Chuck Berry – Hail! Hail! Rock ‘N’ Roll

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 – I drove for more than a few miles Saturday evening with my mouth hanging wide open. I had just heard Cousin Brucie announce on his SiriusXM radio show that Chuck Berry had passed away. At the age of 90 we couldn’t expect one of the true originators to continue duckwalking across the rock and roll landscape forever, but it was still a shock.

It’s the end of an era – though the legend will live on.

It’s doubtful I ever go a day without hearing a Chuck Berry riff. As a Classic Rocker with musical tastes never straying too far from the basic three chord rock and roll that excited and influenced every important rocker that followed him, he is still an important foundation for my daily playlists. Chuck Berry was covered and copied by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and way too many others for me to even attempt to list. They handed it down to the next generation and the legacy continues.

If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry.’” – John Lennon

I’ve stolen every lick he ever played.” – Keith Richards inducting Chuck Berry into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Since The Classic Rocker is about music and memories, here’s one of mine…

As fate would have it, I had just talked about my experiences going back to the roots of rock and roll in the most recent song on this Dream Song List. My album collection in the late 1960’s and early 70’s was being restocked with the originals by Chuck Berry and other members of the first class inducted into The Rock Hall. My goal was to play guitar like Chuck, piano like Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, and sing like Elvis. It didn’t exactly work out that way, which is why you’re reading these ramblings rather than listening to any of my albums.

During my freshman year in college – and I’m not kidding – my dorm room featured Chuck Berry wallpaper. As a Berry fan, I might have been an originator among interior decorators.

Chuck was playing a show at another college nearby. Of course I would be there, but that’s another story for another song on this list. Especially since I wound up on stage with my hero and had a rockin’ good time. But the buildup had started a couple months before.

I went to my local record store (vinyl you crazy cats!) to check out what was new. I saw a stack of flyers on the counter advertising the concert. I went crazy (cat) right there about my commitment to the greatness of Chuck Berry. The store manager picked up the pile of flyers, handed them to me and said I could hang them up. I was probably guessing correctly he meant for me to hang them up around campus, but since no discount was offered to me on the ticket price or the album I’m sure I purchased that day, it meant the only place these flyers would be hung up were in my dorm room.

I have a photo somewhere of the coolest room on campus that spring, but would need to dig through too many boxes of Classic Rocker keepsakes to find it. Trust me when I say the flyers made the walls both colorful and unique.

Which is also a good description of Chuck Berry’s overwhelming influence on popular music. The exact birth date of rock and roll will always be debated, but it’s a no-brainer to say the fuse was ignited with his first big hit in 1955, Maybellene. The future of rock and roll followed in a direct line behind him. And when you think about it, there’s no higher praise you can give to someone that meant so much to so many.

Rock on Chuck Berry! You will be missed, but not forgotten.

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

#200 – I Can’t Get No Nookie

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#200 – I Can’t Get No Nookie by The Masked Marauders

masked marauders – I didn’t get completely taken in by this hoax in late 1969, but I’ll admit to being on the fence for a listen or two. It was an era of rock music exploding into different genres and groupings. Cream and Traffic had formed Blind Faith. The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and The Hollies begat Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. The Yardbirds had morphed into Led Zeppelin.

But the biggest supergroup of them all was The Masked Marauders. But then again, not really.

I remember “sort of” a rock and roll revival happening that fall with my buddies that were into music. The big album, of course, was Abbey Road. Paul McCartney’s song Oh Darling was a throw back to a 1950’s sound with pounding piano and raspy voice. I don’t know if that’s what triggered it, but a few of us started looking back to that decade to hear the originators.

It’s important to remember we were at the younger end of the baby boomer generation. The early rock’n rollers had been replaced by the watered down versions being fed to us in the early 1960’s. For example, we weren’t exposed to Little Richard singing Tutti Frutti. Nope. Instead we saw Pat Boone singing his tepid version on our black and white family television shows.

Lennon Jagger

Lennon and Jagger unmasked

I only knew songs like Roll Over Beethoven, Long Tall Sally and many more classics because they were covered by The Beatles. That was also true for releases by The Rolling Stones, Herman’s Hermits and other British Invasion bands. They were reworking American rock and roll hits and bringing them to my generation for “seemingly” the first time. The originals were standards for the older kids who were already teenagers when we were in preschool.

Around the time of Oh Darling and my early teenage years I wanted to know where this music came from.

