For all of their diverse musical tastes, The Beatles never really bothered with the old-timey form of the medley until the very end of their career. Although a frequent fixture of Paul McCartney’s beloved genres of music hall and show tunes, there weren’t a lot of chances for the Beatles to fuse songs together, at least when it came to originals.
There were instances when the band dabbled in connecting separate tracks together, like on the immediate transitions between ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ and ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’, and the abrupt lack of gap space between songs like ‘The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill’ and ‘While My Guitar Gently Wheeps’ made for some interesting combinations. But until Abbey Raod, The Beatles had only tackled the medley form once before on record.
That came in 1964, after long tours and non-stop commitments had fully burned the band out. There was still another album to be delivered for EMI, and The Beatles dutifully slinked into EMI Studios to begin recording Beatles for Sale. Despite their burnout, the band were still remarkably efficient and even recorded eight different songs in one day’s session. It was during that particular session that the band took on a Little Richard classic.
‘Kansas City’ wasn’t a Little Richard original – it was written by the legendary songwriting team Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller – but once Richard took it on, no one else could match the raucous energy that Richard bright to it. Not long after taking on ‘Kansas City’, Richard added his own song ‘Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey’ to the end of the track and created a medley that made a strong impression on a young Liverpool foursome.
“I could do Little Richard’s voice, which is a wild, hoarse, screaming thing; it’s like an out-of-body experience,” McCartney said in the book Many Years From Now. “You have to leave your current sensibilities and go about a foot above your head to sing it. You have to actually go outside yourself. It’s a funny little trick and when you find it, it’s very interesting.”
The Beatles originally performed the track during their years in Hamburg and around the Cavern Club in the early 1960s. It was dropped from their setlist once they began steadily touring, but during their first American tour in 1964, the band reintroduced the song for a special performance in Kansas City, Missouri. From then on, the medley made occasional live appearances, and when the band’s original material was drying up, ‘Kansas City/’Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey’ became one of the many covers included on Beatles for Sale.
Check out The Beatles’ version of ‘Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey’ down below.