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Adios NME

PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2015 12:15 am
by Garth Cartwright
I bumped into Nick Hider of this parish in Brighton last week and he announced he was off to buy "the final ever edition of the NME." I had heard it was closing to be restarted as a free sheet with games and music and such covered but didn't know the last issue was upon us so later glanced at it in a Smiths. Nice to see all those covers reproduced and think of the days when I used to devour it cover to cover - I think I bought my first copy in 77 (Geldof on the cover) but didn't regularly begin to buy it until 78. In NZ it was easier to buy American publications - Creed, Circus, Rolling Stone, even Rock Scene - than the NME. It always arrived 3 months late as came surface mail. But our enthusiasm for all things punk and new wave meant we treated it as a Bible of sorts. Tho I always enjoyed the Creem and RS writers - Bangs, Christgau, Tosches etc - more than the UK ones. That said, I read them and had my favourites - Burchill was beautifully brutal while Danny Baker was hilarious!

I think I stopped buying the NME in 82 - I saw The Fall and New Order in 81 (separately) and they both sucked something awful. Yet the NME had been hyping them both as the future of music. That's when I went back to the stuff I loved before punk - Stones, Creedence, Beach Boys, Sabbaf, AC/DC, disco, Freddy Fender etc - while not discarding the reggae and African records the NME had introduced me to. I still glanced at it when I saw a copy but by the time of The Jesus & Mary Chain and such being its cover stars I'd lost interest.

I arrived here in 91 and never even considered approaching them as a freelancer - my tastes and theirs now being worlds apart. Writing for The Guardian in the mid-90s meant I had to occasionally pay attention to what the NME covered as I was sent to review the latest "future of rock". None turned out to be so (no, I didn't get the Oasis or White Stripes gigs - I did get Kenickie, Lauren Laverne's band: dire). The only writer I remember from that era was Stephen Wells who ranted at gale force levels. He was quite brave in the sense that he refused to follow orthodox opinion and wasn't scared of upsetting bands (or fans) but I can't say he ever wrote on anyone whose music interested me.

I sometimes met NME writers at gigs - you end up seated together or on the same press junket - and they tended to think very highly of themselves. I did meet Charles Shar Murray (long retired) via a mutual friend at parties and he was pleasant enough, always ready to tell a tale of a rock star he once partied with. I did a phone interview with Nick Kent when his autobiography came out and he struck me as a bit burnt out but nice enough. Speaking of burn outs - I was once introduced to a guy called Sandy Robertson (whose name I remembered from Sounds, I used to read that for a bit too) and he was ruined, teeth all rotten, really had become a total junkie. Hard to believe now but back then some rock writers thought they had to have the same stupid drug habits the stars had.

So I looked at the final issue, reflected on some of the issues whose covers were reproduced that I had once owned and felt a slight twinge as another part of what I once considered Important as a 15 year old was now relegated to the grave. But I didn't consider buying the last issue. Not for a minute.

Re: Adios NME

PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2015 9:54 am
by john poole
So farewell then, NME; at least you outlived all your weekly competitors.

It only cost sixpence (six old pence) when I first bought it some time way back in the 1960s (Incredible String Band reference) - it probably just had a dozen pages, and page one would be taken up with a full page ad, maybe for a new release by someone like Daryl Quist who would struggle to sell sufficient records to cover the cost of the advert. The NME’s singles chart was the one we would follow, rather than the BBC’s composite chart, or the Record Retailer as later adopted by the Guinness Book of Hits. NME had ‘Please Please Me’ at No.1 ahead of ‘The Wayward Wind’ by Frank Ifield - Brian Epstein or EMI took out an ad that week with the Beatles’ photos and the announcement “We’re Pleased, You’ve Pleased Us!”.

