Southern Song of The Day: ‘Dizzy Miss Lizzy’ — Larry Williams, The Beatles
First off, Miss Lizzy was not dizzy, as say, Lucy Ricardo. Miss Lizzy made guys dizzy. It was the way she rocked and rolled. She drove guys insane.
“Dizzy Miss Lizzy” was one of the three songs written and originally recorded by Larry Williams covered by the Beatles on their earlier albums. Williams’ songs had long been part of The Beatles’ on-stage repertoire. They were great rock and roll numbers. The songs sizzled. Paul McCartney, who didn’t sing on any of the Willliams covers, thought “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” was one of The Beatles’ best recordings.
McCartney’s right. It’s a great track. In his acclaimed Beatles biography, “Can’t Buy Me Love,” Jonathan Gould describes George Harrison’s lead guitar on “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” as a “stinging hornet-like whine.” Harrison plays a riff from the Williams original “and proceeds to repeat, note for note, without variation for the entire two and a half minutes of the track, adjusting for local harmonic conditions (the song is a twelve bar blues) as they present themselves. Thirty, forty, fifty times he plays it, with the self-absorption of a child perfecting his signature, and each repetition seems to affirm some deeply held belief that these eight notes, in this configuration, represent the only conceivable accompaniment to the song.” John Lennon’s vocals are front and center alongside Harrison’s relentless playing. His powerful singing convinces one and all that he’s amazed at Miss Lizzy’s special talents. “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” is a heated recording that again proves what “a good little band,” as McCartney said, the Beatles were. The group recorded it the same day in which they recorded another Larry Williams composition, “Bad Boy.” It was supposed to be a day off, but their U.S. record company had other ideas.
Capitol Records was getting anxious (and one could say greedy). It’s the spring of 1965 and Capitol is asking the Beatles for more material. By this time Capitol had released five Beatles albums in less than 15 months. Capitol managed to include only 11 tracks on four of their first five US albums (Meet The Beatles had 12 tracks.) as opposed to The Beatles’ first four UK albums which featured 13 tracks on one and 14 each on the others. Capitol maintained the right, according to their contract, to package the Beatles’ recordings as they pleased. They found many ways to milk their cash cow. So never mind that the group is already the greatest sensation in 20th century show business. The company that manufactures and distributes the records in the U.S. wants more. The Beatles’ sixth Capitol album, oh-so cleverly titled Beatles VI, is due for release on June 14. But with little more than a month to go, the album was short a couple of the minimum 11 tracks.
So on a scheduled day off, the Beatles are back in the studio, ready to commit a pair of Larry Williams songs to vinyl. The group could have used the break, but their commitment to excellence and dedication to their fans found them hard at work. They labored over both songs, paying much attention to “Dizzy Miss Lizzy,” although it was a song they knew by heart. It was a matter of getting it right. Similar focus was given to “Bad Boy.”
The two covers the Beatles recorded on May 10,1965 do not show up on lists of critics’ favorites, but they are hardly knock-offs. In fact, the recordings are worthy additions to the collection of covers the group made of fifties rock and roll classics. Their renditions of “Twist And Shout,” “Long Tall Sally,” “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Slow Down” easily come to mind. In the October ’98 issue of Mojo magazine, Paul Du Noyer wrote that John Lennon “often sounded at his happiest when he was singing other people’s songs.” So despite having to put in the overtime, John Lennon sounded very happy indeed on “Dizzy Miss Lizzy.”
The expressed enthusiasm for the Beatles’ rendition of “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” does not mean the Larry Williams original should be passed over. His 1958 recording is terrific. He too cannot get over that dizzy spell Miss Lizzy casts. Williams rocks on with his exciting vocal performance and a piano that he pounds joyfully. His band, particularly the horn section, jumps. The New Orleans native conveyed all the vitality of rock and roll. At the time of this recording, perhaps only Little Richard could have rivaled the raucous spirit of Larry Williams’ performance. However, that was when Little Richard was studying for the ministry and probably avoiding the likes of Miss Lizzy.