Tag Archives: Music

CHUCK BERRY: THE 1st POET OF ROCK

CHUCK BERRY:  THE 1st POET OF ROCK by Alan L. Chrisman

Chuck Berry has passed away at age 90.  Berry, was arguably, the most influential rock and roll founder, both musically and lyrically.  Berry could be called rock ‘n’ roll’s father. As John Lennon said when introducing him on the Mike Douglas TV Show in the 70’s ,” My hero, if you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry’”.  Before Bob Dylan and Lennon/McCartney, Berry, was perhaps its first rock poet. Dylan called Chuck Berry, “the Shakespeare of rock.” Berry would influence EVERYONE-The Beatles, Stones, Dylan, Beach Boys, Springsteen, and most rockers to follow. Springsteen’s tribute,” Chuck Berry was rock’s greatest practitioner, guitarist, and the greatest pure rock ‘n’ roll writer who ever lived.”

Elvis is called the King of Rock ’n ’Roll and was its most important 50’s popularizer, had a great interpretive voice and charisma , but he didn’t write his own songs.  Other early 50’s founders, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bo Diddley, Carl Perkins, and Buddy Holly (from whom The Beatles would take their name and would set the standard for the future- guitars, bass, drums line-up), all wrote their own songs. But Berry wrote complete musical stories.  And he played his own lead guitar (from which Rolling Stones’ guitarist, Keith Richards, would copy his style), before Hendrix would make the guitar and its solos forefront in rock bands. Richard and Lewis jumped on their pianos, and Berry would “duck walk “across the stage visually, before MTV and videos, and before Hendrix burned his guitar theatrically.

Berry had a string of hits in the mid- late 50’s, which perfectly captured a teenager’s life and preoccupations, girls, cars, music (“Sweet Little Sixteen”, “School Days”, “Rock ’n’ Roll Music”, “Roll Over Beethoven”, “Maybelline”, “Memphis, Tenn.”). Every young aspiring guitar player had to learn his “Johnny B. Goode.” Berry composed little vignettes, 2-3 minute poems set to music (check out the lyrics to his songs like,   “Promised Land”, “You Never Can Tell ( C’est La Vie”).

Berry had grown up in a middle-class neighborhood in St. Louis, (half-way between The South and The North),so maybe that’s why, although black, he understood white middle-class kids, who were the main radio audience in those early days of rock ’n’ roll.  His father was a contractor and a Baptist church deacon; his mother a school principal.  Berry’s influences were mainly black musicians like guitarist, T-Bone Walker. But it wasn’t until he moved north to Chicago and recorded along with other black musicians that were there too, like Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, and Bo Diddley at Chess Records, that he had his first hits. Like Elvis, it was in this combination of both black and white musical influences, blues, country, rock ’n’ roll, that he found his sound. Berry’s distinctive guitar riffs were also influenced by his long time piano player, Johnny Johnson’s, jazz and swing notes as well. It was this synthesis of styles that enabled him to appeal to a cross-section of listeners.

But by the early 60’s, along with most of the early founders, he and they were no longer as popular and, one by one, for sometimes racial reasons, they disappeared from the scene.  Radio was taken over by the more watered-down mainly white pop performers (or “Bobby-Bobbys” as J. L. Lewis called them). Dylan: “I was still an aspiring rock n roller. The descendant, if you will, of the first generation of guys who played rock ’n’ roll — who were thrown down. Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee Lewis. They played this type of music that was black and white. Extremely incendiary. Your clothes could catch fire. When I first heard Chuck Berry, I didn’t consider that he was black. I thought he was a hillbilly. Little did I know, he was a great poet, too. And there must have been some elitist power that had to get rid of all these guys, to strike down rock ’n’ roll for what it was and what it represented — not least of all being a black-and-white thing.” Berry was accused of transporting a below-age waitress across state lines for sexual purposes under the Mann Act and was sentenced to 3 years in prison.