I had a friend who went by his initials “BS.” He was one of the smarter guys in my high school class, but also an agitator who wasn’t afraid to use his column in the school newspaper to stir up trouble between the “jocks” and the “brains.” His initials stood not only for his first and middle name, but also the slang you might use to tell someone they’re “full of it.”

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Thursday March 9, 2017 – Lakewood, Ohio!

Join The Classic Rocker for a FAB evening of Beatlemania!

Doors open 6:30 pm – show time 7:00

FREE admission – reservations suggested

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The dates are a little out of whack, but I distinctly remember him turning me on to I Hear You Knocking by Dave Edmunds in late 1970. This was a throw back to real, three chord rock and roll from the 50’s while the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and other rock acts at the time were going for more complicated songs, sounds and arrangements. So along with those albums, including Abbey Road and Led Zeppelin I, we were digging through record bins for vinyl by Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Elvis.

But I bring up BS and sharing our rock music research because I distinctly remember him telling me about this supergroup called The Masked Marauders. I hadn’t read the Rolling Stone Magazine article that started the “buzz” but with Blind Faith and CSN&Y the hot groups at the moment, anything seemed possible.

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Keef, Mick & Bob marauding about.

According to rumor, The Masked Marauders were made up of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger. There were also hints that Keith Richards and Donovan were part of the lineup, but there was no way this could be confirmed. In an era many decades before the internet and social media, all we could rely on were rumors and our ears.

In late fall 1969 or early winter 1970, BS informed us he had a copy of the self-titled Masked Marauders LP and invited us to his house to listen. Three or four of us sat through both sides of the disk with individual reviews of “no… yes… well, maybe?

I’m sure BS claimed it was real, but I left highly doubtful.

I know because if I had believed this gathering of my favorite rock stars had joined forces near Canada’s Hudson Bay (on the liner notes) and recorded an entire album, I would have run out and bought a copy. I never did.

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It wasn’t long after that everyone found out The Masked Marauders was an elaborate hoax from Rolling Stone Magazine. An article satirizing the trend for “supergroups” was a little too believable for many fans of the above mentioned (supposed) members. In taking the hoax a step further, a California based group was hired – along with Dylan, Jagger and Lennon impersonators – to record the album.

The Masked Marauders LP was released by Reprise Records in November 1969. It goes down in history as the only record ever on their just-made-up Deity label.

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I compare it to Orson Wells reading War Of The Worlds over the radio on Halloween in 1938. A lot of people bought into it and caused a panic that Martians were really landing. In 1969 the same “blind faith” almost landed The Masked Marauders onto the Billboard Hot 100 Album Chart.

One of the (many) fun things about writing The Classic Rocker is not knowing where the next song is coming from. If you’ve read the concept and followed any of these ramblings, some songs are from recent memories while others have been embedded in my subconscious and somehow just came out. In this case, the song I Can’t Get No Nookie has to hold the longevity record for being buried under decades of useless information before climbing to the top of my morning music chart. It happened on April 29th and I’m more surprised than anyone to add it to the subconscious list.

I’m sure someone must have played it when we were in college. Otherwise, the last time I heard it had to be in 1969 or 1970. The mind plays strange tricks – and in this case, strange music.

Dylan Jagger

Bob, Mick and Jack

I Can’t Get No Nookie has to be a play on (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. On the MM LP the lead vocal is by the Mick Jagger impersonator. It’s also a catchy tune and with the word “nookie” I’m also sure as teenage guys we sang it for laughs more than a few times in high school or cruising around in cars on weekends.

There’s also another credit I can throw to this fake album.

Using the excuse mentioned above about not hearing the original rock’n rollers until after The British Invasion calmed down, I’ll embarrassingly admit The Masked Marauders introduced me to the classic Duke Of Earl. It was a track supposedly sung by Bob Dylan, but it connected with us as a new song. None of our favorite groups by 1969 had covered it and since there were no oldies stations on our radios at the time, chances were good we hadn’t heard – or remembered hearing – the original by Gene Chandler in 1962.

It made such an impression that for our high school talent show in the spring of 1970, we put together a group to perform the song. On the stage in our school auditorium we had a piano, bass, electric guitar (me) and drums. A few pals stood around one microphone singing back up (“Duke, Duke, Duke, Duke Of Earl, Duke, Duke…“) while our friend Gary did the lead vocals. Not that he was the best singer, but probably because he’s the only one that knew the words.

