A new series– albums that matter to me– #1

“If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry'”- John Lennon.

I enjoyed the restaurant series, so I’m going to persecute my reader(s) with another set, this time albums (or CDs, whatever) that matter to me. For my first entry, I’m going way back. Back before lawyering or law schooling or college or high school or any school to a trailer in Jenkins, Kentucky, where I heard the gospel of rock and roll through an old-time prophet by the name of Chuck Berry.

I taught myself to read off of album lyric sheets, and I spent hour upon hour pondering the mysteries of music. The Chuck Berry album in question “Johnny B Goode” probably was first noticed by me due to its semi-hallucinogenic cover. See below:


But when I listened to what was within the day-glo three-dimensional sleeve, I was really stunned. I didn’t know anything about Chuck Berry’s world. A young black man in the 1950s had about as much in common with my life as I did with Frankenstein’s.

But that guitar! The piano! And most of all, the rhythm and the words. “I was a motorvatin’ over the hill, I saw Maybelle in a coup-de-ville”. I had no idea what the Hell this guy was talking about. But the enthusiasm was contagious, more palpable than another person in the room. Whatever Chuck Berry was singing about, he was having a good time doing it. Maybe they really were rocking in Boston. And he didn’t have no kick against modern jazz. Whatever. Just sing it again. And play those crazy guitar breaks with that thumping piano moving you along.

I noticed that other people played Chuck Berry’s songs too, whether they were the Rolling Stones or Tommy Roe. But nobody had the same spark in the music. I bought more Chuck Berry records, my own that sat along side my Dad’s. “No Particular Place to Go”, “Brown-Eyed Handsome Man”, even “My Ding-A-Ling”. This stuff was FUN!

It still is. So much of what is cliche in rock and roll is because of how well Chuck Berry did it and imprinted it on everyone’s consciousness. You don’t have George Harrison much less Jimmy Page without Chuck. You don’t have Bruce Springsteen singing about cars. Maybe, as John Lennon tried to tell us, you don’t even have rock and roll.



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3 Responses to “A new series– albums that matter to me– #1”

  1. Amy Hilliard Says:

    OK, this reminded me of a very funny, and embarrassing time in my past. I also went through a Chuck Berry phase. Goodness, I think I was in fourth or fifth grade, circa 84-85. My friend Amy (we’re still best friends today) made up a dance(?) routine to “Roll Over Beethoven”. When the roll over parts came we were on all fours rolling over like dogs (this was before the Beethoven the dog movies) anyway, first one way, then the other. I don’t remember any of the rest of it. I can however remember us performing for her parents and brothers. OMG! Thanks for the blast from the past! 🙂

    “Roll Over Beethoven”

    Im gonna write a little letter,
    Gonna mail it to my local dj.
    Its a rockin rhythm record
    I want my jockey to play.
    Roll over beethoven, I gotta hear it again today.

    You know, my temperatures risin
    And the jukebox blows a fuse.
    My hearts beatin rhythm
    And my soul keeps on singin the blues.
    Roll over beethoven and tell tschaikowsky the news.

    I got the rockin pneumonia,
    I need a shot of rhythm and blues.
    I think Im rollin arthiritis
    Sittin down by the rhythm review.
    Roll over beethoven rockin in two by two.

    Well, if you feel you like it
    Go get your lover, then reel and rock it.
    Roll it over and move on up just
    A trifle further and reel and rock it,
    Roll it over,
    Roll over beethoven rockin in two by two.

    Well, early in the mornin Im a-givin you a warnin
    Dont you step on my blue suede shoes.
    Hey diddle diddle, I am playin my fiddle,
    Aint got nothin to lose.
    Roll over beethoven and tell tschaikowsky the news.

    You know she wiggles like a glow worm,
    Dance like a spinnin top.
    She got a crazy partner,
    Oughta see em reel and rock.
    Long as she got a dime the music will never stop.

    Roll over beethoven,
    Roll over beethoven,
    Roll over beethoven,
    Roll over beethoven,
    Roll over beethoven and dig these rhythm and blues.

  2. eljoe1235 Says:

    Amy, glad to remind you of the embarassments of youth. That seems to be the one really good thing about getting older– the past gets farther back and thus is funnier than it was a few years before.

    And look at those lyrics. They just say it all– great stuff like “Wiggles like a glow worm” or “I got the rocking pneumonia/I need a shot of rhythm and blues”. I mean, that second line is so great that two different songs were made OFF OF THAT LINE. I’m talking about “Rockin’ Pneumonia and Boogie Woogie Flu” from Hughie “Piano” Smith and “A Shot of Rhythm and Blues” from Arthur Alexander, I think (later covered by the Beatles on the “Live at the BBC” album). Now that takes some talent.


  3. Amy Hilliard Says:

    No argument here!

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