Sunday, May 11. 2008
Many of you will know that I regularly write for the German-language Rock'n'Roll Musik-Magazin. In October 2007 the magazine celebrated their 30th anniversary at the opening of the Bill Haley Museum in Munich, Germany. Even though I was invited, I could not participate due to business reasons. But when a business trip lead me to Munich last week, I took the opportunity and reserved some time to at least visit the museum.
So I entered a taxi (for Americans: a cab) and told the driver to take me to the Bill Haley Museum. 'To what?' he replied, 'I work as a sight-seeing guide here in Munich, but such a museum does not exist.'
Well, I had the street address (Schleissheimerstr. 321) and when we got there, the taxi driver was astonished to see a large sign guiding the way to the museum. He immediately made a note of this to take guests thereto in the future.
The museum opens in the afternoons only, but owner Klaus Kettner was so kind to let me in early and provided me with a private guided tour. The photo below (click to enlarge) shows Klaus Kettner (to the right) during the opening of his Bill Haley Museum, along with H.-G├╝nther Hartig (Rock'n'Roll Musikmagazin), Bill Turner (ex Bill Haley's Comets), Mike Berry (Tribute to Buddy Holly), and Rainer Koschorz (Buddy, the musical).
Photo ©2007 Rock'n'Roll Musik-Magazin
used with permission
Klaus is a full-time concert promoter (Rock It Concerts), record label owner (Hydra Records), and also runs the Hydra Records store in Munich. But most of all Klaus is a Rock'n'Roll fan and collector just like you and me.
Having collected Bill Haley material for decades, Klaus decided to present his collection to the public. The Bill Haley Museum is located right next to the Hydra Records store. It is a 1000 sqft room stuffed with memorabilia about Bill Haley and the Comets.
This indeed is a impressive collection, and all of it is professionally presented: As you would expect, there are all the original records, from the oldest 1940s releases or the most obscure Mexican albums. Among many other displays, there's a huge showcase dedicated to Rock Around the Clock alone, including records from all over the world, session details such as photos and contracts, handwritten notes, original advertising and more. You'll see tons of promotional material, autographs, songbooks, newspaper clippings, concert posters, film reels and so on - all original, of course.
But besides what you and me might have in our collections in some form or another, Klaus also owns and shows Haley's Golden Records, original instruments and stage clothing, union cards, handwritten letters, awards presented to Bill Haley and much more. Many of these items you have never seen before and never will. If you ever come to Munich, take your time to visit the Bill Haley Museum!
And while you are there, take a look at the Hydra Records store. I have never seen a more extensive offer of contemporary Rock'n'Roll CDs. Where other CD shops have two or five different Chuck Berry CDs in stock, Hydra Records stocks at least two dozens. These include some hard-to-find ones such as Chuck Berry meets Matchbox, His London Recordings, Deliver Me From the Days of Old, or the long out-of-stock CD version of Concerto in B. Goode. Highly recommended!
Sunday, April 20. 2008
Whenever I come across an unusual Chuck Berry record, I try to find out where it stems from, what it is about and why it is special in some way. As long as Morten Reff's Chuck Berry International Directory book is not out, the only good sources for this are Fred Rothwell's book Long Distance Information and the Goldmine Promo Record & CD Guide. When both fail I ask Morten Reff for help.
But when I recently got me a new 2LP set, Morten was of no help at all. Not because he did not want to. He just did not know this record. This is the first time such happened since Morten and I started to exchange Berry information, which is a lot more than ten years by now.
To be honest, the album I found is not really a Chuck Berry album in its direct sense. But it is related to Chuck Berry in many ways. First, it contains 23 Chuck Berry songs, 19 recorded by Berry himself plus 8 Berry songs recorded by other artists such as Johnny Rivers, Ronnie Hawkins, Rod Steward, Elvis Presley, or the Beach Boys. And yes I know that the math does not work, but indeed some of the songs are on this set sung twice by both Berry and some other singer. And secondly, this album's cover shows nothing more than the line "Just let me hear some of that rock'n'roll music" which as we all know is a Chuck Berry quote.
