Sunday, 19 March 2017

Chuck Berry

Charles Anderson 'Chuck' Berry died yesterday at the age of 90. He was survived by: Themetta, his wife of 68 Years; four children, Ingrid, Chuck Junior, Aloha and Melody; and by Rock'n'Roll to which he gave birth on a lonely road outside Chicago Illinois in 1955.

Okay, that's an exaggeration. It was Chess Studios and not a lonely back road.  The song was Maybellene and without it things might have been so different.

Charles was born into a Middle Class black family in St Louis Missouri on 18 October 1926.  His father, Henry Berry was a carpenter and a deacon at Antioch Baptist Church while his mother, Martha was one of the few black women of his generation to go to college.  In those days, St Louis was so segregated that, growing up in the Ville, a self-contained community where all businesses and churches were run by black people, Chuck was three years old before he saw white people for the first time when some white firemen came to put out a fire.

One musician who said Chuck Berry was a great influence, was Keef Richards.  Although I'm pretty sure Keef never did the duckwalk like Chuck.  As well as Keef, Chuck Berry often played with other musicians, such as John Lennon (and Yoko Ono), Tina Turner and even Gerry and the Pacemakers

I think my favourite song from Mr Berry was 'Memphis Tennessee': yes despite the cutesy or creepy (depending on point of view) ending.  In 1972, he recorded a version for Top of the Pops on BBC TV which was one of the funniest attempts at making the miming obvious, not equalled until the Stranglers.

Of course, Chuck famously sang Can't Catch Me back in 1956 but the truth is, he did get caught and was incarcerated several times, in 1944 for armed robbery while still at high school.  He served three years in a reformatory during which time he learned to box (something Keef Richards would later learn to his regret) and formed a singing group.

He was released from the reformatory on his twenty first birthday but he also had further periods in jail as an adult.   1n 1959, after he allegedly had sexual intercourse with a fourteen year old girl who he had hired as a hat check girl and transported across state lines he was sentenced to five years in jail.  However, his appeal that the judge was biased on the grounds of his racism was upheld and after a retrial with a different judge, he was sentenced to three years of which he served 18 months in 1962 and 63.  As a result of his conviction, when Chuck was awarded the Polar Music Prize in 2014, Queen Sylvia and her youngest daughter Princess Madeleine of Sweden refused to attend the award ceremony in Stockholm.

In 1972, Chuck released a novelty single "My Ding-a-Ling" which he had often played as "My Tambourine".  This was castigated by Mary Whitehouse' Viewers and Listeners Association, now known as Mediawatch-UK who claimed it was about masturbation.   Chuck never lost popularity though, even playing in the White House for Jimmy Carter in 1979.

A month after playing for the President, Chuck again went to prison, this time serving 4 months and 1000 hours of community service (the latter consisting of free concerts.)

He continued performing write until the end but on 18 March 2017, police were called to his house and found him unresponsive and he was declared dead at 10:40AM (17:40 GMT).

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Phase Transition

For too long, I've been toiling away at a shitty job with the Department of Health.  Yesterday was my last day.  Wahey! And so on to vistas new, but first let me 'review' my own leaving do, because I loved it.  We played at the Alleycat, under Regent Studios in Denmark Street - the original Tin Pan Alley, where the Rolling Stones cut their first album and where the Kinks recorded, You Really Got Me.

Because I'd hired the venue not for a commercial gig but for a private party (although I kept the doors open for anyone who wished to come in) the barman/soundman did not know what to expect.  I told him to expect punk.  "Ah but what kind of punk?" he asked so of course, I told him.  New York Punk.  I'm gratified that he instantly came back with "Like Richard Hell and the Void-Oids".  Yeah, a lot like that I hope.

I had planned originally to begin with Edelweiss Pirates UK but with Sho and Chris on their own tour in India, John Giltrow and I played the shortstaffed version.  In the past, John and I have played as the shortstaffed version of e-Cog Zero so last night, we decided instead to be, just for one night, "Weaponised Kafka" (since John has been a vaping activist since he stopped smoking two years ago).

There's no recording of us as yet, but much of what we did was covers, beginning with Bella Ciao and ending with Edelweiss.  I messed up several times, forgetting words and once or twice getting lost.  Didn't matter cause we played it for laughs and even had one song (Effervescing Elephant) where I did nothing.

Next came Spirit of the Age, despite the name, they cover Hawkwind but they're not a tribute band, they're more punkadelic than psychedelic. Imagine if you will, Hawkwind played by Devo.  The acoustics in the Alleycat is such that I could hear every word Paul Maybin spoke or sang.

Next came e-Cog Zero and this time, I made no mistakes.  We sang eight of the nine songs we'll be recording on our forthcoming album, which we will be recording in March.  We're still working on number nine, Lipgloss, but in its place we played our beloved Cherry Bomb and then for an encore, Sympathy for Lilith.

Finally along came Guttfull, womonfully stepping into the breach due to the non availability of the Wimmin's Institute, who split up this month.

Guttful were marvellous.  I've seen a review suggesting singer, Moe sounds like Kathleen Hanna, and the band does have some resemblance to Bikini Kill, but in my head, the resemblance is more to Honey Bane and the Fatal Microbes.  Regardless of who they sounded like, they were awesome.

So a great evening was had by all and as my bass player said, We'll have to get Guttfull to play at Tottenham Chances because they are brilliant and will soon be big... and we've got to get Spirit of the Age to play there because it would be awesome to have them play with Captain Rizz.

Watch this space.