Hail! Hail! Rock ‘N’ Roll 1987

This documentary starts off in 1986 with Chuck Berry reminiscing about the Cosmopolitan Club where he played in the earlier days.

The film is centered around Chuck Berry’s 60th birthday and Keith Richards assembling an All-Star Band to support Chuck in concert. Chuck had been touring since the 60s by traveling town to town and playing with any pickup band he found…all he brought was his guitar. He would get paid with cash in a paper bag in many places. That was his motivation more than playing with a good band. Chuck could be very sloppy playing live.

Chuck could also be difficult, to say the least. Keith was determined that Chuck was going to be backed by a great band for this concert… Chuck was Keith’s idol but Chuck seemed to want to give Keith as much trouble as possible. Richards says in the documentary that Chuck was the only man that hit him that he didn’t hit back. During the rehearsals for the song “Carol”, you can feel the tension in the air between the two.

Seeing Keith’s reaction to Chuck at times is worth the price of admission and I’m glad Keith was persistent and patient and got this done. It’s great footage of Chuck playing his classics.

The concert at the Fox Theatre ended up a success. Chuck sounded great and so did the band.

During the documentary, there are some great comments by Little Richard, Bo Diddley, Bruce Springsteen, Jerry Lee Lewis, Willie Dixon and more.

Little Richard, Bo Diddley, and Chuck have a very interesting conversation about how hard it was to get played on the radio because of being African American in the 50s. They also talk about payola and Alan Freed.

The band was incredible… Keith Richards, Robert Cray, the great Johnnie Johnson (Chuck’s original piano player), Steve Jordan, Bobby Keys, Chuck Leavell and Eric Clapton guests on a few songs.

Some of the artists that came on and sang were Etta James, Linda Ronstadt, and Julian Lennon.

Chuck was a complicated man but he was a poet as well. I can’t recommend this documentary enough. If you are a music fan you should like it. Chuck Berry may have influenced Rock and Roll more than anyone else…

My favorite story is from Bruce Springsteen. Bruce and the E Street Band volunteered to back up Chuck Berry for a show in the early seventies. Being Chuck’s temporarily pickup band must have been nerve-wracking for musicians. Chuck didn’t tell them what songs he was playing or what key…this is Bruce’s quote “About five minutes before the show was timed to start, the back door opens and he comes in. He’s by himself. He’s got a guitar case, and that was it,” Springsteen said. “[I said] ‘Chuck, what songs are we going to do?’ He says, ‘Well, we’re going to do some Chuck Berry songs.’ That was all he said!”

Below is the video…not extremely clear but watchable.

 

Bruce Springsteen – Johnny Bye Bye

This is Bruce’s song about Elvis Presley. Bruce was a big fan of Elvis but this looks at the dark side. After the glory had left and the lifestyle that caught up with Elvis with tragic results.

The song was released as a B side to “I’m On Fire” in 1985.

It is a haunting song to listen to. The key words are the last lines of the song…”You didn’t have to die, You didn’t have to die.” The song is credited to Chuck Berry and Bruce because Bruce rewrote the Berry song Bye Bye Johnny to fit his story.

It has always reminded me of another great Springsteen song… Cadillac Ranch.

Bruce Springsteen quote

 “The type of fame Elvis had . . . the pressure of it, the isolation that it seems to require, has gotta be really painful”

“Johnny Bye-Bye”

Well she drew out all her money from the Southern Trust
And put her little boy on the Greyhound Bus
Leaving Memphis with a guitar in his hand
With a one-way ticket to the promised land
Hey little girl with the red dress on
There’s a party tonight down in Memphis town
I’ll be going down there if you need a ride
The man on the radio says Elvis Presley’s died We drove to Memphis, the sky was hard and black
Up over the ridge came a white Cadillac
They’d drawn out all his money and they laid him in the back
A woman cried from the roadside “Ah he’s gone, he’s gone”
They found him slumped up against the drain
With a whole lot of trouble running through his veins
Bye-bye Johnny
Johnny bye-bye
You didn’t have to die
You didn’t have to die

Bruce Springsteen – Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.

I got this album in 1986 and have never stopped listening to it. This is one of my favorite Springsteen’s albums. This was his debut album in 1973 and there is not a song on it I don’t’ like… It’s not very polished but that is ok.  The songs have a stream of conscious feel to them. The album was critically praised but did not have huge sales.

The most famous song on the album is “Blinded By The Light” which was covered later by Manfred Mann Earth’s Band that peaked at #1 in 1977. They also covered another song off the album called “Spirit of the Night” which peaked at #20 in 1977.