The 2LP set was produced by The Goodman Group Music Publishers in 1979. The Goodman Group is a group of music publishing companies which was under supervision of Gene Goodman (brother of band leader Benny) until Marshall Chess (son of Leonard Chess) took over the business after Goodman retired. Along with the Chess Brothers, Goodman and his brother Harry in August 1953 formed Arc Music Publishing which owned and used the copyrights of all of the material coming out of Chess Records, including Berry's — and still does today.
Like other publishers, the Goodman Group presented their catalogue to the industry not only in writing, but also on records such as this. "This two-record compilation contains excerpts from 100 of our most successful copyrights, along with a summary of chart activity" wrote Gene Goodman on the back of this set. And indeed there are 100 well-known songs included, all in recordings by their original artists or in famous cover versions by e.g. the Beatles or CCR.
All songs come in excerpts of a minute or a half, sometimes as a combination of multiple recordings. So you hear Berry start with Back in the U.S.A. until Linda Ronstadt takes over after the first verse. It's quite funny to listen to this collage, especially because it is not in chronological but in alphabetical order (by song title). Usually the better-known versions are included, such as Rod Steward singing Sweet Little Rock And Roller instead of Berry. Sometimes the better-known versions seem to have been out of reach, such as with Around and Around which is not sung by the Stones but by Berry himself.
All in all this is an interesting Berry-related item. It is probably rare as it was only produced for industry experts and never available for sale. I have not found any description of it on the Internet yet. But it's not too rare. I helped Morten to get a copy for himself and if you look around, you might be able to find one for yourself as well.
Sunday, April 13. 2008
It's been a time since my last post here. There were two good reasons for my absence.
Basically I was busy. I have a business to run besides telling you about Chuck Berry's music. And this meant that while Berry was touring Europe and even performing in Germany, I was flying over the Atlantic heading the other direction multiple times doing business in the U.S. That left no time for writing articles here.
The second reason I didn't have time was related to this, but also completely unrelated. Heading multiple ten-hour flights, I went to my favorite book store to purchase some books to read during the long stays on board. And while browsing the Rock Music shelves, I came across two books I wanted to read since they first appeared in 1994 and 1999 but never found the time to do so. So I purchased Peter Guralnick's extensive biography on Elvis Presley. These are two very thick books so I needed more than just the flight times. And in fact I spent many hours afterwards finishing these. And this left no time to work on this blog as well.
I like Guralnick's writing since his 1971 "Feel Like Going Home" which among other things covered Chess Records in detail. This guy really knows what he is talking about. And this knowledge and detailed research can be seen on each and every page of this large two-volume work.
"Last Train to Memphis — The Rise of Elvis Presley" covers Elvis's life up until September 1958, while the second volume "Careless Love — The Unmaking of Elvis Presley" starts there and continues to Elvis's death in August 1977. You need to read both and you need to have time to do so. Together they have more than 1.400 pages, depending on which edition you get. I read the German translations which are even more voluminous. If you can find them, get the hardcover bindings as this number of pages is simply too much for a paperback.
What makes these two books outstanding is not their huge volume, it is their factualness. Whenever you read something about 1950's rock stars, and especially about Elvis, you are confronted with a huge pile of myths, covered by fandom. As said, Guralnick is different. Everything he writes is at least backed by facts and based on interviews with the people who were there. And where people's recollections do not match with each other or with published facts from newspapers or magazines, Guralnick tells you so. Not without reason, the books have thousands of footnotes with links to sources or additional comments.
However, while staying to the facts could make a reading boring, this here is not. Guralnick is really good at telling stories. Even though you already know the end of the story, you may not want to stop reading. Well, at least I didn't. Whether you learn about Elvis's way of recording, whether you read about him making films and concert tours, or whether you wonder about how his various girlfriends and the Memphis Mafia formed his closed world, this is not boring at all. The main aspects of the book are the people. Guralnick tries to find out and explain the personalities of Gladys, Vernon, Priscilla, Col. Parker, and all the other people who basically formed the man. And he tries to look behind the curtain to show the man himself, what he said, what he did, what he thought. While the end result of such could be questionable, with Guralnick's in-depth research it is not — or at least it sounds as if not.
