Round and Round

Round and Round (studio, 1971).
Round and Round (live w/Jeff Beck, 1973).

“Round and Round” (Bowie and the Spiders’ retitled version of Chuck Berry’s “Around and Around”) was slated for Ziggy Stardust as late as January 1972, sequenced between “Moonage Daydream” and “It Ain’t Easy.” (It was even a provisional title for the album.) “Round and Round” was a great rave-up the band all loved playing, and the LP had needed another rocker. By the end of the Ziggy sessions, though, the track’s charms had waned and Bowie axed it. Its spiritual replacement was “Suffragette City,” a Chuck Berry song by way of Nova Express.

“Around and Around” was born a jam and will likely expire as one. Berry recalled in his autobiography that much of the song had come out of his jamming with some “on-the-ball musicians” before a concert, “playing sweet songs to gut-bucket rock and boogie.” It was the B-side to “Johnny B. Goode”  (Chess 1691), included on the 1959 LP Chuck Berry Is On Top and soon taken up by aspiring British R&B bands. The ur-Rolling Stones, Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys (a group that included Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Pretty Things guitarist Dick Taylor), were playing “Around and Around” by 1961. In June 1964, the Stones, in an act of competitive worship, did a take of “Around and Around” at Chess Studios in front of Berry himself (it wound up on 12 x 5).

By then “Around and Around” had become a show-stopper to rival “Twist and Shout.” Swindon’s The Sapphires were, I believe, the first UK band to record it, in 1963, as did The Animals a year later. “Around and Around” was in the repertoire of any provincial band worth its salt, like the Hull groups Ronson, Woodmansey and Bolder had come up in. The song’s designed to bait an audience, its stop-time verses getting dancers restless, the raver chorus releasing their frenzy, while the lyric offers the sweet promise of a club that will never reach closing time.

Recorded ca. November-December 1971. Issued as the B-side to “Drive In Saturday” in April 1973, and also included on the Sound + Vision box set. (The re-released Sound + Vision in 2003 offered a take with a different vocal). It was the final song of the final “Ziggy Stardust” show at the Hammersmith on 3 July 1973, though it was cut from the subsequent concert film (allegedly at the orders of Jeff Beck).

Top: Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry at Madison Square Garden, 6 May 1972.

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