(18.10.26 – 18.3.17)
When The Fall released their rockin’ dirge “I’m Into CB” way back in 1982, there was a merry ambiguity about it: Was “CB” referencing the Citizens’ Band Radio craze of the time, or a cryptic allusion to Captain Beefheart? Well, yes, the song paid homage to both, and in my exploding pimple teens I would have been listing other possible CBs that The Fall’s furtive fulminator Mark E. Smith may have deemed crucial; Chocolate Biscuits, Crates o’ Beer, Chuck Berry…
The Chuck Berry double-album-housed-in-a single-sleeve El Cheapo “Chess Masters” LP was an essential part of my baggage and accompanied me from Basingstoke (where I obtained it) to Portsmouth and thence to London (where, 20 years later, it was finally, reluctantly, flogged with a couple of hundred other albums in order to appease the larcenous landlord). That pair of discs contained two dozen songs recorded in a four year period and there was nary a duffer to be heard. Sophisticates may deride the songs for their elementalism (pretty much like what John Peel said about The Fall, Chuck was “always different, always the same”), and hi-fi snobs and snooties may scoff at its absolute absence of fancy-pants production (although it’d be hard to find a more sympathetic sonic sensibility that transcends time: The descent into Hell was rarely more spooked than the spine-chilling rattle of Berry’s “Downbound Train”), but fuck ’em. And for all the rock hacks hail-hailing him as the poet laureate of rock’n’roll – well, yeah, anyone who terms tears “hurry-home drops” is truly worthy of the accolade of the Shakespeare of swing, the Byron of boogie in my book – fuck you, too. And for the creeps who bleat about what they personally consider to be unsavoury and immoral aspects of Berry’s personality, and that his perceived flaws negated or overshadowed his artistry and achievements – fuck you the most. Would they demand that an orphanage be demolished because one of the hod carriers who help construct it held political views that were abhorrent to their oh-so-perfect way of thinking?
Back, back, BACK! in 1985, Dave Pope and I were in a toe-twitching combo called Tadpole Headgear and, as part of our live set, we included a couple of songs from my ever-present Chuck Berry double album – “Around And Around” and “House Of Blue Lights” (which I had failed to transcribe accurately: I heard the line “Deep-fried and barbecued ribs” as “Detroit and barbecued beers”). Why did we choose them? Because they were direct, catchy, witty, irresistible, alert, instantly identifiable and (relatively) easy for us stumblebums to play. Because they were good, Johnny. Needless to add (but I will), that opening riff to “Around And Around” got the wallflowers and chair-warmers a-bopping and a-hopping, shifting shape and crushing crepe. It signalled a fun time for all, regardless of gender, age, colour and class. Seriousness was barred. Chuck was for people who would rather duck-walk than goose-step.
And speaking of geese… That fledgling goose of UK past, Dave Pope, will be wafting his be-feathered limbs at two of those “gig” things that the “kidz” seem to be “talking” about “these” days. His band over down under in New Zealand, THIS LITTLE BADGE will be playing a set fit for rocking robins, strutting peacocks and lovin’-ready chickens at a jolly joint called The Mayfair in New Plymouth on the 24th March, and another at The Nivara Lounge in Hamilton the night after. This two-nighter will be carved in rock folklore as “The Fastest Gun In The West Tour”. Fellow funsters 80 Grit and The Recently Deceived will be providing their own selection of toenail raisers too.
Here’s a poster, for all you fans of words and colours out “there”.