His career seemed almost over, but when he was released in late ’63, The Beatles Invasion was just starting to happen and he had been a big influence on many Liverpool groups and other British bands like the Stones. The Beatles were to record his “Rock and Roll Music” on their 2nd. album and  the first Stones U.K. single was a cover of his “ Come On” and “Carol” was on their 1st American album. Ironically, it was foreign groups who re-focused attention on Berry and other American early 50’s rockers and he gained a whole new respect for his song writing and playing .  One of the Beach Boys’ early hits, Surfin’ U.S.A., was actually Brian Wilson putting surf lyrics over Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen” music.  The Beatles and Stones would continue to be influenced by him in their own songs and performing. McCartney would partly pattern his “Back in The U.S.S. R.” after Berry’s “Back in the U.S.A.” and Lennon would even “borrow” some words and melodies for Come Together from Berry’s “You Can’t Catch Me” (which Lennon would later have to settle a lawsuit for with its publisher). Keith Richards organized a tribute concert/film for Berry called Hail Hail Rock and Roll in 1986 with Berry, Eric Clapton, Julian Lennon, Linda Ronstadt, Robert Cray, and Etta James. Berry would over the years come to his shows with only his guitar (refusing to play, until payment was already deposited into his bank account), not even rehearsing with the local back-up band, or telling them what key he was playing . Richards, amusingly, tells the story how Berry hit him for daring to even touch his hero’s guitar. But I guess geniuses are allowed these little personal foibles.

I remember seeing him in the film, American Hot Wax, which told the story of Rock ’n’ Roll’s first DJ , Alan Freed, in which Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, and other early rockers, recreated their original stage performances. It was shown along with Saturday Night Fever, which was the disco rage at the time in the early 70’s.  American Hot Wax was shown first and while getting popcorn at break, I overheard these young John Travota fans marvelling at this guy “duck walking” across the stage. I thought that was interesting and it gave me hope for the timelessness of Berry and his music.

Berry is now recognized as one of the most important song writers and musical influencers in the whole history of rock. He was one of the first to be inducted into the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame in at its opening in 1986. His “Johnny B. Goode” was ranked #1 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s “Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time” in 2007.

Pop writer Chuck Klosterman has predicted that Berry will be remembered, even 300 years from now, as the perfect embodiment of rock music. In 1986, “Johnny B. Goode” was chosen by NASA to be sent into outer space for its Voyager space probe. So maybe even other life forms will know Berry’s music one day. There was only one Chuck Berry, Hail Hail Rock ‘n’ Roll!

 

Below, from Keith Richards -organized Tribute 1986 concert/film for Chuck Berry with Julian Lennon, etc.

https://youtu.be/5YcPtitpLkk

Below, from film, American Hot Wax, story of Rock ‘n’  Roll DJ. Alan Freed, Berry re-creating his “Reelin’ and Rockin’/ Roll Over Beethoven.”

https://youtu.be/IGY5bvNK_8Y

 

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A TRIBUTE TO STU SUTCLIFFE: THE LOST BEATLE by Alan Chrisman

Stuart Sutcliffe was born on June 23, 1940.  He was one of the original 5 Beatles who went to Hamburg and was John Lennon’s close friend and a big artistic influence. There have been many myths built up over the years about Stu’s bass playing, as with Pete Best’s drumming, that they both weren’t that good and that’s one of the main reasons Stu left and Pete was later let go. But several Liverpool people who knew them and witnessed their playing, dispute these myths (including Bill Harry, Editor of Mersey Beat Newspaper, and who had introduced John to Stu at their Liverpool art school). Bill Harry says “the photo floating around in which Stu’s back is turned to the audience was taken during a tune up session. It’s pointed out that none of the Beatles were accomplished musicians at that time, that George Harrison wrote Stu after he left asking him to ‘please come back’, It is suggested that he actually was a good bass player, certainly not bad, and his reason for leaving the band was something other than his musical abilities.”  They and others have also said that there was competition between Paul and Stu for John’s friendship.  Pete Best says: “When we came back from Germany I was playing using my bass drum very loud and laying down a very solid beat. This was unheard of at the time in Liverpool as all the groups were playing the Shadows’ style. Even Ringo in Rory Storm’s group copied our beat and it wasn’t long before most drummers in Liverpool were playing the same style. This way of drumming had a great deal to do with the big sound we were producing.” This beat was referred to as “The Atom Beat”.  Pete was actually the most popular Beatle in Liverpool and called, “ Mean, Moody, Magnificent” Pete and when they played the Cavern with new drummer , Ringo, George got a black eye from some of the fans. Cynthia Lennon told me she  thought Pete just couldn’t compete with John and Paul’s egos: he was too nice. 

