Today, we celebrate one of the true founding fathers of rock ‘n’ roll, a man who created many of the musical and lyrical archetypes that defined the sound for decades. No artist had a larger role in establishing rock ‘n’ roll as the music of youth culture, which not only changed music, but all entertainment in general. Chuck Berry’s songs are still covered to this day, as classics like “Johnny B. Goode”, “Sweet Little Sixteen”, “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Back in the U.S.A.” still endure. And when not singing about “School Days” or the “Havana Moon”, he wrote one of rock’s first important songs about race, the classic “Brown Eyed Handsome Man”. There’s simply not enough you can say about a man whose influence still reverberates, both directly and indirectly, to this day. So in honor Mr. Berry’s birthday, please grab your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle, and share the first 10 songs that come up.
Minutemen – Mutiny In Jonestown (What Makes a Man Start Fires?): A nice funk meets post-punk funk track. Barely over a minute long, and the riff and bass line could have sustained a much longer song.
Earth, Wind & Fire – Gratitude (Gratitude): A mid-tempo urbane funk tune from 1975. This was from the studio side of the double album where the other three sides were E, W & F live. Not as spectacular as the best Earth, Wind & Fire singles, but the groove is infectuous and the vocal arrangement is awesome.
Van Hunt – It’s a Mysterious Hustle (What Were You Hoping For?): A Prince inspired psychedelic soul song from Van Hunt’s excellent third album. A strong melody and really creative production. More people need to listen to Van Hunt.
The Monkees – Steam Engine (Missing Links, Vol. 3): This driving R & B inflected number ended up in a Monkees episode in the second season, but was never released until 1979 on an Australian compilation, and three years later in the U.S. on the Monkee Business collection. It sounds like Mickey Dolenz’s vocal may have been sped up a little bit. There is a weird ass fuzz guitar solo midway through unlike anything on any Monkees record. This is a pretty good tune.
The Troggs – Summertime (Archaeology 1966-1976): A great pervy Troggs song, ideal for Reg Presley’s naturally sleazy vocals. A subdued song centered on a prominent bass line, as Presley lauds summer for the skimpy outfits that the ladies wear.
The Urinals – Last Days of Man on Earth (Negative Capability...Check It Out!): My knowledge of these guys is: a) the Minutemen covered them on their last album, and, b) Jack Rabid gave this collection a good review. This is low-fi punk minimalism, much less arty than other of the era.
Polara – Counting Down (Polara): Outstanding ‘90s power pop from Minneapolis. Ed Ackerson (former frontman of The 27 Various) penned songs that were kind of like a more straightforward Game Theory and then layered sequencers and keyboards over the guitars, for a dense, rich sound.
The Bamboos – Typhoon (4): A cooker from Australia’s premier soul revival band. This is a total James Brown inspired workout with a fantastic horn section.
Weird Al Yankovic – Fat (Even Worse): I’ve got a bunch of Weird Al from a three disc compilation. This isn’t one of my favorites, but what can I say – I love Weird Al.
Radiohead – Sulk (The Bends): A deep cut from Radiohead’s classic second album. Johnny Greenwood centers the tune with a subtly majestic lead guitar pattern, while the rhythm section provides great support. No matter how hard the Coldplays, Keanes and others of this ilk try to nail this sound, they never do it as well as Radiohead did.