Day 139: “Johnny B. Goode”

When was it recorded?  Jan. 7, 1964

When was it first released, and on which album?  Nov. 30, 1994 on “Live at the BBC”

Who wrote it?  Chuck Berry

Have I heard this song before?  Just the original

What my research dug up:

“Johnny B. Goode” is probably the song for which Chuck Berry is best known. Berry wrote the song in 1955. Though initially inspired by Berry’s pianist, Johnnie Johnson, the number became autobiographical. Originally the lyrics “poor country boy” were “poor colored boy,” but Berry changed it to keep it from potentially getting banned by radio stations. Wikipedia also notes Berry grew up on Goode Avenue in St. Louis.

Berry recorded “Johnny B. Goode” Jan. 6, 1958 at Chess Studios in Chicago and released it as a single Mar. 31.

According to Wikipedia, “The song was a major hit among both black and white audiences peaking at #2 on Billboard magazine’s Hot R&B Sides chart and #8 on the Billboard Hot 100.” The Good Wiki also says, “It is also considered to be one of the most recognizable songs in music history.” (For a full list of accolades and its legacy, I suggest skipping over thataway too.) According to the Beatles Bible, “[‘Johnny B. Goode’] helped seal Berry’s reputation as a rock ‘n’ roll pioneer, and spawned a great many cover versions.”

Obviously, one of those cover versions was by the Beatles, who greatly admired Berry.

“In the Fifties, when people were virtually singing about nothing, Chuck Berry was writing social-comment songs, with incredible meter to the lyrics. When I hear rock, good rock, of the caliber of Chuck Berry, I just fall apart and I have no other interest in life. The world could be ending if rock ‘n’ roll is playing.” — John Lennon (Anthology)


“Chuck Berry was another massive influence with ‘Johnny B. Goode.’ We’d go up to John’s bedroom with his little record player and listen to Chuck Berry records, trying to learn them.” — Paul McCartney (Anthology)

The Beatles recorded their cover of “Johnny B. Goode” Jan. 7, 1964 for the BBC radio show “Saturday Club.” The program aired Feb. 15.

It’s kind of… rote.  Very rote.  Technically it sounds perfect, but it lacks the soul of Berry’s original.  I think Beatles Bible user metzgermeister77 said it best: ” For me, this has always been the most disappointing track on ‘Live at the BBC’ (some of the lower-quality recordings notwithstanding). With John shredding up the vocal a la ‘Twist and Shout’ and with a slightly faster tempo it could’ve been fantastic, but as-is it’s just kind of limp.”




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