By the middle of the decade I’d abandoned NME for Record Mirror - NME would only usually feature artists and groups with records in that week’s Top Thirty but Record Mirror also had r&b, soul, and 50s rock’n’roll. The young Norman Jopling, a friend of both Guy Stevens and Pete Meaden, was their star writer - I’ve recently enjoyed reading his book “Shake It Up Baby!” about those days. RM also had a great column by Decca’s Tony Hall, and of course later in the decade a home for CG. I also flirted with Disc and Music Echo with Derek Taylor’s column, Penny Valentine, and Hugh Nolan (later to be heard on Radio Geronimo); and then Melody Maker which was enlivened by the arrival of Richard Williams.

But I returned to NME for the 1972 issue with the Exile on Main St. flexi-disc and stayed with them for what became their most memorable decade following the recruitment of Nick Kent and others from the underground press (taking a little inspiration from Detroit’s Creem magazine).

The 1980s saw the arrival of Paul Morley and Ian Penman who were less fun, but I still continued buying the paper (although possibly reading less of it) for a number of years. Sorry that they’ll be missing from the newsstands in future, but they maybe they did well to keep it going for this long. I’ll need to have a glance at the final issue if I see it

http://www.nme.com/news/various-artists/87213

Re: Adios NME

PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2015 3:35 pm
by will vine
Always a Melody Maker man myself though I do recall getting the Exile on Main Street flexi disc John refers to, so I clearly dipped in and out. I read very little about music these days. The mainstream press seems to have scooped it all up but I never get much further than John Fordham's jazz reviews in the Guardian....Oh, and the Garth Cartwright stuff of course (now I come to think of it).

Re: Adios NME

PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2015 5:37 pm
by Adam Blake
I was just a little bit too young to be there at the beginning of the NME's "Golden Age" but it certainly assumed the form of Holy Writ for me throughout my teens. Looking back on it now, I feel nothing but gratitude to Ian MacDonald, Charles Shaar Murray, Nick Logan, Nick Kent, Fred Dellar, Mick Farren, Tony Benyon, Pete Erskine, Neil Spencer et al - with Lester Bangs as frequent honoured guest (note: no women) - for helping so much to form my musical aesthetic, and for giving me an education in the history of the music - an education that I wanted so much more than that which was on offer at school.

Regular features such as "Lookin' Back" (that all important dropped G, such an integral part of the aesthetic), "Playing In The Band", the cartoon adventures of The Lone Groover, the courage to print a full blown rant when considered necessary, or a full page rave review - it all meant such a lot.

Hindsight (and, one would hope, adulthood) reveals its flaws, of course. The endemic sexism of the music business was rarely challenged, usually encouraged. The fetishization of drug problems etc etc etc. But compared to Sounds or Melody Maker, the standard of journalism was really very high and a lot of very thought provoking stuff was written. What also should not be forgotten is that it could be very funny.

NME rode the punk wave with great aplomb, but faltered in its aftermath. So did a lot of us. I would pinpoint the beginning of the end with Julie's hiring. Ironically, the first female writer to really make a splash (although Chrissie Hynde surely would have done if she had stayed), Julie was the first NME writer to write obviously and shamelessly about herself rather than the music. The fact that she was such a naturally talented writer helped her get away with it. Even with Kent at his most self-indulgent, it was always ultimately about the music. No-one could have ever doubted his devotion to it. Not so Julie. Then, Penman and Morley took the ball and ran with it. I was never impressed by their academic references, it was just a lot of hot air, but it alienated me and many others.

I lost touch with it by about 1983 as I explored other music that wasn't covered by NME. But back in the day, NME used to cover folk, jazz and blues. Not much, but a bit, and a bit that was always informative and worth reading. It covered aspects of musicianship too, with Fred Dellar regularly 'talking shop' with a prominent musician. I DEVOURED this stuff! Hah! But could you imagine a Burchill/Penman style aesthetic being interested in something as prosaic as how music is actually made?

I won't be buying the last issue. When my good friend and former student John Hassall achieved fame in The Libertines, I did try several times to read it, without success. I would submit that it became virtually unreadable. Or maybe I just got too old. Or both.

But before NME dies, I'd like to say Thank You.

(N.B: For anyone here, John, Andy, Garth etc who is interested in the history of the British music press over the last 50 years, I can highly recommend "In Their Own Write: Adventures In The Music Press" - a collection of interviews by Paul Gorman.)

