Sunday, December 31. 2017
Does it make sense to write a review of a book you'll never read? Maybe. I got this nice little book for Christmas and would like to share it with you. It's about Chuck Berry, kind of. But unfortunately it's available in German language only.
Bissingheim is a suburb of Duisburg which itself is a suburb of the largest megacity in Germany, the Ruhrgebiet. Duisburg is best known for having the world largest in-land port.
"Chuck Berry over Bissingheim", subtitled "The true story of rock and roll", is a 2017 book by Frank "Zepp" Oberpichler. Oberpichler is a German musician and writer. He played guitar in various cover bands such as "Ten Beers After", "Substitute" or "Freeway Cash" and published some CDs alone and with US or German musicians. His homepage is at http://www.oberpichler.de.
In "Chuck Berry over Bissingheim", the first-person protagonist tells about his Grandpa ("Oppa") Wallusch, an electrical engineer working at the railroads. Oppa Wallusch just passed and his grandson remembers the stories they shared. So we learned that while Bissingheim was never on the tour plan of any famous rock band (or any unknown highschool band either), Bissingheim was indeed the birthplace of Rock'n'Roll.
Oppa Wallusch learned to play guitar in the early 1940s while staying in England during the war. He got friends with an American Blues musician by the name of Big Joe Turner. Back home Wallusch formed a band which on weekends played at weddings and barn dances near Bissingheim. Here Oppa Wallusch merged Blues with Polka dance music and created what he called "Ruck und Roll".
Over the years, his employer sent Wallusch to England and to the States several times and wherever he went, Oppa Wallusch left his traces by educating young musicians or helping them write famous songs. Together with Jim Marshall he invented the guitar amplifier and taught Jimi Hendrix and Pete Townshend how to use it. Wallusch met Woody Guthrie and Jerry Garcia, was on stage at Woodstock and shaped rock music as we know it.
A whole chapter covers Wallusch's stay in Chicago in the late 1940s where he met and educated Chuck Berry on how to do the "Ruck und Roll", how to play guitar and how to write story songs.
The book is a report of Wallusch's talks with his grandson. But concurrently the book is its own soundtrack album. The chapter headings read Track 1 to Track 11 (along with run-in and run-out). Each chapter starts with a quote from a famous railway song (which Wallusch might have been involved in). And each chapter includes the lyrics of a German-language song Wallusch wrote and which is very close to a hit you might remember. Unfortunately no recordings of Wallusch's originals survived.
Track 11 is a song about a guy trying to get a number from the operator to get his loved-one on the phone. The lyrics end explaining that the guy is trying to phone his daughter, not his girl-friend. Wallusch's song is called "Meiderich - Kennen Sie?". (Meiderich is another suburb of Duisburg, "Kennen Sie" is German for "Do you know".) And, believe it or not, Chuck Berry took Wallusch's idea and melody to create a famous English-language version.
Oberpichler's book is a nice read. It could have used less slang, though. I guess even many Germans will not fully understand Wallusch's recollections. But mainly I wish the book would have been longer: Just eleven tracks are much too short for a soundtrack album nowadays.
It's a pity nobody else remembers Oppa Wallusch, this hero of Rock'n'Roll. Even in Bissingheim he is long forgotten, as Oberpichler shows in this nice video trying to find the roots of rock music in Duisburg: https://youtu.be/45WnyUKgkzY
If you can read German, get yourself a copy at your local bookstore using the ISBN 9783942094726. The book is also available at amazon.com or amazon.de. Recommended.
Monday, December 25. 2017
Some time ago this blog had a large article on cover variants of the album Chuck Berry On Stage (Chess LP-1480). I had promised a follow-up on Vinyl variants of this album and because a recent discussion with a reader showed that most information about this album floating around on the Net is incorrect, here it comes.
Letâs start with some background information: From early 1962 to late 1963 Chuck Berry was behind bars. Berryâs previous records sold poorly due to his trials. During his prison stay he was not allowed to record new material in the studios. His record company CHESS only had a small stock of unreleased recordings.
Thus the record company was caught cold when new bands on both sides of the Atlantic became successful by covering Berry material. The Beach Boys' Surfinâ USA was released in March 1963, the Stonesâ version of Come On in June. Memphis was a hit by Lonnie Mack and the Beatles had several Berry songs in their repertoire.
There was an urgent need for a new Berry album, but there was nothing to put on it. The Chess brothers dug through their archives and looked for unreleased material recorded during the previous years. They found four tracks recorded August 1961 which they considered worth for release: Trick or Treat, The Man And The Donkey, All Aboard, and a re-recording of Brown Eyed Handsome Man. Two recordings were left from an April 1960 session: Crying Steel and I Still Got The Blues. And there was I Just Want To Make Love To You recorded in July 1959. These seven songs were selected. Today we know that there were other unreleased recordings such as House Of Blue Lights, Time Was, 21 Blues, Oh Yeah, Do You Love Me, Iâm Just A Lucky So And So, or Adulteen. None was regarded as appropriate by the studio bosses, though.
Seven songs are not enough for an album and none of it was good enough for a single. So what to do?
The Chess brothers were known for their creativity so they came up with a creative solution. Why not fill the album with older material released some years ago? OK, they already did a Greatest Hits album called Chuck Berry Twist in 1962. But why not change the hits a little bit so nobody notices?
Letâs use different song titles and letâs add some audience noise to make the album sound like it was recorded live! To disguise this fake even more, the Chess brothers asked Rodney Jones ,who was a DJ with the Chess-owned WVON radio station, to add a little introduction. So Jones proudly announces âWelcome to the Tivoli Theatre here in Chicago ...â
The editing and engineering work to add the fake applause and Jonesâ shouts must have been done by Ralph Bass and Ron Malo sometime in May 1963. The two album sides were mastered from the resulting tape by the end of May or beginning of June and received the Chess master numbers 12477 (side 1, 16â25â) and 12478 (side 2, 14â14â).
Not telling anyone about the fake nature of this album, the liner notes proudly lied:
On this LP we present the world famous Chuck Berry in a jumping, in-person theatre appearance with thousands of fans enthusiastically responding to Chuckâs great performance. Any performer will tell you that he prefers to record in front of a live audience. There is nothing like the cheers and applause of an audience to spur a performer on to the heights of his ability and Chuck really gives his all in front of this packed theatre.
To completely confuse the buyers, the album came without a track listing. The back cover has a non-ordered and incomplete list of songs contained (and the image of an eight-year old LP). The labels simply say Side One and Side Two without any song titles at all. This obfuscation has resulted in incorrect track listings on the Net. Despite everything you read on discogs or wikipedia, the contents of the original US album Chuck Berry On Stage, released in August 1963 as CHESS LP-1480, is as follows:
How High The Moon is a 1940s jazz standard. The version heard here has been recorded during a May 1957 session. Chuck Berry, Willie Dixon, Lafayette Leake and Fred Below probably used it as an instrumental warm-up.
On CHESS LP-1480 the recording is not listed on the cover and used as an instrumental sign-off (as such named on the Dutch albums). Again Rodney Jones was overdubbed to shout âChuck Berry! Chuck Berry! Chuck Berry!â during the first seconds. Shortly thereafter and almost with the first notes from Berryâs guitar, the song fades after 1:03 minutes.
Copies of the original master disk 12477/12478 went to partner companies all over the world and were used to create variants of LP-1480 e.g. in Canada, in Australia, in the Netherlands (note that the Funckler version misprints Surfing Steel as Surfinâ USA), and as re-issues e.g. in Germany (on Bellaphon in 1974) or the only available CD version which was released in Japan (on Universal in 2010).
Of interest to record collectors are variations of the Chuck Berry On Stage album which are not exact copies of the original master disks.
For some reason the UK version, released in October 1963 on PYE international, has not been produced from the LP-1480 master disks. Instead this album must have been created from the original master tapes. Where Side 2 was faded at 14â14â in the US, the British producers found additional space so the second side of PYE NPL-28027 lasts 14â56â instead. Here How High The Moon is 1â45â in contrast to the 1â03â on the CHESS LP.
This longer fade is also on the 1970s US orange/blue re-issue LPS-1480. The LPS version has been electronically altered to sound like stereo. To create this âenhancedâ variant CHESS/GRT modified the original longer tape and created a new master called 12477_S/12478_S.