Stu was also a talented painter who left The Beatles right before their success to pursue art and stay with his German girlfriend, Astrid Kirchherr. .Astrid, an art student and photographer, would also have a huge effect on The Beatles who posed for her iconic black and white photos and encouraged them to change to their later famous Beatles haircuts and helped create their whole image.  Stu would die soon after of a brain hemorrhage at only age 21.

I was fortunate to meet Stu sister, Pauline and to see some of Stu’s paintings and artwork at an exhibit in Toronto in ’95. I had actually talked on the phone to her before that, because when I met Cynthia Lennon and May Pang at the Conn. Beatles Convention the year before, when I returned there was a call from her (I assume Cynthia. had given her my number, because I had mentioned to her that I planned to put on my own more artistic Beatles Conventions), which I did.  I was also to meet several from their beginnings including one of the Quarrymen, who was there the day John met Paul on July 6, 1957, Allan Williams who had sent them to Hamburg, Tony Sheridan, who they backed up in Germany and first recorded with, Pete Best who was guest at my 1st Convention, Louise Harrison, George’s sister, guest at my 2nd. B. Wooler Epstein’s assistant, and others. When I met these and others who were there, since I was especially interested in this period, I would ask their opinions on these and other Beatles’ stories.  Pauline Sutcliffe would also co-write the book, Backbeat, which was the basis for the film of the same name, which told of their fascinating time in Hamburg and Stu’s short but productive life. Stu would pass away on April, 10, 1962. Ironically, The Beatles would officially break-up on April, 10, 1970, exactly 8 years later to the day.

“BACKBEAT FILM: HAMBURG BEATLES & INSIDE STORIES.” : https://beatlely.wordpress.com/2014/11/19/backbeat-film-hamburg-beatles-inside-stories/

Below documentary on Stu Sutcliffe: Including interviews with Pauline Sutcliffe, Tony Sheridan, Rod Murray, Allan Williams, etc.:

 

 

Stu Sutcliffe one of the original % Beatles in Hamburd and a promising painter.

Stu Sutcliffe was one of the 5 original Beatles in Hamburg

Canada's CBC radio host, Jian Ghomeshi's shocking exploitation of women scandal

CANADA’S RADIO HOST, JIAN GHOMESHI’S WOMEN EXPLOITATION SCANDAL

CANADA RADIO HOST GHOMESHI’S WOMEN EXPLOITATION SCANDAL,

BUT HYPOCRISY ALL AROUND

By Alan Chrisman (All Articles ARE written BY ALAN CHRISMAN), copyright 2012-2015 (A Praveen Patel has tried to hack them and claim them).

Canadian music and arts circles went into shock recently, when Jian Ghomeshi, CBC radio host of the popular show, “Q”, was first accused of having had non-consensual and abusive sex with women.

The immediate reaction of several in the arts community was to defend him or even dismiss it.  But that changed, as more and more women came forward.  When CBC was shown a graphic video of his practices, ironically by Ghomeshi’s own side, and he still defended those practices (he thought there was nothing wrong with his behavior, which shows how deep is his problem), CBC fired him.

Now those same people, who had so reactively defended him, have dropped him like a hot potato.  After all, the icon and CBC poster boy had a hip following and was available on 170 stations in the States.  But now, perhaps, like one of those school shooters, in hindsight, everyone now says, they’ve  known for years he was “a little weird”.

But there’s hypocrisy all around. For what is the culture that allowed this predator to get away with it for, evidently, years?  The Canadian music and arts circle is very small and incestuous and so is the CBC.

He had high ratings and always got the high-profile guests, Canadian and international. He was known for his opening essays (which it turned out he didn’t write) and it appears his whole image was more a creation by the organization for their star personality. In a place, like Canada, it carried a lot of power.  Ghomeshi had the “right” coolness, the “right” supposedly cutting-edge tastes, the “right” political-correctness.  He was, as well, hosting literary events like the prestigious Giller Book awards and giving out music prizes like The Polaris.

