded by The Isley Brothers in 1962 and later covered by The Beatles in the same year. In an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Bruce Springsteen recalled that the thing he remembers most from his earliest gigs was singing “Twist and Shout.” He said it was the first rock song he learned to play, while the first regular song was a more obscure folk tune. 

“The first song I ever learned was a song called ‘Greensleeves.’ You can hear the reaction from the audience. ‘Greensleeves’? He’s playing ‘Greensleeves’?” Springsteen said. “It was a folk song, and the first thing I had was a big book of American folk music. And so I learned that first because it only had two chords, and eventually I made my way to the third chord, which allowed you to play ‘Twist and Shout.’”

The Beatles recorded ‘Twist and Shout’ in one take


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While Bruce Springsteen was able to learn the track early in his career, it wasn’t an easy song for The Beatles to perform. The band recorded the song in a single take, and that was the version released. A second attempt was made, but John Lennon had little left in the tank to sing it again. In The Beatles Anthology, Lennon said he was “bitterly ashamed” of his performance in “Twist and Shout” and believed he could have sung it better. 

“My voice wasn’t the same for a long time after, every time I swallowed, it was like sandpaper,” Lennon said. “I was always bitterly ashamed of it because I could sing it better than that, but now it doesn’t bother me. You can hear that I’m just a frantic guy doing his best.”

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