Chuck Berry, the guitarist/lyricist/vocalist whom many consider to be the father of rock & roll, died at his home near Wentzville, Missouri (which is about 45 miles west of St. Louis), on March 18, 2017. He was 90 years old.
Needless to say, the man’s impact and influence on popular music is almost incalculable. The list of songs Berry wrote and performed in just the mid-to-late 1950s alone serve as the bedrock and blueprint of early American rock music: “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Johnny B. Goode,” “Rock and Roll Music,” “No Particular Place to Go,” “Maybellene,” “Let It Rock,” “Too Much Monkey Business” (“ahh…”), “Brown Eyed Handsome Man,” and “Memphis, Tennessee”. . . to name but a few.
Sadly, there are limited hi-res options available for Chuck Berry originals. It’s too early to tell in what res we’ll be getting the previously announced studio album Chuck (slated for release sometime this summer), but right now, you can find Berry doing “Johnny B. Goode” live as backed by Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band in 44.1/24 on the 2012 Time Life release, The Best of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum Live, but that’s about it. That said, the man’s canon is among the most loved and best covered in all of rock, so to honor that, we here at HRAC have compiled a five-track hi-res Cherry-Picked Berry Picks playlist for you via HDtracks that celebrates the man’s legacy via sonic excellence.
** “Roll Over Beethoven” — While The Beatles infamous 1963 take is not yet up for hi-res access, Electric Light Orchestra’s cover from 1973’s ELO 2 is. It’s an electrifying 8-minute version that infamously quotes Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in the intro and is also interspersed quite thrillingly throughout the rest of the song. Tell Tchaikovsky the news: You can get ELO’s version in either 192/24 or 96/24.
** “Johnny B. Goode” — This song is a rite of a passage for most garage bands. While there are numerous live versions of it out there, I’ve always been partial to Johnny Winter’s gnarly boogie-woogie studio take on 1969’s Second Winter, and that one can be found in 176/24 on The Best of Johnny Winter.
** “Rock and Roll Music” — Any old way you choose it, you can find many options for this classic. The Beach Boys did a wonderfully harmonious version on their 15 Big Ones album in 1976, one that also reached #5 on the U.S. singles chart. Now you can choose it in either 192/24 or 96/24.
** “Little Queenie” — You can’t put together a Chuck Berry covers playlist without having The Rolling Stones on it, and this 176/24 live cut from Get Yer Ya-Yas Out!: The Rolling Stones in Concert, recorded on November 28, 1969 at Madison Square Garden in New York, is one of their best. (You can also get it in 88/24.)
** “Too Much Monkey Business” — This is my personal favorite Chuck Berry track. I love the “ahhh!” he does before going into the song’s title chorus after listing the latest egregious affront he’s faced out in the world at large. You can just see him shaking his head in semi-mock disdain as he does it. Elvis Presley turns in a great echo-laden version of it on 1969’s Elvis Sings Flaming Star. “Unh-uh!” singeth The King in place of the “ahhh,” and it totally fits.