And before we started, we plugged in a string of Christmas lights draped over the upright piano as our “light show.” Both the lights and our song drew big applause.

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Classic Rock(er)

For the next year’s talent show we went even more retro with our rock’n roll revival adding greased hair, rolled up t-shirt sleeves, cuffed jeans and sunglasses. We called our group Peter Priest & The Rabbis (in good humor) and with two electric guitars, bass, drums and my pal Tim as lead singer, we rocked through loud versions of Blue Suede Shoes and Long Tall Sally.

We did two shows and played “by the rules” for only the first.

During the second show for the younger kids (9th and 10th grades) we decided to keep playing until we were chased off stage. Once we started some of the girls from our class ran into the auditorium and stood by the stage screaming. And after we finished our second song, we kept tearing through three-chord 1950’s rock’n roll until the teachers realized we had no intention of stopping.

The curtain was closed and as our class advisor ran on stage waving his arms for us to stop, Gary (our lead singer from the year before) opened them back up. The advisor ran off in a panic and we kept playing.

Finally he pulled the plug.

Since we were seniors graduating in less than a month and basically good kids, we didn’t get into any trouble. In fact there were more laughs than any supposed punishment over our “hoax” to keep the show going. We never went on to become an undiscovered supergroup, but like the legendary Masked Marauders we had our brief moment in the spotlight.

And it was very rock and roll.

Of course there is no video of the elusive Masked Marauders, but for your listening pleasure…

To purchase The Masked Marauders with I Can’t Get No Nookie visit Amazon.com

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

Beatles Program

They say it’s your birthday (again)!!

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11885210_10206750047483724_1164378672389296806_n – Guess I should have saved my past birthday posts after the number of years writing The Classic Rocker. It would’ve been like another mini timeline of where, what and what the heck was I thinking! With today being this year’s birthday, here’s the experience (and it was a good one!)…

This really happened and even I wouldn’t dare make this one up.

Today is my birthday. Last night at 11:30 pm I’m standing in line to buy beer. No one in front of me was carded. I got to the counter and the guy asked for my ID. I told him I was “flattered” and it was my birthday.

I also checked to make sure there were no hidden cameras and I wasn’t being “punked.”

The guy said something about my hair (still got it!) and something else. I wasn’t really listening because I was pumped up and psyched-out about this newsworthy anti-aging event. I gave him my driver’s license.

Seriously – his eyes popped out and he goes, “Holy shit!!

He asked about health tips and I told him to only drink light beer. But then he rang up the beer and charged me for it?! I reminded him it was my birthday! He said I still had 30 minutes before the big day, so I (happily) paid up.

I’m good for another year… ha!!

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2016 – North Shore Publishing

August 15, 1965 – The Beatles At Shea Stadium

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– It started earlier than you might think…

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Sid Bernstein

During the winter of 1963 Sid Bernstein, a New York producer and entrepreneur, decided to expand his horizons by taking a course in Political Science. The instructor said if students wanted learn about democracy they need to study Great Britain, so Bernstein trekked down to Times Square every week and bought the British newspapers.

After reading updates about the government, he turned to where his real interests were – the entertainment section. He noticed the name of a pop group called The Beatles. At first the articles were small, but each week they continued to grow in size. They also included two words about their performances that caught Bernstein’s eye:

SOLD OUT!

To his producer’s way of thinking, these were the same words that described fame-predicting appearances by Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, two of the BIGGEST names in showbiz. Since expanding his horizons could also mean taking a chance, he located the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein and booked the group – then unknown in the U.S. – for two shows in February 1964 at Carnegie Hall in New York.

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Brian Epstein and “The Boys”

When dealing with Epstein there were always stipulations. If The Beatles were not getting radio airplay in the U.S. by December 1963, the deal was off. It was a long wait, but as history tells us they made the deadline. I Want To Hold Your Hand broke the airwave barrier, they were scheduled for three February appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show – and Bernstein SOLD OUT both shows at Carnegie Hall.

Following the Beatles summer and fall 1964 tour of North America, Bernstein took another chance and scheduled them to appear in the brand new, state of the art Shea Stadium in Flushing, Queens. Again there were stipulations that included no advertising without a paid deposit, but Bernstein made a bold guarantee and backed it up by selling 55,600 seats through word of mouth. Once again…

SOLD OUT!