Likewise the 1964 variant released in East Asia (Japan and Taiwan) was created from the longer master tape since How High The Moon has the longer fade here as well. There is a huge difference, though. The East Asian versions miss the instrumental Surfing Steel completely! The song was removed from the tape giving a smooth transition from Maybellene to Let It Rock.
We can only speculate why this was done. Maybe the tape sent to Japan was damaged, maybe there was a company or legal rule not to include instrumentals, or maybe Surfing Steel would translate to bad language in Japanese â pure speculation as said. Or maybe it had to do with the liner notes on the US cover saying
We guarantee that you wonât be able to sit still when you put this album on your turntable and hear Chuck Berryâs versions of Maybelline, Surfinâ USA, Memphis, All Aboard, Trick or Treat and seven other numbers.So the Japanese took this literally and reduced the thirteen track album to twelve numbers. Note aside: The British could count and changed the word seven to eight on the PYE release.
Another interesting aspect of the Japanese release is the corrected track listing on the back cover. The printed cover has a track listing which follows the incorrect list on the US cover, i.e. Go Go Go after Rockin' On The Railroad. This fault was repaired using a yellow sticker which lists the correct track order. The initial Japanese records, probably those used as promo copies, came with a white Imperial label and a thin sticker through which you can see the original print. Later records then had a Globe label and an opaque sticker.
In 1982 the On Stage album was re-issued in Germany as part of a 2 LP set along with Rockinâ At The Hops. This version has Surfing Steel but omits How High The Moon completely.
And finally thereâs the most interesting French version, released on Barclay 80258 in March 1965 as Chuck Berry A L'Olympia. This variant of Chuck Berry On Stage contains the same recordings in the same sequence, though without the two songs having Rodney Jones overdubbed: Go Go Go and How High the Moon were cut off. Instead the French had their own announcer. Eddy Mitchell, a successful RockânâRoll singer by himself, is heard with a French language introduction to side 1 which then starts into Memphis, Tennessee. And Chuck Berry himself speaks the introduction to side 2. In addition a few shouts and stage banter from Berry is merged in between the songs on the tape. Berry refers to Paris and tries to speak French. Both Eddy Mitchellâs introduction and Berryâs segments have been recorded at a Paris concert on February 7, 1965. So this is Chuck Berry on stage, indeed. Just the songs are the same as on the US version having the fake audience.
As always: Many thanks to Thierry Chanu and Morten Reff for providing images and a lot of additional information about the 'Chuck Berry On Stage' album.
[Edit 08-01-2018: Added comment and images for the Japanese sticker version.]
Wednesday, December 13. 2017
CBID is the Chuck Berry International Directory, a 2.200 page pile of Chuck Berry records information published in four volumes between 2008 and 2013. For details see the bibliography section of this site.
CBID is never complete as new records and CDs appear and some old rarities are discovered. This section presents interesting additions and corrections to CBID.
Today: Universal Japan re-issued their Mini-LPs, some singles were found or newly released, there's a postcard from Poland, and some bootlegs of unknown origin.
In June 2017 following the death of Chuck Berry, Universal Japan re-issued their 2010 package of 16 original US Chess albums with bonus tracks (page 2007). All had new catalog numbers as follows:
AFTER SCHOOL SESSION - Universal (Chess) UICY-78357 • June 2017
ONE DOZEN BERRYS - Universal (Chess) UICY-78358 • June 2017
BERRY IS ON TOP - Universal (Chess) UICY-78359 • June 2017
ROCKINâ AT THE HOPS - Universal (Chess) UICY-78360 • June 2017
NEW JUKE BOK HITS - Universal (Chess) UICY-78361 • June 2017
TWIST - Universal (Chess) UICY-78362 • June 2017
CHUCK BERRY ON STAGE - Universal (Chess) UICY-78363 • June 2017
ST. LOUIS TO LIVERPOOL - Universal (Chess) UICY-78364 • June 2017
CHUCK BERRY IN LONDON - Universal (Chess) UICY-78365 • June 2017
FRESH BERRYâS - Universal (Chess) UICY-78366 • June 2017
BACK HOME - Universal (Chess) UICY-78367 • June 2017
SAN FRANCISCO DUES - Universal (Chess) UICY-78368 • June 2017
LONDON SESSIONS - Universal (Chess) UICY-78369 • June 2017
BIO - Universal (Chess) UICY-78370 • June 2017
CHUCK BERRY - Universal (Chess) UICY-78371 • June 2017
HAIL! HAIL! ROCKâNâROLL - Universal (Chess) UICY-78372 • June 2017
And in July 2017 Universal Japan finally released the 5 Mercury CD albums with the extra tracks that came out in the US in 1989 (pages 102-104). As with the 16 Chess albums each CD is packaged in a replica mini LP sleeve.
GOLDEN HITS - Universal UICY-78376 • July 2017
CHUCK BERRY IN MEMPHIS - Universal UICY-78377 • July 2017
LIVE AT THE FILLMORE AUDITORIUM - Universal UICY-78378 • July 2017
FROM ST. LOUIE TO FRISCO - Universal UICY-78379 • July 2017
CONCERTO IN B GOODE - Universal UICY-78380 • July 2017
Rock And Roll Music / Blue Feeling (instr)
The label says âDeep Feelingâ but plays âBlue Feelingâ.
Nadine / OâRangutang (instr)
âNadineâ is in stereo, and âOâRangutangâ is the complete three-minute version. This is astonishing as according to common belief the unabridged version was first released on a British CD in 1998. Further research then revealed that there was an even earlier release in the late 1960s. See the US single below.
Reelinâ And Rockinâ (1957) / My Ding-A-Ling (single edit)
See pages 273 and 1993 for the other singles in this series regarding especially the year of all three releases, as the labels on the above singles say 1981.
Nadine / OâRangutang (instr)
The original 1964 release exists with three different labels. Page 29 shows these labeled first to third pressing, though it seems that these labels were used concurrently in different pressing plants. All had âNadineâ in mono and âOâRangutangâ faded at 2:18. On this light-blue label re-release âNadineâ is in stereo, and âOâRangutangâ is the complete three-minute take heard here for the first time!
SAN FRANCISCO DUES
Same cover as US album from 1971.
School Day / Sweet Little Sixteen
This is record no.3 in a series of 10 7â singles released as a box-set by Demon Records in the UK, titled âRock ânâ Roll Classic 45sâ Classic-45001. The two songs are the original classic Chess cuts. The other greats are Bill haley & His Comets, Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, The Everly Brothers, Carl Perkins, Fats Domino and Gene Vincent. Talking about the Golden Era of rockânâroll from the â50s, two are missing, Elvis and Bo Diddley. They should have made 12.
Guitar Boogie (instr)
Polish sound postcard, 15x11 cm, colour picture of flowers in a vase and the grooves pressed onto it. The card says it plays âThings I Used To Doâ but it doesnât.
BOOTLEGS - EUROPE (?)These are two bootlegs which combine sides from past records including their original labels each.
Havana Moon / El Loco Cha Cha (Rene Touzet)
This is a reissue combining Havana Moon (1956) by Berry on one side and El Loco Cha Cha (1955) by Rene Touzet on the other. It is advertised as being the roots of âLouie Louieâ. The song by Rene Touzet has actually nothing to do with Havana Moon but the opening of El Loco Cha-Cha has something to do with Louie Louie. It has the same riff, so to speak.
You Can't Catch Me / The Downbound Train
This is a repro (bootleg) since the two songs were not on the same single back then in '56. Anyway, there's no matrix numbers either, just the title on each side written by hand in the dead wax. I bought it from a seller in the UK so it was released in Europe, probably pressed in Kroatia or something like the Berry/Touzet one.
Monday, December 4. 2017
[This article first appeared here on December 16, 2014. Just recently Thierry Chanu found yet another cover variant of LP-1480. Therefore I re-post this blog entry with Thierry's addition edited in below.]
[Now that was fast: A week ago we proudly presented our finding of the very rare sticker version of CHESS LP-1480. And we asked some questions which this finding opened. Immediately I received several emails from our French reader Thierry Chanu which not only answered our open questions but also contributed much much more. Thus we have to re-write the story of 'Chuck Berry On Stage'.]
When you read about the 'Chuck Berry On Stage' album released as CHESS LP-1480 in August 1963, such writing often comes with a photo of the album cover looking like this:
This is typically considered to be the original cover of CHESS LP-1480. As such for instance it was used for the Japanese mini-LP replica Universal Music Japan UICY-94630 we wrote about in October 2010.
