Wednesday, September 07, 2005
here come old flattop, he come grooving up slowly (New Jersey in the mornin' like a lunar landscape)
So, it’s pretty obvious by now, right? Chuck Berry *IS* the Goddamn King of Rock and Roll. Recently references to the man have jumped out at me, everywhere. Jon Pareles recently pointed out one of Mr. Berry’s many students. In his review of the Stones’ latest album, “A Bigger Bang,” he writes, “When the guitars surge in for the three-chord chorus and Mr. Richards plays his 10,000th version of a Chuck Berry lick, it's inescapable: the old tricks still work.”
Yes. Keef fucking worships the man and his riffs. And, damn, talk about riffs. Like Edina Monsoon once said to Patsy Stone, “Every thing just hangs off of these cheekbones, dah-ling”—well, everything, and I mean *everything* just hangs off of Keef’s riffs, dah-ling.
But, back to the man and his music. Wait, the lyrics. That’s the thing that’s been flooring me recently. I was listening to:
“You Can’t Catch Me”
I bought a brand-new air-mobile
It custom-made, 'twas a Flight De Ville
With a pow'ful motor and some hideaway wings
Push in on the button and you will get a scene
Now you can't catch me, baby you can't catch me
'Cause if you get too close, you know I'm gone like a cool
New Jersey Turnpike in the wee wee hours
I was rollin' slow because of drizzlin' showers
Here come a flat-top, he was movin' up with me
Then come wavin' goodbye a little' old souped-up jitney
I put my foot in my tank and I began to roll
Moanin' siren, 'twas a state patrol
So I let out my wings and then I blew my horn
Bye bye New Jersey, I'd be come and gone
Flyin' with my baby last Saturday night
Not a gray cloud floatin' in sight
Big full moon shinin' up above
Cuddle up honey, be my love
Sweetest little thing I've ever seen
I'm gonna name you Maybellene
Flyin' on the beam, set on flight control
Radio tuned to rock 'n' roll
Two, three hours have passed us by
I'll be 2 dropped to 5:05
Fuel consumption way too fast
Let's get on home before we run out of gas
And in it, I heard the entire car-theme/essence of Bruce Springsteen’s “Nebraska.” The obvious Jersey refs, of course. (as well as the DIRECT rip: “New Jersey Turnpike in the wee wee hours”) but just the feeling of motion, of escape—racing down the highway (running away from something--from someone) in a classic car, with yer baby cuddlin’ up next to you. As well as talking about the car so sensually, if it were a sexy, powerful woman. (hey: pink cadillac and little red corvette.)
Two other notes: gotta dig the already self-referential line, “I'm gonna name you Maybellene,” (Beatles, Oasis, countless others…). And speaking of the Beatles…Lennon, were you soaking up some Berry with your drugs when you wrote “Come Together”? I think so! (“Here come a flat top, he was movin' up with me,” next to “Here come old flat top he come grooving up slowly.”) OK, maybe that one is just me…But, there’s no escaping the fact that Springsteen, Richards, Lennon, McCartney, and…well, countless others have been digging on this shit for years and years. Impressive. Roll over Beethoven, yes. His influence should be ranked up there.
Augh. By the way: please avoid Jon Bream, if at all possible. Today, it wasn’t possible for me. I had to read his STrib review of the Stones and it was…so…damn…bad. As Jessica rhetorically asked, “was this written by a fifth grader?” Maybe it was. He has kids, right? But if he did write it—shame. How can someone so fortunate (he gets to vote in Pazz and Jop, yadda, yadda, yadda) be so *lazy*?! The first and the last line take the cake. I will not do you the disservice of posting the link, it’s just bad news.
I will leave you with goodness. One of my many favorite Bruce lines. This one, under the heavy influence of Mr. Berry:
from "Open All Night,"
"Your eyes get itchy in the wee wee hours/ sun's just a red ball risin' over them refinery towers/ Radio's jammed up with gospel stations/ lost souls callin' long distance salvation/ Hey, mister deejay, woncha hear my last prayer hey, ho, rock'n'roll, deliver me from nowhere."