Chuck Berry: C or D?

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Surprised we haven't done this one yet. While we're all sick of hearing pub bands do lame renditions of "Johnny B. Goode," Mr. Berry himself was a brilliant songwriter and possibly the most influential guitarist in rock. (Not the BEST by a long shot, but he was there first) Listening to some of the recent Rolling Stones remasters, I was surprised to notice how closely Jagger mimicked Berry's trademark drawl on the early records.

He's also the only non-Elvis '50s rocker I can think of who made some of his best records after 1960 ("No Particular Place To Go," "You Never Can Tell" - let's just forget about "My Ding A Ling"). It's a shame he's such a jerk, but I suppose if I were Chuck Berry, I'd be arrogant too.

Justyn Dillingham (Justyn Dillingham), Sunday, 27 October 2002 03:38 (seventeen years ago) link

He is a definite classic. I think he has become a joke in recent years due to his voyeurism and legal troubles, but Maybellene, Carol, and Brown Eyed Handsome Man are some of the best songs of the 50s. He may have only released 3 or 4 classic albums, but they are the top 3 or 4 rockabilly records of all time.

saratoo, Sunday, 27 October 2002 06:18 (seventeen years ago) link

yeah if you can't listen to his overfamiliar songs due to them being overfamiliar, listen to something semi-obscure like "downbound train" or "come on" (yeah i know the stones' version is weak but have you heard the orig., it's great) & REALISE.

unknown or illegal user (doorag), Sunday, 27 October 2002 06:56 (seventeen years ago) link

Utter, colossal dud. The worst. Short uptempo guitar-based songs were the worst thing to ever happen to music, which hasn't recovered since. Gimme Ray Conniff or Mitch Miller any time.

dave q, Sunday, 27 October 2002 10:50 (seventeen years ago) link

Rock'n'roll is phony and false, sung, written and played by cretinous goons. The martial music of every sideburned juvenile delinquent on earth.

f sinatra, Sunday, 27 October 2002 11:02 (seventeen years ago) link

Short uptempo guitar-based songs were the worst thing to ever happen to music...

since the invention of the phonograph?

saratoo, Sunday, 27 October 2002 12:13 (seventeen years ago) link

Justyn's analysis seems very accurate to me. Classic.

Martin Skidmore (Martin Skidmore), Sunday, 27 October 2002 13:01 (seventeen years ago) link

What has always amazed me about Chuck Berry is his elegance- sure, there's the rockers like "Johnny B Goode", but on the whole he always seems so much more subtle, so much less savage, so much more sophisticated than any of his contemporaries: there isn't a single song of his that goes as way out of control as Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Gene Vincent and even Elvis Presley frequently did. And his latter stuff- I'm thinking of "You Never Can Tell" and "Baby Doll", fer instance- almost has a Pre-Rock, showbiz aura about it.

Anyway, he's classic, of course. Just a great all-rounder: great live performances, those godly riffs, and of course the songwriting; he brought "Saturday Night Fish Fry" to the Rock & Roll era.

Daniel_Rf, Sunday, 27 October 2002 14:04 (seventeen years ago) link

I think even dave q would like "Havana Moon".

J (Jay), Sunday, 27 October 2002 14:44 (seventeen years ago) link

I used to have a Chuck Berry comp called 'The Great 28', which is just abt right - once you get past the classics, there's isn't THAT much absolutely first-rate stuff, and he's possibly the foremost canonical living songwriter who has gone the longest time without writing another gd song (since abt 1963?). But most acts wld kill to write 28 songs as gd as Chuck's best.

Andrew L (Andrew L), Sunday, 27 October 2002 16:44 (seventeen years ago) link

Yeah, let me second that as well. I put that comp on my iPod for the September trips and every time one of those songs came up, they were sheer joys to hear.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Sunday, 27 October 2002 17:22 (seventeen years ago) link

C. Unbelievably great both as a singer and a guitarist (a very rare combo -- think about it). AND arguably the best lyricist in all of rock.

