Sunday, April 7. 2019
Friday night, German/French TV station ARTE broadcast the new documentary "Chuck Berry" by Jon Brewer. The film originally premiered in Cannes in October last year, but I don't know if it has been shown to the public since.
The film is a typical documentary/interview combination. The documentary part is taken from very well known sources, mostly from Taylor Hackford's "Hail! Hail! Rock 'N' Roll" and its DVD bonuses. New interview segments are from many known musicians such as Johnny Rivers, Gene Simmons, Steve Van Zandt, George Thorogood, and Alice Cooper. The most interesting segments are interviews with the Berry family and close friends which speak quite frankly (though of course biased) about living and working with Chuck. So we listen to Chuck's wife Themetta, their children Charles, Ingrid, and Melody, the grandsons Charlie and Jahi as well as Jim Marsala, Joe Edwards, and Wayne Schoenberg.
If you missed the broadcast, you can view the film on ARTE's website. Note that all the dialogs are dubbed to either German or French. You cannot listen to the original English dialogs.
The version with German dub can be found here:
The version with French dub can be found here:
Both videos can be watched until July 2019.
The production company Cardinal Releasing has a short summary as well as a movie poster for this new film at
Tuesday, October 10. 2017
The previous blog entry was about a newly released Chuck Berry live recording which was said to stem from a KBCO broadcast in the early 1990's.
We finally found out when and where this was recorded. And the interesting thing is that it comes from a show which is in our sessionography database already.
The hint to solve the KBCO show mystery came from Thierry Chanu who saw a YouTube posting called Chuck Berry at Wolf and Rissmiller's.
Poster markbrow explains that this one-hour audio is from a live broadcast on 94.7 KMET recorded at Wolf & Rissmiller's Country Club in Reseda, CA. You hear the KMET DJs introduce and sign-off the broadcast.
Listen to the recording of Bio halfway in the show. This is the exact same recording used on the new ROXVOX album where it is labeled as "KBCO-FM, Early 90s". Also the other four songs from the so-called KBCO tape are on markbrow's tape as well.
But there's more: Listen to Sweet Little Sixteen and the Carol / Little Queenie medley. Have you heard those before? Yes! They are on the famous Westwood One radio station album, the only one containing Berry live recordings not published otherwise. The tracks were re-released on the Sheik of Chicago CD last year.
Thus thanks to markbrow's tape we now know the origin of the mystery KBCO recordings. All three recordings (YouTube, radio station album, and KBCO tape) are from the same show.
The show was recorded on January 17th, 1981 at Wolf & Rissmiller's. Berry performed two sets this day using the same backup band consisting of Jim Marsala on bass, Johnny Rivers on guitar plus unknown pianist and drummer. Some source talked about the "Billy Ciofe Band", but this is unconfirmed. Rivers is introduced by name but doesn't sing, not even Memphis, Tennessee.
Read markbrow's description on YouTube and you already see it was a great show even before listening to it. Mark Brown of the Orange County Register remembers it in an 1999 article:
Today, he barely tours, and when he does it's a short, routine set as part of some oldies package.
Compared to other audience tapes from the late 70s, early 80s, the Reseda show is nothing special. Berry plays his greatest hits and leaves the stage after exactly 60 minutes. The main difference is the very good backing band, especially Johnny Rivers and the unknown piano player.
Strangely, reader Jeff told us in 2004 about the second set he attended:
I remember the line being around the block to get in. I was 21 at the time, and had been into Chuck since I was about 12. This was the first time I had a chance to see him, although I've seen him numerous times since.
Talking about the second show is of interest as well: The recording of Maybellene on the Westwood One radio station album is NOT the same as the one from markbrow's YouTube posting. Both sets have been recorded. The first one was broadcast live on KMET (as the DJ comments on YouTube prove). The second show (or at least part thereof) was recorded but not broadcast directly. Segments of both shows were kept for re-broadcast. CBS's Westwood One distributed Maybellene from the second show along with Sweet Little Sixteen and the Carol / Little Queenie medley from the first show on an album to radio stations nation-wide. The album was filled with recordings from a George Thorogood live show at Wolf & Rissmiller's, probably recorded a month later, February 19th, 1981. According to Wikipedia, the Chuck Berry show was the first of many live shows owner Norman J. Pattiz recorded for Westwood One.
