BERRY DUES DRIPPING DOWN
A sexual assault took place in the lift, before he met me, thats what I heard later.
It was the UK Press run for the Faber autobiography, sculpted, editor free, Elizabetheanesque, pure Chuck wordings, only the maestro could have formulated.
I could not believe I was meeting Chuck Berry. Like Sean Penn in Sweet & Lowdown contemplating the glory of the digitally challenged Gypsy guitarist whose name he dare not speak...I felt dizzy.
He lied or remembered brilliantly how Id responded to his call for requests, a decade earlier from the balcony of a near deserted 1977 ABC cinema Belfast, 1st show, mid curfew, and he'd responded saying "young man cant have been born when this song was released so we're going to play Maybellene for him,"
ABOVE: Chuck Berry Belfast 1977 ABC Cinema Second Show Picture Terence Bowman
Years later a writer for NME went on the road with the son of a famous American rockstar, then enjoying success daddy could only dream of. On the tour coach they watched bootleg videos of Chuck and the water sports tapes.
Guess you always end up like Marlene D on Orson in Touch Of Evil, talking bout heroes, flicking the ash and saying 'what can you say but they was some sort of man?' BS
But , unlike, say, that historical abortion and cultural dead end Jimmy Sovile, Chuck was a genius, plain n simple, in his art -accelerating something wild and vivid, fully, beautifully, formed and contoured in the mind n motion of those who heard and the world he transformed.
The story of how and why he done it is easy to find, as old the hills and fresh as the morning dew.
Chuck's words and his borrowed or otherwise parsed (hail hail Johnnie Johnson's piano rolls ahoy) musical ideas teem forever more - a fountain of glory for all who pass thisa way.
Hearing Too Much Monkey Business that first time - in one of those tinny and destroyed and distorted as fuck Golden Decade electronically reprocessed for stereo no longer mono vinyls - in 1972 you knew, instinctively, you were hearing some sort of ever present future, from the fifties, shot into the now and beyond.
Catching up , even later, with Bob's Subterranean Homesick Blues it didn't seem so strange or lightning bolt. There was a line and an energic, energetic forcefield being followed, traced into, and through, the universe.
I went to Chuck's home town for 4 days 2003, following Bob - as I did in those moneyed days. Saddest city I ever seen in the UNion of states, that arch so indicative of the hopeless attempt to cross divides in American life.
Ferguson was no surprise when it happened. That place holds the courthouse which hosted the case that lead to the civil war, nobody seemed to know where it was, or acknowledge it.
Outside the hotel on the white side of river I saw one black guy the whole stay. He was being shackled and drawn in a prison cart through the eerie empty city one bright morning.
The place where the man who wrote the most bitterly sarcastically title anthem in American song, The Promised Land, came from?
I saw Chuck in Belfast in a curfew in 77, in Cleveland at the opening of the rock n roll hall of fame in 1995, later the same year at the New Orleans Jazz and Blues fest and finally, the last time on a triple bill with the still alive Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis at the London Docklands 2000 ish.
I still have the poster. too. And Its going in the frame I bought for it AT XMAS very soon. Very soon. Promise.