Tuesday, June 30. 2009
I'm busy - and there's nothing new for the Chuck Berry record collector. Therefore no new posts here.
However, reader Doug was so kind to point me to an interesting offer on eBay:
The 1991 UK box set by Charly is currently on sale! It is expensive and misses the booklet, but this is the only legal way to get Chuck Berry's 1970's output on CD.
Update (July 13): The item did not sell for $500. Now the seller tries with a lower asking price:
Click here to see if this offer is worth that much for you!
Tuesday, May 12. 2009
I recently sold spare copies of the original Kozmik and Maybelline 1970s vinyl bootlegs from my collection to a fellow reader of this blog.
This let some other reader tell me that he's currently offering his copies on ebay UK. So for those of you who missed my original sale, here's a second chance now. Both records have a very low starting price, but don't be fooled. A reasonable selling price will be much more than 0.99 UK pounds!
Here are the links to the ebay pages:
Wednesday, April 22. 2009
I have completed the links to the amazon MP3 offers.
This means you can now listen to excerpts of
I think I have found all the Chuck Berry tracks offered by amazon. This turned out to be much more complicated than what you would expect. Here are some of the problems I ran into checking out the almost 1.000 MP3 clips listed by amazon's search function:
Thursday, April 16. 2009
This is a site about music. But it has been a site without music - until now.
In contrast to other music sites I had not included any sound clips or complete songs within this site. There was a good reason: If you use music for any commercial or non-commercial purpose, you have to pay the musician and the composer. Since I do not earn any money from this site, I cannot afford to license music for inclusion here. I know that other webmasters think and act differently and simply use music they cut from records or copied from somewhere. However, such is not only unlawful, in my opinion it is highly unfair against the creator of the music. How can you expect someone to create music if nobody is willing to pay them for it? It is really poor if like some weeks ago someone (himself a musician) asks me questions about some Berry tracks because he had a downloaded copy of a CD only - and not the commercial one with a great booklet answering his questions. Sigh!
OK, back to music. I recently found a legal way to provide you with excerpts from almost each and every Chuck Berry recording. Yes!
I started with Berry's original Chess era and added sound to every recording listed therein. That means you can now check out each and every recording Berry made between 1955 and 1966, including alternate takes and more. Isn't that great?
So if you see me mentioning as song such as
simply click on the loudspeaker symbol behind the song name. Try it!
In the case of Maybellene there will be one widget for the original Chess version, one for the Mercury re-recording and several widgets for different live versions. If there are alternate takes, those will be displayed as well. Click on a widget to listen to this specific version. The widget displays controls for volume, pause and more.
This service is provided free by amazon.com. But of course you will not be able to listen to the complete track. There is a thirty seconds excerpt of each variant. That is all that is provided for free. If you are located in the U.S.A., you can use the widget's Buy MP3 button to purchase a DRM-free MP3 file of the complete track. Unfortunately amazon.com does not sell these MP3s to other countries and to make matters worse, other amazon stores do not stock all of the songs you find at amazon.com. That's a pity, but I cannot change it. Maybe I will add links to non-U.S. shops in the future like I did with the CD offers, but that's many days of work.
Please enjoy the new addition to this site and let me know what you think of it.
Tuesday, April 14. 2009
Angie, webmistress of fumbleontheweb.com, was so kind to tell us about a nice concert report written by Des Henly of the Fumbles:
Just some information plus a question: I am (besides being a great fan of Chuck Berry's music) a friend of the 1970s band Fumble who had many of Chuck's songs in their repertoire and also recorded some Chuck Berry songs like 'No Money Down' or 'Let It Rock'. In their new blog 'Des Henly's Rock Years', Des Henly talks about Fumble's experiences when they backed Chuck Berry at a festival in Frankfurt in June 1973. Great story, and perhaps you find it interesting to read.Yes, Angie, I found it interesting to read. So will the other readers of this site. Look here: http://www.fumbleontheweb.com/archive/memories/blog_chuckberry.htm
Angie's question is:
Do you know if there is any video material of that event existing? Because I have heard rumours that there is...I have not seen any video material from the Radstadion Frankfurt concert of July 22nd, 1973. I know there is an audience tape of this Chuck Berry performance in front of 20.000 people. Also there are various photos from this event used both in magazines (e.g. Posterpress) and on record covers. Here's a cut-out from Bellaphon BL15107 "Original Oldies Vol. 3" from 1974 (Click it for a larger version). If any reader knows more about this concert, let us know.
