Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"Still a Force of Nature"

The May 14, 2009 issue of Rolling Stone has an article about Bob Dylan that quotes Dylan on Chuck Berry:

A friendship has developed between Dylan and Berry over the years. "Chuck said to me, 'By God, I hope you live to be 100, and I hope I live forever,'" Dylan says with a laugh. "He said that to me a couple of years ago. In my universe, Chuck is irreplaceable... All that brilliance is still there, and he's still a force of nature. As long as Chuck Berry's around, everything 's as it should be. This is a man who has been through it all. The world treated him so nasty. But in the end, it was the world that got beat."

Rolling Stone 1078 May 14, 2009.

The Philosophy of Chuck Berry

I've always quoted him as my chief philosopher. To paraphrase a bit that I remember:

"The key is to not infringe on others. If you're alone in Berry Park you can do whatever you want."

But I understand Chuck Berry doesn't like to be paraphrased. So here it is from his own mouth.


Monday, April 13, 2009

Working in the filling station, too many tasks...

Speaking of Bob... (Too Much Monkey Business below)

Johnny's in the basement
Mixing up the medicine
I'm on the pavement
Thinking about the government
The man in the trench coat
Badge out, laid off
Says he's got a bad cough
Wants to get it paid off
Look out kid
It's somethin' you did
God knows when
But you're doin' it again
You better duck down the alley way
Lookin' for a new friend
The man in the coon-skin cap
In the big pen
Wants eleven dollar bills
You only got ten

Maggie comes fleet foot
Face full of black soot
Talkin' that the heat put
Plants in the bed but
The phone's tapped anyway
Maggie says that many say
They must bust in early May
Orders from the D. A.
Look out kid
Don't matter what you did
Walk on your tip toes
Don't try "No Doz"
Better stay away from those
That carry around a fire hose
Keep a clean nose
Watch the plain clothes
You don't need a weather man
To know which way the wind blows

Get sick, get well
Hang around a ink well
Ring bell, hard to tell
If anything is goin' to sell
Try hard, get barred
Get back, write braille
Get jailed, jump bail
Join the army, if you fail
Look out kid
You're gonna get hit
But users, cheaters
Six-time losers
Hang around the theaters
Girl by the whirlpool
Lookin' for a new fool
Don't follow leaders
Watch the parkin' meters

Ah get born, keep warm
Short pants, romance, learn to dance
Get dressed, get blessed
Try to be a success
Please her, please him, buy gifts
Don't steal, don't lift
Twenty years of schoolin'
And they put you on the day shift
Look out kid
They keep it all hid
Better jump down a manhole
Light yourself a candle
Don't wear sandals
Try to avoid the scandals
Don't wanna be a bum
You better chew gum
The pump don't work
'Cause the vandals took the handles

Copyright ©1965; renewed 1993 Special Rider Music

And Speaking of Chuck...

Runnin' to and fro, hard workin' at the mill
Never fail in the mail, here come a rotten bill
Too much monkey business, too much monkey business
Too much monkey business for me to be involved in it

Salesman talking to me tryin' to run me up a creek
Says you can buy it, go on try it, you can pay me next week, ah!
Too much monkey business, too much monkey business
Too much monkey business for me to be involved in

Blonde have good looks tryin' to get me hooked
Want me to marry, get a home, settle down, write a book
Too much monkey business, too much monkey business
Too much monkey business for me to be involved in

Same thing every day, gettin' up, goin' to school
No need of me complainin', my objections overruled. Ah!
Too much monkey business, too much monkey business
Too much monkey business for me to be involved in

Pay phone, somethin' wrong, dime gone,
Well, me I ought to sue the operator for tellin' me a tale
Ah, too much monkey business, too much monkey business
Too much monkey business for me to be involved in

I been to Yokohama, been a fightin' in the war
Army bunk, army chow, army clothes, army car
Ha, too much monkey business, too much monkey business
Too much monkey business for me to be involved in

Workin' in the fillin' station, too many tasks
Wipe the windows, check the tires, check the oil, "dollar gas"
Too much monkey business, too much monkey business
I don't want your botheration, go away, leave me be

Words and Music by Chuck Berry

Me, too...

Bob Dylan, interviewed about his new record...

"A lot of this album feels like a Chess record from the fifties. Did you have that sound in your head going in or did it come up as you played?

Well some of the things do have that feel. It’s mostly in the way the instruments were played.

You like that sound?

Oh yeah, very much so. . "

Another influence (and how NOT to act at your next Chuck Berry concert.)

"Illinois Jaquet, too-- big influence.

His guitar player?

No, Illinois himself! His choice of notes, his melodies, you'll hear it in my music if you know how to listen."

(Interview by Tom Wheeler in Guitar Player, Vol. 22, No. 3, March 1988)

My problem is that I didn't know about Illinois Jaquet, so I don't know where to find the best example-- but here he is in a 1940s film. (Dig them hipsters!)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Flyin' Home

"Guitar playing, a person named Charlie Chirstian, guitarist for Benny Goodman, T-Bone Walker, and Carl Hogan-- I think those three would be on guitar." Interview in Rolling Stone, June 14, 1969.

Chuck Berry was at U.C. Berkeley when he gave that interview-- or answered questions at the student union there. He's nothing if not consistent. In his autobiography he describes his first days learning to play the guitar.

"I picked up a lot of new swing riffs and ideas from Ira's playing, which was similar to the style of Charlie Christian's."

In 1967 Berry recorded the Goodman/Christian song "Flying Home" for Mercury records, then recorded his own reworking of the song for Chess on "Back Home." The Mercury version is jazzy; the Chess version, more of a rock song, is full of optimisim and energy-- my favorite Chuck Berry instrumental.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Johnny B. Really, Really Goode

Dig These Rhythm and Blues...

The things you find on YouTube! I don't know where this is, and can only guess that it's from 1964 or thereabouts-- but it's a younger Chuck Berry than the one I saw for the first time around 1970.