Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"You Can Walk Down Beale Street, Honey, Wearing Your Pajamas..."

The poet Chuck Berry's "mamas" were always encouraging (borrowing money to buy Johnny's guitar, telling him his name would be in lights some day, standing and waiving at the kitchen door...).

So was mine.  It's her birthday.

Here are the lyrics to one of my favorite Chuck Berry songs from the otherwise sad Mercury years.   (This one would would really nice done slow, with horns, on a new record!)  On the Memphis record it was done fast, with horns and great rhythm guitar.  The words are perfect poetry.

Back to Memphis

I've been struggling up here, child, trying to make a living

Everybody wants to take, nobody likes giving
I wish I was in Memphis back home there with my Mama
The only clothes I got left that ain't rags is my pajamas
No brotherly love, no help, no danger
Just a great big town full of cold hearted strangers

I went hungry in New York and Chicago was no better
But today, my dear mother wrote and told me in her letter
Son, come back to Memphis and live here with your Mama
You can walk down Beale Street, honey, wearing your pajamas
You know home folks here, we let do just what you want to
And I born you and raised you right here on the corner

I'm going to leave here in the morning and walk down to the station
I've got just enough money to pay my transportation
I'm going back to Memphis, back home with my Mama
If I have to ride that bus barefooted in pajamas
Back home in Memphis, no moaning and groaning
I know everything will be all right in the morning

By the way-- my dear mother always accepted me and my Chuck Berry problem.  ("Home folks here we let you do just what you wanna!")  After seeing the opening scene of "Let The Good Times Roll," where Chuck Berry plays "School Day," she admitted to being downright thrilled.  "I think now I understand why you get so excited about it," she told me.  "That was powerful!"

She'd be 96 today.  That's why it's so cool he's still out there singing those great songs.


Anonymous said...

Back to Memphis... That's a real classic. And they say his creative period ended in the 50's!

Peter said...

The people who say that have to ignore this one, and Nadine, Promised Land, and You Never Can Tell, and No Particular Place to Go, and Tulane, and Have Mercy Judge, and My Poem, and Oh Louisiana, and Bio, and Got it and Gone, and Move It-- and about 15,000 live shows, made up on the spot, with new musicians just about every time. For anyone else, that's a legendary career all by itself.

stefano said...

And Guys please don't forget "Chucks poems" that he sometimes recites Live, They are truly wonderful a couple of which can be found in his book on pages 325 onwards, but the one he has recited Live is not there....I know the last verse like "sitting on a rocking chair....and from Shai and so on I am sure you know the one I mean Peter...? Ps Thank for your Post reply{Minding your own business} Great work as usual

Peter said...

Stefano-- I never have had the luck to hear him recite a poem live (although I got the "letter from home" bit last time!) It's a reason to keep going back. Peter

Anonymous said...

i love the version by the Band also. Levon Helm singing - always great