Burr, Sunday, 27 October 2002 19:31 (seventeen years ago) link


Everything "rock n' roll" can, and should be.

David Allen, Monday, 28 October 2002 17:29 (seventeen years ago) link

Definitely classic.

A few years ago I went to see one of those 'Legends of rock'n'roll' gigs at Wembley Arena. Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis. Wasn't expecting much but made the decision to go on the day cos I thought, well, one of them's going to die soon so last chance probably (Jerry Lee being on his third triple-bypass operation or something). I thought Little Richard would be good value cos he's a bit loopy and even if Jerry Lee Lewis might be a little subdued at least his country stuff's half-decent as well.

But I'd heard all the tales about how Chuck Berry was always terrible live, about how his stinginess meant he'd always use a crappy local pick-up group wherever he went rather than paying for a full-time band. And about how he was a miserable fucker.

But he blew me away.

The audience, as you'd expect, was full of every ridiculously-dressed, stuck in some weird version of the fifties, teddy boy and girl in the country. Probably not renowned for their broadness of musical taste. And when Chuck dared to stray from the likes of Johnny B Goode and play a bit of blues there were boos and heckling to play more of the hits. Which Chuck, understandably didn't like. But rather than throw a fit and storm off stage as I might've expected, he chose to have a go in song.

So he started improvising on the lyrics of 'Rock and roll music', changing it from an attack on other forms of music ("I've got no kick against modern jazz, except they play it too darn fast") to a subtle and witty dig at the conservative nature of the audience. And he went on for what seemed like several verses, keeping it perfectly in time with the melody line of the song, basically making it up as he went along. Probably going right over their heads. And it was fucking great.

This man (79 years old?) was supposed to be dead artistically, repeating his old songs ad nauseum for cold hard nostalgia cash. But he was sharp as a fucking tack. I like to think i caught a glimpse of what made him great in the first place.

James Ball (James Ball), Tuesday, 29 October 2002 11:36 (seventeen years ago) link

James that story rules completely. Chuck Berry was so many leagues ahead of all his contemporaries, even in the dreaded non-Raggett-approved field of lyrics, which field CB rules like a great benevolent king. "Going Back to Memphis" is great beyond great.

J0hn Darn13ll3 (J0hn Darn13ll3), Tuesday, 29 October 2002 17:01 (seventeen years ago) link

even in the dreaded non-Raggett-approved field of lyrics

I seem to have at least become my own stereotype! I will let that wander freely in the woods on a rampage.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Tuesday, 29 October 2002 17:20 (seventeen years ago) link

The Hail Hail Rock & Roll movie made me a fan. The Christgau essay made me an appreciator. And his 1995 New Orleans Jazzfest set made me a believer.

But if no one else mentions it, I gotta say: Berry's piano player Johnnie Johnson wrote all those classic riffs.

I'm just finally cracking Father of Rock & Roll, which has the details... While I'm at it, I heartily recommend Backbeat: Earl Palmer's Story, by Tony Scherman--kickass New Orleans rocknroll bio told entirely by the father of the backbeat into a tape recorder...

Pete Scholtes, Tuesday, 29 October 2002 19:23 (seventeen years ago) link

three months pass...
Just found this thread. James and John's comments gave me a big smile.

Chuck was too smart for his own good, methinks. Pull out an album or two and the deftness of his lyrics and the offhanded charm of his singing is still going to surprise you. I think his being taken up by the Brits was definitely a good thing, but his swift canonization has done his legacy a disservice. It closed off many opportunities for artistic growth (see James's story about the aging teddies clamoring for "Johnny B. Goode) and has reduced his achievement to "major influence on [x]" as two or three of his hits are recycled endlessly on dreaded "oldies" radio. (Actually not anymore I don't think; oldies radio here in Chicago has pretty much cut the 1950s out of their programming.)