An atmosphere was created around him and nobody would  dare say the “Emperor had no clothes”.  Until when a brave woman finally came forward and said she had been forced and punched, several more said they had been abused too and there are likely more to come.  He used his power and hipness to exploit women, even, perhaps, an Ottawa’s Carleton University journalism intern.  Unfortunately, this is not uncommon in the powerful business of our media-obsessed current society.  David Letterman had a history of exploiting interns and had to publically apologize.  Several BBC broadcasters, some even with children’s shows, have been accused of abuse.

Monica Lewinsky had said in a Vanity Fair article that even feminists had defended Bill Clinton, but she continues to be vilified and she points out the hypocrisy of that.  Liberals were willing to look the other way, because they agreed with Clinton’s liberal policies. And they will do so again in the up-coming U.S. election in 2016, with the likelihood of Hillary Clinton running.  Lewinsky has recently said, it had been consensual, but it was still a male in a high position of power (perhaps the most powerful-President of the U.S.) and a young woman intern.  Bill Clinton had a long, long history of being a exploiter of women, but again, it’s dismissed by the hip crowd.

Ghomeshi did the same thing and had in Canadian society and media and liberal circles, that same kind of power, to which, so many turned a blind eye.

As I wrote in my first reaction to it just briefly on Facebook, I never liked the guy, for admittedly, so much of the political –correctness and hip adoration around him.  My close friends, with whom I don’t always agree, felt the same.  I couldn’t really describe why back then (and of course, we had no idea just how dark he was). I found his opening essays pseudo-profound and his shallow “humbleness” grating, but I was in the minority then.

I always wondered who decided what was trendy in pop music and culture. It seemed to be determined by a tiny group of critics and broadcasters, who parroted each other, in whom was to be promoted, and those artists were often part of the same cliques. This was international in the music business, but in Canada and Toronto too, they would jump on the latest bandwagon from England or the U.S., not wanting to appear not up-to-date.  If you wanted to progress in your career, you followed.  And Ghomeshi did so dutifully and his profile ascended.

I also mentioned in that original Facebook posting how I was in line at an Ottawa’s Writer’s Fest, 2 years ago, and got into a disagreement (friendly) with the woman behind me, over Ghomeshi. The irony is that several months later I ended up in a line-up for tickets for Paul McCartney’s 1st concert in Ottawa at 5:30 a.m. for four hours (something I’d never done before) and who’s right behind me but that same woman!  She looked familiar and she thought I did too. When we realized, we both laughed, and she even let me kindly borrow her small stool for a while.  We did manage to get tickets to the fastest-selling concert in Ottawa’s history, although many behind us didn’t. McCartney rocked still at ’71 years of age.  I’d seen him before in ‘89 in Montreal.  I had been interviewed on CBC radio about why The Beatles were still so popular earlier that weekend. I wonder what that lady thinks of Ghomeshi now, as so many others.

As for Ghomeshi, he clearly needs help. Interestingly, he had earlier released an autobiography about trying to fit in, with Iranian immigrant parents, in a suburb of Toronto. I don’t want to psychoanalyse him, but his idol as a teenager had been David Bowie, himself a master of constantly changing his persona with each musical product.  Ghomeshi had learned, evidently, to play a role, and got so good at it and got accepted by Canada’s cool crowd even.  But his narcissism caught up with him finally and he’s blown it. Unlike supreme politician, Bill Clinton, it’s unlikely he’ll be able to rebrand his image, and have people fall for his charms again.  Not even a public apology and offer to go to celebrity rehab, will protect him. And he may well face criminal charges, as more victims come forward.

But it wouldn’t have happened so powerfully if there hadn’t been such god-like media Canadian adoration, and an incestuous, elitist music and politically-correct arts world around him.

 

So there’s lots of Hypocrisy All Around and that should be examined too, as well as shunning Ghomeshi.