Update [2010-03-01]: According to several other photos of this Berry performance it seems to be sure that the photos used on the Bellaphon cover have been taken by famous German photographer Barbara Klemm.
Friday, April 10. 2009
In December 2008 the long-awaited film about Chess Records premiered in the U.S.
Just four months later the movie Cadillac Records was released on DVD. While the movie itself did not make it to this part of the world yet (the announced starting day for Germany is April 23rd), at least it is possible to watch it on DVD here - kind of ...
So I went to amazon and ordered the DVD when it became available two weeks ago. Click here for the corresponding amazon pages.
Of course the DVD did not play in my DVD player as the DVD is region coded fot the U.S. and Canada. I really, really do not understand what line of reasoning is behind limiting audience and market of a DVD and movie, but Sony will know.
To watch the U.S. DVD you need to have a region-free DVD player. I use a computer for such.
As you will have read otherwise, Cadillac Records tells the story of the Chess record label in Chicago. Of course, a movie has to concentrate on excerpts from a 15 year story. So the producers took some liberties in removing characters and in highlighting others. The main characters in the movie are Leonard Chess, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Howlin' Wolf, Chuck Berry, and Etta James. Bo Diddley is not noted at all, and even Phil Chess is never mentioned by name, if I watched carefully. The DVD has a deleted scene in which Phil at least is introduced.
If you are not familiar with the Chess story, chances are low you will want to watch the movie. But if you are interested in Chuck Berry's music, the Chess story is an important part thereof. So I recommend you have a look on the movie. But I recommend much more that you read the books on Chess Records, especially the one by Nadine Cohodas Spinning Blues into Gold.
Unfortunately the writers of the movie did not use Cohodas' book but went more for Rich Cohen's Machers and Rockers. As I write in this site's chapter on Berry-related books, Cohen's book concentrates on the two characters of Leonard Chess and Muddy Waters and is full of errors and omissions. And likewise Cadillac Records concentrates on the characters of Leonard Chess and Muddy Waters and is full of errors and omissions. Sigh!
What interests us the most is Chuck Berry's role in the movie. Berry is played by Mos Def, or Dante Terrell Smith, musician and actor. I have never thought of Mos Def as a Rock'n'Roller, so his performance as Berry is surprising - and surprisingly good! There are three or four acting scenes and a number of on-stage performances mainly to show that Chess and Berry took down the barriers between C&W and Blues, between Black and White.
Mos Def plays Berry as a musician and comedian, which may come close to the truth in the 1950s. There's a funny scene where Berry and Chess visit Alan Freed, and there's a scene in which Berry is refused to perform because the promoter thinks of Berry as a white Country artist. This story is also told by Berry himself in his Autobiography, so it may have happened. But if it did, it definitely happened after Berry got national attention with his first Chess hits. In the movie this scene takes place before Berry joins Chess. One of many factual errors. The errors continue in the selection of Berry titles in the movie.
The writers have known that Maybellene was Berry's first Chess hit. So Mos Def plays it, and quite good. But all the other songs Mos Def performs before Berry's first imprisonment are completely wrong: No Particular Place to Go, Promised Land, and Nadine (of which only the intro is heard) have all been recorded five to ten years later than when they appear in the film. That's poor.
It's interesting to note that the Deluxe version of the soundtrack album (see here) also contains Mos Def's cover of Come On which did not make it into the movie. You can use the amazon MP3 widget below to hear excerpts of Mos Def's cover versions.
If you buy the DVD, don't forget to watch the extra features. I found the film about costumes and design most interesting. All the sets are very well made to show the 1950s, so that's reason enough to watch the movie - and to see Mos Def play Chuck Berry.
Thursday, April 9. 2009
I haven't had time to report here on Chuck Berry-related eBay offers, so you may have missed some true bargains sold lately.
Probably the most interesting item which went for a much too low price was
Some true rarities:
Some more promotional records:
Some beautiful picture sleeves (PS):
Some more picture sleeves, from the Dutch Funckler series:
Some foreign country albums:
Some autographed guitars (which I do not count as bargains):
Saturday, March 21. 2009
In 1999 CBS produced and broadcast a four-hour mini-series called "Shake, Rattle And Roll: An American Love Story". The series runs through the 1950s Rock'n'Roll history by following a fictional band called The HartAches. Many well-known artists are portrayed such as Elvis, Little Richard, or Bill Haley. Chuck Berry is played by actor Cornelius Bates. I have not seen this TV broadcast as it was not shown in Germany and the video tape seems to be sold out.