Amateurist (amateurist), Monday, 24 February 2003 08:09 (seventeen years ago) link

Has anybody his Autobiography (that's the title)? It's so great, likely 90% horse shit, but through it's blatant obscuration it reveals a lot about how King Chuck sees himself and the world.
I'm about 1/10th through the new biog, but the writing's fairly uninspired even though it's probably a very considered and informative book.
You could probably take away Elvis, and someone else would have filled his void, but Chuck Berry is absolutely essential, he may not have come up with his groundbreaking riffs (Johnny Johnson, may you get your due), but most importantly, he made guitar-as-wang COOL.

Horace Mann (Horace Mann), Monday, 24 February 2003 14:52 (seventeen years ago) link

one year passes...
If you guys have never read John D's piece on "Going Back to Memphis" you should go to his website and do so.

Mark (MarkR), Wednesday, 5 May 2004 02:04 (sixteen years ago) link

Stanley Booth's 'True Adventures of the Rolling Stones' has some great Chuck stories. Booth, Berry and Jim Dickinson and his wife Mary get lost in, I think, Georgia, on the way to a gig Berry's opening on the Stones' '69 tour. They stop at a service station. Chuck: "I think one of you Caucasians better get out and do the asking."

Rickey Wright (Rrrickey), Wednesday, 5 May 2004 02:21 (sixteen years ago) link

There is a moment in the otherwise superstarfucked Hail! Hail! Rock n' Roll film biography where Chuck goes to the St. Louis theater he and his father(?) weren't allowed to even go into when he was a kid because of segregation. And he says something to the effect of, "I'm playing here tonight. I sold it out" and sort of just looks around. It's fucking heavy.

Naive Teen Idol (Naive Teen Idol), Wednesday, 5 May 2004 02:55 (sixteen years ago) link

And John D's piece is great, yes. Question, though: isn't there some ongoing controversy as to whether Chuck gave credit to some guy who co-wrote a bunch of these tunes with him?

Naive Teen Idol (Naive Teen Idol), Wednesday, 5 May 2004 03:00 (sixteen years ago) link

Chess released a record that is Berry and Diddley jamming in the studio together. It kicks ass. Both unleash some blistering solos. Some of the jams are pretty long , too.

Justin Farrar (Justin Farrar), Wednesday, 5 May 2004 04:41 (sixteen years ago) link


$corpium ($corpium), Wednesday, 5 May 2004 08:49 (sixteen years ago) link

I'm thinking that Dylan owes rather a lot to Chuck Berry in terms of phrasing/ delivery etc etc

Dadaismus (Dada), Wednesday, 5 May 2004 08:57 (sixteen years ago) link

dylan owes a lot to blues singers/writers too.

thesplooge (thesplooge), Wednesday, 5 May 2004 10:26 (sixteen years ago) link

Dylan owes me a few bucks for wasting money on Down in the Groove.

Mark (MarkR), Wednesday, 5 May 2004 11:57 (sixteen years ago) link

"Back Home" from '70 is a good later Berry album. "Tulane" and "Have Mercy Judge" are great songs.

I am not really sure about the Johnnie Johnson thing--that JJ wrote a lot of those songs. Need to read more about it.

Lots of "minor" Berry is great, too. "Rockin' at the Philharmonic" is a really good instrumental. I like the weird stuff on his earlier LPs, too, like "Berry Pickin'" and "Drifting Heart." And the insane "13 Question Method." "Deep Feeling" is very good too.

I enjoy him lots more than I do Bob Dylan, too. "Talkin' About You" is one song that never fails to amaze me. Chuck Berry is rock and roll, period, far more than Elvis or anyone else. And it's NOT rockabilly...

eddie hurt (ddduncan), Wednesday, 5 May 2004 17:44 (sixteen years ago) link

one year passes...
i already have the great 28 and from st louis to liverpool, do i really need the chess box too?

J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Sunday, 24 July 2005 00:33 (fourteen years ago) link

you kind of do, yeah.

Matos-Webster Dictionary (M Matos), Sunday, 24 July 2005 00:47 (fourteen years ago) link

i saw a copy the other day for $21! i guess i can't resist the prospect of about 30 chuck berry songs i've never heard.