                                                        SINCE I WROTE MY ARTICLE:

                                Toronto Star, Nov 1, 2014:  Toronto Police Investigating Ghomeshi

A third woman is now being interviewed by the Toronto police sex-crimes unit as the criminal investigation into allegations of physical and sexual assault against fired CBC star Jian Ghomeshi expands.

Police are also investigating videos Ghomeshi showed his CBC bosses Oct. 23 containing “graphic evidence that Jian had caused physical injury to a woman.”

Ghomeshi — whose whereabouts are unknown — has not yet been interviewed, police said Saturday.

Meanwhile, other women who allege they were attacked by Ghomeshi continue to come forward. The Star has now heard of incidents dating back to his time as member of the band Moxy Früvous, and more allegations from his time as host of Play on CBC television and from his time as host of Q.

                                     Huffington Post, Oct. 31, 2014: A lot of People Knew

In media and music circles, rumors have circulated for years about Ghomeshi. I’ve heard them. People I know and work with have heard them. People I know have been on dates with him. So yes, it was an open secret that there was something fishy about Mr. Ghomeshi. But I think, as is so often the case, many dismissed it as just another case of a powerful man with a taste for younger women.

Clearly many knew things were much more sinister than that. While most people I know have expressed surprise about the violence, it’s evident from the reaction on social media and in blog posts like “Do You Know About Jian” that many people knew much, much more. When the story first broke, most Canadians expressed disbelief and dismay while many in music and media exchanged knowing looks.

This is really becoming a huge part of the story now as we move beyond the “did he or didn’t he” part of the story and on to the “how the hell did we let this happen?” part. Because a lot of people in media and music are asking themselves that question right now and talking with their partners and co-workers about it. This story is truly triggering some soul-searching about how and why we dismiss the signs of abuse — “Oh, sure he’s a bit creepy but he’s great as his job.” “Oh, these women wouldn’t be with him if they didn’t think they could get something from him.” “Oh, it’s not worth making a fuss about this. It’s probably nothing and it’s not worth losing your job over.” The list goes on and on and on. If something good is going to come from this, it’s that it’s going to force our industry, and others, to really start to address the cultural and structural prejudices that could allow something like this to happen (allegedly).

SONGS TO ACCOMPANY BOOK"IT"S A LONG WAY HOME"

“IT’S A LONG WAY HOME”( & HOW BEATLES’ MUSIC SAVED MY LIFE), A Musical Memoir, Book Description

“CAVERN DAYS”, THE 1st. OTTAWA BEATLES CONVENTION Sept ’95, anniversary of THE BEATLES playing Canada

Original Beatles Drummer, Pete Best & his Band from Liverpool, Guest.

Original Beatles Drummer, Pete Best & his Band from Liverpool, Guest.

EXCERPTS FROM THE BOOK: “IT’S A LONG WAY HOME”(& HOW BEATLES’ MUSIC SAVED MY LIFE), A Musical Memoir 

By Alan Chrisman (All Articles ARE written BY ALAN CHRISMAN), copyright 2012-2015 (A Praveen Patel has tried to hack them and claim them). 

Alan Chrisman, grew up in the innocence of a small U.S. Midwestern town.  But that was soon to change with two world-shaking events, The Vietnam War and The Beatles.  The 60’s were a tumultuous time and their music was a large part of its soundtrack.

Propelled by both events, he moved to a cold but welcoming land and its capitol, Ottawa, Canada, a place with similarities and differences from where he was raised.  There, inspired especially by The Beatles’ founder and co-writer, John Lennon, he became involved in various aspects of music, setting up one of its first used record stores, ”IMAGINE”, organizing The Ottawa Beatles Conventions and meeting many whom were there from the Beatles’ beginnings.  Several of the chapters are named after Beatles’ and Lennon’s songs and parallel his own experiences.  Later, he would also learn of an intriguing story how this revolutionary music even helped change a repressive system half way around the world.  

It was to be a Long and Winding Road with many curves and he describes some of the characters he met along the way and their sometimes trying, but humorous stories.   He also writes about the joys and pains of relationships and how pop music and culture affects our views of them and with some of his own song lyrics.