In addition to the movie, MCA produced a soundtrack CD (see here). Here you hear 1999 artists perform classical rock'n'roll songs such as Slippin' and Slidin' or Summertime Blues. These cover versions were used in the TV soundtrack. Also on the CD are two original tunes: The Chords' Sh-Boom and The Platters' Only You. Probably the most important track on the album is Fur Slippers written by Bob Dylan and performed by B. B. King. There is no Chuck Berry on the soundtrack CD.
However, and this is why I talk about it here in the Chuck Berry Rarities column, there IS a variant of this CD which contains Chuck Berry! As a "Musical Preview" MCA sent out a promotional CD to radio stations. It seems that this promo CD was sent out before the final soundtrack CD was completed. The HartAches' version of Side by side is missing on the promo CD, but there is an additional HartAches (i.e. Peter Beckett) recording: Lucille. Also only on the promotional variant of this CD there is a version of The Glow-Worm by a band called The Melody Knights, and there is Chuck Berry's Maybellene. Although this is the original master and not a re-recording, it makes this promotional CD another Chuck Berry Rarity.
Here is the cover of the promo CD which also differs from the final copy.
Wednesday, March 18. 2009
Since several European readers asked about how to get the new 4CD set at reasonable shipping costs:
Amazon and other online stores have started pre-ordering for the set with shipping announced for March 29th.
Click here for the corresponding pages at amazon
Sunday, March 1. 2009
A few days ago I first talked about the new Chuck Berry Box-Set from Geffen Records/Hip-O-Select. Fred then presented the box from his personal view as part of the production team. I got my copy in the meantime and here's the translation of a review I just wrote for German Rock'n'Roll Musikmagazin:
Last year we reviewed the four-CD box Johnny B. Goode - His Complete 50's Recordings made by Geffen Records/Hip-O-Select. It contains all recordings made by Chuck Berry for the Chicago-based Chess label between 1955 and 1960. Now the manager of the Chess archives Andy McKaie and UK Chuck Berry expert and author Fred Rothwell have put another log on the fire.
You Never Can Tell is again a four-CD box, packed with everything Berry recorded for Chess between 1960 and 1966. Just like the first box it is basically complete and extensively featured. This includes a detailed booklet containing rare photos and complete session details as well as reproductions of classic album covers. Each CD looks like a Chess label from that time. Pretty!
While Berry had a lot of hits during the 1950s, the 1960s did not start to his taste. In March 1960 Berry was in court for the first time because of a story with an underage prostitute. The trials lasted until early 1962.
During this time, Chess was unable to overplay the bad press with good records. Even though the sessions in 1960 and 1961 produced some interesting material, today we know those only through the Rolling Stones: Bye Bye Johnny, I'm Talking About You or Come On are just examples. In addition to such goodies many fillers were recorded which were then put on the Rockin' At The Hops and New Juke Box Hits albums.
Between February 1962 and October 1963 Berry sat behind bars. While in England the Beatles, the Stones and many other Beat groups recycled Berry material, there was nothing new from the master himself. The Chess brothers looked through the tapes in there archives and created from the remaining bits an album called On Stage enhanced with fake applause. Because of this there is next to none unreleased material from that period. Just an alternate take of Go Go Go and an instrumental version of Brown Eyed Handsome Man can be heard for the first time in this set.
Completely unknown however was what follows next in chronological order: Immediately when released from prison, Berry entered stage again. In October 1963 four shows performed in Detroit were recorded for Chess. Because of the fake live album released just a few months before and presumably because of some sound problems these recordings remained in the vault, though. From these tapes McKaie and Rothwell collected the highlights and show us how an early 1960s Berry concert must have sounded like. Along with a very good backing band Berry runs through his greatest hits. The audience is in full swing and sings along all the lyrics even though the originals must have been oldies already even then. Unfortunately Berry's voice is hoarse and probably in Leonard Chess's view not good enough for release. Not necessarily Rock'n'Roll but interestingly from a historical view are Berry's comedy inserts where he entertains the audience telling jokes, similar to many other entertainers of that time.
Back in the studio, Berry produced hit after hit: Within four months he records the classics Nadine, You Never Can Tell, The Promised Land, No Particular Place To Go. Leonard and Phil Chess kept every note Berry played. This includes two lengthy jam sessions with Bo Diddley released on a Checker album Two Great Guitars.