J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Sunday, 24 July 2005 00:50 (fourteen years ago) link

two years pass...

yeah this looks good! about time this stuff was upgraded -- that 3 cd chess set came out like in 1988. wish it was a tad bit cheaper, but what the hey ...

tylerw, Tuesday, 19 February 2008 16:40 (twelve years ago) link

one year passes...

we should celebrate this King of Rock & Roll while he's still alive + still playing!

the pinefox, Saturday, 27 June 2009 11:44 (eleven years ago) link

He's 82!

the pinefox, Saturday, 27 June 2009 11:50 (eleven years ago) link

two months pass...

totally love the great 28 compilation, but have no idea why 'you never can tell' wasn't featured. still it's all a pretty joyous ride.

Charlie Howard, Tuesday, 8 September 2009 16:47 (ten years ago) link

I'm kind of hooked on Tulane these days. It feels like a movie. Such a great story with so much going on - it kind of reminds me of the that amazing sequence in Goodfellas leading up to the bust.

Brio, Tuesday, 8 September 2009 18:47 (ten years ago) link

ten months pass...

holy shit dudes i found this one in a garbage can and am floored
first i was put off by it cuz its a compilation then i listened to it and was like damn
then i considered the album cover and was like fukin a man a young girl in nothing but a leather jacket
man that is rock n roll dude

two years pass...

I think my impressions of Chuck Berry have always been so clouded that I never sat down and just listened to Johnny B. Goode, like really LISTENED TO IT man. Such great guitar work. I get it now.

space phwoar (Hurting 2), Sunday, 24 March 2013 20:04 (seven years ago) link

Yeah, very influential iirc.

Josh in Chicago, Sunday, 24 March 2013 20:09 (seven years ago) link

Yeah I guess I had always thought of it as "yeah that guy invented rock and roll" like as in "steve jobs invented the personal computer -- that's awesome but it doesn't mean I actually want to use an original apple computer"

space phwoar (Hurting 2), Sunday, 24 March 2013 20:17 (seven years ago) link

Short uptempo guitar-based songs were the worst thing to ever happen to music

Basil Ironweed (Dan Peterson), Wednesday, 27 March 2013 21:15 (seven years ago) link

yeah i had big breakthroughs on berry and buddy holly last year

not that i didn't like them, i just never really sat down and listened to them before, just knew em from oldies etc

ums (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Wednesday, 27 March 2013 21:52 (seven years ago) link

you should get on Little Richard next

four Marxes plus four Obamas plus four Bin Ladens (Shakey Mo Collier), Wednesday, 27 March 2013 21:54 (seven years ago) link

My Epiphany About Chuck Berry

i've a cozy little flat in what is known as old man hat (Hurting 2), Wednesday, 27 March 2013 21:55 (seven years ago) link

kind of wish chuck had a whole album that was like this:

tylerw, Wednesday, 27 March 2013 21:58 (seven years ago) link

JOHHNY B. POLLED: chuck berry's great twenty-eight

^^^ best chuck thread IMO

Doctor Casino, Wednesday, 27 March 2013 22:46 (seven years ago) link

yeah i had big breakthroughs on berry and buddy holly last year

not that i didn't like them, i just never really sat down and listened to them before, just knew em from oldies etc

Me too! I picked up "Chuck Rocks" and "The Definitive Buddy Holly" and, while I expected to like them, I was really surprised at how much I totally loved it all. Not played out at all.

Gerald McBoing-Boing, Thursday, 28 March 2013 01:20 (seven years ago) link

Perhaps it is time for Whiney to shine a fresh light on these forgotten acts lest they be forgotten by the new generation.

Johnny Too Borad (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 28 March 2013 21:39 (seven years ago) link

Short uptempo guitar-based songs were the worst thing to ever happen to music

this is the dumbest post to ever happen to ILX

Heyman (crüt), Thursday, 28 March 2013 21:53 (seven years ago) link

little richard

christmas candy bar (al leong), Thursday, 28 March 2013 21:57 (seven years ago) link

this is the dumbest post to ever happen to ILX

Oh, that dave q. He was a regular riot back in the Sinister days.