Personally, I like Bruce’s versions of both songs much more. “It’s Hard to be a Saint in the City” is another great track and one of the most powerful songs he ever wrote. “Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?” is a journey through an enjoyable play of words. It was written about a bus journey to a girlfriend’s house. Here is a sample of a verse

“Wizard imps and sweat sock pimps
Interstellar mongrel nymphs
Rex said that lady left him limp
Love’s like that (sure it is)
Queen of diamonds, ace of spades
Newly discovered lovers of the Everglades
They take out a full-page ad in the trades
To announce their arrival
And Mary Lou, she found out how to cope
She rides to heaven on a gyroscope
The Daily News asks her for the dope
She said, “Man, the dope’s that there’s still hope”

I hear Dylan and a Van Morrison influence in Bruce’s first album. It is rough and raw but worth the price of admission. My personal favorite is “Spirit of the Night.” This song hints at some of the characters and places that start populating Bruce’s musical world.

The song Growin’ Up is a complex and honest look at growing up and rebellion. Some lyrics…

“I took month-long vacations in the stratosphere, and you know it’s really hard to hold your breath
I swear I lost everything I ever loved or feared, I was the cosmic kid in full costume dress
Well, my feet they finally took root in the earth, but I got me a nice little place in the stars
And I swear I found the key to the universe in the engine of an old parked car
I hid in the mother breast of the crowd, but when they said, “Pull down,” I pulled up
Ooh…growin’ up
Ooh…growin’ up”

This is a crazy good debut album. I like it a little better than his second album “The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle” but both albums were building up to everything crystallizing in his third…Born to Run.

Track Listing

Blinded By The Light
Growin’ Up
Mary Queen Of Arkansas
Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?
Lost In The Flood
The Angel
For You
Spirit In The Night
It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City

Spirit of the Night

Crazy Janey and her mission man were back in the alley trading hands
‘Long came Wild Billy with his friend G-Man all duded up for Saturday night
Well, Billy slammed on his coaster brakes and said, “Anybody wanna go on up to Greasy Lake?
It’s about a mile down on the dark side of route eighty-eight, I got a bottle of rose so let’s try it
We’ll pick up Hazy Davy and Killer Joe and I’ll take you all out to where the gypsy angels go
They’re built like light
Ooh, and they dance like spirits in the night” (all night)
In the night (all night)
Oh, you don’t know what they can do to you
Spirits in the night (all night)
Oh, in the night (all night)
Stand right up now and let it shoot through you

Well now Wild young Billy was a crazy cat and he shook some dust out of his coonskin cap
He said, “Trust some of this, it’ll show you where you’re at, or at least it’ll help you really feel it”
Well, by the time we made it up to Greasy Lake I had my head out the window and Janey’s fingers were in the cake
I think I really dug her ’cause I was too loose to fake
I said, “I’m hurt,” she said, “Honey, let me heal it”
And we danced all night to a soul fairy band
And she kissed me just right like only a lonely angel can
She felt so nice, just as soft as a spirit in the night (all night)
In the night (all night)
Oh, Janey don’t know what she do to you
Like a spirit in the night (all night)
All night (all night)
Stand right up and I let her shoot through me

(Ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh)
(Ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh)

(Ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh)
(Ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh)

Now the night was bright and the stars threw light on Billy and Davy
Dancing in the moonlight
They were down near the water in a stone mud fight
Killer Joe gone passed out on the lawn
Well now Hazy Davy got really hurt, he ran into the lake in just his socks and a shirt
Me and Crazy Janey was making love in the dirt, singing our birthday songs
Janey said it was time to go
So we closed our eyes and said goodbye to gypsy angel row, felt so right
Together we moved like spirits in the night (all night)
In the night (all night)
Oh, you don’t know what they can do to you
Them spirits in the night (all night)
All night (all night)
Oh, stand right up and let it shoot through you
Like a spirit in the night (all night)
All night (all night)
All night (all night)
All night (all night)
All night (all night)
All night (all night)
All night, ooh, ooh, man, all night
The night
Be-da-ba the night
In the night

Oddest Concert Pairings

I have always liked odd mixtures. Anything out of the norm and I pay attention. That is why I blog about the past more than today. I liked the 60’s and 70’s era because houses, cars, and music were for the most part unique. I couldn’t tell a Ford from a Chevy today. A lot of new houses look just alike in cloned neighborhoods.

I would have loved to have been at one of these concerts.

Jimi Hendrix / Monkees 1967 – This is number one on my list. Can you imagine the young Monkee fans hearing the sonic volume of Jimi Hendrix? Jimi had to play while a bunch of 12-year-old girls screamed “We want the Monkees” and “We want Davy. ” It was the sixties and Peter Tork said: “It didn’t cross anybody’s mind that it wasn’t gonna fly.”