Even such a voluminous work needs to omit things when it covers a complete lifetime of little more than 40 years. What I miss the most, especially in comparison to the contents of this site here, is the musical facts. While Guralnick writes about the recording sessions and about record releases, these comments are of very low priority. So if you are interested in when Elvis recorded Berry's "Promised Land" and how this was released, this is not the book for you. Such facts are hidden in half a sentence somewhere in between these hundreds of pages. I wish Guralnick had added a short appendix listing Elvis's records and movies, just for reference. But there are other Elvis books which fill these gaps. Also some more photographs would have been desired, especially where Guralnick writes about a special photo.
In any case, this two-volume biography is one of the best books on Rock music I have ever seen! Highly recommended!
Wednesday, March 19. 2008
Over the last few days I updated several of the discography pages of this site. I included the new Complete 50's CD set and made some related corrections in the Chess section, changed one image in the Mercury section, and added some information to the Radio Stations section. Use the links to the right to see the corresponding sections.
You can always see the latest changes to this site using the Revisions page. This includes all additions and changes to the main pages of this site. Not included is this Blog as it is supposed to change often. Visit regularly or use the RSS feed to stay informed with the Blog contents.
Thursday, March 6. 2008
I finally got my copy of the new 4 CD set containing Chuck Berry's complete 1950s recordings (HIP-O-Select B0009473-02), so it's time for a small review. It took some time for the box to reach me, but I do only write about items I own or at least have physically seen.
Let's start with one of the most disappointing items about this CD box, right on the top: its title! How could anyone come up with Johnny B. Goode to be used as yet another CD title. I have not counted, but there must be at least half a dozen CDs out there titled the same. A bit more creativity, please. This item deserves better than to get lost between all the other albums of same name.
From the outside
The next thing you notice is the funny way this CD box is designed. Looking like a 1950's mailing envelope, it is closed with a rope surrounding two hooks. You have to untie the rope/thread to open the box. While this design is funny, just using cardboard for a four CD set is fairly weak. I have heard of several copies which were damaged in mailing. I would have preferred a hardcover book-like packaging as with Charly's 1994 Poet of Rock'n'Roll 4-CD set.
From the inside
The nice design continues on the inside. All four CDs look like (different) 1950's CHESS labels. If you remove a CD, underneath you'll find one of the original album covers. The box is completed with nice photos, and the partial lyrics to Johnny B. Goodeare spread over different parts. The 24 page booklet is a fine work, though the reading direction is a bit strange: you have to flip pages up and down instead of left and right. Fred Rothwell wrote both a summary of Berry's 50's work and details on the specialties of the set. The track listing thoroughly tells about the musicians, recording date and much more. It also lists on which record the take appeared first - in the U.S.! Tracks previously published e.g. in Europe are listed as "previously unreleased in the U.S." instead of telling the true origin. With a collector's item like this, it should be clear even to the people at Universal that U.S. borders do not matter for collectors. We don't care if a song was first published in the U.S. in 1990 when it has been available elsewhere more than a decade earlier.
What's on the CDs
Very simple: The four CDs include each and every recording Chuck Berry made for Chess Records between May 1955 and December 1959 which either has been published before or was found to be worth not keeping in the vault. This includes all the singles, all the LP tracks, some demo recordings, a large number of alternate takes, plus studio jams and studio talk. In addition the first CD also has the two live tracks from Allan Freed's 1956 CBS broadcast. For details about the original releases, read the corresponding section of this site. All in all these are 103 "little records, all rock, rhythm, and jazz" as Fred claims it.
What interests me most is the material previously not available. The most important two tracks are the long jams on disk 3. While we have found lengthy jams on the Two Great Guitars and Concerto in B. Goode albums, these two jams are more Johnnie Johnson recordings than Chuck Berry's. One wonders why the band went through these, and more importantly why an engineer such as Phil Chess would record them to tape. But he did and we are glad to be able to listen to them now.
In addition to these jams, there are 14 previously unknown alternate takes, in addition to the alternate takes already on records such as Rock 'n' Roll Rarities. On this CD set we newly find additional takes of Sweet Little Sixteen, Night Beat, Time Was (slow version), Reelin' and Rockin', Around and Around, Ingo, 21, Almost Grown (two different takes), Blue on Blue, Betty Jean, I Just Want to Make Love to You, Broken Arrow, and Too Pooped to Pop. Also to be noted is that the version of Around and Around which was only to be heard on the strange Marble Arch 12-instead-of-10 song record is included as well, of course. Everything else has been available even on CD before.