Johnny Too Borad (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 28 March 2013 21:59 (seven years ago) link

I think he might have been kidding, but it is impossible to tell. Like Andy Kaufman reading The Great Gatsby or something.

Johnny Too Borad (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 28 March 2013 22:01 (seven years ago) link

yeah i never got his deal, he was funny sometimes, i think he was mostly gone by time i started posting a lot. he's like this weird ghost in the machine now.

ums (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Friday, 29 March 2013 00:09 (seven years ago) link

doc casino otm, that is one of my all-time fav ilm threads. ppl don't talk about chuck enough these days. (little richard too, for that matter.)

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Friday, 29 March 2013 00:15 (seven years ago) link

has anyone else read his book? i read it as a teen but remember almost nothing about it.

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Friday, 29 March 2013 00:21 (seven years ago) link

BIg upping the Great Twenty-Eight Poll thirded.

Johnny Too Borad (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 29 March 2013 01:13 (seven years ago) link

six months pass...

Don't bother me, leave me alone--celebrating.

clemenza, Friday, 18 October 2013 12:44 (six years ago) link

four weeks pass...

But when the sun went down, the rapid tempo of the music fell

timellison, Friday, 15 November 2013 00:59 (six years ago) link

Playing guitar like a-ringing a bell
And looking like he should

Pazz & Jop 1280 (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 15 November 2013 01:18 (six years ago) link

six months pass...

A few Chuck Berry threads, so this might have been posted elsewhere.

clemenza, Monday, 26 May 2014 19:30 (six years ago) link

I could start a ceremonial "Chuck Berry is still alive" thread, but then again the last one ended (ended?) badly...

Mark G, Monday, 26 May 2014 19:36 (six years ago) link

three weeks pass...

The Sex Pistols' "God Save the Queen":
What's this guy so angry about anyway? Guitar work and progression is like mine. Good backbeat. Can't understand most of the vocals. If you're going to be mad at least let the people know what you're mad about.

The Clash's "Complete Control":
Sounds like the first one. The rhythm and chording work well together. Did this guy have a sore throat when he sang the vocals?

The Ramones' "Sheena is a Punk Rocker":
A good little jump number. These guys remind me of myself when I first started, I only knew three chords too.

The Romantics' "What I Like About You":
Finally something you can dance to. Sounds a lot like the sixties with some of my riffs thrown in for good measure. You say this is new? I've heard this stuff plenty of times. I can't understand the big fuss.

Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer":
A funky little number, that's for sure. I like the bass a lot. Good mixture and a real good flow. The singer sounds like he has a bad case of stage fright.

Wire's "I Am the Fly" and Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures:
So this is the so-called new stuff. It's nothing I ain't heard before. It sounds like an old blues jam that BB and Muddy would carry on backstage at the old amphitheatre in Chicago. The instruments may be different but the experiment's the same.

I dunno. (amateurist), Friday, 20 June 2014 20:58 (six years ago) link

The idea of BB and Muddy jamming on "I Am The Fly" is killing me right now.

wild-eyed, high-volume bursts of pious indignation (Dan Peterson), Friday, 20 June 2014 21:26 (six years ago) link

two years pass...

ST. LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 18, 2016 -- Chuck Berry, the artist who codified the sound, rhythm and language of rock and roll, celebrated his 90th birthday today with the surprise announcement that he will release a new album - titled simply 'CHUCK' - in 2017 on Dualtone Records (an Entertainment One Company). Comprised primarily of new, original songs written, recorded and produced by the founding rock and roll legend, 'CHUCK' is Berry's first new album in thirty-eight years. It was recorded in various studios around St. Louis and features Berry's longtime hometown backing group - including his children Charles Berry Jr. (guitar) and Ingrid Berry (harmonica), plus Jimmy Marsala (Berry's bassist of forty years), Robert Lohr (piano), and Keith Robinson (drums) - which has supported him for over two decades on over two hundred residency shows at the famed Blueberry Hill club. More details about 'CHUCK' and other Berry-related events will be revealed in the coming weeks.