While this is the best known cover for this album and certainly is the variant sold most often, it is not necessarily the 'original' album cover — if you define 'original' as the first version of this cover.
The interesting thing to look at is the line saying including "MEMPHIS" & "SURFIN' USA" above the artist name. It is printed in black letters and refers to the then current famous cover versions of Memphis, Tennessee and Sweet Little Sixteen (as Surfin' USA).
When Morten Reff described Berry's seventh CHESS album on page 60 in his Chuck Berry International Directory, Volume 1, he noted:
The original pressings of this LP had a sticker on the front cover saying 'Including "MEMPHIS" & "SURFIN' USA"'.
Thus there was no printing, just a sticker containing the same wording as the printed text, though 'Including' is written with a capital I. The text on the sticker is in blue instead of black and it uses a different font.
The sticker version is very rare. We were happy to finally get one and we proudly presented it here last week. (Click for a higher resolution image.)
A contemporary ad from Chess showed a black and white image of the sticker version of the album. And the sticker seems to be applied hastily just before the photo shooting as crooked as it is.
Thierry Chanu then wrote that he as well has a version of this album having the sticker. Though his has been sent out as a promotional advance copy to DJs and marked as such. Here's the back of Thierry's copy:
Given that the sticker is both on the advertisement and on the advance copies, we can state that the sticker version existed before the printed version. It must have been commercially available as well, since Morten's copy is not a promotional one.
There seem to have been two variants of this sticker. The images above show that the sticker contains just the incorrect song title "Surfin' USA". There's a second version of the sticker which adds the correct song title "Sweet Little Sixteen" in small print below "Surfin' USA". Here's a photo of the second sticker version:
What may be under the sticker, we then asked, as it would be logical that there was no printed text there. So last week we wrote this request to all Chuck Berry collectors reading this site:
Do you have a copy of CHESS LP 1480 which has no sticker and no printing of the 'including' text? If you do, send us an image and we would be happy to show it here.
Yes, the cover exists without the sticker. I have one and the record label is black with the golden CHESS on top. It has the same label, writing, and matrix as the DJ copy.
Here's the proof from Thierry's collection:
The second part of Thierry's reply refers to the other question we had wondered about: When receiving the sticker version album, Morten had found
"The copy I bought features the second label, the black label (repress) image on page 60."
Thierry's two records make clear that the label with the golden logo is not from a later re-pressing such as Morten's book had suggested. Obviously this is the original label (left: non-sticker version, right: DJ copy), at least for the early copies.
As this was the brand-new CHESS label containing the new multi-colored logo, it's safe to assume that CHESS wanted at least the DJs see this new logo and label. Thierry however makes clear that one has to be careful to distinguish CHESS records just by their label into 'original' and 'later' pressings.
Chess used three or four pressing plants at the same time, so we can find an original record with different labels.
These are additional early labels of CHESS LP-1480. All came in the third variant of the cover, i.e. the one with the printed text. Even though these look like earlier CHESS labels, we probably shall regard them as used interchangeably at the same time.
Once more Thierry:
Here's one more regular copy with the black label and vertical Chess logo (different than the other black). This one though has been pressed using a different matrix. It was pressed by the Monarch pressing plant in July 1963. This can be told by the etching located in the run-off (dead wax) area of the record. The Monarch pressing plant is identified by an MR inside a circle, always in the trail-off area. The numbers following this symbol tell the date of mastering.
Thus we can sum up the history of CHESS LP-1480 as follows:
To show just a few of these variants, Thierry arranged this photo:
Many thanks to Thierry Chanu for providing all the additional information about the 'Chuck Berry On Stage' album. If we ever find the time, we'll continue this story with the international releases of this album which have different overdubs, longer fades, completely different covers (in multiple variation) and so on... [Done: http://www.crlf.de/ChuckBerry/blog/archives/235-Vinyl-variants-of-CHESS-LP-1480-Chuck-Berry-On-Stage.html]
Monday, November 6. 2017
[Editors note: Thierry Chanu owns one of the largest collections of Chuck Berry records I know of, maybe the second largest world-wide after Morten's. For some time Thierry has provided us with many details about Berry recordings and releases. You've seen his name mentioned in various blog posts lately. As this entry is based solely on Thierry's work, it's only fair to list him as the author. Please welcome Thierry to the team of writers of this blog!]
In June we started to make a list of variations of the CHUCK album we had found by then. Here's a second, more complete list. It's still not exhaustive, so if you have additions, let us know.
For those of you who want all the different releases of the CHUCK album, this is your shopping list. Let's start with the Vinyl releases. The same gatefold cover is used for the US and EUROPE markets. The records are different, though:
Decca 00602557561241, black wax
etching in deadwax on side 1: BH 73415-01 A1 HL 5575 612, on side 2: BH 73415-01 B1 HL 5575 612
etching in deadwax on side 1: DUAI-1793A 5-99804 carl-JLM, on side 2: DUAI-1793B 5-99805 carl-JLM
clear red wax
white wax (Barnes&Nobles exclusive edition)
NOTE:Â Black is the rarest, red is for audiophiles, white is for the beauty.
The CD album comes in a lot more variations:
Decca 00602557561142, digipack with lyric/photo book inside
matrix print on CD: 5756114 15A00IFPI L555 SONY DACC universal ifpi 948t
UK - Promotional Copy
Decca no number, single sleeve, watermarked and traceable
matrix print on CD: Z.... might be traceable thus excluded here
Dualtone 80302-01793-25, digipack with lyric/photo book inside
matrix print on CD: V30432 CRT DUA1793 3/27/17Â 10:21:36 AM
Decca 060255756114 AA0001000, digipack with more glossy paper, lyric/photo book inside
matrix print on CD: /#/ NOVODISC CD /#/ 060255756114 49353
Decca UICO-1293 in jewel caseÂ with book + obi, eight pages in Japanese
matrix print on CD: IFPI LT46 UICO-1293 MT 262
Decca 00602557561142, digipack with lyric/photo book inside
matrix print on CD: universal 0 51 00 317 universal IFPI LK76 5756114
Decca 5756114, digipack with lyric/photo book inside
matrix print on CD: universal ANZ ifpi lv90 5756114 A0101090118-0101 15
Decca 00602557561142, in jewel case with lyric/photo book
The cover say Decca, the CD says Dualtone, so this might be a bootleg
matrix print on CD: IFPI LP7612 V30432 CRT DUA 1793
While you can buy digital downloads of every single song from the album, there haven't been any physical singles (CD or Vinyl) available in stores. There have been several physical promotional singles, though:
US - Big Boys
Dualtone DUA-1793-S1, jewel case, back insert only
matrix print on CD: ZIE.... individual
UK - Big Boys
Decca no number, single sleeve
matrix print on CD: ZIE.... individual
UK - Wonderful Woman
Decca no number, single sleeve
matrix print on CD: ZIE.... individual
NOTE: If you have a friend who works for a media press agency or on the radio market THIS IS THE ONE TO HAVE. This edited version is 3:38 minutes instead of the album version which runs 5:19 minutes. See the database for details.
UK - Lady B. Goode
Decca no number, single sleeve
matrix print on CD: ZIE.... individual
Friday, November 3. 2017
We often get the same kind of questions:
I have this and this Chuck Berry record or a whole collection of Chuck Berry records. How much is it worth?
Most askers are disappointed with our reply. There are a very few records which value a significant amount. For all others the main problem is not the value but to find a collector interested who doesn't already own it.
Less and less collectors exist and for records which you paid $100 some years ago you're lucky if someone pays $10 today.
A good example is last month's auction of records and memorabilia from the collection of BBC's famous DJ "Dr. Rock". The auction company was wise enough not to offer each record on its own. Instead they created a lot of all the Berry albums.
So they offered a
Collection of 36 Chuck Berry LP records including Chuck Berry The Chess Box Set, The Latest and The Greatest, I Am A Rocker, New Jukebox Hits, One Dozen Berries, Greatest Hits, After School Session, Rockit, Chuck Berry at the Fillmore Auditorium, The London Chuck Berry Sessions x 2, The Greatest Hits Spot Records, Golden Decade Volume 3, Concerto in B Goode, You Never Can Tell, Golden Decade Volume 2, San Francisco Dues, You Never Can Tell Diploma For Two Marble Arch Records, Back in the USA Live Everest Records, Bio, Hail Hail Rock & Roll, Greatest Hits Marble Arch Records including Roll Over Beethoven, Rock & Roll Rarities from the Golden Era of Chess Records, Back Home, Chuck Berry's Golden Decade, The Blues Volume 1, Chuck Berry in Memphis, Fresh Berries, Hail Hail Rock & Roll MCA6217, Rock & Roll Rarities, Jukebox Hits, In London and Chuck Berry Americas Hottest Wax, many with copies of photographic prints of Chas White and Chuck Berry
This is an almost complete collection of Berry's UK albums from the 1960's onwards, mostly unplayed. See here.