All 103 songs come in chronological order. This results in CD 2 playing five different versions of Sweet Little Sixteen in a row. If the listener is interested in Chuck Berry's music, he can nicely hear how the song develops. People who only want to listen to Berry's greatest hits will be annoyed by such repetitions, but those should better buy a compressed sampler.
What's not on the CDs
Unfortunately, there are no alternate takes of songs recorded before December 1957. As the liner notes tell, Chess recycled the tapes once a master was selected. What a pity! What's also missing are takes which are very similar or simply too bad for release. Probably we are about to see some of these in later years as no record company will ever want your collection to be complete.
While the two CBS live tracks are included, though not recorded for Chess, the 1958 Newport recordings are missing. Also not included are the two Joe Alexander tracks. Luckily both have been released on CD just a few weeks ago.
Thursday, February 21. 2008
We know about Radio Station records and this site has a complete section on Radio Station records related to Chuck Berry. So far my knowledge was that these records were used to distribute pre-recorded radio shows to the many FM radio stations throughout the USA.
To my surprise I recently found a non-US radio station album. Or at least an album of which I think is a non-US radio station album. In contrast to the US albums, the record Let It Rock (BBC Radioplay TAIR 87059) shown below has a printed cover containing details about each song, liner notes about the artists and even a drawing up-front which seems to show Chuck Berry. There are five Berry recordings, four by Bo Diddley and a few by Clarence Henry, Dale Hawkins, Bobby Charles, and Paul Gayten.
The record's publisher is listed as BBC Radioplay Music Library. The back cover includes the note "BBC Radioplay Music is not available to the public".
Can any reader shed some light on this release? It seems to be correct that the record was not sold commercially as there are very few out there. However, why would the BBC create a sampler for their own internal use? And why would they spend the money to create and print a complete album cover and label only for a library issue? Let me know if you know anything about this or other BBC Radioplay releases.
A few weeks ago I learned about a new CD out there. Deliver Me From the Days of Old (Crying Steel Records CSR001) was a bit difficult to get as it is not stocked by the usual CD shops on the net. Even though this is a professional looking CD, it seems that the creators of this CD did not have the rights to publish the recordings contained.
The CD is a collection of all the Berry recordings never transferred to CD before - well, maybe not all, but many. You'll find Roll 'Em Pete, the Chess recording even missed in the Charly 9-CD set. You'll find the two recordings from the American Hot Wax soundtrack. There is the complete Tokyo Session LP and the two extremely rare recordings from the album The Day of R&B. All the stuff you have in your vinyl collection but never listened to for years.
In addition the CD contains the four songs recorded during the Newport Jazz Festival 1958 which were to be found on a rare Swedish CD before only. And finally they included the two unreleased Chess masters taken from the ARC Music Promotional CD. For details read the corresponding sections of this site.
This is a lot of good stuff. Whoever created this CD really knew about Chuck Berry recordings and what is easy to get and what not. The same holds for the 8-page booklet which has many excellent Berry photos in addition to complete details about the included recordings. They even included cover photos of the original vinyl albums. Very well done!
To my ears some of the vinyl transfers run too fast, maybe ten percent or even more. But what really is a pity is that this CD is not official meaning that you have to hunt for it on record markets. This collection should have deserved better.
Wednesday, February 13. 2008
On February 6th, 2008 Chuck Berry received the Golden Camera Lifetime Achievement Award. The show was recorded in Berlin and broadcast by German TV two days later.
I had to record the show on video due to business travel. But when I looked at it today, it was more than disappointing.
The introduction by Klaus Meine was ok, even though it was nothing more than just a few sentences everyone could have said by reading any half-page biography. Why didn't Mr. Meine tell a bit about how Berry's music influenced him personally or the Scorpions as a band?
When Chuck entered the stage, the standing ovations from the crowd (all famous TV people by themselves) was long and great. It was easily to see how much Chuck was moved emotionally. Looked like this was not something he went through often before.
Chuck's thanking speech was basically a poem recitation. I really would have liked to hear this in his original language. Unfortunately German TV found it necessary to not only translate Chuck's words, but also to broadcast this translation much too loud. The translation of course was no longer in rhyme or even a poem, just some senseless sentences. A pity! If someone has a recording of the speech in original language, I'd love to get a copy.