"This record is dedicated to my beloved Toddy," said Berry, referring to his wife of 68 years, Themetta Berry. "My darlin' I'm growing old! I've worked on this record for a long time. Now I can hang up my shoes!"

"What an honor to be part of this new music," says Charles Berry Jr. "The St. Louis band, or as dad called us 'The Blueberry Hill Band,' fell right into the groove and followed his lead. These songs cover the spectrum from hard driving rockers to soulful thought provoking time capsules of a life's work."

Dualtone president Paul Roper adds: "It is a great honor to be a part of this record and the broader legacy of Chuck Berry. This body of work stands with the best of his career and will further cement Chuck as one of the greatest icons of rock and roll."

Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 18 October 2016 13:53 (three years ago) link

I get why he's just calling the album Chuck, but calling it Almost Grown would have been hilarious.

Anyway, as I said on Facebook, there is no album I will not turn off in a second if somebody suggests listening to Chuck Berry instead. Happy 90th birthday to the man without whom probably about 2/3 of my record collection would not exist.

Don Van Gorp, midwest regional VP, marketing (誤訳侮辱), Tuesday, 18 October 2016 14:17 (three years ago) link

want this to be good so much

though she denies it to the press, (Joan Crawford Loves Chachi), Tuesday, 18 October 2016 14:19 (three years ago) link

so God damned great

though she denies it to the press, (Joan Crawford Loves Chachi), Tuesday, 18 October 2016 14:20 (three years ago) link

yeah! cool that he's just using his regular band (as opposed to getting Flea on bass or something).

tylerw, Tuesday, 18 October 2016 14:21 (three years ago) link

the way he changes up the pronunciation of "here" when it's his mother speaking...just so good

though she denies it to the press, (Joan Crawford Loves Chachi), Tuesday, 18 October 2016 14:23 (three years ago) link

(as opposed to getting Flea on bass or something).

I would actually be in favor of this for the reason that, during the sessions, Flea would undoubtedly play something moronic, for which Chuck would not hesitate to punch his lights out.

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Tuesday, 18 October 2016 14:33 (three years ago) link

haha, yeah that is true.

tylerw, Tuesday, 18 October 2016 14:39 (three years ago) link

Don't you guys remember what Iggy said to Mike Watt?

Sketches by T-Boz (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 18 October 2016 14:41 (three years ago) link

Or what he said about Chuck Berry for that matter

Sketches by T-Boz (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 18 October 2016 14:42 (three years ago) link

i don't remember!
this is good:

tylerw, Tuesday, 18 October 2016 15:04 (three years ago) link

It's in Paul Trynka's Open Up And Bleed right after Shakey's brother talking about Coachella.

There had, in fact, been a little last-minute argument behind the scenes. Pete Marshall had been expecting to play bass with the new Stooges ever since Ron had started sending Iggy tapes in the late ’90s; Iggy had pushed for him too, on the basis that he wanted someone familiar standing beside him, but he finally backed down and agreed to Watt taking the job, on condition that there was “no slapping, no triads … and no Flea-ing around on stage,” alluding to his friendship with the Chili Peppers’ funky bassist, Flea.

Sketches by T-Boz (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 18 October 2016 15:11 (three years ago) link

Also “if someone told us we had to play Chuck Berry or die, we would have to die.”

Sketches by T-Boz (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 18 October 2016 15:21 (three years ago) link

lol at "Almost Grown," that would pretty much be the all-time winner for the Old Sock award.

DOCTOR CAISNO, BYCREATIVELABBUS (Doctor Casino), Tuesday, 18 October 2016 15:41 (three years ago) link

Whoa, I just found out my friend Rachel did the art for the new album's cover. She's understandably over the moon to reveal that fact.

Ⓓⓡ. (Johnny Fever), Wednesday, 19 October 2016 02:49 (three years ago) link

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