Also the so-called KBCO tape is NOT from the KMET live broadcast. It is the same show, but in markbrow's posting on YouTube at the end of Bio there is a station identification from KMET which is not on the KBCO tape. Thus this tape was recorded from a re-broadcast, maybe on KBCO. It only has the last 30 minutes of the show though it's unclear if the first part was not broadcast or not recorded from radio.
The complete set of recordings from January 17th, 1981 thus consists of:
Maybellene (1st set) - 3:33 - KMET
Memphis, Tennessee - 3:38 - KMET
School Day - 1:59 - KMET
Roll Over Beethoven - 3:17 - KMET
Sweet Little Sixteen - 2:02 - Westwood One, KMET
Carol / Little Queenie - 7:06 - Westwood One, KMET
You Don't Have To Go / Lousiana Blues - 7:00 - KMET, last 3:27 only: KBCO
Bio - 5:27 - KMET, KBCO
Nadine - 5:45 - KMET, KBCO
Johnny B. Goode - 4:58 - KMET, KBCO
Reelin' & Rockin' / House Lights - 12:25 - KMET, KBCO
Maybellene (2nd set) - 2:15 - Westwood One
The recording descriptions in our database have been updated accordingly.
Thanks to markbrow, Thierry, and Jeff for helping to sort out these recordings.
Monday, September 11. 2017
All the fuss about the CHUCK album should not let us overlook the many other Chuck Berry releases from the last months.
When Fred informed me about the CD The Palladium New York '88 I wasn't too impressed. The Palladium show had been on the Smashing Pumpkin CD The Sheik of Chicago already which we wrote about last year. And as you know it's a high-quality but low-performance recording. Or as Fred wrote: "When you listen to it you can understand why [it has never had a legitimate release]. Chuck is renowned for performing unrehearsed and with a waywardly untuned guitar but on this particular night his fingers were also unrehearsed and untuned. While energy levels are high, the duff notes come thick and fast, falling in such infectious clusters that the pianist is tempted to join the discordance too. Add to this the thud, thud, thud of a tub thumping drummer and it's all rather disheartening." So why should we care?
Then I learned that this new release of the Palladium show is also available on Vinyl. The CD is ROXVOX RVCD2106, the Vinyl is LIVE ON VINYL LOV 2019LP.
As expected, the CD contains the same recording as last year's Smashing Pumpkin CD. It includes the radio station MC's announcement, though. And it has two bonus tracks!
The first bonus track is a very nice live recording of Bio said to be recorded for KBCO-FM of Boulder, Colorado and broadcast in the early 1990s. Recordings of this broadcast had been floating around as private tapes for long. The second bonus track called Riding Along is said to stem from the same broadcast and is also on the audience tapes noted. However, if you listen closely, this is just the plain old studio recording of No Particular Place To Go. The previously unreleased version of Bio is also on the Vinyl version which however misses four songs from the Palladium concert.
The Palladium New York '88 comes with a strange cover, as you see. In addition the track listing has many songs incorrectly named. The CD booklet does include some nicer Berry photos, though, and a reprint of both an 1987 L.A. Times interview and an 1985 biography from Associated Press which starts with "Born Charles Edward Anderson Berry in San Jose, California on January 15th 1926" ... Hey, at least they had the name right!
As said, the most interesting thing with this CD is the KBCO bonus track. I tried to research a bit about the origins of this recording but didn't succeed. So here's a summary of what I have been able to find out:
The surviving tape of the KBCO broadcast consists of five live tracks:
1: Louisiana Blues (Muddy Waters)
2: Bio (Chuck Berry)
3: Nadine (Chuck Berry)
4: Johnny B. Goode (Chuck Berry)
5: Reelin' and Rockin' (Chuck Berry) / House Lights (Chuck Berry)
Of interest is the first track as no Berry recording of this Muddy Waters tune has been released yet. The remaining are pretty standard for his 1990s concerts. Nadine comes with a lyrics change when Berry sings "I shouted to the driver: Hey conductor, you must - take me to Atlanta, Atlanta on a bus." Since Berry often changed lyrics according to the location of the concert, Atlanta might be a good guess. However, on Bio Berry claims "I'll be back here in Hollywood." This would point to an L.A. venue. Who known?
