Archive for March, 2017

RIP Chuck Berry

March 21, 2017

Another year, another rock legend passes away.  While not quite as shocking as some of the losses in 2016, this is a loss of one of true pioneers of what we know today as rock n’ roll. He’s got to be on the Mount Rushmore of Rock.  That doesn’t mean he was a saint. I’ll leave those less savory aspects of his life to the NY Post, though combining those things with his stage theatrics and style contributed to his other enduring legacy, the creation of the rock star.

You know all the hits the man put out so there’s not a lot more I can say about songs like Johnny B. Goode or Roll Over Beethoven.  I was listening to some live albums of his today and what struck me was how easy it is to draw the straight line from him to some of the Sixties’ biggest bands like the Beatles and Beach Boys.  Go listen to early records of those bands, particularly their live sessions and they were jocking Berry hardcore.  Several years ago I even did a post comparing Berry’s Back in the U.S.A. against the Beatles Back in the U.S.S.R.

The other thing that I noticed is how on those live recordings is a rawer and looser approach to both his singing and the music than in his studio recordings.  After hitting his height of fame, he started touring solo and would just pick up backing bands when he rolled into town, famously proclaiming that every band should already know how to play his songs.  Apparently that led to live performances that were a little too loose, but damn if that isn’t rock n’ roll, even punk.

One of my biggest concert regrets is never getting to see him live.  I thought I was going to get my chance in 2008 when he was scheduled to play the Virgin Fest festival in Maryland.  Sadly, he canceled for unknown reasons on the day of the show.  Luckily there’s plenty of live performances to find out there on the web of him to keep you happy.

And god bless him, his only number one song was “My Ding-A-Ling”.

I’ll leave you with a live version from a 1969 concert in Toronto of one of my personal favorites of his, Reelin’ and Rockin’.  There’s a boatload of different versions out there, but I think this one is pretty representative: