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
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.
Tuesday, May 23. 2017
Following Chuck Berry's passing in March, every music-related magazine had one or more articles describing Berry's life or work. And almost every magazine not dedicated to music as well.
Depending on the quality of the magazine and depending on how the editors valued Berry's importance on their readership, the articles were quite nice or they were so-and-so. Rolling Stone magazine for instance in issue 1285 dedicated almost 20 pages to Berry. And they place lot of text onto each page. Good reading!
Vintage Rock magazine of England even created a special issue called "Chuck Berry - A Celebration". This consists of a full 132 pages! Besides many, many photos, often full-page, the issue also has a lot of text. Randy Fox, Julie Burns, David Burke, Michael Leonard, and John Howard each provide in-depth descriptions of Berry's life and work, divided into common topics such as his Mercury releases, the Birthday movie, or Berry's guitar playing. In addition there are commented lists of Berry's most important and most unknown songs, stories about his influences, and multi-page reviews of his best-known albums. And there's an interview with this site's contributor and author Fred Rothwell.
All in all this special issue is highly recommended. You can order directly from the publisher at http://www.vintagerockmag.com/2017/04/chuck-berry-celebration-sale-now/. They ship world-wide.
As with every review, you should not forget some things to criticize, so here it is: Even though this site here is mentioned in the magazine, it's obvious the authors did not fully read the blog or main text. There's some outdated or even completely wrong information contained. Also they missed to mention of the most important books on Chuck Berry's work, Morten Reff's "Chuck Berry International Directory". And I would have wished the editors would have eliminated the various repetitions which happen when multiple authors write about the same subject.
Saturday, April 8. 2017
As announced on Berry's 90th birthday in October, the planned album CHUCK (Dualtone Music) was supposed to be released in March 2017. Obvious reasons now have postponed the release to June 16th.
While waiting for the release, we are trying to get some facts about the songs and the recording process. Anyway this is what should finally make it to our database - and as correct as possible. While we know about all the uncertainties regarding Berry's recordings in the 1950s and 1960s, it shouldn't be so difficult to get facts about recent recordings, should it?
Right now, some facts about the new album are public. Most of what's of interest for us, remains unclear, though. The contributors, some of which are reading and commenting here, seem to be under non-disclosure. So we have to stick with Dualtone's press releases and the liner notes excerpts reprinted in Rolling Stone magazine.
Berry has been talking about this album in interviews for at least 25 years including naming songs such as "Lady B. Goode". He must have had recorded parts or all already when in March 1989 a fire at his Wentzville farm destroyed both the recording studio and all of the master tapes.
Berry started re-recording the lost tapes shortly thereafter. He moved to digital recording techniques in the 1990s which allowed him to do the same cut-and-paste recording common with multi-track taping. Due to this we will probably never be able to set a date or even year of when a specific song from CHUCK was recorded. And we won't be able to tell where such recording took place and who played which instrument.
Listening to the single Big Boys released in advance, we hear that Berry's singing and guitar playing is not that of a 90-year-old. Even comparing it to the concert tapes made during the last 20 years, he sounds fresh. Therefore we can assume that at least the base track for this song has been recorded in the 1990s or early 2000s. According to an interview, at least six of the tracks had been ready by 1996. Not to forget that "Big Boys" was dubbed ready for release in an article celebrating Berry's 80th birthday in 2006.
Digital recording also allowed Berry to play more than one instrument. Thus while we are told that Jim Marsala, Bob Lohr and Keith Robinson worked as bassist, pianist and drummer on CHUCK, it might be for all songs, or just a few.
Besides Marsala and Berry's children Chuck Jr. and Ingrid, who toured with him during the last decades, the album also lists guest musicians such as Gary Clark Jr., Tom Morello and Nathaniel Rateliff as well as Chuck's grandson Charles III.
Tom Morello is the guitarist who provides the very unlike solo at the end of Big Boys, while Rateliff sings the background vocals. Whereas Morello has been a recording artist since the 1990s, both Rateliff and Clark are relatively fresh artists. This makes us believe that at least these guest artists have been overdubbed onto finished tapes during the last few years. While the liner notes list Clark Jr. on "Wonderful Woman", the guitarist himself says that he doesn't know which song his playing was used for. Berry Jr. explained that he and his son, that's Chuck III., finished their parts in Nashville in 2014 or 2015.
In addition to Big Boys we already know two songs from CHUCK: "3/4 Time" has been in Berry's touring repertoire for decades. Written by Tony Joe White and best known sung by Ray Charles, this is included in various concert recordings known from Berry since the early 1990s. A version of the Jazz standard "You Go To My Head" from 1938, written by Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie, has been recorded during the rehearsals for Berry's 1986 birthday movie. It didn't make it to the film but can be heard on the corresponding DVD set.
The remaining seven songs on CHUCK are written by Berry himself. This is the expected track listing:
Wonderful Woman [5:19]
Big Boys [3:05]
You Go to My Head [3:21]
3/4 Time (Enchiladas) [3:47]
Lady B. Goode [2:55]
She Still Loves You [3:00]
Jamaica Moon [3:50]
Eyes of Man [2:27]
Collectors should note that "Big Boys" was not only released as a download. Dualtone Music also released a CD single (DUA-1793-SI) containing just this track. It was sent as a not-for-sale promotional item to radio stations.
Many thanks to Lori Kampa of Dualtone Music for information about the album and PR single.
[Addition April 27, 2017: The song "Wonderful Woman" has been made available yesterday at https://youtu.be/kRFg9zUZnpU.]
Wednesday, April 5. 2017
One would imagine this to be an easy attempt to create revenue from Chuck Berry's death in March. But that would be very unfair to Ace Records. This album was released before Chuck's passing including Morten's review thereof as shown here. It's my fault that there were other topics to write about during the last weeks. And there's a second reason why such a claim would be very unfair to Ace: They spent an enormous amount of work in this album which must have taken months to complete.
Here's Morten's addition to CBID, the Chuck Berry International Directory:
CD: Rock And Roll Music â The Songs Of Chuck Berry
Ace CDCHD 1491 • UK, 2017
Roll Over Beethoven (Helene Dixon, USA) / Around And Around (The Swinging Blue Jeans, UK) / Down Bound Train (Ken Colyerâs Skiffle Group, UK) / Maybellene (Marty Robbins, USA) / Come On (Ian Gomm, UK) / Memphis (Don Covay, USA) / Oh Baby Doll (The Pretty Things, UK) / Nadine (The Bunch, UK) / Little Queenie (Jerry Lee Lewis, USA) / Iâm Talking About You (The Remains, USA) / Brown Eyed Handsome Man (Buddy Holly, USA) / Johnny B. Goode (Jay And The Americans, USA) / Sweet Little Sixteen (The Hollies, UK) / Too Much Monkey Business (Elvis Presley, USA) / Almost Grown (Syndicate Of Sound, USA) / No Money Down (John Hammond, USA) / Beautiful Delilah (The Cound Bishops, UK-USA) / Havana Moon (Santana, USA) / Back In The USA (MC5, USA) / You Canât Catch Me (Sleepy LaBeef, USA) / Rock And Roll Music (The Beach Boys, USA) / You Never Can Tell (John Prine, USA) / Run Rudolph Run+ (Dwight Yoakam, USA) / Promised Land (Dave Edmunds, UK)
24 classic songs from the Poet Laureate of RockânâRollâs matchless catalogue as the cover tells us. Interesting compilation put together by one Tony Rounce who has also written the liner notes with each song being examined by the way of performance by the individual artists and groups. If you need any additional info check out Vol.3 of CBID, so thereâs no need for me to comment on the tracks. However, I wished they had picked a better version of âRun Rudolph Runâ.
So far for Morten's entry to CBID written early March. We should add that the same CD is also offered in Japan as P-VINE PCD-17762. And after having received the CD, Dietmar would like to add these comments to the review:
What impressed me with the new Ace CD was how much energy Ace has spent creating it. Although it's almost expected with Ace's long list of excellent albums. The 16 page booklet not only explains the recordings in detail, it also shows cover and label images of each. In addition the selection itself is astonishing. They not only included some of the oldest cover versions (Marty Robbins: 1955, Helene Dixon: 1956, Ken Colyer: 1956 in the UK!!). They also selected both prominent names (Elvis, Buddy, Jerry Lee) and groups I had never heard of. The recordings span more than 40 years and many of the interpretations are notably different from Berry's original tunes.
This album is highly recommended. You'll find a list of web shops here.
Monday, April 3. 2017
Back to our main interest here: documenting Chuck Berry's recordings as completely as possible.
Chuck's work for Chess records is known pretty well nowadays. We have heard the 1950s recordings over and over, first on their original releases, then on all the 1970s re-releases, next when transferred to CDs, then in complete by HIP-O Select and Bear Family. So we should know them by heart.
Then last week Willem Moerdijk asked me:
According to your info, only one Chess take of Carol has been found. I think I may have found a second take. I noticed differences in the piano playing.
Willem included an MP3 of the version he found. It's a version most Chuck Berry collectors have sitting on the shelf. But yet it is different.
Get any of your records containing the 1958 hit Carol and listen to it. Now locate you old copy of Chuck Berry's Golden Decade Vol. 2. Carol is the very first track on side one. Play it. Hear any difference? Probably not. The singing is completely identical as is the guitar playing.
However, Willem is an expert on Jerry Lee Lewis. So he did not care about the guitar or the singing. He heard the piano. And he heard a different piano.
After a week of discussions and with the help of Arne's technical expertise (Thanks, Arne!) we finally have to agree with Willem.
The recording of Carol on Chuck Berry's Golden Decade Vol. 2 (Chess 60023, USA, 1973-02) is different indeed. It contains the exact same recording as the usual version, but there's another piano line. Listen for instance to the solo near the end of the song (at 2:33): On the 'new' version you can clearly hear the pianist performing a slide (glissando). On the 'common' version it isn't. There are some other piano differences at the beginning of the song and in between as well. The differences are minimal and you need to have a good and piano-trained ear to spot them.
Since the singing, the guitar, and even the original piano lines are exactly the same on both variants, it's clear that this is not a different recording/take. Instead it seems that Chess overdubbed another piano track onto the recording, probably because the original piano was pretty thin in the mix. Remember that in 1958 Chess recorded in Mono to a single tape. No way to enhance the original piano line later. Note that also the guitar was overdubbed, but this is identical on both variants, so must have taken place before the piano overdub. Why the enhanced variant did not make it to the original release, remains unknown.
The inclusion of this 'new' variant on Chuck Berry's Golden Decade Vol. 2 (again I show the much prettier UK cover) fits to the known facts about this strange release. Collectors had already found differing variants of Let It Rock (missing the guitar overdub) and Betty Jean (previously unreleased take) in this set. Since all three variants on Chuck Berry's Golden Decade Vol. 2 sound very much like their 'correct' releases, we doubt these were released intentionally. Especially as the liner notes don't tell anything. Or maybe some re-release engineer tried to tease us. In this case he succeeded for 44 years!
If you don't have the original 2-LP set, listen to other late 1970s re-releases. We have found the piano overdub on a few other albums. We haven't found it on any CD, though. If you do, let us know.
Many thanks to Willem, of course!
Friday, March 31. 2017
$251.11 - That's what a collector this week paid for a picture sleeve of CHESS 1883, the U.S. original single Nadine. And just for the sleeve only!
Why did this collector pay that much? Because nobody I know has ever seen this sleeve before.
There are similar looking picture sleeves for the CHESS singles following Nadine. But a PS for 1883 has been unknown.
We wonder if this sleeve truly is a genuine product. Or whether it's one of the many counterfeit picture sleeves popping up lately. Since the image on eBay looks reasonable and since the seller seems to be trusted, it may in fact be a long-lost item.
If you've been the buyer, let us know once you received it. What is your opinion?
Addition by Morten Reff:
Collectors should know that some of the US 45 picture sleeves had the titles only on one side whereas the other side had the same image and layout but no song titles. I also have one of these sleeves which has no song titles on both sides. Which would make it easy to imprint whatever you want.
Friday, March 24. 2017
This site contains a full bibliography about Chuck Berry, i.e. a commented list of books about his recordings, his records, and his life. So when I accidentally found a book titled "The Life of Chuck Berry" at amazon, I bought it without thinking, especially as the price was very low (about $6 including shipping here in Germany).
At this price I wasn't too disappointed when it arrived here the next day. You probably won't call it a book at all. It's a leaflet of less than 25 sheets of paper. This certainly is not enough for a paper book. But it is a custom size for a Kindle eBook. And that's what you get: the printout of a Kindle eBook. And it's just a sequential printout without any layout whatsoever. No page numbers. Ten-line pages because the following image is too big to fit. And so on.
What puzzled me the most was that this book doesn't have an author. It doesn't even have a copyright note. Charles River Editors is a company which publishes eBooks about almost every topic you can imagine, hundreds of which are sold by amazon, apple and the likes.
Typically this kind of "books" consists of nothing more than wikipedia articles pasted. This is not the case with "The Life of Chuck Berry", though.
This booklet contains original text. It's well structured, not bad written and good reading. It covers Berry's personal life and career up to 2012 and it does so quite completely.
The book even has two pages listing a bibliography of sources. When writing a book about the life of Chuck Berry, sources should include Bruce Pegg's book, Berry's own autobiography, maybe the books by Howard DeWitt and John Collins, definitely Fred Rothwell's book. None, none of these important books is listed as a source! Instead the whole list of sources consists just of websites (and some magazine articles available on websites).
The unnamed author(s) obviously did not read any of the main sources. All they did was google'ing Berry's name and re-word their findings. So you won't find a quote from Berry's autobiography in this book. But you will find several quotes from reviewers who quoted from Berry's autobiography. That's odd! Why not read the original?
Therefore you will not find any first-hand information in this book. You will not find second-hand information either. All this is third-hand information.
Due to this, while most of the text is correct, there's an obvious error now and then. That happens when you copy and paste from sources who didn't know better.
This book is good for someone who wants to get a first impression about Chuck Berry's career. You won't need more than half an hour to read it. And you have seen the photos before. For readers of this site, it's not recommended at all.
Wednesday, March 22. 2017
Dualtone had been very quiet about the new Chuck Berry album they announced in October. My guess is they kept quiet to have the media stay away from Chuck's last days.
Here's a message distributed tonight:
Since Chuck's passing on Saturday, the Berry family has received many inquiries from friends, fans and media about the status of his forthcoming album CHUCK, which was originally announced on his 90th birthday, October 18, 2016.
Accordingly, Dualtone Records makes available a first song called Big Boys from this album at their website:
Sunday, March 19. 2017
Thursday, February 16. 2017
In June of 1972 the British Broadcasting Corporation BBC recorded an 80 minute Chuck Berry concert at the BBC Television Theatre in London. This recording is one of the best Berry performances ever shown on TV. But unfortunately it wasn't available for us to watch again.
The original recording was broadcast edited down to 45 minutes. The audio track of this abbreviated show was saved and made it to a Vinyl bootleg called "Six Two Five". For more about this record, see here.
In the early 2000s the BBC show was re-transmitted by other TV stations, though now as a 60 minute show with additional songs. Thus we knew there must still exist the original full recording from 1972.
Recently we found a DVD on eBay which claimed to contain the complete show. We checked - and yes: This is the original uncut 80 minutes recording of the 1972 show at excellent video and sound quality, obviously directly from the BBC archives.