During the closing routine of Reelin' and Rockin', Berry in the "It wasn't me" segment typically talks about the drummer, the piano player or the bass man, all anonymously as he usually doesn't know their names. Here, however, Berry refers to the drummer, the bass man, and a "Johnny" the crowd cheers to. I had originally assumed this to be Berry's long-time pianist Johnnie Johnson, as there is a piano player on stage. Johnson toured with Berry in the late 1980s. But further listening reveals that the piano player is not good enough to be Johnnie Johnson.
Instead it seems to be the second guitarist who is Johnny. All five tracks, especially Bio include a second lead guitar which exchanges licks with Berry. And a good one! One source claims that this second guitar is played by Johnny Rivers, though no proof is given. It's possible, though. Rivers and Berry had several common performances, e.g. in various TV shows. Thus Berry would known him by name.
I searched around to find a concert where Berry and Rivers shared the same bill. And found one. In Colorado. In the late 1990s. And broadcast on radio. As far as I was able to find out, the only 1990s concert these two appeared on was the 1997 KOOL concert at Mile High Stadium, Denver, Colorado, on Saturday, June 14th, 1997. It seems that all KOOL concerts were recorded and broadcast by KXKL-FM (a.k.a. KOOL-105) at that time.
Now, Denver is not that far from Boulder, 1997 is not that far from 'early 1990s' and KXKL-FM is not that far from KBCO-FM. So maybe this recording wasn't "broadcast by KCBO of Boulder, Colorado in the early 1990s" but by KXKL of Denver, Colorado in 1997 instead.
But Denver would neither explain the Atlanta nor the Hollywood text change. Therefore we have to stick with the KCBO bit in our discography database until we learn better.
If you know more, let me know!
Many thanks to Frank Wilmot of the Denver Public Library and to Tyler Fey of Feyline Events Management for their help researching the Colorado concert and lineup.
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 G√∂ran Gustafsson of the Bee Gees Collection, Detlef Wange of the Private Bee Gees Archive and S√łren Forup of the Bee Gees Rarity Site
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.
Friday, November 4. 2016
Strange things happen ...
Right now I'm trying to sell some of Hans' Vinyl rarities through eBay (in case you're interested, click here). I'm also offering some Berry stuff which is only gathering dust here such as a concert poster from 1978.
A second concert poster was sold within minutes. The poster was for a concert at the Grugahalle Essen, Germany in 1977. Artists in this case were Jerry Lee Lewis and a German band called Rudolf Rock und die Schocker. Those who weren't into the German Rock'n'Roll scene of the late 70s and early 80s have probably never heard of this band. But it's worth to know.
Initially Rudolf Rock und die Schocker wasn't a band at all. In 1976 it was just a fun gathering of well-known and well-respected musicians playing in famous bands around the Hamburg area. And the band name was a joke as well, playing with the name of a famous opera singer called Rudolf Schock. The band was formed by bass player Uli Salm (member of Leinemann). Other members came from bands such as Atlantis, Dirty Dogs, Rattles, Truck Stop, Udo Lindenberg Band, Nena Band and so on.
Rudolf Rock und die Schocker played German Rock'n'Roll. Half of the songs were cover versions of German artists from the 1950s such as Peter Kraus or Ted Herold. The other half were songs written by Salm, Kr√ľger and their friends which sounded like 1950s Rock'n'Roll at its best. Have a listen on the Internet (or buy the record) for instance of Schluckauf or Das war der Starclub.
I really liked this band in the late 1970s and I think they and not The Killer were the original reason why I went to the show. I lost track over the years as they changed personnel constantly and my interests moved. Uli Salm continues this project even today. Here's a 2010 recording called Arschloch. You need to understand German to get the lyrics, though.