And then came the worst part of all. Chuck Berry lip-syncing to "Roll over Beethoven". A song he still performs today in every concert multiple times each month. But German TV (as most other TV stations today) requested play-back. So we see Chuck standing in front of a band of famous German musicians. And we hear the Chess recording of 1956 play! There's the famous guitar solo - but there is no lead guitar on stage! Chuck just singing (well, opening and closing his mouth). The rhythm guitarist always turned his back to the camera, obviously ashamed of this performance. You see the musicians exchange views and shaking their heads. What a pity! This could have been a great moment, but it was just shameful.
Niels Rozeboom placed a video recording of the Berry segments at YouTube, in case you want to look for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmVfHzZz50U
The best part of the show Niels missed to post, though. Because also Robert De Niro received a Lifetime Achievement Award, each and every woman on stage talked to De Niro who was waiting in the audience, either requesting a date or an autograph. Only German TV clown Stefan Raab took the opportunity to tell: "Sorry Mr. De Niro, but I love Chuck Berry!"
Late addition: Wolfgang Guhl pointed me to an article on echo-muenster.de. There Steffi Stephan explained that a live show was planned first, but did not work out due to "organizational complications". Which means that the organizers could not provide Chuck with the guitar he requested, and that they could not agree on the numbers to perform. Thanks for the link, Wolfgang!
Thursday, January 31. 2008
Chuck Berry where?
Baarn is a small town in the Netherlands, not far away from Hilversum. I do not know if Berry ever played a concert in Baarn and I strongly doubt so. But this article is in the Chuck Berry Rarities category, not in Chuck Berry Live Tapes. So this article is not about a concert, it is about rare records and stuff.
What makes Baarn interesting is that in the early 1950s Philips built their first LP pressing plant here. Since then Baarn has always been related to records and recording, even today Universal Music has their Dutch office in Baarn.
The pressing plant changed names over the years as the music business of Philips became Phonogram, later Polygram. In the 1970s Polygram also produced the Chess label records for distribution in the Netherlands, Germany, and other parts of Europe.
Recently a seller on ebay sold some interesting items related to Baarn. He said his father worked in the pressing plant and took home some souvenirs. So I was able to purchase an unused label of the Chuck Berry's Greatest Hits album (Chess 9283 004).
Of course this is just a gimmick, but it's certainly something not seen often.
Even rarer is another item I recently was able to purchase from a different source. It is also Dutch and I pretty much believe it stems from the Baarn pressing plant as well. Below is a record which label says "Proefpersing", i.e. Check Pressing. The number is CH 50043 which is the US catalog number of Chuck Berry's Bio album of 1973. From the label we can see that this test pressing of Bio was made or checked on September 25, 1973. Both A and B side were checked and approved. The print and signatures are on side A only. Side B has a completely blank white label. An interesting question is how such an internal test sample somehow made it to the record collectors market. Do you know of other, similar items?
Friday, January 18. 2008
Recently I came across a white label EP on French BARCLAY label. Its number is 70668 and you may know it. It's a 1964 Chuck Berry EP containing Nadine and three other Berry numbers.
The first thing you will notice is that this record neither tells you the name of the artist nor any song titles. (The one I have has some handwritten notes on it which are obviously unrelated and added by a later owner. I removed those from the scan below. As with every scan here, click on it for a higher resolution image).
The printed text on this translates to "Sample, no commercial value". The stamped date might be the date of production. I asked around and Morten Reff told me he owns a similar copy, though his is stamped July 1st.
We could not find out whether these records are test pressings produced for internal checks within the record company, or if this is how Barclay marked their promotional copies given to DJs or dealers. If you can add any knowledge to this, let us know by sending a comment to this entry.
Tuesday, January 15. 2008
Usually I write only about Chuck Berry records and books I own or at least have physically seen. This is an exception, simply because I and many others are awaiting this book for many years. So finally we are to see at least Volume One of The Chuck Berry International Directory. This book will answer all the questions you continue to send me in email about this and this record you have, about this and this cover, about this and this label...
Here's an edited quote from George Groom-White's press release:
Music Mentor Books of York, England are to publish an extensive reference work about rock'n'roll's most influential guitarist and composer, Chuck Berry.
