I keep seeing and hearing references to the "new" material-- "new" meaning anything recorded at a studio from 1979 until now. I hope he puts some of it out soon, and all of it out eventually. (It would be the perfect final set from Hip-O Select.)
Here are quotes from two old clippings in my file, both from 8 plus years ago, when Chuck Berry was turning 75, both telling the complicated, contradictory truth.
“…I’m not an oldies act,” Chuck Berry told Rolling Stone’s Mark Jacobson (RS 883/884 Dec. 6-13, 2001). “The music I play, it is a ritual. Something that matters to people in a special way. I wouldn’t want to interfere with that.”
I say interfere. The "ritual" aspect is true. But I'd like to hear some of the songs he doesn't play. "Tulane." "Have Mercy Judge." "Oh Louisiana." I'd like to hear some of the ballads he knows, whether he wrote them or not.
(Even some of the old classics rarely get played. I don't think I've ever heard "Too Much Monkey Business" or "Promised Land" at a concert. I know I've never heard "Havana Moon," "Brown Eyed Handsome Man," "Dear Dad," or so many others.)
But we were talking about records-- or more specifically, a new one.
The New Yorker, (January 21, 2002), gave a description of a new song, still unreleased, called “Darlin’”:
“It’s a country tinged ballad to his daughter Ingrid that begins,
‘Darlin’, your father’s growing older, I fear;
strains of gray are showing bolder each year.
Lay your head upon my shoulder, my dear:
Time is fading fast away.’
He goes on to sing of death and tells how tired he’s grown of playing his ancient hits and doing his trademark duckwalk for the pleasure of baby boomers. In record stores, his CDs are always in the “Vintage” section. “It’s an insult,” Berry said. “But this new album should help me bust out of that ghetto.”
Bust out, Mr. Berry!
Both are great articles about a great man, full of wonderful details. Berry tells Brinkley about the horror of French food. When Jacobson visits a St. Louis recording studio to hear some new work, the dog-eared original copy of the lyrics to “Havana Moon” falls from a cardboard box. Both articles give bits and pieces of new songs and poetry most of us have yet to hear.
Berry tells Jacobson: “For many years I’ve been reluctant to make new songs. There has been a great laziness in my soul. Lots of days I could write songs, but I could also take my $400 and play the slot machines at the riverfront casino. In a way, I feel it might be-ill mannered to try and top myself.”
Ah, Mr. Berry! Please, be rude as you like! Top yourself!
As a young man he pushed Beethoven aside. As an elderly man he doesn't need sharp shoulders. We'll circle around to listen for sure.