The other day, fellow blogger Max from PowerPop featured Sweet Little Sixteen by Chuck Berry, and we started exchanging comments about Berry’s importance in shaping early guitar-driven rock & roll. When I heard the iconic intro to Johnny B. Goode for the first time as a young cat, I wanted to be able to play like that. Once I got my first electric guitar at around 14 or 15, I tried very hard, but my fretting fingers just wouldn’t cooperate very well.
Berry’s playing was actually pretty crude, but it just sounded cool. And what a terrific showman he was. Only much later did I realize how great his lyrics were. I also learned that like many of my music heroes, Berry was no angel. All of this made me think of a post I first published in August 2017. Instead of writing about Berry’s original recordings, I thought it would be fun to feature great covers of his songs performed by other artists. So, here is that post again, slightly edited and with a Spotify playlist added as a bonus.
Chuck Berry Classics Performed By Other Artists
A list of covers from AC/DC to The Yardbirds
A few days ago, I coincidentally came across a previously created iTunes playlist I had completely forgotten about: Covers of Chuck Berry classics performed by other music artists. I thought it would be fun to develop a post around this theme.
While no one artist can claim they created an entire genre of music, there is a reason why Berry was known as Mr. Rock & Roll. In any case, the number of other artists who covered his tunes sure as heck is impressive.
English blues and boogie rock band Foghat included a killer version of Maybelline on their 1972 eponymous album. The tune was written and recorded by Berry in 1955, and first released as a single in July that year. It also appeared on his 1959 iconic third study album Chuck Berry Is On Top, which also included many of his other major hits. Here’s a great clip of the tune from a Foghat live performance.
AC/DC recorded a cool cover of School Days for their second Australian studio album T.N.T., which appeared in December 1975. Originally, Berry released the song as a single in March 1957, two months ahead of his debut studio album After School Session.
Too Much Monkey Business/The Yardbirds
Too Much Monkey Business is the first track on Five Live Yardbirds, the band’s terrific debut live album from 1964. Berry released the song as his fifth single in September 1956. It was also included on the After School Session album.
Sweet Little Sixteen/John Lennon
John Lennon recorded a nice Memphis soul-style cover of Sweet Little Sixteen for Rock ‘n’ Roll, his sixth studio album from 1975. Berry released the track as a single in January 1958. It was also included on his second studio album One Dozen Berries, which appeared in March 1958.
Rock & Roll Music/The Beatles
Rock & Roll Music is among my favorite rock & roll covers by The Beatles. They included it on their 1964 fourth studio album Beatles For Sale. Berry initially released the tune as a single in September 1957. It also appeared on the One Dozen Berrys studio album. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a clip of the Beatles’ studio version, so here is a live performance captured from a 1965 performance in Paris. [Actually, nothing unfortunate about it. Rock & Roll Music is now available on YouTube, but I decided to keep that live clip – CMM]
Carol/The Rolling Stones
I’ve always loved the cover of the song The Rolling Stones recorded. Initially, they included it on their 1964 eponymous debut album, but my favorite version appeared on the fantastic 1970 live record Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!. First released in 1958 as a single, Carol is also one of the gems from Chuck Berry Is On Top. Here’s a great clip of the Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out version. [Damn, I’ve said it before and I say it again, the Stones never sounded as great as on that live album – CMM]
Johnny B. Goode/Jimi Hendrix
If I only had one classic rock & roll tune to choose, it would be Berry’s 1958 gem Johnny B. Goode, which first appeared as a single in March that year and is yet another highlight from Chuck Berry Is On Top. Who could possibly do a better cover of it than Jimi Hendrix? Here is a great clip of Hendrix absolutely killing it live – not sure whether it is the same performance that was also captured on Hendrix in the West, a 1972 posthumous live album. [Kind of funny how Hendrix asks the audience whether his music is too loud! – CMM]
Little Queenie/The Kentucky Headhunters with Johnnie Johnson
Frankly, I do not quite remember how I came across this cover of Little Queenie when I put together the above iTunes playlist, but I find it pretty awesome. It’s performed by country and southern rock band The Kentucky Headhunters featuring Johnnie Johnson, a jazz, blues and rock & roll pianist, and was included on a 2015 release titled Meet Me In Bluesland. Originally, Berry released Little Queenie as a single in 1959, another tune from Chuck Berry Is On Top.
Roll Over Beethoven/Electric Light Orchestra
It’s safe to say this is one of the most unique covers of the track performed by Electric Light Orchestra. Blending elements of classical music with rock & roll and other styles of rock, ELO is one of the weirdest ’70s bands, in my opinion. While most of their productions were bombastic and completely over the top, I still have to admit there is something intriguing about their music. Their 8-minute-plus cover of Roll Over Beethoven was included on their eponymous second studio album, which was released in 1972. Berry first recorded the tune as a single in May 1956. It also appeared on Chuck Berry Is On Top. The following clip is an abbreviated live version of the song, captured from a 1973 performance on The Midnight Special, an American late-night music variety show that aired during the 1970’s and early ’80s.
This cover from The Hollies was included on the band’s debut album Stay With The Hollies, which appeared in the U.K. in January 1964. The track was also included on the U.S. version of the album titled Here I Go Again, released in June that year. Berry first recorded Memphis as a single in 1959.
The original post, which was published on August 26, 2017, ended here. Man, this is classic rock & roll, and I hope you guys had as much fun revisiting these tunes as I did! Following is the aforementioned Spotify playlist.
Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube; Spotify