All this came back into my mind when the poster shown was sold to ... Uli "Rudolf Rock" Salm! We exchanged some emails about the old times and about Chuck Berry.
There was always a lot of Chuck Berry in Rudolf Rock, for instance in Herzilein, which was their greatest success and a Rock'n'Roll-style cover of a then famous Volksmusik hit. And, as Uli told me, indeed he once played with Berry.
During a gig on December 6th, 1991 at the Hamburg concert hall, Chuck Berry was backed by Uli Salm on bass, Dicky Tarrach of the Rattles on drums, and Joja Wendt on piano. Uli sent me this photo for you all to see. Thanks, Uli!
[By the way: Links in this article point to YouTube videos. I have always stayed away from linking to YouTube as German artists were excluded from royalties when their songs were played by Google/YouTube. However, last week YouTube and GEMA (that's the German BMI) finally agreed on royalties for German artists. I still recommend you buy CDs (or Vinyl) instead of listening to YouTube, though.]
Monday, June 20. 2016
Anthony Chanu asked me:
Did you notice that the live version of Roll Over Beethoven on the first HIP-O-Select set is different from the version used on the early Radiola album?
No, I didn't. But it reminded me that I always wanted to write something about this recording and its releases. Time to do so.
Live recordings of early performances of the 1950's Rock'n'Rollers are extremely rare. Even though the artists played hundreds of gig each year, no audience tapes or concert recordings were made. In contrast to the 1970s and onwards, where visitors recorded and saved almost every concert, in the 1950s there was no portable personal audio recording equipment available. Even record companies had no intention to tape the raw public performance instead of using a clean and controlled studio environment. Too much effort, too bad quality.
Due to this, the only surviving performance recordings from the 1950s stem from radio and TV broadcast as well as from movies. Movies and TV broadcast however usually had the artists lip-syncing to a playback of their hit records meaning these are not live performances even if some audience is heard.
The only surviving true live performances by Chuck Berry recorded in the 1950s are from the Newport Jazz Festival in 1958 and from New York, 1956. The Newport recordings were made because some of it was used for the movie "Jazz on a Summer's Day". The story behind the New York recordings is even more interesting:
Between March 24 and September 25, 1956, Alan Freed hosted a series of 26 shows on CBS radio. Each show ran half an hour and was called ‚ÄúThe Camel Rock'n'Roll Dance Party‚ÄĚ. Most of the shows were recorded in New York and produced by WCBS, CBS' New York radio station. The shows from May to mid-June were recorded in Hollywood and produced by KCBS instead because Alan Freed was filming in Hollywood then.
Chuck Berry, who was in New York for filming his segment of Alan Freed's "Rock, Rock, Rock" movie, contributed to the twenty-second show which was broadcast on Tuesday, August 28, 1956. Along with him were The Flamingos and Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers. It is not clear when and where the show was recorded. It may have been broadcast ‚Äúlive‚ÄĚ as most other 1950s radio shows were. Since there is a loud audience to be heard, the venue must have been a smaller theater. Most likely it was CBS-TV Studio 50, now the Ed Sullivan Theater, on Broadway or the theater in CBS' Studio Building at 52nd Street.
Many of the original tapes from the Camel Rock'n'Roll Dance Party as used for broadcast have been made available to the public in 2015. You can listen to them at archive.org.
In addition the AFRTS (United States Armed Forces Radio and Television Service) created transcription records from the broadcasts. These transcription records were then sent out to AFN radio stations worldwide for broadcast to US military in foreign countries. (This image shows a sample AFRTS record label. If you have a label scan of this or any other Rock'n'Roll Dance Party transcription, please email it to the address given under Copyright to the right.)
The AFRTS transcriptions were edited over the original broadcast. Most importantly all the advertising spots and the name of the show sponsor "Camel Cigarettes" were removed from the recording. This cut off almost five minutes from each show. In addition AFRTS added a different out cue to the show. The transcription records containing the edited shows were produced in small quantities for the AFN stations abroad. A few of them survived until the 1970s, even though their unusual format of 16-inch diameter required special turntables to play.
The AFRTS versions of most of the shows are available from the Old Time Radio Catalog as Audio-CDs.
