Tag: Chuck Berry

Day 998: Crossing Abbey Road

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This Friday marks the 45th anniversary of what I believe to be the greatest album of all time.

Before you flick lint in my beer or pelt me with wads of Big League Chew for not designating this title to Pink Floyd’s Piper At The Gates of Dawn or Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ Too-Rye-Ay, allow me to point out that there are many albums that are flawless – sometimes in spite of a number of actual flaws. Nary a wayward note blemishes Stevie Wonder’s Songs In The Key of Life, and Paul Simon’s Graceland is among the few utterly perfect slabs of 1980’s vinyl. For me, “the greatest” combines not only artistic and technical brilliance, but the subjective distinction of having served as the soundtrack to many of the most fantastic moments of my life. Your results may (and probably do) vary.

The story of Abbey Road is one of pure, primal mirth, flecked with auburn specks of encroaching melancholy. It is the last glorious and romantic trip to Maui for an otherwise doomed marriage. It marks the greatest rock band in history (an assertion I’ll stand by as wholly factual) producing one final brushstroke upon their legacy before heading their separate ways.

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This is not a happy group.

In January of 1969, the Beatles were moving in four different directions, and had been for over a year. Their plan was to return to the studio, record a back-to-their-roots album, perform their first concert since the summer of 1966 (the Pyramids in Egypt were a proposed locale, as was a barge adrift in the Atlantic), and film it all for posterity. This attempt to reconnect resulted in a cavalcade of arguments, the grandiose concert reduced to a noon-hour gig on the roof, and the temporary quitting of George Harrison. Read more…

Day 872: Here Come Ol’ Levy, He Come Groovin’ Up Slowly

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A survey of music lovers who possess even so much as a passing interest in the Beatles’ music will undoubtedly reveal “Come Together” to be one of the most universally beloved bullets in their melodic clip. From its swampy bass, its percussive “Shoot me” refrain to its absurdist and almost comically weird lyrics, the song righteously opens the gates to the magnificent Abbey Road album, tantalizing and gratifying most every pair of ears it meets.

It’s almost shocking to imagine the pretzel of nefarious backlash it provoked. “Come Together” may have begun its life as John Lennon’s attempt to pen a campaign song for Timothy Leary’s quest to unseat Ronald Reagan as governor of California, but it wound up inadvertently connecting Lennon with one of the most insidious corners of the music industry.

If only it were as simple as Lennon scribbling a new idea then slapping it onto vinyl with his buddies through the immaculate channel of producer George Martin. For the origin story of the madness that would follow, we need to travel back to 1956, back to when songs about cars were a veritable genre unto themselves. To a little single by rock ‘n roll’s illustrious grandpa, Chuck Berry.

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In 1956, Chuck released a song called “You Can’t Catch Me”. Lennon’s song boasts a similar vocal melody and a set of lyrics (“Here come old flattop, he come goovin’ up slowly” to “Here come a flattop, he was movin’ up with me”). The similarity ends there – Berry’s song is about driving quickly whereas Lennon’s is about something called ‘toe-jam football’ and some guy with feet below his knees. But it was enough to snag the ear of music publisher Morris Levy, who owned the rights to Berry’s song and promptly launched an infringement lawsuit against Lennon. Read more…

Day 179: Reverend Marty’s Sermon On The Unholy Evils Of Bob Log III

Ladies and gentlemen of the congregation, please be seated.

I am here to talk to you today about your children. About what your children are listening to. Are you aware that right now, at this very moment, your young, precious angels may be under the spell of the blasphemous infestation of Satan’s soundtrack?

No, not that one.

Yea, you may have ridded your home of such Beelzebubbery as ‘gangsta’ rap, or that thrashy, angry, long-hair music which promotes buggery, violence and promiscuity. But have you truly removed every threat? Perhaps if you think your child’s ears are filled with nothing more harmful than Christ-praising rock music and secular safe-zones like Perry Como and Pat Boone, you’d best look closer.

Elias, my young nephew, was discovered to have a record album (well, a compact disc, of course) created by this man:

This is Bob Log III. This degenerate ‘rock player’ has an atonal sound that will churn your youngsters’ blood with the spatula of the Devil. He plays quickly and with great volume and distortion, so as to puncture any common air of decency and good moral aspiration in your living room or den.

Look at his head. He wears a motorcycle mask at all times during his performance. He has installed a microphone inside it, and the result is that his voice sounds as though he is sampling Apollyon himself. The words are unintelligible, coming across as the incoherent babblings of one possessed by the spiny grip of pure evil. He plays the electric slide guitar, which is so obviously an instrument of utmost debauchery, almost literally fornicating with the soul. Listen to the throttling madness of what Mr. Log calls music. His is a tone carved from the scorched wood of the devil’s own CD rack, purchased from the darkest IKEA of the Abyss and built in about twenty-five minutes by a delegation of tormented minions, rotting for eternity in their self-imposed agony. Yea, let us pray. Read more…

Day 163: My Overdue Cliff Notes

As a self-proclaimed music geek, I’ve assumed an obnoxious, smug confidence in the breadth of my knowledge of popular classics. I’ve sat through the entirety of Thick As A Brick, skipped out on buying Roxette tickets in high school so that I could see the Everly Brothers, and even named my daughter after a Beatles album (Magical Mystery Tour).

But I’ll admit, there are holes in my knowledge. I had decades of great music that came before me to catch up with, along with the onerous task of sifting through the crap factory of current music for discs that didn’t suck. Also, I wasted years of my youth listening to inane, regrettable pap like Taco, Starship, and Robbie Nevil.

Screw you, Robbie Nevil. Ce n'est pas la vie!

One album that never truly blipped on my radar was Jimmy Cliff’s The Harder They Come. I knew a little about it – it was a soundtrack to a film they never showed on TV, it featured reggae from before Bob Marley redefined reggae in the 1970s, and everyone seems to love it. Rolling Stone, which at one time was considered knowledgeable and relevant, ranked the album #119 on their list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. I’ve seen that list, and I think I’ve heard every album above it, at least the ones that would interest me.

So how did I miss this one? I could blame my parents, who force-fed me 80s soul music as a child, which I believe is at least 65% responsible for my current, fragile mental state. I could also blame the music industry in my formative years. I had to hide under a reinforced Physical Graffiti sleeve in high school to protect myself from an onslaught of hair metal and parachute pants. Maybe the responsibility is all my own.

No, I'm going with the music industry on this one.

Today I change everything. I have acquired a copy of the album, and plan to listen to it right now. Rather than spend a kilograph detailing the story behind the recording sessions, or the impact the album had on the charts, I’m just going to listen to it and react. Read more…