We are non-commercial, all volunteer and supported by our readers. Please help sustain the Dew by making a donation.
‘Bad Boy:’ Larry Williams and the Beatles
The bad little kid moved into the neighborhood. He’s obsessed with rock and roll music. He plays his records loudly. All day and all night. And it’s not just the music that’s got the neighbors up in arms. He’s not serious about his schoolwork. He irritates the teacher and the other students. He’s cruel to animals. He shoots a canary and feeds it to the neighbor’s cat. He gives the dog a bath in the washing machine. Today that bad little kid would have PETA at his doorstep. But the fictional bad boy described in this song bothers people most with his loud rock and roll. This is juvenile delinquency, 1958 style.
Some cultural critics of the time considered rock and roll music and juvenile delinquency closely aligned. Larry Williams must have known that when he wrote “Bad Boy.” But Williams’ bad boy does not seem so much a perpetrator as he does a selfish and mischievous kid. He does some cruel things, particularly to animals, but given the life of crime Williams himself is believed to have led, this kid seems like the Disney version of a juvenile delinquent. Perhaps a more true-to-life Williams character would hook up the high school football coach with the homecoming queen.
Larry Williams was allegedly involved in drug dealing and prostitution before and throughout his career in music. Pushing drugs and ladies of the night apparently brought him greater riches than his inventive and vibrant recordings. That’s tragic as the criminal life probably led to his mysterious death in 1980. Not tragic but still unfortunate is that the world of rock and roll did not benefit from a Larry Williams fully focused on his music.
On his recording of “Bad Boy,” Williams gave it less of a rocking edge than he did on “Dizzy Miss Lizzie,” “Slow Down” or “She Said Yeah.” He chose to play up the comedic elements of the song, creating a performance similar in style to The Coasters. His “Bad Boy” is entertaining but not as compelling as what might have been expected.
The Beatles recorded their version of “Bad Boy” on May 10, 1965, the same day they recorded “Dizzy Miss Lizzie.” As on the group’s other two Williams covers, John Lennon sings lead. George Harrison plays a crisp lead guitar, very much in front, but blending nicely with Lennon’s rhythm guitar. Neither Lennon’s singing nor Harrison’s lead guitar are as intense as their performances on “Dizzy Miss Lizzie,” but The Beatles still deliver a solid rocker. Lennon does a fine job in telling the story of the bad boy and seems amused when he exhorts, “Now, Junior, behave yourself ” at the end of each verse. Actually, Junior may have been a lost cause, but on May 10, 1965, The Beatles’ studio behavior earned an A plus.
Note: On September 9, 2009, remastered versions of The Beatles’ recordings were at long last issued on CD. To celebrate the enhanced clarity on some of the world’s best recordings, Like The Dew is paying special tribute to The Beatles in our Southern Song Of The Day series. Songs performed by The Beatles but composed by Southern songwriters will be featured as well as Beatles songs covered by Southern recording artists. That gives us a lot to write about. We hope you enjoy the series.
Worthy of Comment
Also on the Dew
When he gasped to take a breath and to stop swearing in his fractured English, he told her he had a “fucking shit life” and that she was a filthy whore who would die a horrid death. Spitting out more vitriol with each breath, he finished his rant by saying, “You will lose this war.” Perhaps time will, if it hasn’t already, prove him right. Certitude rang out from this Algerian jihadist who had been captured by Afghanistan’s tribal Northern Alliance shortly after the American onslaught following 9/11 . At this point, however, the “interview” was concluded when she said, “That may be, but your Read on →
The excitement and acclaim that greeted both the Peachtree and the Broadway premieres of producer David O. Selznick’s adaptation of Gone With the Wind seventy-five years ago this week seems genuinely cringe-worthy today, after multiple indictments over recent years of Margaret Mitchell’s novel as racist and historically distorted. Mitchell is clearly culpable on the first count, although by no means uniquely so, but latter-day critics who charge her with distorting history would be well advised to consider the history she had to work with and, in some aspects, even undertook to revise. Released in mid-summer 1936, Mitchell’s book had already sold more Read on →
It's the second week of January 1999 and the McCartneys are visiting Atlanta. But not for a concert. On this trip, Heather McCartney is unveiling her line of houseware items at the America's Mart, and Paul is there to guarantee his daughter ample media play. After helping to promote Heather's rugs, cushions and other items arrayed with designs inspired by the Huichol and Tarahumara tribes of Mexico, Paul and his son, James, make a smooth exit to explore the side streets of Atlanta. According to Paul, James, then 21, wanted to "visit the funky side of town." So into the Read on →
I arrived in Beijing on an old Boeing 707 China Air flight in November 1978 after a week in Japan. The entry formalities at Beijing Airport were slow but considerably quicker than the Shenzhen Railway Station where I had previously entered China from Hong Kong. I caught a taxi from the airport to the Beijing Hotel on Dongchangan Jie. Taxis were a new experience for me in China, previously it was the “foreigners bus”. The Beijing Hotel had a long and fascinating history. It was built as a five-story brick building in 1915 and two years later a seven-story French sty Read on →