Re: Adios NME

PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2015 6:49 pm
by AndyM
Adam Blake wrote:
(N.B: For anyone here, John, Andy, Garth etc who is interested in the history of the British music press over the last 50 years, I can highly recommend "In Their Own Write: Adventures In The Music Press" - a collection of interviews by Paul Gorman.)


A great book, agreed.

I'd endorse pretty much all of your points, Adam, though I would look more kindly on Julie B than you. And even Paul Morley at his best (which was short-lived.)

I'd add:
Brian Case -- incredibly funny.

The incredibly iconic impact of individual reviews/article - Ian MacD on Laura Nyro (I had never HEARD of her before.... imagine....) and also his reassessment of Neil Young's On The Beach''; CSM on 'Horses'; Nick Kent on 'Marquee Moon'; Lester Bangs three-week piece on The Clash; Charlie Gillett's singles reviews (Bruce Springsteen "as exciting as a night storage heater"); Chrissie Hynde on Brian Eno; that pro-and-con 'double review' of 'Low' by Ian Mac & CSM......

Re: Adios NME

PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2015 7:02 pm
by Adam Blake
AndyM wrote:
Adam Blake wrote:
And even Paul Morley at his best (which was short-lived.)

I'd add:
Brian Case -- incredibly funny.




I think Morley has improved over the years. Also, Kate Phillips and Angie Errigo were, like, chick writers, weren't they? And Pennie Smith took some of the best photographs of the era - and the photographs were so important.

Re: Adios NME

PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2015 8:28 pm
by john poole
Brian Case recently had a book published "On the Snap", I've not seen it, but I imagine it should be worth checking out
http://www.caughtbytheriver.net/2015/05 ... ie-scotts/

Pat Long wrote a book on the history of NME, which I seem to remember concentrated on the 1970s "golden age" (as can be seen from the names and faces on the cover); not so much about earlier decades.
http://hqinfo.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/nm ... story.html

Re: Adios NME

PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2015 8:52 pm
by alister prince
Like John, I read Record Mirror for a good chunk of the 60s. I moved onto MM briefly, in the early 70s,but was never really a devotee. I thought NME was best around punk, but in reality I'd almost completely moved on to specialist mags and papers. The essential blues periodicals, Black Echoes, Rolling Stone ('til it took itself too seriously), etc. I dipped into NME from time to time post punk, but it never seemed to fit my musical world, or point me in interesting directions. It's demise as a music rag is nevertheless a shame. There is less and less choice of potentially influential papers available, especially those who carry a torch for particular music and are well written.
Aly

Re: Adios NME

PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2015 10:53 pm
by Rob Hall
I'm afraid that my significant teenage musical reading matter was mostly the Melody Maker, from about 69 to about 74, when I moved down south to go to art college. By the time punk came along, and the NME woke up from its post 60s slumbers, I'd discovered Charlie's Sunday 'Honky Tonk' show and I didn't feel the need for a weekly music mag.

Re: Adios NME

PostPosted: Fri Aug 07, 2015 11:16 am
by NormanD
It was more than just a weekly paper, at least when it still interested me.

I think there's been a mention of the annual NME prizewinners' concert, which was sometimes televised. The content was, of course, variable, as were the performances. I remember watching it when Donovan was on. My mother looked up from her reading and innocently asked, "What's this - Opportunity Knocks"?" (Apologies for re-telling that story. It's not as if I'm getting paid to churn out copy)

Nor should we forget the magnificent cassette compilations that it put out. More than 40 in all, listed here: http://www.discogs.com/lists/NME-Cassettes/18136?page=1

Could we list the ones we do have amongst us? I'll start with: 009, 010, 011, 018, 019, 024, 026, 027, 034, 035.

Re: Adios NME

PostPosted: Fri Aug 07, 2015 12:24 pm
by Rob Hall
6, 8, 10 & 11 I think. I should still have them somewhere.

I'd forgotten about those cassettes; also, the fact that I did actually buy the NME, briefly, in order to get hold of them.