The Who / Herman Hermits 1967 – Smash your guitars and drums and Hope I die before I get Old and then Mrs Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter?… You can imagine Peter Noone tripping over shards of guitars every night.

Lynyrd Skynyrd / Queen 1974 – This one is a head-scratcher. The theatrical Queen and the southern boys from Florida just don’t seem a great match. Roger Taylor of Queen had some ugly things to say about Lynyrd Skynyrd later on.

Bruce Springsteen / Anne Murray 1974 – This one is baffling. Anne Murray’s managers demanded that Bruce open the show for Anne in NYC! They argued she was more successful and she was…but this was New York and Bruce Springsteen…what a fatal mistake…halfway through Bruce’s set Anne’s managers regretted their decision. Many of the audience had left by the time Anne took the stage.

The Ramones/Toto 1979 – This one doesn’t make sense at all…what promoter thought this through? The laid-back ToTo fans sat through the Ramones but Toto singer Bobby Kimball, came out and apologized to the crowd for the “horrible band” they had to sit through.

Cher/Gregg Allman 1977 – Yes they were married but what an odd concert to go to. You have Gregg who was one of the best blues singers at that time and Cher…who was Cher…Gregg Allman mentions in his book “My Cross to Bear” that the audience was mixed…some with tuxedos and some with denim jackets and backpacks and there were fights at each show on the tour between the two sets of fans.

Gregg Allman

“It was right after that—the tuxedos against the backpacks, because I think the Allman Brothers outnumbered the Sonny and Chers—that Cher came to me, and the poor thing was just crying. I asked her what was wrong, and she told me, “We’ve got to cancel the rest of the tour, because I can’t stand the fighting.” So we ended it right then, which was about halfway through it. We went home the next day, and that was the last time I ever played with her.”

The Ramones / Ted Nugent, Aerosmith 1979 – Bottles and debris were thrown at The Ramones from the crowd as Johnny Ramone was shooting birds at the audience. 

Johnny Ramone about this concert…

“About five or six songs into the set, the whole crowd stood up, and I thought it had started to rain. Dee Dee thought the same thing, but they were throwing stuff at us – sandwiches, bottles, everything. Then, all of a sudden, I broke two strings on my guitar in one strum. I thought it was a sign from God to get off the stage, because I’d rarely break a string, maybe once a year. So I just walked to the front of the stage, stopped playing, and gave the audience the finger – with both hands. I stood there like that, flipping them off, with both hands out, and walked off. The rest of the band kept playing for another ten or fifteen seconds until they’d realized I was walking off, and then they did too. I wasn’t gonna stand there and be booed and have stuff thrown at us without retaliating in some way. We had to come off looking good somehow, and there was no good way to get out of that.”

Johnny Ramone.jpg

 

 

 

 

Favorite Lines from Songs

Sometimes lyrics will hook you into a song more than even the melody…here are a few I like.

I wasn’t looking too good but I was feeling real well… Rolling Stones

Meet the new Boss/same as the old boss…The Who

The sunshine bores the daylights out of me… Rolling Stones

We learned more from a three-minute record, baby/Than we ever learned in school…Bruce Springsteen

I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together… Beatles

She knows there’s no success like failure and that failure’s no success at all… Bob Dylan

The silence of a falling star lights up a purple sky… Hank Williams SR

Because celluloid heroes never feel any pain and celluloid heroes never really die… Kinks

Yes, I wish that for just one time/You could stand inside my shoes/You’d know what a drag it is to see you… Bob Dylan

But I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die… Johnny Cash

I hid in the mother breast of the crowd,/when they said “pull down” I pulled up… Bruce Springsteen

We always did feel the same/We just saw it from a different point of view…Bob Dylan

In Jersey, anything’s legal, as long as you don’t get caught… The Traveling Wilburys

Shake the hand that shook the hand of P.T. Barnum and Charlie Chan… Grateful Dead

Shammy cleaning all the windows singing songs about Edith Piaf’s soul… Van Morrison

I shouted out,”Who killed the Kennedys?” when after all It was you and me…Rolling Stones

Measuring a summer’s day/ I only finds it slips away to grey/ The hours, they bring me pain…Led Zeppelin

I just spent 60 days in the jailhouse/for the crime of having no dough…The Band

You see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself…Ricky Nelson

Hello darkness, my old friend I’ve come to talk with you again…Paul Simon

I drank enough whiskey to float a battleship around… Lynyrd Skynyrd

I blew out my flip-flop stepped on a pop-top/cut my heel had to cruise on back home… Jimmy Buffet

And in the end,the love you take is equal to the love you make…The Beatles