Early 1965 Berry tours England and while there he records several songs with his tour band "The Five Dimensions" including a fantastical cover version of the St. Louis Blues. All these recordings have been published contemporary, though some only in the UK, not in the U.S. The only segment unknown was the ending of an instrumental called O Rangutang which we all knew in shortened form only until it accidentally surfaced on a British re-issue in 1998.
To our surprise this CD set presents three songs from a completely unknown session of July 1965: Shake Rattle & Roll, Honey Hush and an instrumental version of Wee Wee Hours can be heard here for the first time. The same holds for an alternate take of His Daughter Caroline from the last session in April 1966. Because there have been no mixed tapes from these songs, Andy McKaie and Pete Doell mixed new masters from the session multi-tracks making them sound like classic Chess mixes. Well done!
In June 1966 Berry left the Chess label after having worked with them for eleven years. After some years with Mercury Records he returned to Chess in 1969. As also the Mercury tapes and the later Chess recordings are today owned by Universal, we already look forward for a third box, maybe in 2010. Until then I recommend to every Rock'n'Roll fan to use this set to learn about a lesser known side of Chuck Berry: many Blues numbers, lots of standards, but also many originals we usually know from cover versions today.
Above is my review for the magazine which is targeted to all Rock'n'Roll fans. Pure Berry collectors such as those reading this blog may want to get some more insight details:
Just like the 1950s box this new CD set is a must-have, no question. Simply a chronological collection would have been fine, but this is much more. It is beautiful and it contains true rarities. Even if you have the CD re-issues from BGO and MCA published over the last ten years, you will have only 90 percent of what's in this box. The live recordings from Detroit are interesting, though it's a pity we only get a selection of the best tracks. Maybe Andy McKaie can release an unfiltered version of the four concerts sometime in the future so we don't always have to listen to these Toronto or Roxy tracks again and again. The new 1965 session is a true surprise. Even though the songs are not necessarily highest Berry standard, you should have them. The same holds for the previously unreleased alt takes of Go Go Go and His Daughter Caroline as well as the previously unreleased songs Spending Chrsitmas and I'm In The Danger Zone. You must note, however, that this is not the recording of same name previously known from the ARC promotional CD and subsequent bootlegs. In the ARC song Berry sings "I'm in the twilight zone" and this is an original Chess master tape. On this new CD Berry sings "I'm in the danger zone" and this is a new mix created from the original multi-track tapes. Even though the two songs are very similar, they are different recordings and as such should have been include here both. Many other songs are included here multiple times if there were different mixes. Two examples for this are Brown Eyed Handsome Man and My Mustang Ford. Both have been known as an original 1960s mix and an 1980s stereo remix from the Rarities records. Here both come with a third mix omitting the vocal track but including another lead guitar track. This is interesting to listen to but nothing more than a warm-up probably. What really makes this set highly recommended is the Detroit concert, the 1965 session and the four unreleased takes. Get it before it's sold out!
Since I have got several questions from readers about purchasing the new 4-CD set from Europe, here's what I was able to find out: Right now you can get the box only directly from the label site (click here). In contrast to last year, the label will ship internationally, though only through UPS. This means that shipping to Europe will cost you another $50. And, since UPS will do all the tax processing for you, you will have to pay your local import tax (some 20%) and maybe an UPS handling fee. The box will become available in retail stores (in the U.S.) on March 31st. Then you should be able to order the set from amazon or your local record dealer.
Tuesday, February 24. 2009
I got a comment on my page on Chuck Berry cover versions last week. John Barber wrote:
I was in a 60s band called "The Scorpions". We recorded two singles at Abbey Road. The second single was a cover of Chuck Berry's "Rockin' At The Phil" (Rock At The Philharmonic). Recently a colleague suggested that our recording might be the first UK cover of a Chuck Berry number. We recorded a demo in December 1960, the EMI release was in May 1961 on Parlophone R4768 Rockin' At The Phil b/w Scorpio. Do you have any info that might confirm whether we were the first band to cover a Chuck Berry tune?Interesting question, John. I don't have information about all the cover versions of Berry songs, but I know someone who does. So here's Morten Reff's reply to my question:
What a nice surprise. This cover version from the UK Scorpions in 1961 is just fantastic, also because it's very different from Berry's original, very fast and very rockin'. A US group called "The Legends" recorded a very similar version in 1961 but it was not released at the time. However, The Scorpions did a much better job technically! And by the way, there are no other covers of this Berry tune, as far as I know. Unfortunately, there were some Berry covers from the UK before the Scorpions. However, they were at least the very first group ever to cover this Berry instrumental and get it released on record, if that helps.If you want to read more about the 1960s Scorpions (not the German band of Wind of Change fame), look at the band's website here.