Nothing on this scale for a pop concert had ever been attempted before. Elvis had performed a handful of stadium shows leading up to his army induction, but the largest had been in front of 26,000 fans at The Cotton Bowl. The Beatles had to more than double that number to fill Shea Stadium.

Dressing Room

Away from the crowd

On August 15, 1965 The Beatles landed on top of a building at the neighboring New York World’s Fair and were delivered into Shea Stadium via a Wells Fargo armored truck. The dressing room was crowed with visitors including Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and future kingpin business manager for Apple Corp and three of the four Beatles, Allen Klein.

If only Brian Epstein had known…

Their entire visit to New York, beginning Friday, August 13th through Tuesday, August 16th, was filmed for a Beatles In New York (not the title, but the idea) television special. Only backstage and concert footage was used for the final version.

Introduced by Ed Sullivan, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr ran to a small stage set up over second base on the baseball playing field and performed ten songs in about thirty-seven minutes. Whether anyone heard them depended on where they were seated, if they were screaming – or if they were next to someone screaming. Many of the male fans thought they sounded great. Many of the female fans don’t remember.

Shea on stage

Never before in the history of popular music…

Filmed in 35mm, the quality of the concert footage is similar to blockbuster Hollywood movies of the era. For comparison, The Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock movies were filmed in 16mm.

The resulting television special, The Beatles At Shea Stadium, was planned for holiday (Christmas) airing in December 1965. One member of the Beatles inner circle approved the version submitted by Ed Sullivan Productions, while five others didn’t. A secret recording session took place in January 1966 to correct the sound and the special wasn’t broadcast in the U.S. until a year later. By that time fans were only weeks away from the release of Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields Forever by a mustached, psychedelic-clothes-wearing, pre-Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The film has been restored, color-corrected with both the overdubbed and original audio remastered for mono and stereo. It has yet to be released.

But on television that January evening in 1967 they were still the mop-topped Fab Four riding high on the release of their summer 1965 film, Help! And they played, sang, laughed and sweated during a hot New York August night in front of a SOLD OUT audience of 55,600 fans.

It was 50 years ago on August 15, 1965.

It was the birth of stadium rock.

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2015 – North Shore Publishing

 

February 9, 1964

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I was taken by complete surprise. Well, almost.

Jack Parr

Jack Parr

I had heard of The Beatles before February 9th only because my mom let me stay up late the night Jack Parr aired a brief clip during The Tonight Show on January 3, 1964. It had to be a Friday night and not a school night, but I’m not sure. And it wasn’t because we knew The Beatles were going to be on. Again, I had never even heard of them. We just enjoyed watching Jack Parr. For me it was his sense of smug humor (for lack of a better term). I always thought it was a bit risqué to watch his show because I was still a preteen and he was for adults. It reinforces my opinion that my mom was a little more with it than other parents who wouldn’t let their children stay up late to watch when Parr was host of The Tonight Show.

I also thank her and my dad for taking me to a Beatles concert. Again, I’ve heard too many stories from other young fans “under parental control” who were not allowed.

Other than Parr’s brief clip I have no memory of hearing anything else about The Beatles until February 9th. There was too much other “stuff” going on. I’ve been very clear about my recollections of this time in past Classic Rocker columns and my books The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. We were still dealing with a very bleak time in our country’s history following JFK’s assassination in Dallas on November 22nd. We watched the funeral and news updates on television and heard discussions at home and in school about The Cold War and The A-Bomb. Even my neighbor had a bomb shelter and as a preteen baby boomer it was obvious things had changed very quickly.

I often describe my memories during these days as being in black and white. That probably comes from remembering and still seeing reruns of newsreels and television shows from that era being broadcast in black and white. The Beverly Hillbillies, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Patty Duke Show. You know the ones I’m talking about, so no need to mention them all. All the shows were in black and white which undoubtedly affects my memories.

I didn’t even know anyone who owned a color television in February 1964 – not even my neighbor with the bomb shelter. But having a color television wouldn’t have made a difference. The Ed Sullivan Show was broadcast in black and white.

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Rehearsal pre-fab

My dad, mom, little sister and I had been on a four day family vacation that started on Wednesday, February 5th. It was a driving trip to Washington, DC and we arrived home in the early evening of Sunday February 9th.  I had no plans to do anything except eat dinner and avoid doing any homework until the last minute. As we did just about every Sunday at 8 pm we all sat down in front of our only television (“The black and white one,” as John Lennon described A Hard Day’s Night at their legendary Shea Stadium concert about a year and a half later) to watch The Ed Sullivan Show.