The estimated value was 80 to 120 UK Pounds, i.e. $100 to $150. It sold for 85 UK Pounds, i.e. approximately $110 or $3/record. Go figure.
Tuesday, October 10. 2017
The previous blog entry was about a newly released Chuck Berry live recording which was said to stem from a KBCO broadcast in the early 1990's.
We finally found out when and where this was recorded. And the interesting thing is that it comes from a show which is in our sessionography database already.
The hint to solve the KBCO show mystery came from Thierry Chanu who saw a YouTube posting called Chuck Berry at Wolf and Rissmiller's.
Poster markbrow explains that this one-hour audio is from a live broadcast on 94.7 KMET recorded at Wolf & Rissmiller's Country Club in Reseda, CA. You hear the KMET DJs introduce and sign-off the broadcast.
Listen to the recording of Bio halfway in the show. This is the exact same recording used on the new ROXVOX album where it is labeled as "KBCO-FM, Early 90s". Also the other four songs from the so-called KBCO tape are on markbrow's tape as well.
But there's more: Listen to Sweet Little Sixteen and the Carol / Little Queenie medley. Have you heard those before? Yes! They are on the famous Westwood One radio station album, the only one containing Berry live recordings not published otherwise. The tracks were re-released on the Sheik of Chicago CD last year.
Thus thanks to markbrow's tape we now know the origin of the mystery KBCO recordings. All three recordings (YouTube, radio station album, and KBCO tape) are from the same show.
The show was recorded on January 17th, 1981 at Wolf & Rissmiller's. Berry performed two sets this day using the same backup band consisting of Jim Marsala on bass, Johnny Rivers on guitar plus unknown pianist and drummer. Some source talked about the "Billy Ciofe Band", but this is unconfirmed. Rivers is introduced by name but doesn't sing, not even Memphis, Tennessee.
Read markbrow's description on YouTube and you already see it was a great show even before listening to it. Mark Brown of the Orange County Register remembers it in an 1999 article:
Today, he barely tours, and when he does it's a short, routine set as part of some oldies package.
Compared to other audience tapes from the late 70s, early 80s, the Reseda show is nothing special. Berry plays his greatest hits and leaves the stage after exactly 60 minutes. The main difference is the very good backing band, especially Johnny Rivers and the unknown piano player.
Strangely, reader Jeff told us in 2004 about the second set he attended:
I remember the line being around the block to get in. I was 21 at the time, and had been into Chuck since I was about 12. This was the first time I had a chance to see him, although I've seen him numerous times since.
Talking about the second show is of interest as well: The recording of Maybellene on the Westwood One radio station album is NOT the same as the one from markbrow's YouTube posting. Both sets have been recorded. The first one was broadcast live on KMET (as the DJ comments on YouTube prove). The second show (or at least part thereof) was recorded but not broadcast directly. Segments of both shows were kept for re-broadcast. CBS's Westwood One distributed Maybellene from the second show along with Sweet Little Sixteen and the Carol / Little Queenie medley from the first show on an album to radio stations nation-wide. The album was filled with recordings from a George Thorogood live show at Wolf & Rissmiller's, probably recorded a month later, February 19th, 1981. According to Wikipedia, the Chuck Berry show was the first of many live shows owner Norman J. Pattiz recorded for Westwood One.
Also the so-called KBCO tape is NOT from the KMET live broadcast. It is the same show, but in markbrow's posting on YouTube at the end of Bio there is a station identification from KMET which is not on the KBCO tape. Thus this tape was recorded from a re-broadcast, maybe on KBCO. It only has the last 30 minutes of the show though it's unclear if the first part was not broadcast or not recorded from radio.
The complete set of recordings from January 17th, 1981 thus consists of:
Maybellene (1st set) - 3:33 - KMET
Memphis, Tennessee - 3:38 - KMET
School Day - 1:59 - KMET
Roll Over Beethoven - 3:17 - KMET
Sweet Little Sixteen - 2:02 - Westwood One, KMET
Carol / Little Queenie - 7:06 - Westwood One, KMET
You Don't Have To Go / Lousiana Blues - 7:00 - KMET, last 3:27 only: KBCO
Bio - 5:27 - KMET, KBCO
Nadine - 5:45 - KMET, KBCO
Johnny B. Goode - 4:58 - KMET, KBCO
Reelin' & Rockin' / House Lights - 12:25 - KMET, KBCO
Maybellene (2nd set) - 2:15 - Westwood One
The recording descriptions in our database have been updated accordingly.
Thanks to markbrow, Thierry, and Jeff for helping to sort out these recordings.
Monday, September 11. 2017
All the fuss about the CHUCK album should not let us overlook the many other Chuck Berry releases from the last months.
When Fred informed me about the CD The Palladium New York '88 I wasn't too impressed. The Palladium show had been on the Smashing Pumpkin CD The Sheik of Chicago already which we wrote about last year. And as you know it's a high-quality but low-performance recording. Or as Fred wrote: "When you listen to it you can understand why [it has never had a legitimate release]. Chuck is renowned for performing unrehearsed and with a waywardly untuned guitar but on this particular night his fingers were also unrehearsed and untuned. While energy levels are high, the duff notes come thick and fast, falling in such infectious clusters that the pianist is tempted to join the discordance too. Add to this the thud, thud, thud of a tub thumping drummer and it's all rather disheartening." So why should we care?
Then I learned that this new release of the Palladium show is also available on Vinyl. The CD is ROXVOX RVCD2106, the Vinyl is LIVE ON VINYL LOV 2019LP.
As expected, the CD contains the same recording as last year's Smashing Pumpkin CD. It includes the radio station MC's announcement, though. And it has two bonus tracks!
The first bonus track is a very nice live recording of Bio said to be recorded for KBCO-FM of Boulder, Colorado and broadcast in the early 1990s. Recordings of this broadcast had been floating around as private tapes for long. The second bonus track called Riding Along is said to stem from the same broadcast and is also on the audience tapes noted. However, if you listen closely, this is just the plain old studio recording of No Particular Place To Go. The previously unreleased version of Bio is also on the Vinyl version which however misses four songs from the Palladium concert.
The Palladium New York '88 comes with a strange cover, as you see. In addition the track listing has many songs incorrectly named. The CD booklet does include some nicer Berry photos, though, and a reprint of both an 1987 L.A. Times interview and an 1985 biography from Associated Press which starts with "Born Charles Edward Anderson Berry in San Jose, California on January 15th 1926" ... Hey, at least they had the name right!
As said, the most interesting thing with this CD is the KBCO bonus track. I tried to research a bit about the origins of this recording but didn't succeed. So here's a summary of what I have been able to find out:
The surviving tape of the KBCO broadcast consists of five live tracks:
1: Louisiana Blues (Muddy Waters)
2: Bio (Chuck Berry)
3: Nadine (Chuck Berry)
4: Johnny B. Goode (Chuck Berry)
5: Reelin' and Rockin' (Chuck Berry) / House Lights (Chuck Berry)
Of interest is the first track as no Berry recording of this Muddy Waters tune has been released yet. The remaining are pretty standard for his 1990s concerts. Nadine comes with a lyrics change when Berry sings "I shouted to the driver: Hey conductor, you must - take me to Atlanta, Atlanta on a bus." Since Berry often changed lyrics according to the location of the concert, Atlanta might be a good guess. However, on Bio Berry claims "I'll be back here in Hollywood." This would point to an L.A. venue. Who known?
During the closing routine of Reelin' and Rockin', Berry in the "It wasn't me" segment typically talks about the drummer, the piano player or the bass man, all anonymously as he usually doesn't know their names. Here, however, Berry refers to the drummer, the bass man, and a "Johnny" the crowd cheers to. I had originally assumed this to be Berry's long-time pianist Johnnie Johnson, as there is a piano player on stage. Johnson toured with Berry in the late 1980s. But further listening reveals that the piano player is not good enough to be Johnnie Johnson.
