Chuck Berry RIP

One of the greats that I did get to see, Peterborough City Council and Hereward Radio thought it would be a good idea to hold a “Rock ‘n’ Roll” evening on September 3rd, 1983, the day after their annual Country Music Festival. Chuck was the main attraction at the Wirrina stadium (a former rolling skate arena) and I blagged a way in with the sound crew, “carry this mic lead Al, and look as if you know what you’re doing”. Most of the evening was pretty unremarkable and I was prepared to be disappointed, “never meet your heroes” as they warn you.

Rumours that he was threatening to walk away if he didn’t get on stage at the scheduled time and that he be paid in cash up front all turned out to be true. So who ever was due on before him didn’t play and on came the great man on the stroke of 9pm. He was sensational, his set included: Schooldays, Sweet Little Sixteen, Roll over Beethoven, Every Day I Have the Blues, Memphis Slim, Bio, Maybellene/Mountain Dew, Let It Rock, Carol/Little Queenie, Key to the Highway, Got My Mojo Working, Reelin’ and Rockin’ and Johnny B. Goode, he was joined on some songs by his (?) daughter Ingrid Berry.

How do I know? Well it turns out that the set was recorded and had a limited CD release, but is still available as a download on Amazon

Chuck’s songs, usually played by other people particularly the Beatles, the Rolling Stones (their first single was a Berry cover), then ELO, and especially Dave Edmunds, woke me up to the “rock and roll end” of pop music. A great stylist, fantastic guitarist but above all a wonderful songwriter who inspired several generations to pick up a plank and spank it. 

My favourite song of his is Promised Land, my favourite version is a Cajun tinged arrangement by Johnnie Allan closely followed by the great Welsh rocker Dave Edmunds below.

Can there ever be a better couple of verses than these:

“Swing low chariot come down easy, taxi to the terminal zone, cut your engines and cool your wings, let me make it to the telephone.
Los Angeles give me Norfolk Virginia, Tidewater four ten o nine, tell the folks back home this is the promised land calling and the poor boy is on the line.

Fablas.

Lefsetz on George Michael…

“Music, when done right, is undeniable. It doesn’t matter what the critics say, it doesn’t matter what you believed yesterday, it doesn’t matter what your friends have to say, you’re immediately infected, the sound just makes you feel good, puts a smile on your face, makes you glad to be alive.”

Full article here – worth a read.

Look out your window I can see his light…

In the week of David Bowie’s death there has been much outpouring of grief. Someone said to me on Tuesday, “ever since Diana the British seem to have taken to weeping and mass emotion after the death of someone / anyone famous”. A trifle cynical perhaps Mr B, but I don’t disagree.

Here is the most even-handed obituary that I have read, it’s by Richard Williams and those with a very long memory will remember him as the very first host of the Old Grey Whistle Test even before whispering Bob. Showing my age, I enjoyed Williams’ writing in the Melody Maker in the 70s and he still helps to shape my musical tastes.

I particularly like this piece and that he admits to not liking some of Bowie’s music particularly the Ziggy Stardust period.

For many years I dismissed David Bowie as a shallow opportunist. What was he doing that Andy Warhol and Lou Reed, conceptually and musically, hadn’t done with more wit and originality? I saw him at the Greyhound in Croydon in the summer of 1972, supported by Roxy Music in a pub room that can’t have held more than 200 people. He did the Ziggy Stardust thing, he and the band in full costume, and I didn’t care for it much.

Those particular songs still don’t do anything for me, but time sometimes dissolves prejudices and now I can see that what I took to be shallowness and opportunism were aspects of what we call the pop process: the way things evolve through mimesis and metamorphosis, adapting to their time. And the response to the sudden news of his death leaves no doubt of the profound impact he had on people whose lives were then in the process of being formed.

It continues here.

For me, I loved Ziggy Stardust & subsequent albums, wandered away during the Berlin trilogy due to a busy life but thought Let’s Dance etc was wonderful. A true artist who wasn’t afraid to try different things, to accept that sometimes they didn’t work, to learn from that and then move on.

My favourite lyric come from the song Bewlay Brothers on the album Hunky Dory. I have no idea what it means but I just love the words.

And my brother lays upon the rocks
He could be dead, he could be not, he could be you
He’s chameleon, comedian, Corinthian and caricature
Shooting up pie in the sky

RIP Mr Jones and thanks for all the times I helped the people dance with you.

2016 #15