Snippets of these shows taken from the AFRTS disks have found their way to commercial albums and CDs since the 1970s. The first record I know of was Radiola's Rock'n'Roll Radio (Radiola MR-1087) published in 1978. Roughly at the same time a series of five albums called Alan Freed's Rock n' Roll Dance Party (WINS 1010-1014) came out with the same and additional segments from the AFRTS records. The Flamingos' performance of the August 28 show was to be found only on the WINS release, while both Berry and the Teenagers were on both. A CD release containing 27 tracks was published by Magnum Force in 1991 as Rock And Roll Dance Party (Magnum Force CDMF 075).
The August 28 show starts with Bern Bennett announcing Alan Freed. Freed then opens the show and introduces his house band led by Sam "The Man" Taylor which start a four-minute instrumental called Pretzel. Next follows a lengthy Camel spot introduced by Freed as "the Camel song". After the advertisement The Flamingos sing A Kiss From Your Lips and, as Freed proudly declares, their upcoming next release The Vow. After this another Camel spot explains in detail while one has to smoke only the sponsor's cigarettes.
"And now back to our Camel Rock And Roll Dance Party. And here's the guy that is just the greatest: Chuck Berry and Maybellene!" In less than two minutes Berry runs really fast through his first record. Of the band only the drummer is heard with a short solo. "Wow!" sighs Freed and directly announces the next number: "Chuck Berry and his current bagel, right back to our Camel mike with Roll Over Beethoven!" Again we hear mostly Berry playing both lead and rhythm on his guitar. During the mid-song solo, the crowd hollers and shouts "Go! Go! Go!" indicating that we probably miss seeing Berry duck-walking across the stage. At the very end of the song, one of the sax players cannot step back any longer and adds some answering licks. With "Chuck Berry, just fabulous!" Freed ends Berry's performance.
And the show returns to promoting Camel cigarettes. After that Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers perform I Promise To Remember and Why Do Fools Fall In Love followed by another spot featuring the Camel song. The show ends with Sam Taylor and the Big Band going crazy on another instrumental called Look Out! Alan Freed once again praises Camel and finishes the show.
As said, the AFRTS edits of the show exclude all the Camel spots as well as all mentions of the sponsor in Freed's announcements. So here it goes "right back to our (cut) mike with Roll Over Beethoven." Maybellene is about 2:00 minutes long and Roll Over Beethoven clocks at 3:10 approximately.
But on HIP-O Select's release of the 4-CD set Johnny B. Goode - His Complete '50s Chess Recordings (HIP-O-Select B0009473-02, 2008) this song only runs for 2:44 minutes. And if you listen closely, you will notice that after the solo almost a complete verse is missing and replaced with a segment from the beginning of the show. Why?
I asked Fred Rothwell who helped compiling the CD sets. He told me that Andy McKaie of Universal Music had found one tape in the MCA archives containing both the two 1956 live songs and eight unusual Chess studio recordings with artificial audience dubbed. Even though the live songs we not Chess recordings they decided to include them on the set. And this edited version is as it was on the tape.
At that time no-one noticed that this was a damaged or repaired track. Fred said that he later became aware of this and when he compiled the recordings for the Bear Family boxset Rock And Roll Music - Any Old Way You Choose It (Bear Family BCD 17273 PL, 2014) the correct and complete track from the AFRTS transcription record was used.
Eight unusual Chess studio tracks with audience dubs and the two Camel show tracks on one tape? This made me remember one of the stranger LP albums I have in my collection: Alive And Rockin' (Stack-O-Hits Records AG9019, 1981).
This album had the two 1956 live tracks plus eight rarities which at that time were otherwise only known from the American Hottest Wax bootleg (Reelin' 001): previously unreleased versions of Rock And Roll Music, 21 (here called Vacation Time), Reelin' And Rockin', Sweet Little Sixteen, and Childhood Sweetheart along with the undubbed version of How High The Moon plus the previously unknown songs I've Changed (here called just Changed) and One O'Clock Jump (here as Chuck's Jam). All eight tracks were "enhanced" with fake audience on the Stack-O-Hits release. Yes: How High The Moon which was released in 1963 with audience noise and finally came to light in its original form on the Reelin' bootleg, was re-destroyed with different audience noise.