Given the task of collecting all this information about Chuck Berry record releases, books, DVDs, and cover versions, it is no wonder that Volume One has been promised for years. But now it's near and both Morten and George expect the April release date to be met. YES!
I would not bet anything on the dates George lists for the other volumes, but nevertheless: Write, Morten, write! We are waiting!
Late addition: To pre-order this book, Click Here!
Saturday, January 12. 2008
Over in the Chuck Berry Forum, Johan Hasselberg guided a reader to his description of the Chuck Berry concert recordings available at Wolfgang's Vault. This reminded me to finalize what I was writing on these and other recordings from San Francisco 1967.
During 1967 Chuck Berry was a regular guest at Bill Graham's venues "Fillmore" and "Winterland" in San Francisco. Currently we know of four concerts which have been recorded there and are available to us.
March 19, 1967 - Fillmore West
This concert recording is available for listening at Wolfgang's Vault. Wolfgang's Vault is a commercial operation by Bill Sagan which makes use of the archives of Wolfgang Grajonca, better known as Bill Graham. Until his death in 1991 the famous promoter Bill Graham had collected a huge pile of concert posters, concert recordings, and other musical memorabilia. Some of the contents of Wolfgang's Vault is for sale, such as for instance the original poster to this concert. You cannot purchase a CD with this concert, though. You have to listen to it online or cut yourself a CD with it.
The concert starts out with Berry talking about Bill Graham and how he called him to play there. According to the description on Wolfgang's Vault, the backup band is the later famous Steve Miller Band (Miller, Peterman, Turner, and Davis). You cannot tell, though. The backup band is nothing special at all. In fact, I don't hear Peterman's organ nor Miller's harmonica. The one who can be identified is Bill Graham, though, thanking Berry before the encore.
While this is a concert of Berry's greatest hits with not a single blues number, one track stands out. Listen to track 5 where Berry recites a poem, just like he later did on the San Francisco Dues album in 1971.
June 27 and 29, 1967 - Fillmore West
We usually count these two concerts as one, because this is what has been released by Mercury under the name Live at Fillmore Auditorium (Mercury LP 21138/61138). The first side of this very first Chuck Berry live album was recorded during the June 27 show, the second side during the June 29 show. Again the concert poster is available for sale at Wolfgang's Vault.
The original Mercury LP contained ten tracks of which the first and last were medleys. The LP was later re-issued on CD twice. Be careful which CD you purchase, because their contents is not identical. The re-issue by Rebound Records (314 520 203-2) is available from the usual webstores. It has two songs marked as CD bonus tracks both of which are not! However, the CD indeed comes with three tracks not found on the original album: Good Morning Little Schoolgirl, Reelin' and Rockin', and an early version of My Ding-A-Ling. This re-issue misses the Wee Baby Blues from the LP version, though!
An earlier re-issue by Mercury/PolyGram Records (Mercury 836072-2) contains all ten tracks from the original album, plus the three bonus tracks, and in addition Bring Another Drink and Worried Life Blues.. Unfortunately this more complete CD is long out of print and seems to have been made in very little quantity. If you ever see one, get it!
As before Berry is backed by the Steve Miller Blues Band which in contrast to most other of Chuck's backup bands here really takes part of the show. Most importantly to note is Miller providing second vocals to It Hurts Me Too, but also his prominent harmonica playing e.g. on Flyin' Home greatly enhances this performance. Again Bill Graham is heard introducing Berry, and at the end of the show Chuck asks the audience to applaude "the most wonderful promoter I ever had".
December 29, 1967 - Winterland
This fourth concert of 1967 again is to be heard in Wolfgang's Vault. The concert poster is on sale there as well, a bit expensive, though.
According to the site, Berry is again backed up by the Steve Miller Band. However, given that neither a harmonica is heard nor a duet sung (even though the duet single was out since November), it is to be doubted who in fact played there. Listen carefully to Bill Graham at the end of the show. Does he say "The Steve-Miller-less Steve Miller Band"? Maybe Miller wasn't on stage at all.
Due to this, we hear just another Berry concert typical of that time. Of interest is a very long version of Around and Around. Also Memphis, Tennessee is over 7 minutes long. Two songs are incomplete, probably because someone had to turn the cassette tape. And there is Bye Bye Johnny played as an encore, a title very seldom heard in Berry concerts.
