Record Of The Week # 15

April 22, 2017

The Best Of The Best Of Chuck Berry – Chuck Berry

2016 was notable for the death of Rock and Pop legends and depending on your record collection then someone you probably collected shuffled off this mortal coil. This year has been collecting casualties and in March Chuck Berry left us.

 Chuck joined the celestial choir at the not too rock ‘n’ roll age of 90 and so maybe his departure wasn’t tragic. However as social media usually explodes and BBC Radio 5Live gets teary over icon departures then Chuck’s legacy to popular music simply puts the others in the shade but didn’t move the needle on the gauge of popular media emotion.

John Lennon, who was well placed to note a tune and social phenomenon when he saw one, said, “if you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry’”.

Charles Edward Anderson Berry started his recording career in 1955 and was in on the ground floor of the birth of rock ‘n’ roll but maybe he more than the other panoply of greats left the most important future Rock imprint for others to copy. From a start in the blues he developed a unique sound, which was exciting to the kids of the day. His songs usually featured an epic guitar riff and his lyrics told the story of American teenagers desires – cars, dance, romance and consumer culture.

Recording abound of his songs by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Elvis Presley, David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, ELO, Rod Stewart, AC/DC, Linda Ronstadt and others too many to mention. The classic songs include “Johnny B. Goode”, “Rock And Roll Music”, “Maybelline”, “Roll Over Beethoven”, “No Particular Place To Go” and “Sweet Little Sixteen”.

So for me he was vital for the Rock of the Seventies and frankly didn’t music finish after that? I loved the tunes, the novellas and the tongue in cheek humour and all gloriously compiled in just under 3 minutes. If I had doubts about his importance then endless encores by any band I may have seen could often include a Chuck Berry number, after all it was likely to be the ultimate crowd pleaser. (In fact, when I saw The Blues Band in Pocklington on April 21st they played “Nadine”)

In 1978 on my Laker flight to the USA and back I bought some records – old habits die hard as I still view this as part of the American experience – and I collected this $2.97 gem that still lurks in the collection along with several other Chuck Berry releases.

If I was picking my all time favourite then it isn’t on this album – “You Never Can Tell”, not least because of its moment in Pulp Fiction.

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