Fred confirmed that these are exactly the eight tracks from the mysterious tape in Universal's archive. And yes, the album also contains the edit of the Camel show live recording of Roll Over Beethoven. So this is not new, we only never recognized it.
Does this mean that Chess had created another fake live album and released it on the Stack-O-Hits label? Certainly not. In 1981 the Chess archives were owned by All Platinum Records and all they did with it was a hit sampler called The Great Twenty-Eight.
So who was Stack-O-Hits Records? Probably no-one at all. Stack-O-Hits was one of a dozen names used by a company called "Album Globe Distribution" (hence the AG catalog number). A.G. was known "notorious for its quasi-legitimate and downright illegal releases. Every record they issued used a different label name, but all have an AG prefix followed by a 4-digit number". (quote from discogs.com)
While the album's liner notes praise Berry to have "directly and primarily influenced artists from The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Rod Steward, to Bob Seger, Led Zeppelin and so many more", they completely lie about the origins of the recordings contained:
Stack-O-Hits is pleased to be able to bring you this fantastic live performance by Chuck Berry, recorded in his prime, performing not only a selection of his biggest hits, but a taste of gut bucket Chicago Blues and high-flyin' jazz as well. Don't let this get by -collectors take note- these performances are released for the first time here on Stack-O-Hits Records.
The only "first time" here was that we didn't knew the modified recordings before. The eight studio tracks were stolen from the Reelin' bootleg and edited to sound "live". The two true live recordings were taken from the Radiola or WINS release. Or more probably they might stem from a broken tape copy of the AFRTS transcription record as this would explain why Roll Over Beethoven was edited (repaired?).
How the master tape of Alive And Rockin' came into the MCA archives for Andy McKaie to find it there, stays a mystery. Does anybody know whether other Album Globe bootlegs were re-released by MCA or Universal?
Thanks to Fred Rothwell for help with this article!
Monday, August 10. 2015
I don't know the people behind Crying Steel Records, but they must be regular readers of this site.
Their first release 'Deliver Me From The Days Of Old' (Crying Steel Records CSR001, 2007) contained all of Berry's Records which I had described as being released on CD or Vinyl before but concurrently being extremely hard to find on CD. This included the Newport 1958 concert which was back then only available in Sweden or the two Japanese concerts which were at that time only available on Vinyl.
While it is doubtful that CSR001 was a legal release, it not only looked like one. It also came with a professional booklet containing many great photos and useful discographical information.
Crying Steel's second release 'Live At Winterland, San Francisco '67' (Crying Steel Records CSR02, 2014) gave us a CD copy of the three 1960s concerts which had been found in the archives of promoter Bill Graham. These had been made available for online listening through the commercial site Wolfgang's Vault, now Concert Vault. I reported on these concert in blog entries here on January 12, 2008 and on October 23, 2009.
Again it is doubtful whether Crying Steel had the rights to publish Graham's recordings of Berry's performances. But it is also not clear whether Concert Vault has the right to broadcast thise in the first place. See this recent article from Billboard.
Now I received Crying Steel's third strike: a CD called 'Long Live Rock 'n' Roll - 60th Birthday Celebration' (Crying Steel Records CSR03, 2015). Source for this CD is another concert recording available for listening at concertvault.com
I had reported on the availability of this recording in October last year in this site's chapter on Berry's 60th Birthday Celebrations. This concert was recorded on October 17, 1986 and is the second show from the Fox Theatre, St. Louis used for the preparation of Taylor Hackford's documentary called 'Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll' (released 1987). For all the details on this show read the corresponding chapter of the main site.
The Concert Vault recording of the show is about 85 minutes long. It contains most of the concert including various stage banter and impromptu jamming. To make it fit on a single CD, Crying Steel Records excluded most of the in-between talks/waits as well as some of the instrumental jams. Instead they added one more recording from this show: 'School Day' was the big finale of the show as it can be seen in the movie. It was missing from Concert Vault, though.
