BCB 130 - Chuck Berry

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Conrad Knight Socks
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BCB 130 - Chuck Berry

Postby Conrad Knight Socks » 25 Jul 2014, 11:43

20-odd years ago I went to a gig at Wembley Arena, where the bill was Fats Domino, Little Richard and Chuck Berry on a money-spinning nostalgia tour. As it tunred out Fats Domino was sick, so instead of an hour of each act, we got over an hour of Little Richard (in which he played a couple of Fats Domino songs) and then nearly 2 hours of chuck Berry.

Now Little Richard was really good, a great showman, and he did it all - played with his foot, got up (gingerly) onto the piano and so on.

Then Chuck Berry came on, and christ he was absolutely brilliant, and I don't just mean ordinarily brilliant, but really brilliant. He held the attention of the big audience with no trouble at all, delivered amusing and interesting banter, and above all played a storming set of fantastic songs - with no concern at all about playing "My ding-a-ling".

Now obviously Chuck Berry is a bit weird, to put it politely, and there is some pretty unpleasant scandal there, which we will gloss over. I'm not sure I would want to deal with him, or be his mate. But there is no question that he has written some of the greatest rock'n'roll songs, and that his influence is huge. I'm not sure there's much need to get all his albums - but a compilation is essential.

Now I don't have either the time or the knowledge to really analyse this point about influence, other than noting that all the greats acknowledge his work, so instead I'll just mention a few things I like.

His songs are often vignettes - not just someone saying I love you I love you I love you, but little stories with a beginning middle and end.

A lot of his songs are funny. "No particular place to go" has the joke about the seat-belt, and Little Queenie captures teenage awkwardness (of course Berry wasn't alone in this, even then - Eddie Cochran's classics are very funny).

The ideas in his songs have become rock staples - let me out of school I want to rock, don't play that old- fashioned music, songs about cars and girls. Even if he wasn't the first to deal with these subjects, the effect was to set the basics of the "rock'n'roll lifestyle"

Here's my favourite - if you ask me this is his greatest song, with a sparse arrangement but completely brilliant lyrics. There are few lyrics as good as "with hurry home drops on her cheek" - what economy.


I kept thinking "swim as far as you can, swim as far as you can".

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GoogaMooga
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Re: BCB 130 - Chuck Berry

Postby GoogaMooga » 25 Jul 2014, 11:56

I was there at wembley, in 95, great day! imo you need ALL of chuck berry
1966 and all that

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Re: BCB 130 - Chuck Berry

Postby Diamond Dog » 25 Jul 2014, 12:59

Chuck Berry is the DNA of what became 'rock' and continues to influence music way beyond his prime years. A magnificent songwriter, stupendous lyricist and his guitar licks have become evey day staples of brilliance.

You have to love Chuck!
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Re: BCB 130 - Chuck Berry

Postby der nister » 25 Jul 2014, 15:24

Up through the mid 90s
BMI had reported
Berry was making $2 million a year
In royalties through his originals and mostly covers
I would think that has dropped now
In an era that marks 64/65 as the rock era
Or that increasing only acknowledges the punk and grunge eras
It's kinda depressing for a music forum to be proud of not knowing musicians.

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Re: BCB 130 - Chuck Berry

Postby !!VAPRANT!! » 25 Jul 2014, 15:35

Diamond Dog wrote:Chuck Berry is the DNA of what became 'rock' and continues to influence music way beyond his prime years. A magnificent songwriter, stupendous lyricist and his guitar licks have become evey day staples of brilliance.

You have to love Chuck!


Yes.

It's actually quite rare for even our most acclaimed rock stars to manage to do more than one thing really well. Chuck Berry was quite possibly the most innovative and influential guitarist of the last century AND also one of our very best lyricists.

And the fucking sound of some of those things still! 'Maybellene' - a thumping box drum sound backing a guitar that's as raw as it gets, sweetened by Johnnie Johnson's piano and of course Chuck's own clear vocal. And he invented rap in the verses! The man has every right to be arrogant.
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der nister
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Re: BCB 130 - Chuck Berry

Postby der nister » 25 Jul 2014, 15:42

Funny enough as today's rock musicians rarely mention or acknowledge Berry
He has a home in Nashville amongst the songwriters
And musicians who mention his work regularly
For its American-ness, directness, conciseness and clarity
For getting the stories and the hooks across
So the tracks may have shifted
But the journey still goes home
It's kinda depressing for a music forum to be proud of not knowing musicians.

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Re: BCB 130 - Chuck Berry

Postby modharper » 25 Jul 2014, 15:49

I agree - one of the bedrocks of modern music and storytelling.

His songs are so simple, so easily interpreted, and yet, when I listen to his songs covered by The Beatles, the Stones et al, they sound pale in comparison. His originals are infused with a sly grin, a cheeky wink, an electricity that flows through them.