Live at the BBC (ZitRock ZR-DVD-CHB-16-03, US, 2016) contains all the songs which we know from the Six Two Five album. In addition there's School Day, Too Much Monkey Business, Rock and Roll Music, and Promised Land. With Reelin' and Rockin' and My Ding-A-Ling it's not hard to tell why these two songs were omitted from the original BBC broadcast as both are the raunchy versions very similar to the ones recorded four months earlier at the Lanchester Arts Festival. Maybe the BBC would have decided differently if they would have known that both raunchy versions would hit the charts at year's end.
While video tape copies of the various international broadcast have been known before, this DVD is of much better quality. And for the first time it contains the instrumental Liverpool Drive of which we didn't have any video recording before.
We have added this DVD as an "other notable release" to our Chuck Berry database meaning it's not a record or CD, but contains additional tracks from the same session as the corresponding record or CD. The full session is now at this session page of the Chuck Berry Database.
Monday, January 16. 2017
Berry Pickin' is a Chuck Berry instrumental recorded in December 1955. Chess released it as a filler on the B side of Berry's first album After School Session and afterwards it was mainly forgotten. You won't find any discography which would list a 45rpm single containing Berry Pickin' ... except for our Chuck Berry Database!
This is because there indeed was a single which contains this instrumental even though only by error. Morten Reff has half a sentence about it in his "Chuck Berry International Directory, Volume 1", but you had to read the text very carefully. Morten owns a copy of the Berry Pickin' single, I have one, and maybe you do as well. Here's its story.
It's the story of the Chess single released in March 1957 with the catalog number 1653. One side of the record contains the song School Day, the other side contains the instrumental Deep Feeling.
To understand the story, we have to understand first how record production works. You'll probably know, but just in case here's a summary: Record production is a four-step process which starts in the recording studio and ends in the record pressing plant. Here the record is literally pressed by putting a blob of plastic (polyvinyl chloride PVC or short Vinyl, once also shellac) into a pressing machine which flattens it to a disk and presses the grooves into the two surfaces. During this also the labels are firmly attached to the record. To press the grooves into the disk, you need to have a negative for each side which has the grooves elevated. This negative is called a "stamper" and made from metal to allow the pressing of thousands of records. To create a stamper you have to have a positive model of the record to produce, typically one for each side of the final disk. This positive looks like an ordinary record having the grooves engraved. It can be played on a standard turntable e.g. for testing purposes. It is not made from vinyl, though. Instead this positive typically consists of a metal kernel coated with a soft material (wax, nitrocellulose lacquer, or in the 1930s cellulose acetate). These master disks are called lacquers or acetates. A turntable-like machine cuts the grooves containing the sound into a blank lacquer which then is used in an electroplating process to create the metal stamper. The record cutter gets the sound from a master tape (at least in the era we're talking about here) which contains the final recording along with all overdubs and mixes. If you need a lot of records (such as Chess in the 1950s) it made sense to add another, intermediate step between lacquer and stamper which allows you to create many stampers for pressing in multiple presses and pressing plants. To do so, the lacquer is first transferred into a negative "father" record using electroplating. Then this "father" record is used to create multiple positive "mother" records, also known as "matrix" records (plural "matrices"). These matrices were checked and then sent out to the pressing-plants to create the stampers.
Let's go back to Chess 1653. After recording and whatever overdubs and fades were needed, the production process began with a magnetic tape containing the master recording. For identification purposes, each master tape was given a unique number. In this case, the final recording of Deep Feeling got the number 8378 and the final recording of School Day got 8379. Our database lists those where known. Using a record cutter both master tapes were transferred to at least two different lacquers. We know that there has been more than one lacquer as Chess 1653 was pressed both at 7-inch size to be played at 45rpm and at 10-inch size to be played at 78rpm. You needed different matrices for each obviously. The lacquer for the 7-inch 45rpm singles was electroplated into multiple mother disks or matrices. Again we know that there must have been more than one matrix, as original silver-top issues of Chess 1653 have been made from slightly different matrices.
