Sunday, February 1, 2015

Rocking and Rolling Over

Song 236: This week's playlist song is Roll Over Beethoven by Chuck Berry, who also wrote the song, because somehow I got well past number 200 before getting a CB record on the playlist, though I did post a Berry song about 20 weeks ago, for number 216, which was the Johnny Rivers version of Memphis, Tennessee. Not long after the Beatles rocked my world in the winter of 1964, the second round of Beatles tracks hit the airwaves, including their cover of this song, which I liked just as much, or maybe even more, than all the others. At the time, I thought the Fab Four had invented rock and roll, and while round one had just been compositions by Lennon and McCartney, I also didn't know that round two included some tracks by other writers. I did pay attention to songwriting credits on records, though, and I began to notice the C. Berry name appearing on a number of cuts that I liked. In the early '70s, consolidation in the record business and the radio business quickly led to much shorter radio playlists, which dovetailed with a growing interest in the roots of rock and roll, so a lot of '50s records began returning to the airwaves. From the radio, and various articles in Rolling Stone, I got schooled in a short year or two about the earlier generation of rock and roll that I had previously missed. Before long I knew the basics about the early rockers, and Chuck Berry's place near the top of the list. In fact, I came to understand his role as an RnR pioneer so well that when a blues booking agent I worked with, around '75 or so, told me that his girlfriend hadn't heard of Chuck Berry, I couldn't understand it. When they first hit the airwaves, CB and his fellow top rockers created a sound that shook things up so much that Beethoven, the icon of classical music, must have been spinning in his grave, and that rock just kept on rolling, so Ludwig also had to tell Tchaikovsky the news.

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