I saw him a few years back playing Hackney Empire. The quizzical looks from the audience as some apparently random woman walked on stage clutching her handbags were priceless - even more so when, approaching the microphone, pulled out a harmonica and blew an excellent storming solo. Turned out it was his daughter. Nice bit of pantomime. I expect in person Chuck is a c*nt, but there's a sly streak to him that I think appreciates a wicked laugh.
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Re: BCB 130 - Chuck Berry

Postby pig bodine » 25 Jul 2014, 15:52

When I was younger, I always used to hear the phrase, "It'll be different when you have a daughter." Well, now I do, and all of what we know about Berry's personal life certainly poisons his lyrics when dealing with young girls to me. He certainly is a repugnant individual. Like Mies Davis and Charles Mingus and Leadbelly, but unlike Beck, he was good enough that I can overlook it in most cases, but not all.

Still, he has a shitload of great songs--way more than most of the acts that will be covered here, and many of my favorite 60's acts owe practically everything to him.


These are my favorites

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This was the only Berry song the Dead could do a decent cover with.

and some favorite covers

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[youtube]?v=kHmoO_a4dDw[/youtube]

[youtube]?v=T62rG2_IANs[/youtube]

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Re: BCB 130 - Chuck Berry

Postby Bent Fabric » 25 Jul 2014, 16:23

He's obviously very directly pre-Beatles, Beach Boys, Rolling Stones in such a huge (and magnificent) way. I'd argue that he's no less pre-Dylan.

"Havana Moon" was a late breaking favorite of mine (maybe thanks to Harvey K Tel?). But, hell, they've all got this very real "movies of the mind" quality. I have very specific places where I put the jukebox in "Roll Over Beethoven" or the "tracks" in "Rock and Roll Music"...

"Memphis" is kind of fucking unbelievable! Just...it's like watching a master painter do a napkin sketch - all the instincts are there, even just understanding the sheer evocative poetry of a location name like "Memphis, Tennessee".

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Re: BCB 130 - Chuck Berry

Postby kath » 25 Jul 2014, 16:50

i agree with everyone who is agreeing with anyone on chuck berry as great... as brilliant gweetarist and lyricist... as funfunfun... as influential beyond all reckoning, really.

i agree with memphis tennessee, too.

apparently, i am in a particularly agreeable mood.

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the gweetar-luvvin chickarina

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Re: BCB 130 - Chuck Berry

Postby toomanyhatz » 25 Jul 2014, 21:59

He's so great that people tend to take his greatness for granted, or maybe overlook it because he created such a simple framework that everyone was able to expand on it and pretend they invented something.

As far as him being a cunt, there's enough anecdotal evidence to suggest there must be some truth in that, but one to the contrary- in the 1970s my mother worked for an answering service, and she said Chuck was the nicest of the clients she dealt with- he was always polite and friendly (the brusque one was 'Rifleman' Chuck Connors).

Best song - Lots, obviously, but I've always had a soft spot for "Tulane"
Best album - From St. Louis to Liverpool
Most underrated album - Back Home
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Conrad Knight Socks
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Re: BCB 130 - Chuck Berry

Postby Conrad Knight Socks » 25 Jul 2014, 23:25

toomanyhatz wrote:He's so great that people tend to take his greatness for granted, or maybe overlook it


Quite right
I kept thinking "swim as far as you can, swim as far as you can".

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Re: BCB 130 - Chuck Berry

Postby !!VAPRANT!! » 19 Mar 2017, 01:50

Chuck Bump
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Re: BCB 130 - Chuck Berry

Postby fange » 19 Mar 2017, 04:43

Bent Fabric wrote:He's obviously very directly pre-Beatles, Beach Boys, Rolling Stones in such a huge (and magnificent) way. I'd argue that he's no less pre-Dylan.

Oh yeah, Berry was a massive influence on the young Bobster - both lyrically (the famous Dylan quote that Chuck was the "Shakespeare of Rock and Roll"), as well as the way he crossed the genre and racial divides of music at the time, capturing the sound of both hillbilly and R&B. And that's not even mentioning his guitar playing.

Was he a perfect human being? Fuck no; far from it, according to many sources. We all know the stories. There was a thread in NL about favourite books, and the topic of Kerouac came up, and this is kinda like that. You have a person who has been a less-than-stellar human being in some ways, but they have created something(s) that have brought NOTHING but good into your life. In fact, their works have made it far richer and happier than you could ever thank them for. That is Chuck for me. I've always seen him in a Greek demi-god way - a being with some very human foibles and weaknesses, but born with such extraordinary powers that most other mere mortals can only look on in awe at what they can do and achieve.

RIP Chuck.



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Re: BCB 130 - Chuck Berry

Postby Jimbo » 19 Mar 2017, 05:17

toomanyhatz wrote: (the brusque one was 'Rifleman' Chuck Connors).


Apropos of absolutely nothing, my cousin's claim to fame was that he was Chuck Connors' pool cleaner.
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