You can tell by looking at the writing in the inner "dead wax" area of the single. On some copies you find the numbers 45-8378 x and 45-8379 x engraved. This additional engraving was either hand-written on the lacquer after the grooves have been cut or - more probably - added to the mother disk after checking. The mother disk going to the Plastic Products Co. in Memphis had a different engraving which reads chess 45•8378 PP and chess 45•8379 PP so the Memphis people could easily see to which label the disk belonged.
According to discogs other copies read 45-8378 Δ 15319 and 45-8379 x Δ 15318 which is the code for the Monarch Records pressing plant in Los Angeles. There are also silver-top copies where the etching reads CH-8378 and CH-8379, though these may be 1970s re-issues.
Note that the variety of labels known from Chess 1653 has also to do with the multitude of records needed. Some pressing plants had printers on site who created labels, some got them for external sources. But while the layout was probably given by Chess, the letter size and placement was done at the individual print shops. We know of silver-top labels having "School Day" within quotation marks and others that don't. Also some labels had a sub-title of (Ring! Ring! Goes The Bell) below the song name, others didn't.
After its original success Chess 1653 has been re-produced often. There are re-issues with every type of label the Chess company used during the late 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s. Up to the mid-60s these re-issues seem to have been created from the original matrices having 45-8378 and 45-8379 engraved.
Sometime around 1965, Chess once more needed re-issues of Berry's old hits. However, they decided not to re-use the old lacquers but to create new ones from the master tapes. One reason was that the fad of the time required stereo records. So Chess tried to refresh the old mono records. They altered the sound electronically to make it sound like stereo. Judging from today, this enhancement was probably the worst they could do with the old master tapes, but they did.
This new re-issue had a light-blue label. The catalog number reads "1653" as on the original 1957 release and the correct instrumental Deep Feeling can be heard. You can tell that new lacquers have been made by looking at the engraving of this variant. Instead of 8379 for School Day the etching erroneously reads 8370 here.
For whatever reason, only a few years later Chess once again decided to create new lacquers, probably around 1967 and with even inferior sound. Again we can tell that new lacquers were made because this next re-issue has another new etching in the "dead wax" (8379 TM5416 CH1653 SG where TM stands for Chess'es own Ter-Mar Pressing Plant and SG might stand for mastering engineer Geoff Sykes).
The label to this re-issue is almost identical to the light-blue one shown above. You can recognize these new ones not only by the TM text in the wax, but also by its label print. The records of this second set have the same light-blue 1960s Chess label but - most importantly - list a catalog number of "CH 1653".
This is the interesting variant! On the B side this second light-blue re-issue not only has a different dead wax, it also has different grooves for the song!
By error someone at Ter-Mar Recording Studios took the wrong master tape to cut the new lacquer. On this B side is a Chuck Berry instrumental, but it's not Deep Feeling! Instead they took the tape of master U7953 which is Berry Pickin'. The faulty lacquers went into production unnoticed and records were pressed.
This must have been a time at the Chess company when somebody got totally confused over which master tapes to use for re-issues. Besides the incorrect pressing of Chess CH-1653 there exist at least two other light-blue re-issues with incorrect contents. Bo Diddley expert George White told me that he owns a light-blue re-issue of Chess 1744 (Howlin' Wolf - The Natchez Burning b/w You Gonna Wreck My Life) where the A side plays I'm Going Away instead. And he knows of a light-blue re-issue of Checker 819 (Bo Diddley - Diddley Daddy b/w She's Fine, She's Mine) where the A side incorrectly plays The Great Grandfather. So whoever was in charge at Chess when the light-blue re-issues were mastered, he either couldn't read or hear.
Many thanks to Morten Reff and Thierry Chanu for their tremendous help with this article!
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.
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