As no good quality first-hand recording of this final track was available, the people at Crying Steel copied it from the movie, probably from one of the commercially available DVDs. While doing so, they concurrently also extracted four other live recordings from the movie: 'No Money Down', 'Nadine', 'Almost Grown', and 'No Particular Place To Go'. These had been included in the film, but were recorded during the other of the two shows. Just like the remaining songs from the first show which were used in the film or on the soundtrack album, these audio tracks have been post-produced in Los Angeles. During this post-production some vocal parts were overdubbed. I have not yet had the time to compare the post-produced versions to the original recordings where available.
Together with the original soundtrack album, the Crying Steel CD presents a nice overview of the two Fox Theatre shows. They even added two of the Cosmopolitan Club performances also seen in the movie.
As the broadcast on Concert Vault splits the concert into individual tracks, Crying Steel made some effort to glue these parts back together. In most cases this worked quite well. Sometimes volume or cuts do not match correctly, though. They also did not notice that the introduction for Eric Clapton was included twice by error. Finally I found it irritating that at least during the Etta James segment they re-ordered the sequence of the recordings.
Again this professionally looking CD comes with a nice six-page booklet containing photos taken during the Fox Theatre shows. I really don't like the outlook of the track listing and the liner notes, though. Like with last year's release they took a strange, almost unreadable font. And the type size is so small you need a magnifying glass to read it. So, Crying Steel Records, if you read these comments, please return to the CSR001 style!
And I really wish these recordings would be released in a way that the artists, composers, and producers would get their share from the income. I'd be glad to pay.
Thursday, September 4. 2014
[Update: The videos are now available from the Polar Prize website at http://www.polarmusicprize.org/home/prize-ceremonies/2014-2/. And they included another very nice cover version which was not shown in the original broadcast: Sabina Ddumba and Melinda De Lange singing Havana Moon!]
Next to his induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, the Polar Music Prize is probably the most important award given to Chuck Berry for his lifetime role in creating most of modern rock music.
On Tuesday (August 26th, 2014), the prize ceremony took place in Stockholm, Sweden. Chuck Berry did not attend, neither on stage in Stockholm, nor by use of a video message. The official reason is that due to illness Berry is not able to travel. But not only Berry missed this important event. None of his family did attend either. We would have expected Charles Jr. or Ingrid to at least accept the prize on behalf of their dad. Instead someone choose British singer and producer Dave Edmunds to stand on stage, shake hands with the King of Sweden, and read a three-sentence letter from Berry. Even though Edmunds covered several Berry numbers such as Promised Land (1972) and Run Rudolph Run (1982), Edmunds is not necessarily my first choice for a Berry stand-in.
The video of the ceremony is not yet available at the Polar Music Prize website (www.polarmusicprize.org). However, in case you missed to watch it live, you can view the full ceremony as broadcast by Swedish TV4 from the TV station's website today and until Friday. So if you accept watching (too much) Swedish advertising, go ahead and have yourself an interesting hour.
The link to the broadcast is http://www.tv4play.se/program/polar-music-prize?video_id=2950197.
Do not be confused that the first segment containing interviews on the red carpet and a small film about the manufacturing of the prize statuette are in Swedish language. The full ceremony afterwards is in English!
You will be confused, though, at how easy the Swedish manage to mix Rock 'n' Roll music and classical music into a single program. It's kind of easy this year because the other winner, opera director Peter Sellars, is more of a "modern" classical artist, while Berry is more a "classical" modern artist. In mixing both styles, during the concert you'll see the full orchestra perform a number called "The Guitar Battle of Wartburg" which includes steel and electrical guitars.
There is not a single recent image or video snippet from Berry shown during the whole show. His biography and such is underlaid with segments from the "Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll!" movie. Thus the most recent Chuck Berry is from 1986! While film makers from the committee were in St. Louis during a Berry show at Blueberry Hill, all they show is the announcement outside the doors plus a few sentences by Joe Edwards of Blueberry Hill and by Chuck's son Charles Jr. To me this looks as if there was some other problem besides Berry being ill.