Ottawa, which one of its well-respected musicians called the“Liverpool of the North”, had more direct connections to England and felt the British Invasion earlier than the U.S. and he includes its 60’s and 70’s scene as well as his own involvement with musicians for the next several years. 

So come along for the journey and see how Beatles’ music influenced him and millions of others and why it still resonates decades later.

                       

 “IT’S A LONG WAY HOME” (& HOW BEATLES’ MUSIC SAVED MY LIFE), A Musical Memoir 
                                                  BOOK, CD, AUDIO CD, & ebook:  COVER BELOW

Picture

CONTENTS                     

Introduction                                                                                                                                                   

Chapter 1:  Crossing the Borderline (“Paul is Dead” rumour)


Chapter 2:   Midwestern Childhood (“Thank God For The Beatles” lyrics)
                                                    
Chapter 3:  University Days (“Woman the Muse”)
                                                                                     
Chapter 4:   Ottawa,Canada
Chapter 5:  “IMAGINE”, (John & Yoko in Ottawa)

Chapter 6:  Vancouver (J. Lennon shot, Dec, 8, 1980)
Chapter 7:  Back in Ottawa

Chapter 8:  Walls and Bridges
Chapter 9:  Rock This Town! Prods. (’85-’93)

Chapter10: Birthday and NY Dakota Visit (Strawberry Fields Memorial)
                                               
Chapter 11:  Connecticut Beatles Convention (Cynthia Lennon, May Pang)
Chapter 12; #9 Dream (Stu Sutcliffe Art, Astrid K.)

Chapter 13:  Ottawa Beatles Convention, ‘95 ( Pete Best, Cavern, Liverpool)
Chapter 14:  Ottawa Beatles Convention, ‘96( L. Harrison, Lennon car, Day John Met Paul)
                                       
Chapter 15:  Long Lost Weekend (“Real Good Woman” lyrics)
Chapter 16    Lady In Red ( P. Best Gets His Due)

Chapter 17:   ‘Get Back’ Records
Chapter 18:  Clean-up Time(Never Knew Who’d Drop In)



Chapter 19:   Lady in Red 2 ( “Annie Hall”)
Chapter 20:  Lister in L.A. ( “So You Want to be a R’ n ‘R Star”)

Chapter 21:  Time for a Change (G. Harrison passes)

                                                                                     
Chapter 22:  “Back in the U.S.S.R.”(The Beatles Help Bring Down Communism!)
Chapter 23:   Music Never Dies (“Al & THE G-MEN”, Still Rockin’)

Chapter 24: Long and Winding Road ( P. McCartney Plays Ottawa, 2013)
Chapter 25: “Liverpool of the North” (Ottawa music 60’s/70’s)

                                                  

   

(This book published by Alan L. Chrisman © 2013; All Alan Chrisman lyrics © 2012, 2013; Cover graphic by ‘G-Man’): eBook version c.2014
           
                         

 

FOR COMPLETE BOOK on CD(MSWord), AUDIO DVD(narrated), e book,(2014) or Original SONGS CD To Accompany Book, CONTACT: Alan L. Chrisman     www.rockthistownproductions.com  

Link To ebook(2014) version:

                                                                             ALAN L. CHRISMAN—BIOGRAPHY:

Alan L. Chrisman ( http://www.RockThisTownProductions.com) ran the used vinyl stores (Imagine, Get Back, Rock This Town!) for several years in Ottawa, Canada, and a coffeehouse, an alternative newspaper, promoted musicians, put on concerts and organized the two Ottawa Beatles Conventions ‘95 & ‘96. and met several in The Beatles’ circle.  He wrote a  memoir/book and an original songs CD, “It’s A Long Way Home”, about his life, and his influences, including “LIVERPOOL OF THE NORTH”: The Story Of Ottawa 60’s/70’s Music, in 2013.

Today, he continues to be involved in music: writing and recording songs (for AL & The G-Men), helping local musicians, shooting videos ( Youtube alanchrisman1), and organizing shows.   He also writes short stories, reviews and articles and blogs on a wide variety of subjects.  Several of his songs have been played on and he has been interviewed by CKCU-FM and CBC Radio.  And some of his artifacts have been on display at the “Ottawa Rocks” City Hall archives exhibit.