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Sunday, 19 March 2017

Vale Chuck Berry - John Conomos remembers the great man (re-posted from John's Facebook page)

RIP Chuck Berry (October 18, 1926 - March 18, 2017)
Legendary rock and roll pioneer Chuck Berry, who was born in St Louis, Missouri, was found dead, lifeless in his home today. He was one of the iconic "Mount Rushmore" figures of rock and roll whose influence was seminal to the later development of rock and roll, R&B, and pop music. Anyone who regarded themselves as performers in these genres of popular American music were and are indebted to the unmistakably catchy all-consuming propulsive rhythm and vivid telegraphic story-telling images of teenage rebellion, consumerism , sex and the life-affirming utopian possibilities of just being alive. He was simply one of rock and roll's greatest lyricists. Perhaps the greatest. Each Berry song is a miniature movie itself indelibly etched and forever resonating in our imagination. He once said that that as a musician he was immeasurably influenced by the 1940s jump swing R & B artist Louis Jordan, the singing style of Nat King Cole, the lyrics of Louis Jordan, the swing of Benny Goodman with Charlie Christian on guitar, the flashy showman techniques of blues guitarist and vocalist T. B. Walker, and the soul of Muddy Waters.

To see and hear Berry perform on stage was akin to being placed in an atomic accelerator as he consummately choreographed his way across the stage electrifying anyone or anything in his surroundings with his low iconic duck walk. As a rock guitarist and vocalist Berry's powerfully nimble, daring and reflexive virtuosity stamped his oeuvre from the beginning of his career.


As a child I lived at Tempe in a milk-bar and rock and roll culture, music and its rituals were quite central to my daily existence as an immigrant kid. However, though our shop was frequented by bodgies and widgies, etc., much to my mother's 'moral panic' reservations about their unruly behaviour, two stores away there was also another milk-bar where a juke-box would be playing all hours and hamburgers served as well. There, of course, the bodgies and widgies were at home listening to Berry and many other rock and roll musicians. And, like Kantian clockwork, I would sidle up to this store like a crab listening to the "Devil's Music" and being mesmerised by the adventurous, transgressive dynamism of our " Johnny B. Goode", "Little Queenie" and "Carol" dancing to the juke-box. I once saw Berry perform in the eighties at the Revesby Worker's Club with Carol and a few of our friends. Watching him perform like a neon whirlwind of rebellious sonic energy and catchy iconic lyrics many distant childhood memories of Berry and Tempe were rekindled for me on that night. What follows is a personal selection of three Berry songs that I care for, but truth be told, anything of his will simply do. Such was the unprecedented artistry of this seemingly immortal storyteller. (Click on the title for a Youtube link.)


Johnnie B Goode


Nadine (with Keith Richards)


Too Much Monkey Business

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