Instead it seems to be the second guitarist who is Johnny. All five tracks, especially Bio include a second lead guitar which exchanges licks with Berry. And a good one! One source claims that this second guitar is played by Johnny Rivers, though no proof is given. It's possible, though. Rivers and Berry had several common performances, e.g. in various TV shows. Thus Berry would known him by name.
I searched around to find a concert where Berry and Rivers shared the same bill. And found one. In Colorado. In the late 1990s. And broadcast on radio. As far as I was able to find out, the only 1990s concert these two appeared on was the 1997 KOOL concert at Mile High Stadium, Denver, Colorado, on Saturday, June 14th, 1997. It seems that all KOOL concerts were recorded and broadcast by KXKL-FM (a.k.a. KOOL-105) at that time.
Now, Denver is not that far from Boulder, 1997 is not that far from 'early 1990s' and KXKL-FM is not that far from KBCO-FM. So maybe this recording wasn't "broadcast by KCBO of Boulder, Colorado in the early 1990s" but by KXKL of Denver, Colorado in 1997 instead.
But Denver would neither explain the Atlanta nor the Hollywood text change. Therefore we have to stick with the KCBO bit in our discography database until we learn better.
If you know more, let me know!
Many thanks to Frank Wilmot of the Denver Public Library and to Tyler Fey of Feyline Events Management for their help researching the Colorado concert and lineup.
Friday, July 21. 2017
You have been asking about the so-called photobook offered by Dualtone in combination with the CHUCK album.
There was absolutely no information about this book available from Dualtone except for the black cover. No Contents, no page numbers, nothing. So I finally bit the bullet and ordered one. (Note that Dualtone constantly changes the descriptions on their site. Since I ordered they included a small video of a hand browsing through the book.)
Here's my review for you to decide by yourself if you want one of not.
It is awfully expensive to get this photobook. In contrast to the early offers they at least allow ordering from outside the U.S. now. Dualtone's list price is $35 plus shipping. The cheapest shipping they offer is $23.38 to Europe. It took ten days to get me the package. Faster shipping is available at even higher costs. Shipping to your location might vary. A European buyer should thus expect at least $60 payment to Dualtone plus customs fees and taxes if they apply.
What you get is the size of an LP and has 40 sheets of paper, i.e. 80 pages. Most pages have a single image or document reproduction.
The images are often taken from Berry's own photo collection. But there are also lots of well-known images from PR shots or concerts. The quality of the photos vary a lot. While this is no surprise for seventy years old wedding photos, also newer photos have been scanned poorly or reprinted from magazines.
The selection and quality of the scanned documents vary even more. We'll see excerpts from Berry's correspondence files, some internal accounting, telegrams (wired messages) but also copies of newspaper articles or even sheet music. Many of this is damaged and seems to be taken from the burnt scrapbook Berry shows to Robbie Robertson on the Hail! Hail! Rock'n'Roll! DVD (four DVD set only, Image Entertainment ID3156THDVD, 2006).
Again there are some documents which we have seen before, but there's also some I haven't seen before. And this includes interesting stuff such as a 1957 inquiry by Elvis Presley Music, Inc. asking for Chuck to write material for Elvis.
The creators of this book were very keen to point out Berry's honors. So you'll see letters regarding Grammy and BMI awards, messages from Dick Clark, Carl Sagan, and Etta James. And you'll see thank-you letters from President Carter, from President Reagan, from Hillary and from Bill Clinton, and another from Bill, and another from the White House's Social Secretary, and ... You'll get the picture.
All in all you'll get a couple of interesting photos and documents, you'll get a lot you already know or which you don't care about. And what you don't get at all is any information on image source or contents.
Except for a few sentences in a non-signed foreword there is absolutely no text in this book. It would have been extremely helpful if not necessary to tell where a certain photo has been taken, or when, or who is shown next to Berry. Nothing. And where every book, magazine or CD booklet tries to give correct credit to the owner of a photo, here all is "from the Berry Family Archives". This is disappointing.
In summary you have to be a very enthusiastic Berry fan to enjoy the segments of the book which you don't already know. Take your time and wait until it gets cheaper - or at least sold in your country for less shipping.
Thursday, July 20. 2017
Chuck Berry's performance at the NBC Midnight Special show of October 12th, 1973 is well known. You can even view it using YouTube at
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5NwvAiRmvw (Reelin' And Rockin')
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1oaf2hEXwY (Johnny B. Goode)
Since Berry is backed by the Brothers Gibb, i.e. the Bee Gees, on this performance, audio copies of these segments were available in the Bee Gees collectors community on CDs. It wasn't clear, though, whether these CDs qualify for inclusion in our Chuck Berry sessionography database. We only include albums which have been commercially available and produced in quantities. This means we have all the official releases and the factory-produced bootlegs.
It took a looong time to find out, but in the end we can now tell that these Chuck Berry recordings have been made available on what seems to be true, pressed CDs. One example is Down The Road (Drifter CD 022, 2009). While I haven't seen a copy yet, at least I have seen photos of the CDs.
Many thanks to the Bee Gees experts GĂ¶ran Gustafsson of the Bee Gees Collection, Detlef Wange of the Private Bee Gees Archive and SĂžren Forup of the Bee Gees Rarity Site
Monday, July 10. 2017
Who would be better qualified to review Chuck Berry's latest and last album CHUCK (Dualtone/Decca) than our expert Fred Rothwell, author of "Long Distance information - Chuck Berry's Recorded Legacy". This review first appeared in the Juli 2017 edition of Now Dig This magazine, the most interesting British magazine on Rock and Roll music. Many thanks to Trevor Cajiao, publisher of NDT, to allow Fred and me to reprint this revised edition of Fred's review here. If your want to have the printed version, go to the NDT store here: https://www.nowdigthismagazine.co.uk/product/now-dig-this-magazine-no-412-201707. On this page you can also buy your subscription to the magazine. Highly recommended!
'Chuck' â the last go-round from Chuck Berry.
Fred Rothwell performs a post-mortem on Chuck's posthumous album, dissects the disc and examines a platter that really matters.
Small miracles can and do happen, even in the jaded world of commercial music. Just a few months after his 90th birthday and untimely death, Chuck Berry's final contribution to rock and roll has arrived in the form of 'Chuck' a 'new' album on the Dualtone label (Decca in the UK). The album that his fans had been promised for many a year has finally surfaced. Its gestation has been elephantine. Back in 2001 I wrote in Long Distance Information
Chuck plans to release a new studio album consisting of thirteen new compositions including one tantalisingly called 'Lady B Goode' (no prizes for guessing the progenitor of this song) and another titled 'Loco Joe' (said to be 'Jo Jo Gunne' with new lyrics) in celebration of his 75th birthday. I for one can hardly wait!Well wait I did, along with an army of Berry fans. 18th October 2001 came and went but the album was a no-show. Later, a little more information seeped into the public domain and several new songs were mentioned, a talking blues called 'Dutchman', a rocker titled 'The Big Boys' and a slow ballad called 'Darling'. 'Havana Moon' was slated for a rewrite as 'Jamaica Moon' and 'Down Bound Train' was to be updated as 'Hell Bound Train'. A Billboard Studio Monitor report from October 2001 said Chuck had spent 30 hours at Four Seasons Media Productions recording studio in St Louis, recording new material and transferring demos and rough tracks from two inch, two track magnetic analogue tape to a digital Pro Tools platform. Berry would soon record more guitar and vocal tracks it was reported. 'Since March I've put a lot of energy into it. I've done more since March than I have in the last 14,15 years,' Chuck said. 'I want this to be like no other record I've ever put out'. Some of the songs go even farther back to the 1980s, written during his spare time during breaks in touring. 'He always had a pad and a pencil with him,' said his long-time bass player and tour companion Jim Marsala. Jim said Chuck started working on his 'new' album right after he released his previous studio album 'Rockit' back in 1979. However, a March 1989 fire at Chuck's Berry Park studio put paid to embryonic versions of the songs. Chuck told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the fire had destroyed a master tape with thirteen songs he had completed off and on over the last seven years. It took until 1991 for the studio to be rebuilt and for Chuck to re-create his lost work. Chuck's son Butch, a member of his band since 2001, recalled, 'He had to go back to square one. It was him doing all the basics by himself, all his vocals, all his guitars, putting all the basics together and building from there'.