It is a pity that we cannot purchase these concerts on CD from Wolfgang's Vault despite they sell other concerts at least as MP3 files.
How to create a CD from an audio stream
Whether it is legal for Wolfgang's Vault to broadcast these and hundreds of other concerts is a question currently in court. Thus it may happen that these concerts will be removed from the site's playlist at any time. Therefore you may want to create your own backup copy of these concerts. At least here in Germany it is legal to cut yourself a private copy of a radio or Internet broadcast. In fact we have to pay an extra amount on copiers, cassettes, and CD-ROMs which covers the artist's fees. It is not legal to sell such private cuts, so don't ask me.
Here is how you create your own backup copy of the concerts: (a) Hook your old tape deck to the computer speaker port, go to the concert site, press the Record button and let the concert play. (b) Get yourself a software which can record the audio output of your sound card into an MP3 or WAV file. Then burn the file onto a CD-ROM. I recommend to use Jens Fangmeier's Feurio! which is one of the best CD writing packages and the one I use - a licensed version, of course. Feurio! can record the concert and directly burn it onto a CD. Note that Wolfgang's Vault broadcasts each track on its own with short breaks in between. Gluing the tracks together is a bit more work you may not want to go through.
[Update October 2009: Read here about one more Winterland recording.]
Friday, January 11. 2008
When describing the outcome of Chuck Berry's recording session 9 of January 1957, Fred Rothwell writes about two different takes of a song listed as Lajaunda (Española). One take is listed as the B side of CHESS 1664, Oh Baby Doll. The other take is to be found on the One Dozen Berrys LP (CHESS LP-1432) and all subsequent releases. Fred wrote:
The second voice on the Chess 1664 single is a multi-tracked single vocal track, whilst the LP release includes an alternative cut with a true second vocal that is not multi-tracked. The LP version is more appealing because the voices are not perfectly synchronised.When I saw the track listing of Johnny B. Goode - His Complete '50s Chess Recordings (Hip-O Select / Geffen Records B0009473-02) on which Fred collected all Berry recordings including the most interesting alternate takes, I noticed that this recording is on the 4CD-set only once. So where is the alternative take, Fred? His reply:
After careful listening to both I decided that they were the same take. There is some aural difference but this I put down to mastering differences.Given this, I sat down with the single, the LP, and a series of CDs. In the end I must confirm Fred's remarks. If you listen carefully, you can definitely hear that both versions have a true second voice track and except for differences in loudness, both versions are exactly the same. There is no alternative take.
While I was at it, I also wondered about this song's name. On the original Chess single, the song is listed as LAJAUNDA - one word. On the One Dozen Berrys LP (CHESS LP-1432) the same spelling is used, though now in two words: La Jaunda. On most reissues there are also two words, but it's La Juanda now, ua instead of au.
So what is correct, I thought. I asked my brother who runs a linguistic services business (Euglottia) if either Juanda or Jaunda has any meaning. He said that neither has any direct relation to a Spanish word. It's just a name. However, while Juanda is a known name similar to Juan or Juanita, the other form Jaunda is not used as a name. In fact if you google for Jaunda, the Berry song lyrics is the only result you will get. When you listen to what Berry sings, it's also clear that Juanda is the girl's name. Finally one can note that the BMI repertoire (Broadcast Music, Inc. licenses Berry's songs e.g. for radio airplay) also lists this song as La Juanda. So we can conclude that the original spelling Lajaunda simply was a typing error by someone who did not know enough Spanish.
Did Chuck Berry know enough Spanish at that time? Probably not. Just listen to the end of the first verse: "Hablo solo en Español y no comprendo Ingles" does not translate to "I only speak English" but instead to "I only speak Spanish". In the other two verses, the Spanish text matches the English one correctly.
Correction 05-08-2012: There are differences in the two version. Read here on how to spot those.
Tuesday, January 8. 2008
In 1954 Chuck Berry used the alias "Chuck Berryn" when performing in and around St. Louis. Concert announcement posters such as the one shown on pages 92/93 of Berry's Autobiography prove this.
Likewise, American Federation of Musicians' recording contracts show that in 1954 someone by the name of Chuck Berryn played guitar during a recording session for Oscar Washington's Ballad label in St. Louis.