Friday, February 20. 2009
Beginning of last year Universal Music enlighted us with the release of Johnny B. Goode - His Complete 50's Recordings. At sufficient demand Andy McKaie of Universal promised a follow-up.
Well, there must have been sufficient demand as Universal's Hip-O-Select label just started pre-sale of a new four-CD box set called You Never Can Tell. 108 tracks presenting Berry's work for Chess records from 1960 to his leave for Mercury in 1966. According to Hip-O-Select, the box contains
18 Previously Unreleased Tracks Including A 45-Minute Live Concert From 1963 & Instrumental Versions Of Berry Classics "Brown Eyed Handsome Man" and "My Mustang Ford"
Right now you can pre-order the set only at Hip-O-Select. It is not listed anywhere else. Shipping date will be February 24th. For more details read the label site here.
According to Universal, the box set will be available only at their web store initially. We have seen with the first set that it takes several weeks until it will be listed at amazon or ebay. This is an interesting way to get higher profits by keeping the dealer margins to yourself for the first wave of buyers. But that's fine if it helps financing the release of recording which would have kept in the vault otherwise.
You will read more about the box set, especially about those parts of interest for us collectors, as soon as I got a copy.
Sunday, February 8. 2009
I removed some duplicates and promotional material from my collection. Here are some Berry/Diddley/Little Richard/Elvis/Haley/Domino items you may be interested in. Everything is offered very cheap!
Wednesday, January 14. 2009
Interestingly the article on Chuck Berry's appearance at German Beat-Club TV 1972 resulted in a large number of emails. Among these was one by Dirk saying
About one and a half years ago there was a Rarities issue of the Vinyl TV series in which they broadcast another previously unseen part of this show.I checked and yes: On July 1st, 2007 German TV station EinsFestival broadcast a Beat-Club Rarities show including unseen performances by Ike and Tina Turner, the Kinks, the Doors (less Jim Morrison), the Grateful Dead, and an interview with a drunk Steve Miller.
Also included was Chuck Berry with "Roll Over Beethoven" as seen below.
The announcers also talked about why there are such unseen performances. They explained that when bands or singers took the time to travel to Bremen, they would not want to do this for three minutes of play. So they performed for half an hour or more and Mike Leckebusch (Beat-Club director) let the cameras run.
I also had some time to re-check the old Beat-Club broadcasts. These differ from the Lost Concert broadcast a bit in that both "Johnny B. Goode" and "Let It Rock" had a color feedback of the camera input projected on the blue-screen behind Berry and the band. The latter also has an insert listing the artist names Snow, Kinsley, Harrison, Campbell, and Berry.
Thursday, December 18. 2008
Six weeks ago I told you about the release of the second volume of Morten Reff's Chuck Berry International Directory. I promised to tell more as soon as I read it.
It took a bit more than expected to fulfill this promise. First it took some days for the book to get to my mailbox (Thanks, Morten!), then it took a long time to read through it. Why did it take that long? Not because the contents is boring, it's because there is so much contents in it.
Volume 1 already had some 500 pages full of descriptions of Chuck Berry's official records published in the U.S.A., in England, and everywhere else. Now Volume 2 adds another 500 pages, this time containing much more text and much more detailed information about everything else beside the commercial records.
Let's run through the chapters to see what you are missing if not buying this book:
Maybe half of this book's contents you could find somewhere else if you look hard enough and spend many months searching. The other half I have seen here for the first time. Great job!
Everything Morten writes is well researched and easy to read. I tried hard to spot errors and omissions, but failed to find any other than a few minor things. Along with Volume 1 this is and will be the definitive guide to Chuck Berry's commercial output for many years from now.
Highly recommended. Get your copy immediately! You'll find it in these Internet shops or maybe at your local book store.
And once you have it, you will find that you bought three books in one. Besides all the Chuck Berry contents listed above, there are two additional chapters on pianist Johnnie Johnson and guitarist Eddy Clearwater respectively. Each is again a complete discography of records, videos and movies. Also included is a complete sessionography each, i.e. a list of all recording sessions with personnel, location, and songs. Such a sessionography is omitted from the Chuck Berry part of this book as Fred Rothwell already wrote it in a separate book called Long Distance Information. These two chapters could have been individual books of a hundred pages each. So by buying the Chuck Berry book, you get two additional books for free.
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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