In the intervening period more recording, overdubs, digital splicing and other sonic jiggery-pokery has taken place. The album now has ten, not thirteen tracks and 'Loco Joe' and 'Hell Bound Train' have disappeared. More musicians have been drafted in, including Chuck's son Charles 'Butch' Berry Jr (guitar) and daughter Darlin Ingrid (harmonica and vocals) and 23 year old grandson (Butch's son) Charles Berry III (guitar) together with Bob Lohr (piano), Jim Marsala (bass) and Keith Robinson (drums). Collectively named by Chuck as The Blueberry Hill Band due to their association with the St Louis club of that name at which they had played each month for twenty years. There are also some other 'guests' but thankfully there has been no overload of musical 'stars'. This had already been done at Chuck's sixtieth birthday bash. There are three young guitarists, Gary Clark Jr., Tom Morello and Nathaniel Rateliff who are on one track each. Clark had been recruited by Butch while Dualtone had suggested to other two, along with a bunch of other names that Chuck rejected. In addition to the base tracks being laid down at Berry Park and Four Seasons the album was the product of St. Louis studios, Casa Del Torretta and Electropolis plus additional recording work in Nashville.
So let's examine the individual tracks in the order that they trip off the disc.
'Oh well looky here now, this just makes my day,' Chuck exclaims at the start of 'Wonderful Woman', a rockin' shuffle with more than a hint of 'Back In The USA' to the melody. It's a tale of a beautiful woman with long brown wavy hair and a form fitting dress that is too hard to bear. In an earlier age this might have been 'Beautiful Delilah' or 'Little Queenie' but as it turns out the lady in question is Chuck's wife, the equally enchanting Toddy. The track is chock full of guitarists, son Charles Jr., grandson Charles lll and young Texan blues buck Gary Clark Jr. They are all in the mix along with Chuck himself. However, the cut isn't cluttered as they each queue up to play their own versions of Chuck Berry licks. There is even room for Ingrid's harp. She ain't no Little Walter but her contribution adds to the texture. With intricate couplets like 'Have you ever seen a woman to whom your heart you'd give? Who would betray you twice and you know you'd still forgive', you know Chuck's poetic prowess is still present. A great opening track that was selected as the second album taster issued as a digital single.
This is a cracker. If the song had been recorded at Chess it would be up there with Berry's best. 'Big Boys' is a rampant rocker which kicks off with Chuck's signature 'Johnny B Goode' opening riff but with a coda added that ricochets violently from the guitar fretboard. This is a coming of age saga where the wean-year Chuck finds out the 'where, what, and why' that the big boys do with the big girls. Great lyrics with even a touch of second grade French thrown in, 'Mademoiselle, je vous aime, voulez-vous?'. There are scorching guitar solos after each chorus, not necessarily played by Chuck, as again he is joined by his son and Tom Morello on guitars plus Nathaniel Rateliff helping out on the 'yes yes' choruses and on one of the verses, just before the French bit. Such are the vagaries of modern recording that Rateliff, the bearded front-man of the Night Sweats, never even met Chuck but mailed in his contribution from Denver. I suspect the same goes for Tom Morello and Gary Clark (on 'Wonderful Woman') who both recorded their bits in Los Angeles studios. Morello, who contributes a solo, is well known (by some - not me) from his days in the band Rage In The Machine. Chuck's voice shows its age but he articulates his lyrics with ease. Subtle vocal changes occur between verses which makes one wonder if there has been some judicial splicing in creating this minor classic. Not surprisingly this cut was the first we heard as a digital download single. Very recently the song was promoted on the US TV Tonight Show, sung totally by Rateliff, with the two younger Berrys on guitars. It's a pretty good version â check it out on YouTube.
You Go To My Head
This is the first of only two songs not written by our man and stems way back to 1938, a time of big band sounds and classic ballads that so influenced him. The 'You Go To My Head' song has a long history of recordings, most frequently associated with Billie Holiday. My guess, however, is Chuck's interest in the song comes from Frank Sinatraâs 1945 version. I've never seen any mention of Chuck being influenced by Billie Holiday but he certainly was a big fan of Ol' Blue Eyes' citing him frequently in interviews. Chuck doesn't attempt to emulate Sinatra's smooth balladry but applies a slow blues shuffle to the tune. Bob Lohr's piano to this point has provided sterling back-up but here it takes centre stage, rippling the keys in true Johnnie Johnson fashion over the solid bass and drums of Messrs Marsala and Robinson. But the most effective element of the recording is the father and daughter duet. Ingrid sings slightly behind her father's lead and this out of synch approach, reminiscent of soul and gospel styles, is extraordinarily effective. Chuck sings this song during the Berry park rehearsals of 'Hail Hail Rock And Roll' and it is featured in the video out-takes. If you dug Chuck's quieter moments during these rehearsals then you will surely appreciate this cut.
3/4 Time (Enchiladas)
Surprisingly for a so called studio album, this track is a live recording. This was caught in the small venue, Blueberry Hill, in 2008 according to bassist Jim Marsala, during one of the two hundred or so monthly performances Chuck and his Blueberry Hill Band played at his friend Joe Edwards' St Louis club of the same name. The song is pure country, in waltz time, hence the 'ÂŸ Time' title. Written by Tony Joe White but never recorded by him, its main custodian was Ray Charles who released it as a Columbia single in 1983 and also placed it on his album 'Wish You Where Here Tonight'. This was a winning combination for Chuck who dug Ray a lot and loved country music so how could he resist, especially as the song promotes cars, guitars and women who like to love in ÂŸ time? Chuck updates the song with a touch of his own humour, 'All of my life, thereâs one thing Iâve been hoping to find, a woman like you, honey, whose software matches this hard drive of mine.' The song had been in Chuck's repertoire for many years although never officially released on disc. It is a nice relaxed performance by Berry and his band who are clearly at ease with the audience and the environment.
Nostalgia rules on this beautifully poignant ballad sung with the help of Darlin' Ingrid. Chuck is in reflective mood as he croons the lines 'Darlin' your father's growing old', and 'There has been many sundowns that I have seen - since you were sweet sixteen' and 'The good times come but not to stay, you'll find time will take them all away'. The song, said to have been written 25 to 30 years ago, is a postscript of the equally moving slow version of 'His Daughter Caroline' where the father bemoans the loss of the daughter to marriage. His vocals are intimate, wistful and emotional all at the same time and the deep feeling of his own mortality is heightened by Ingrid's touching interjections. Chuck and Ingrid's best recorded performance has got to be the Spanish language, Mercury version of 'The Song Of My Love' but the two duet cuts on this disc run it pretty close. Something very rare on a Chuck Berry recording happens at the close when he is joined by The New Respects, a young black Nashville based group, sweetly cooing in the background. The song and its performance is a bitter-sweet lament of Chuck's fast approaching exit from this world. Am I moved, you bet.
Lady B. Goode
With a title like 'Lady B Goode' how could it be anything other than a gene clone of the Chuckster's signature song? It has been said that the song is a sequel to 'Johnny B Goode' but unlike 'Bye Bye Johnny', 'Go Go Go' and 'Tulane' the song doesn't mention Johnny directly. What it is, in fact, is a fictional biography as seen from Lady's point of view. 'Fell then a lassie in love with a lad; 'till it took him to vindicate the feelin' she had.' For 'vindicate' read 'consummate', as left behind, when fame and fortune befalls our hero, she's led on by the promise of a part in his movie. However, she has to be content with watching him on the silver screen with little Baby B Goode, Johnny junior, bouncing on her knee. Musically it's JBG all over with guitar contributions from the two younger Chucks, as well as the old man himself, supported by the best hard driving rhythm of the album. 'Lady B Goode' is to 'Johnny B Goode' what 'Little Marie' was to 'Memphis Tennessee', good but not quite 'Goode', but still good enough to be the third cut to be 'singled' out from the album.
She Still Loves You
'She Still Loves You' is a floating poignant ballad in which Chuck adopts a sad, 'Lonely Schooldays' lilt in his vocals. It's a sorrowful tale of the love he had, then lost. A story told directly to his rival who has beaten him to the beautiful lady he so desires, but who did not reciprocate. Its convoluted lyrics are as complex as ever a Chuck Berry song got with a modulating rhythm to match. Resigned to reality Chuck finally laments, 'But I gave up on her as much as we were both lonely and blue; She still loves you so, I thought you ought to know she's true to you'. This is another song stretching back to the pre-fire days which passed through several iterations, once titled 'She's True To You' with radically different lyrics, before coming to fruition on this album. Guitar-wise, this seems very much like a Chuck Berry solo effort in which he adopts a laid-back 'San Francisco Dues'- like feel, wonderfully supported by Bob Lohr's New Orleanian piano.