Chuck Berry has never acknowledged that it was him who recorded for Ballad at that time. He always states that his first recording sessions took place in May 1955 for Chess Records of Chicago. However, nowadays most experts such as Fred Rothwell count the Ballad session as Berry's first recording.
Of the unknown number of songs recorded, Washington released two under the name of Joe Alexander and the Cubans: Oh Maria b/w I Hope These Words Will Find You Well.
A recently published CD by Music Productions b.v. of Utrecht, the Netherlands contains these two hard-to-find recordings. Chuck Berry Rocks (Digimode Entertainment GTR39508) was released as part of a series of low-cost CDs covering Rock&Roll legends such as Elvis Presley, Bill Haley, Little Richard, or Gene Vincent.
The CD contains Berry's first six Chess singles, thus twelve early Chess numbers ranging from Maybellene to You Can't Catch Me, though in no particular order. As bonus tracks the CD comes with the two Joe Alexander recordings. Both are in perfect sound quality.
While Oh Maria could be found on the CD Cruisin' Classics Volume 1 (MR DJ 101) before, I Hope These Words Will Find You Well is to be heard on CD for the first time here.
If you plan to buy Chuck Berry Rocks, be aware that its listings in web shops are next to inexistent. Even on amazon you have no chance to locate the CD and ensure that it's the correct item you order. Click here to go to the correct pages on amazon to purchase this CD.
Thursday, January 3. 2008
The following discussion on the various versions of "Betty Jean" took place in email first. It is worth repeating here:
Rick Bergemann asked:
The identical version of "Betty Jean" is included in the "Anthology" and "Rock┬┤n┬┤Roll Rarities" cd┬┤s, and that version differs from the version included on the 1987 cd re-issue of "Rockin┬┤ At The Hops". I asked about this discrepancy long ago and was told that the "Rarites" version was an alternate take and that the "Anthology" version was the originally released version. Obviously that answer was incorrect, because those two versions are the same. And the fact that neither "Rarities" nor "Anthology" lists that particular version as an alternate take (while specifically noting all other alternate takes) leads me to believe that their version is actually the original. Therefore I have strong suspicion that the odd version (included in the "Hops" re-issue) is actually the alternate take. I know that this site is mainly for people who collect vintage vinyl and bootlegs and such and probably won┬┤t think twice about what┬┤s included on recently mass produced cd┬┤s. But if someone of knowledge has a copy of the aforementioned cd┬┤s, can you please listen to the versions of "Betty Jean" and explain the discrepancy clearly. Thank you.
The version on Rarities is known as the alternate version, simply because it┬┤s the one released later. You can distinguish the two best by listening to the Little-Richard-style Oooh┬┤s and Aaah┬┤s both after the first verses and best at the end of the song. In the original the first verse ends with something that sounds like Whoo Ha Oh Baby, Whooo Whooo - while in the alt. version the same part sounds like Oh oh oh Baby, Oh oh oh oh Baby. The 2:25 minute alt version ends with three identical repetitions of Whoo Ha Baby I┬┤m in love with, while the 2:30 minute original ends with Whoo Ha Baby I┬┤m in love with - Whoo Baby I┬┤m in love with YOU - Whoooo I┬┤m in love with you - Whoo Baby (...fading...)
Follow up from Rick Bergemann:
Thank you for the detailed answer. You made it very easy for me to compare the two and confirm which was which. However it leads me to a second question: do you have any knowledge as to why the later version has been included on "Rarities" and "Anthology" without proper notation? "Rarities" includes demos and alt versions as well as originals, yet it does not mention "Betty Jean" as being anything else besides a "stereo remix". "Anthology" compiles only originally released versions (with a couple of entirely unreleased songs thrown in), yet this second version of "Betty Jean" has somehow been included there too. And like "Rarities", the "Anthology" liner notes also fail to note that "Betty Jean" is not the originally released version. Due to the lack of notation on either cd┬┤s liner notes, I can only assume that MCA thought they were putting the original version of "Betty Jean" on both of those compilations.
You are probably correct. Already in 1973 someone at Chess took the wrong tape when collecting the contents for Chuck Berry┬┤s Golden Decade Vol. 2 (Chess LP 60023). This is where the alt. version first appeared, not noted on the cover, too.
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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