Can you imagine what the world of rock’n’roll would have been like without the late, great Chuck Berry?
The famous rock pioneer from St. Louis, Missouri passed away earlier this year but left behind him a plethora of material that not only defined an era but also cemented a legacy for aspiring rock bands to follow. Just about every band there has ever been has at some stage torn through a Chuck Berry song, and some were even kind enough to record them for posterity.
Today, Mott the Dog has a little fun putting together his imaginary all-time best tribute album to the ‘father of rock’n’roll’, featuring bands both past and present.
“Johnny B. Goode” is probably Chuck Berry’s most well known song, named as the seventh greatest rock’n’roll number ever by Rolling Stone magazine and reaching number eight in the American charts. Berry was in fact so prolific at the time this song was released as a single that he was able to put “Around and Around” on the B side!
Many Bands have almost turned “Johnny B. Goode” into their anthem, including Johnny Winter, and George Thorogood. Even the Beatles had it in their live set. Judas Priest laid down a heavy metal version but the cover that for me fires on seven cylinders is Jimi Hendrix’s wild run through it. Hendrix literally makes the guitar scream in the solos, taking the whole song at 100-mph. So, going with the one band –one song theory for a tribute album, Jimi gets “Johnny B. Goode”.
The B-side “Around and Around” was recorded by many people too, but for us, hearing Fin Muir of Waysted sing it in his Scottish accent takes the cup.
The Yardbirds’ live show opener was a rendition of “Too Much Monkey Business” and their cover is wild, and gets even wilder as Eric Clapton lets rip in the solo.
One of the bands that relied very heavily on Chuck Berry songs were the Rolling Stones, before Jagger and Richards started writing their own classics. Their first hit single “Come On” was a Berry penned number, but their live version of “Little Queenie from Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out” is pure Jagger, flaunting himself to the audience.
“Roll over Beethoven” was a wonderful warning to the older generation and has been brandished by many bands, including an incredibly heavy version by Mountain. But the Electric Light Orchestra’s cover on their second album is a joy to listen to.
Ten Years After were great admirers of Chuck Berry and their version of “Sweet Little Sixteen”, recorded as the band encored at the Isle of Wight Festival on the album “Watt”, showed why many people called Alvin Lee the fastest guitarist on the planet.
The Fab Four from Liverpool would also get on the album for their version of “Rock’n’Roll Music” from the “Beatles for Sale” album, which John Lennon sings himself hoarse on.
The Faces do a very good romp through “Memphis”, which was always a live favorite for the band and audience, and cheating a little, Rod Stewart would also get on for his version of “Sweet Little Rock’n’Roller”, which opened up his album “Smiler.”
George Thorogood would not be able to go on stage without playing several Chuck Berry songs and his live version of “No Particular Place To Go” is a standout.
“Maybelline” suited the boogie merchants Foghat wonderfully well, and talking of boogie merchants, every Status Quo gig since the early seventies has finished with “Bye Bye Johnny.”
Joan Jett and the Black Hearts did a wonderful burning version of “Tulane”, not forgetting of course that Chuck Berry was the man who made duck walking whilst ripping out a solo famous – almost as important as the song.
Chuck Berry, who died March 18 this year, certainly lived a very full life for 90 years, what a shame that his only number one record was the wretched “My Ding-a-Ling”, and he didn’t even write that!
Mott the Dog’s picks:
Too Much Monkey Business (The Yardbirds)
Around and Around (Waysted)
Tulane (Joan Jett and the Black Hearts)
Memphis (The Faces)
Little Queenie (The Rolling Stones)
Rock’n’Roll Music (The Beatles)
No Particular Place To Go (George Thorogood and the Destroyers)
Johnny B. Goode (Jimi Hendrix)
Sweet Little Rock’n’Roller (Rod Stewart)
Roll Over Beethoven (Electric Light Orchestra)
Sweet Little Sixteen (Ten Years After)
Bye Bye Johnny (Status Quo)
Note: You’ll have to download the individual cover versions of each of these songs on your iPod if you want to see if you agree with the Dog’s selection.