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Thursday, May 05, 2005

Chuck Berry Month continues! Chuck Berry and the Rolling Stones

thats right!!.. May is Chuck Berry month around here!..

the rolling stones biggest influence was, is and always will be CHUCK BERRY...

you can hear the berry roll in the keith richards guitar riffs driving the stones....however, its not as if chuck berry is the only influence.. on early records such as their third lp "Rolling Stones, Now!", released in early 1965, there are Chuck Berry covers but there are also songs by Otis Redding (Pain in my heart), Willie Dixon (Little red rooster), Bo Diddley (Mona) and others.. the stones' early albums were primarily made up of covers of american (was there any other?) blues and r&b... the rolling stones began trying to sound black.. if you ever listen to don covay on his early atlantic records sides you can see where mick's style comes the all music guide writes about Don Covay:

his first single for the label, 1964's "Mercy Mercy," was cut with a then-unknown Jimi Hendrix on guitar, and went on to crack the Billboard Top 40 after Atlantic picked it up for distribution. The song remains an R&B classic, and earned even greater notoriety a year later when the Rolling Stones recorded their own rendition for the Out of Our Heads LP; even upon cursory listens, it's impossible not to hear the massive impact of Covay's brash style and bluesy phrasing on Mick Jagger's own frontman persona.

by the way we are so used to putting together mick jagger's white face and skinny ass with his songs that he's managed the rare feat of transcending how black he truly sounds...but the stones weren't just a half assed cover band; when otis redding covered "satisfaction" i think he was demonstrating the R E S P E C T went both ways....

the rolling stones took from the different sources of black music they could lay their hands on.. originally primarily a blues band but as the years passed the stones began to absorb more rock less roll and some country blues..some say brian jones, the dominant influence in the early years, was responsible for pushing them towards blues but this sounds contrived... the band was always based on the blues.. you dont get more blues than the cover of robert johnson's "love in vain" on let it bleed and that came about AFTER brian jones had left the building.. by the time the 60s close the rolling stones had expanded their sonic palette from that of a monochromatic blues band to one adeptly handling all types of american roots music (a process that continued with "exile on main street" possibly the greatest american rock'n'roll album of all time)..of course ultimately all their music was blues based; all american music comes from the famous blue note (even jazz)...once brian jones drowned the rolling stones began to write their own songs borrowing, pilfering and synthesizing from everywhere and everything...

but back to chuck berry.. the reason this rolling stones record- a great record some consider the first great rolling stones lp- comes to mind as we celebrate chuck berry month is primarily because of two songs..the first a cover of chuck berry's "you can't catch me" (yes, the song that includes the line about "here comes old flat top" borrowed a few years later by lennon) included as part of the lp.. chuck berry originally recorded this as a single in 1956 and it was subsequently included as part of Chess Records first LP (Chess 1425) a soundtrack to a movie titled "Rock rock rock" (one of the first rock movies and sountracks by the way)... this is a movie that by all accounts had some influence on the stones particularly in a scene featuring chuck berry..

there is an excellent site on the al gore information super highway focusing on the influences on the rolling stones and while the writer expressly does not consent to his material being lifted - in honor of the rolling stones spirit of hanky panky- i'm going to lift a little..its good so worth quoting... please visit ian mcpherson's site which features some killer material including great stories about chuck berry punching out keith richards is the site and here is the disclaimer on the material quoted below: Written by Ian Gordon McPherson, 2000. Like all files on Time Is On Our Side, it is the exclusive intellectual property of Ian McPherson and cannot be duplicated, in any form, without his authorization.

If ever there was a legitimate challenger to the throne of Elvis Presley as the king of rock and roll, it would have to be Chuck Berry. By translating boogie-woogie piano patterns to electric guitar, Berry invented a highly distinctive and electrifying guitar style all his own which in some ways has become the standard for rock and roll guitar and music as such. He was not only a fine guitar player, but a tremendous songwriter, mixing melodic hooks, distinctive rhythm patterns and socially significant lyrics that have made many people call him rock's first great poet.

Chuck Berry has been influential to almost every rock artist, from the Beatles on, but perhaps no one else as much as the Stones. More so even than Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry is without a doubt the single most influential performer on the Stones' music. The archetypal, distinctive Stones sound that we recognize in their fast-paced numbers - whether it's Miss Amanda Jones or Respectable or Fight or All Down the Line or You Got Me Rocking - is all based on an adaptation and evolution of Chuck Berry's boogie-woogie-meets-rock-and-roll patterns. Ian Stewart's piano style definitely fit well with this style (it has often been said, by Keith notably, that Chuck forged his style by adapting his pianist Johnnie Johnson's boogie-woogie patterns to guitar, and Johnson was trained on the same boogie-woogie music that Stu was), and, most particularly, it was at the center of Keith's own, equally distinctive guitar playing and style, fueling most of the riffs of the Stones' tremendous catalogue. Keith as a teen was open to many influences - blues, country music, early Elvis, other rock and roll artists - but his main passion and idol was first and foremost Chuck Berry. It was Keith who helped convince Brian that Chuck Berry was equally R&B as Elmore James, for example, was, and gave a crucial dimension, a base if you will, to the Stones' sound and future development. Bill Wyman, who came from a more straight rock and roll background than the other Stones, was also a Berry fanatic.

Chuck Berry songs themselves formed an important part of the Stones' set lists and recorded material (Come on, Around and Around, Talkin' Bout You, etc.), and the Stones have continued to add songs of his in their sets in later years (Let It Rock, Little Queenie, etc.). In addition to the many Chuck Berry songs they covered, they have performed or recorded a number of jump and swing classics that were based on Berry's rocked-up covers of them, including Amos Milburn'sDown the Road Apiece, Jay McShann's Confessin' the Blues and Bobby Troup'sRoute 66.

the other song on the "Rolling stones now" lp which made me think of including this album in my ongoing chuck berry tribute is "Down the road apiece", mentioned above by Ian, from Chess LP 1448 "Rockin' at the hops" released in 1960....some swear its Chuck Berry playing the guitar on the stones cover!..i know one thing for sure..its smoking and sure sounds like chuck berry.. supposedly the rolling stones met chuck berry during the recording of this song at Chess Recording Studios in Chicago...other rock mythology tell of chuck berry being impressed by keith richards playing on this..i prefer the story about chuck berry punching out keith richards!..

either way albums such as "rolling stones now" helped put chuck berry back on the rock and roll map in 1964 and 1965....he'd seen his career cut short by jail time in the early 1960s but in 1964 he released what is generally considered his last great album (the "comeback album") "st louis to liverpool" (Chess 1488) whose title alludes to the beatles covering his songs, numerous british bands like the rolling stones playing his music left and right, and most importantly the attention that was being paid to chuck berry in england in the early 1960s while the US public focused on white bread corny rollers.... ultimately the rolling stones more so than the beatles became the principal british invasion exponent of chuck berry a sense you could really make the case they still are although over the intervening decades they have been joined by any number of other artists...

to butress the case that chuck berry was the father to the rolling stones, regardless of their being named after a muddy waters song, here follows an impressive list of chuck berry songs covered by the rolling stones over the years:

Back in the USA
Beautiful Delilah
Johnnie B. Goode
No Money Down
Sweet Little Sixteen
Roll Over Beethoven
I'm Talking About You
Down the Road Apiece
Our Little Rendezvous
Come on
Jaguar & Thunderbird
Bye Bye Johnny
Route 66
Around and Around
Don't You Lie to Me
Little Queenie

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