Dad, mom and sis were on the couch. I sat on the floor with my back against the couch. I remember it as vividly as where I was when my fifth grade teacher announced to the class President Kennedy had been shot. There are a few dates you’ll always remember if you were alive at that time. These are two of the earliest for me.

It would be cool to say we watched because of The Beatles, but don’t remember it that way. We always watched Ed Sullivan. Like for many of us in the U.S. he was part of our television family on Sunday nights.

As the first performers, he announced The Beatles.

Beatles Ed Sullivan

A moment in time

For myself at that moment and for millions of others watching, our world immediately went from black and white to color. It was that dramatic. To use a comparison from my book The Beatles In Cleveland it was like the film The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy was swept away from a black and white Kansas and unexpectedly dropped in colorful Oz.

And The Ed Sullivan Show was broadcast in black and white!!

Beatles music has been listened to, analyzed, discussed, broken down, recreated, and even taught and studied in universities since. There’s no need for me to do that now. The influence is still felt over half a century later.

But it wasn’t just the music. They had an image unlike anyone else before them. You can talk about how shocking Madonna, Michael Jackson and Prince appeared twenty years later, or even more recently with Lady Gaga, Lil’ Wayne and Miley Cyrus. In February 1964 the Beatles’ “look” was shocking compared to what was considered “normal” at the time.

To put it into a baby boomer context based on our television viewing habits. No man in 1964 had hair like that except for Moe from The Three Stooges.

John Lennon MarriedInstead of letter sweaters and slacks, the Beatles wore business suits with tight pants, skinny ties and boots with pointy toes and high heels (Cuban heeled Beatle Boots). It was shocking! And I only learned their first names because they were flashed under their individual shots on the television screen. The music was lively and happy, the Beatles bounced in time and the girls screamed. Then it was over.

Well, not quite for me. Where we lived in northern Ohio, the dividing line between Eastern Standard Time and Central Standard Time in 1964 was drawn between Cleveland and Toledo. That meant we had two separate television markets airing shows an hour apart. At 8 pm EST I watched the Beatles live on The Ed Sullivan Show. An hour later at 8 pm CST I tuned into the Toledo CBS affiliate and watched it again. I did that for each of their three appearances that month.

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Long haired rock’n roll

I was able to watch their U.S. debut on The Ed Sullivan Show twice that same night. It was also rerun later that year, but then I never saw it again until buying a bootleg videotape on 8th Street in Manhattan more than twenty years later. Now like many other fans, I own a legit DVD copy of The Ed Sullivan Show appearances and pretty much have every moment memorized.

The very next day it was also obvious things had changed.

On the Wednesday before, I had left school early for our drive to Washington, DC. There had been no mention of The Beatles in my classroom or anywhere that I can recall.

On Monday morning following The Ed Sullivan Show most of the girls in my fifth grade class had Beatles fan magazines hidden in their desks and their television debut was the main topic of conversation. The guys tried to act cool about it – or at least that’s my perception because we weren’t supposed to be attracted to them like the girls were. They were in love and lust. But I remember listening to their conversations and know some of the guys, me included, wanted to be like The Beatles. It seemed a lot more fun than kicking a ball around the playground.

I’m sure it was also within that first week one of the guys in my class came to school with a Beatles wig. I bought one myself and still have it. There were also a lot of Beatles trading cards, photos, magazines and other merchandize brought to school that would be considered valued collectors items today.

Beatles Bowing

From black & white to color

Of course, there was the music. By the Saturday following their debut on The Ed Sullivan Show I owned the LP Introducing The Beatles as a gift from my parents after listening to me beg for a week. The next Saturday (after more pleading) I had a copy of Meet The Beatles. Somewhere within that time frame I came up with the sixty cents (somewhere in that $$ neighborhood at that time) for the 45 rpm record I Want To Hold Your Hand b/w I Saw Her Standing There.

The floodgates were open and haven’t been closed since. It was February 9, 1964. It all changed that evening and nothing was ever the same again. Thank you to John, Paul, George and Ringo. It’s been a memorable journey to say the least.

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and the author of The Beatles In Cleveland and The Beatles At Shea Stadium

Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com at THIS LINK.