'Jamaica Moon' seems to have haunted Chuck for many moons. He first cut it as 'Havana Moon' way back in October 1956 and then again in a terrible disco style in February 1979 for his 'Rockit' album. It seems he was disappointed with the sales when it was first released in tandem with 'You Can't Catch Me' (Chess 1645) but it did hit #7 on the Cashbox R&B charts in 1966 with 'Ramona Say Yes' on the lower deck (Chess 1963). Nevertheless he must have felt their was still some potential in the composition. This time however it is a fairly radical departure from the original and not just its relocation from Cuba to Jamaica. The storyline remains the same, a sad little tale of unrequited love caused by the demon drink, but both the lyrics are updated and the melody changed from the delicate rhythms of the original to a more funky reggae feel. The vocals are double tracked, a trait I disliked on the 'Rockit' LP, and include a touch of rapping complete with a 'ting ting ting' thing. I think I would like this cut a lot more if I didn't just love the original so much.
Chuck once stated that poetry was his life-blood and he proved this not only by his superb mastery of meter and scansion in his song lyrics but also in a number of poems he recorded. These were freely adapted versions of existing poems such as 'My Dream', based on Donald Benson Blanding's 1928 poem 'Vagabond's House', and 'Pass Away' from 'Even This Shall Pass Away', a long 1867 poem by Theodore Tilton which Chuck had learned by heart in his formative years. 'Dutchman', however, is an entirely original composition, a cautionary tale of love lost and its effect. The scene is a bar-room full of drinkers including the enigmatic Dutchman who are interrupted by a tall dark dude who the patrons initially wish to see off, siccing a Great Dane on the guy. However, for the price of drink offered by the Dutchman the stranger imparts his story of fame and fortune now lost all because of his unrequited love for a femme fatale. A Cleopatra with luxurious hair who, when she allowed him to kiss her, near petrified his heart. The tension of the tale is intensified by the sparse grungy blues rhythm, just guitar, bass and drums, that accompanies Chuck's perfectly enunciated narration. A great vignette beautifully told.
Eyes Of Man
In 'Eyes Of Man' Chuck's deep love of poetry is evident again in this philosophical manifesto to the innate power of woman which he declares 'is seldom seen in the eyes of man'. Over the course of six rather obscure verses he opines that 'many a man has built his own temple' but eventually they are 'doomed to decay and turn to dust' but 'Oh! the temple borne by woman - they have withstood while ages roll; Because that beautiful unseen temple - is a child's immortal soul'. Deep stuff indeed for a sweet little rock and roller, taken even deeper by the insertion of chorus lines between the verses from an ancient Persian proverb collected by Sir Richard Burton (he of the Kama Sutra, The Perfumed Garden and other saucy works and not the husband of Cleopatra) and published by his wife Isabel in 1893 in 'The Life Of Captain Sir Richd. F Burton'. Chuck freely adapts the lines to suit his style but the meaning of the original stanza is maintained.
Men Are FourAs a counterpoint to all this philosophical pontification the half sung, half spoken words are supported by an easy loping bluesy melody containing some fine Berry guitarisation. 19th century romantic poetry. What strange paths we take in the search for the source of our hero's music!
His Latest And Greatest - and last?
The indie record label Dualtone have done the man proud. The album boasts an attractive, digitised action photo of Berry, albeit from an earlier age. The booklet notes by history professor Douglas Brinkley are unfortunately excessively ostentatious, I don't think the man understands rock and roll. However, the intimate photos and full lyrics more than compensate. In addition, booklet ephemera illustrations provide a tantalising glimpse at other song titles recorded at the sessions. 'Loco Joe' is there plus a cover of the jazz standard 'Lover Man (Oh Where Can You Be)'. There are instrumentals 'Once In The Past' and 'Open Up' and original songs 'Let Us Come Together', 'Temples Of Time', 'Hail Hail Rock And Roll', 'Think About It' and 'I Want To Love You', almost another album full. In line with modern marketing methods, 'Chuck' is available in ten packages from the ultimate bundle (limited red vinyl LP, tee shirt, photo book, tote bag and poster) at $130 to the digital MP3 download at $10. Dualtone have also pushed the promotion of the 'Big Boys' single by issuing Chuck Berry's first musical video which unfortunately is a real bummer. The scene is a squeaky clean fifties sock hop ball full of guys and gals in make-believe fifties gear, all primary colours and full skirts. Add to this a counterfeit Chuck Berry circa mid-sixties with a band about as authentic as The Blues Brothers and a little midget-like guy leading the dancers in a pseudo Michael Jackson routine. What a total mish-mash. Can this be the last of the Chuckster? Hopefully not, as in addition to the unissued titles above, there are loads of Chess out-takes which didn't make the Bear Family box-set and, believe it or not, some pre-fire, Berry Park tapes do exist.
'Chuck' is Chuck Berry's first studio recording for 38 years since the 'Rockit' album (barring the reggae-cum-rap dancehall aberration 'Go Shabba Go' from 1994) and it is one Chuck wanted to see issued in his lifetime. He wanted fans to know, 'I'm still here, I'm still kicking ass and I'm still taking names.' His son Charles Jr said his dad has put out something a lot of people are going to like and he didnât care if it sells or not. He just wanted his record out. Well I'm not so sure hard line rockers will take to the album, firm fans have already said to me they thought the world wouldn't have missed much if it had remained in the vault. For me it seems like an allegory of his musical life, his work in microcosm, containing rock and roll, blues, ballads and poetry. On his 90th birthday Chuck devoted the album to Themetta, his wife of 68 years, so lets give him the last word: 'This record is dedicated to my beloved Toddy. My darlin' I'm growing old! I've worked on this record for a long time. Now I can hang up my shoes!'
If you intend to buy the album or any other item from Dualtone's shop, use this link to get a $5 discount: https://dualtone-music.myshopify.com/?redeem=596498870d7ea20044c4aa18
Friday, June 30. 2017
Big Beat was a French fan magazine which started in the late 1960s and ended after 21 issues in the 1980s. Thirty-five years later the magazine was brought back to life with a 22nd issue. Since then it's purely digital with no paper releases. Issue 26 was recently published and is of huge interest to Chuck Berry collectors - even if you don't speak French.
Big Beat Magazine is a non-commercial project by Alain Mallaret created with a team of volunteers having pure passion for Blues, Country Music and Rock and Roll, just like the creators of this site and so many others around the world!
Issue #26 concentrates on Chuck Berry and includes both a very nice and interesting photo collection from Jean-Pierre Ravelli and a huge discography by Pierre Pennone. The contents of the discography follows more or less the contents of this site, which Pierre used and referred to. It is, however, limited to the official records released by Chess, Mercury and the likes as most of the 'official' discographies do. Pierre's discography fills almost 100 pages because he has managed to include hundreds of images showing labels, front and back covers, and sometimes even the booklets coming with the records. A minor thing to complain about is that Pierre did not always show the original records but used re-issues sometimes. All in all it's a great discography based on a huge amount of work. Well done, Pierre!
You can read Big Beat magazine at no charge from the CalamĂ©o publication platform:
Alain told me that there's also a PDF version of the magazine available. You cannot download it anywhere, but if you want one, Alain would send it to you. I won't publish Alain's email here, but if you contact me I'd be happy to forward your request. Alain also said that because this is a non-commercial project, you may freely give the PDF to other collectors interested.
It's great to have fellow collectors working so enthusiastically.
Many thanks to Alain and Pierre for their work and for telling me about it.
Tuesday, June 27. 2017
Readers keep asking us about the multiple variations the new album CHUCK which is now offered by both Dualtone and Decca (and maybe other labels). We canât really tell, simply because we donât know either.
Where in the past companies targeting the Chuck Berry collector such as Bear Family and Universal/HIP-O Select have been extremely helpful by providing us with lots of information prior to the release of their CD sets and with samples as soon as available, both Dualtone and Decca seem to not target the Chuck Berry collector at all, but to concentrate on the traditional new records markets such as stores, radio, TV, and streaming business.
Though we cannot directly blame Dualtone and Decca for ignoring bloggers as multiplicators since both have outsourced their public relations to specialized companies. In the US this is a company called Shore Fire Media, in the UK a company called Big Mouth Publicity.
