Friday, 24 March 2017

My Top Ten Songs About Chuck Berry

After Tuesday's Top Ten Chuck Berry Songs, The Swede asked if there was any danger of a Volume 2. I'm sure this isn't quite what he meant, but hopefully it'll do...

It was inevitable Chuck would find his way into the lyrics of some of the musicians he influenced. Here are ten of the best Chuck references I could find...

10. Mott The Hoople - Honaloochie Boogie

Ian Hunter gets converted to rock 'n' roll...
Now my hair gets longer as the beat gets stronger
Wanna tell Chuck Berry my news
I get my kicks outta guitar licks
And I've sold my steel-toed shoes
9. Garland Jeffreys - Hail, Hail, Rock 'n' Roll

Jeffreys had been making music for over 20 years when a racist insult led him to record this track asking for a little acceptance, reminding the bigots that the black fathers of rock 'n' roll such as Chuck, Little Richard, Bo Diddley and Fats Domino paved the way for Elvis, Gene, Buddy and Jerry...

8. The Rainmakers - Downstream

Hey - remember the Rainmakers? Let My People Go-Go? Those guys. They didn't just have one record, you know.
Well, we're rounding St. Louis and heading for the coast
When we pick up Chuck Berry in a little rowboat
With one oar in the water and one in the air
A lightning rod for a white guitar
And lightning struck once, and lightning struck twice
And I said "If there's a God, He sure ain't nice"
And Chuck said "God is an Indian giver
I don't trust nothing but the Mississippi River"
7. Dar Williams - I Won't Be Your Yoko Ono

Obviously more a song about John Lennon than Chuck Berry ("I could sell your songs to Nike"), but Chuck does play a very important part...
When John called the wind an opera
Making love with every chakra
When he said her voice would carry
And when he whispered old Chuck Berry
Only then would Yoko set him free 
6. Tom Petty - My Life / Your World

Another top guitarist name-drops a tribute...
They came this mornin' with a dog on a chain
They came and took my little brother away
His generation never even got a name
My momma was a rocker way back in ´53
Buys them old records that they sell on T.V.
I know Chuck Berry wasn't singin' that to me
See also Christmas All Over Again, in which little Tom sends Santa his list...
Now let's see
I want a new Rickenbacker guitar
Two Fender Bassmans
A Chuck Berry song book
5. The Beach Boys - Do You Remember?

Brian Wilson remembers "the guys that gave us rock 'n' roll"... just a handful of years after it happened!
Chuck Berry's gotta be the greatest thing that's come along
He made the guitar beats and wrote the all-time greatest song...
I wonder which one he meant?

4. Amy Rigby - Don't Ever Change

Dar Williams and Amy Rigby in the same post... that's the power of Chuck Berry. Wreckless Eric fans, you'll find Mr. Rigby accompanying here too.
I saw my baby sitting there at the breakfast table
His hair a mess and he forgot to shave
And I wished that he would get up, make it all better
Stop drinking so much, learn how to behave
Then the radio was playing a Chuck Berry song
And he was looking at me asking what was wrong
I made a list of the things I could say
But he gave me a wink and it all went away, I told him
Hey I love you, you're perfect, don't ever change
Don't ever change
 First person to point out that Don't Ever Change was a Crickets song loses a point.

3. Richard Thompson - Guitar Heroes

The greatest guitarist I've ever seen play live is Richard Thompson. It was a solo show, but I swear it sounded like there were three of him. I've seen some amazing guitar players before and after, but nothing that quite matched RT.

Here he is showing his chops, playing tribute to some of his own guitar heroes... including Les Paul, Django Reinhardt, The Shadows and Chuck Berry. 

2. Jim Steinman - Love & Death & An American Guitar / Wasted Youth

Jim Steinman is, officially, as mad as ten lorries, so when I say to you that this spoken word story, first featured on his ill-fated solo album and then rechristened and reused many years later on Bat Out Of Hell II... when I say to you that this is Jim's greatest moment of pure insanity... that's saying something. Obviously inspired, in part, by Jim Morrison's lyrics to The End, this features Young Jim S. bashing the shit out of his guitar till it bleeds the colour of wild berries... yes, it's "Chuck Berry red"... before taking the poor guitar upstairs to his father's bedroom to bash the shit out of his old man.

The story doesn't end the way you expect.

1. ELO - Rockaria

Jeff falls for an opera singer....
She's sweet on WagnerI think she'd die for BeethovenShe loves the way Puccini lays down a tuneAnd Verdi's always creeping from her room
And she ain't gonna rock 'n' roll. How will he convert her?
Well we were reelin' and a rockin' all through the nightYeah, we were rockin' at the opera house until the break of lightAnd the orchestra were playin' all Chuck Berry's greatest tunes...
Roll over, Beethoven, indeed.

And that is why Chuck Berry will live forever.


  1. This one's a bit of a triumph Rol. It's been deeply unfashionable at times, but I've always liked 'Rockaria'. Terrific to see The Rainmakers get a nod anywhere on the internet - a good little band in their time. As for your views on Richard Thompson, I couldn't agree more. I've seen him in many different permutations, small band, large band and solo and his playing never fails to baffle and delight. Why he isn't more widely lauded is a complete and utter mystery to me.

  2. I second (or 3rd?) the acclaim for Richard Thompson. Like The Swede, I've seen him many times over the past few decades, but one solo gig in the late 1980's stands out. As well as playing his own songs, RT paid his dues with songs by Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent and Hank Williams. He has a great sense of musical history and knows how to Rock'n Roll.

  3. I really enjoyed Guitar Heroes by Richard Thompson, just played it 3x in a row. Seems Richard Thompson is an underappreciated talent worth paying attention to.

  4. Curious about what Brian Wilson was thinking too. He has said many times through the years the greatest song is Be My Baby by the Ronettes.

  5. Come to think of it, Surfin USA was set to the music of Sweet Little Sixteen. That may be the hint we were looking for.

    1. That would have been my guess.

  6. Great post Rol
    I've only seen Richard Thompson once and he was stunning

  7. I'd love to see a Top Ten covers of Chuck Berry songs if you had time.

    I can think of some good ones!!


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