Another video message shown during the ceremony is - as usual - by Keith Richards.
During the one-hour show several Berry numbers are performed, each by well-known Swedish artists from the 1960's 'til today. Some cover version are quite nice, others ... well ... judge yourself. You'll hear:
Tuesday, August 23. 2011
In early 2008 I wrote a blog article on the various recordings of Chuck Berry concerts in San Francisco in 1967. Three of these shows are only available for listening online at Wolfgang's Vault, a commercial site which runs on the archives of promoter Bill Graham.
In this blog article I explained a legal (at least here) method to create an audio CD from the online show. And guess what, someone did!
On eBay and in various places you can now find a CD titled "Career on the riffs", which contains the show of December 29th, 1967. The CD has a label (Vintage Masters) and a number (VMCDR-116). The cover looks professionally made, but all in all the CD is handmade: a burned CD and a home printed cover.
Since Wolfgang's Vault does not allow you to sell CD copies of their contents, this seems to be an illegal copy. Let me know if you know better.
By the way: The creators of this CD cannot have learned about it here, because if they had, they would have omitted Steve Miller from the printed band listing.
Tuesday, July 6. 2010
For those who don't know it yet:
The famous Chuck Berry BBC show from 1972, best known from the Six Two Five bootlegs, was rebroadcast by German/French ARTE TV.
During this week, the video is available for you to watch at
[Edit July 30: Removed embedded video as no longer available at arte.tv]
Friday, October 23. 2009
Last year I talked about the various Chuck Berry concert recordings available from San Francisco 1967. Fred Rothwell now told me that there's another concert recording from this era freshly at Wolfgang's Vault. Here's the link.
This third concert at Wolfgang's Vault is closely related to the last of the SF concerts described which was from December 29th. The newly released concert was the first of this set, recorded at the Winterland on December 26th, 1967.
Again Berry is backed by the Steve-Miller-less Miller band, i.e. Peterman, Turner, and Davis. All three are very quiet in the background, though. You almost cannot hear them. Also there's next to no audience noise. I leave it to you to decide whether this is good or bad.
The released concert is a little over 30 minutes long, so I expect some parts are missing. What's included is interesting, though. I don't remember many live tapes (if any) in which Berry performs "No Particular Place to Go" or "Back in the U.S.A.". Therefore a five minute version of the latter comes as a true surprise. Recommended listening.
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.
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.
Tuesday, December 2. 2008
Two weeks ago German digital TV channel EinsFestival broadcast a half-hour show titled "Vinyl: The Lost Concerts - Chuck Berry". A fellow collector was so kind to send me a copy on DVD. Thanks!
It turned out that this lost concert has been used in part for various broadcasts, but also contained some unknown and interesting footage.
The "show" was recorded in Radio Bremen's TV studio on March 24th, 1972. Berry was touring England from 22nd to 29th March backed by Rockin' Horse. The band consisted of Mike Snow on piano, Jimmy Campbell on guitar, Billy Kinsley on bass and Dave Harrison on drums. On the 24th they flew over to the town of Bremen to record some songs for German TV station Radio Bremen. (I'm guessing here as the recording can also have happened in some studio in England.) They returned to perform in Liverpool the next day and ended the tour at the BBC studios in London to perform in front of TV cameras again, this time for BBC's Sound For Saturday show. This London show is best known for the Vinyl bootlegs called "Six Two Five" containing most parts of the excellent show.
In Bremen, Berry and the four-piece band performed in front of a blue screen and without audience. The Lost Concerts contained recordings of the following songs:
Missing from the new broadcast is an interview conducted with Berry while he was in Bremen. This interview has been used in a later Radio Bremen radio show. Read here the details about the CD set containing this interview.
Note: Torsten Schmitt's book "Beat-Club: Alle Sendungen. Alle Stars. Alle Songs" claims that the full set of songs has been broadcast on December 31st, 1972 as part of the show "Das ist Rock 'n' Roll". I have not read or heard this anywhere else. If it were, there would surely exist some bootleg tape or video of this, none I have seen so far. As Schmitt is also incorrect with the backing band here, we leave this open to further research.
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