We had an email contact with Shore Fire Media when they took over the promotion for the CHUCK album. At that time we asked them to keep us informed and they confirmed. Since then: nada. Shore Fire never sent us a press release or whatever. Only a private contact to Dualtone allowed us to tell you a bit about the release which you couldn't read everywhere else. But even there was a strange "America first" attitude. Or better said "America only". No, they won't ship anything to Europe. And they're not responsible for Europe anyway. Strange, given that while the authors of this site are located in Europe, you, our readers, are located all over the world (and mostly in the US if I look at the emails I receive). And even more strange, the likes of amazon and ebay allow buyers from all over the world to buy American. Looks like it's not only this funny president who's trying to move a whole country to another planet or universe.
About Big Mouth Publicity we cannot say anything at all as only last week we learned that they are supposed to 'promote' Chuck Berry. "In addition to our UK media services, Big Mouth also offers online campaigns targeting key US sites and international blogs." (quote from their site) Interesting. They hadn't found our blog, though. OK, we're only "the best Chuck Berry website in existence" (quoted Now Dig This magazine). Who expects them to find out such when a record label pays a PR agency.
Thus we can only tell you what we have seen on the Dualtone website and elsewhere so far. Last week the Dualtone store had about 10 variations of the CHUCK album which differ in media (CD, Vinyl, or none at all) and packaging (with or without poster, shirt, or book). And no, we cannot tell what's inside the "Photo Book" as we haven't seen one yet. Since last week the Dualtone shop notes that they indeed ship worldwide, but just the shipping of the book doubles its already high price. And, as said, you cannot see what's inside unless you order it.
In addition the Dualtone-labeled Vinyl album is available in different colors. Right now the Dualtone shop offers a "limited edition" red wax variant. Another "limited edition" on white wax is sold through the Barnes & Noble bookstores. A "regular" black wax edition had been in the Dualtone shop but is currently gone. Maybe that was even more limited.
For Decca there's less information available, yes, even less. It seems that there's only a regular black Vinyl album and the usual CD. Decca Japan offers the album as an SHM-CD (this is a different sort of plastic).
Decca UK has distributed promotional copies of at least the CD album. These are labeled to be watermarked and traceable. (If you don't know what this means, read e.g. http://www.idolator.com/298040/watermarked-cds-cause-paranoia-to-be-added-to-long-list-of-music-critics-problems. So no passing of unwanted CDs to friends. Basically you can't even dump such a CD into the next PVC recycling bin as somebody might find it there and make you guilty of unauthorized distribution. Ensure you break the CD first.)
We haven't seen a promotional CD from Dualtone yet, so we don't know if they used the same watermarking. We have seen and shown here a promotional CD single of Big Boys by Dualtone.
Which one of the multiple variants do you need to have? Depends on your budget. Right now we suggest you get the cheapest one to listen to it. Which is what counts.
Many thanks to Thierry for researching most of this article's contents.
If you intend to buy the album or any other item from Dualtone's shop, use this link to get a $5 discount: https://dualtone-music.myshopify.com/?redeem=596498870d7ea20044c4aa18
Sunday, June 25. 2017
Dick Clark remembers in his autobiography (Clark/Robinson - Rock, Roll & Remember, Popular Library, 1978, p. 103):
Phil and Leonard Chess sent Chuck Berry to Philadelphia to do the show. Chuck was a giant star, and he'd even written Philadelphia and Bandstand into the lyrics of a song, "Sweet Little Sixteen." Chuck, a very mercurial performer, got to the studio about 20 minutes before he went on the air. We exchanged pleasantries, then he said, "Ain't going do any dancing."
Chuck Berry describes the same incident a little bit differently: (Berry - The Autobiography, Harmony Books, 1987, p. 185)
At my first "American Bandstand" appearance, I ran into trouble because I thought it was ridiculous to lip sync the words to "Sweet Little Sixteen." The song was written in honor of first, the teenage girl, and second, the "American Bandstand" show that Dick Clark hosted. I was being stubborn in ignorance of the cost of live singing over lip syncing. Rock 'n' roll on television was in its early days with budgets low, and lip syncing rather than live vocalizing helped cut expenses. In Dick Clark's book Rock, Roll and Remember, he quotes me as saying on this occasion "Ain't going do any dancing." It's hardly likely anyone whose mother taught school would be trained to speak in such fashion. Another point in the same section contains a description of Leonard Chess using profanity and lewd terms while speaking with me long distance, after Dick called him asking him to persuade me to lip sync. Leonard explained the reasons for lip syncing, but he never used profanity while doing business with me at any time in our affiliation.
It's nice from Chuck to defend Leonard from using profanity, but this fact has been widely reported. Whether or not Chuck used the "Ain't going do any dancing" quote and maybe why, will remain unconfirmed. One thing Berry is probably incorrect in saying is that he was supposed to sing "Sweet Little Sixteen". According to Morten's books and according to The Pop History Dig, Berry's first appearance on "Bandstand" was on 8 November 1957. Maybe the song was already written by then, but it was recorded at the end of December 1957 and released in January 1958. It's more likely that Berry did an earlier song and that he wrote "Sweet Little Sixteen" after he was on "Bandstand".
In the end Berry went dancing/lip-sync'ing his hits on American Bandstand. Same in the Alan Freed movies.
What Berry never did, though, was make a music video. In the 1950's there weren't any. And when videos became a reasonable way to do advertising for a record, there weren't any Chuck Berry records worth creating one.
The old story came back into my mind when I saw the music video created to promote Big Boys. "Ain't going do any dancing." And any playing either.
Matt Bizer and Curtis Wayne Millard created a video which shows ... people dancing and lip-sync'ing to the music. According to NPR, the video was filmed in Jasper, Georgia, using dancers from Atlanta's Dance 411 studio supervised by choreographer Jeremy Green.
The result is a bit American Bandstand-like, though in color. Helpful to promote the song? Judge for yourself: https://youtu.be/WQzapVH94Lo
In my opinion, THIS video is a much better promotion for the song. It was filmed during Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lDjjX-M0O0
Here the song is performed live. No dancing, no lip-sync'ing. Of course it's not Chuck Berry playing, but three guys who helped making the original recording: Nathaniel Rateliff, Charles Berry Jr., and Charles Berry III. One of the first covers of this new Chuck Berry song. And a good one!
Late addition: There's a second official music video for the CHUCK album: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j05AQJQRuIw. Here you hear Chuck and Ingrid singing "Darlin'." And while listening, you see photos and video snippets of Ingrid with her dad, obviously taken from her private collection. Plus we see a few film segments of Chuck performing, some known, some not, which have been slowed down to fit to the song's feeling. For some reason they added live audience applause to the end of the song.
Sunday, June 11. 2017
When German Rock'n'Roll Musikmagazin celebrated their 40th anniversary two weeks ago, I sought some appropriate clothing for the party and concert.
Browsing eBay I found this nice T-shirt. Interestingly most visitors at the celebration did not get the message, but readers of this site should have no need for explanation. Enjoy!
If you like this as much as I did, here's the link to the corresponding eBay offer: eBay item 230919634545. They ship world-wide. Select your favorite color during checkout.
This weblog is an addition to my Chuck Berry fansite called "A Collector's Guide to the Music of Chuck Berry" which describes all books and records of interest to everyone enjoying Chuck Berry's music.
Dietmar Rudolph about Where have we heard this interview before?
Reader Ari Niskanen sent me an email regarding the source of this quote. It is from the 'H ail! [...]
Josep about Yet another Carol
Amazing research. Thank you ve ry much.
Dietmar Rudolph about Big Beat magazine issue 26 contains more than 100 pages on Chuck Berry
Sorry, Jean. There is no print ed version. I'll send Alain's email to you separately so you can [...]
Jean Million about Big Beat magazine issue 26 contains more than 100 pages on Chuck Berry
do a printed version exists so mewhere?
Dietmar Rudolph about Variations of the CHUCK album?
Fred has written a great revie w which you will read here soo n.
Jean Million about Variations of the CHUCK album?
thanks ! i'll apply your advis es !!! though i already heard it by the dozen on deezer !!! w [...]
Dietmar Rudolph about Variations of the CHUCK album?
Hi Jean! As said in the articl e I'd buy the CD from the chea pest source or from your local res [...]
Jean Million about Variations of the CHUCK album?
so, at the end ...which varian t do you recommend ? 'cause i' ve been waiting for your artic le b [...]
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