Re: Adios NME

PostPosted: Fri Aug 07, 2015 7:28 pm
by Garth Cartwright
Charlie used to chat about writing for the NME - he would chuckle as he told how he gave Abba's SOS single of the week which caused much outrage amongst the serious rock fans and writers! As ever, he was right - SOS, what a tune! He also told me he did a big interview with Chuck Berry that ran across 2 issues but he had not kept the issues so couldn't show them to me. Thus I've never read his NME writing but I would like to as he was a helluva good music writer.

As a teen when I went round to an older music fan's house and saw a yellowing pile of NME's I'd flick thru them to see what I had missed and in one I came across the review of Gram Parsons' Grevious Angel - by Chrissie Hynde. One of my favourite singers reviewed by one of my favourite singers - she wrote so eloquently on the late Gram I was tripping! Chrissie has her autobiog out soon and I bet it will be great.

Oh, Charlie, when discussing the NME, mentioned that he loathed Nick Kent without going into details - obviously some run in in the office. When I did the phoner with Kent I mentioned I was friendly with Charlie and he paused then said, "I think he considered me a degenerate." Well, you were, Nick, but you wrote some great features - tho I missed his golden era: I recall him interviewing Al Green and an epic feature on Brian Wilson who was in a very bad way. Then he went off to become a rock star like Chrissie...

Re: Adios NME

PostPosted: Fri Aug 07, 2015 8:09 pm
by Adam Blake
Garth Cartwright wrote:Oh, Charlie, when discussing the NME, mentioned that he loathed Nick Kent without going into details


Drugs, drugs and more drugs - Charlie hated them possibly almost as much as Nick loved 'em...

Re: Adios NME

PostPosted: Fri Aug 07, 2015 8:21 pm
by john poole
From NME 17th & 24th February, 1973 -

CHUCK BERRY. To a fan, the name sparks off a warm smile. After that depending on how old he or she is, the first song to come to mind might be 'Johnny B. Goode' (from 1958), 'No Particular Place To Go' ('64), or 'My Ding-a-Ling'.

Say the name Chuck Berry to somebody in the music business, however, and watch a shadow cross his or her face.

Backing musicians, record company promotion men and media interviewers have all been hurt by Berry's apparent lack of consideration.

Somehow he's made them feel that they weren't important to him, whereas they felt he should on the contrary have been grateful to them.

So when I was given opportunity to interview Chuck, I had mixed feelings. Maybe it would be better to keep my innocence and admire him from a distance.

But I surrendered to my curiosity and took a train to Birmingham, where a time and place had been fixed for me to have a leisurely conversation with him.

If Berry himself knew of the arrangement, he forgot or ignored it, and arrived a short time before he was due to go on stage at Barbarella's.

He apologised for not being in a mood to talk, but said he might feel more sociable after the first house. He was cool but polite. I was disappointed, and the promoter who organised the tour spread his hands. There was nothing he could do.

Barbarella's was packed for the first house, with an audience that ranged from mid-teens to early thirties. After a couple of warm-up numbers. Berry started playing whatever people called out, and although everybody else seemed to enjoy the show, I felt it was all a bit too easy for him.

He didn't have to think about the words of songs or the guitar breaks because the audience had brought along their memories of the records and filled in the details themselves.

When I went to the changing room after the set he gave me the famous icy stare that had frozen other people in the past.

He was beat, had to eat.

I shut the door, with me outside it.

And that seemed to be that. I came back to London, and couldn't raise the enthusiasm to go to see any of Chuck's London gigs, preferring to hold on to the memory of his triumphant finale at the Wembley Rock & Roll Show last summer, when he rescued what on this occasion came over as a pathetic parade of has-beens and gave it some dignity and spirit – and he didn't sing 'Ding-a-Ling' there either.

But on the morning of his departure to Los Angeles after a month over here the man agreed to do an interview. I took a second chance, and got lucky.

I had expected to find a man who would be quietly confident of himself and his judgement, so I was rather startled by his self-effacement.

Chuck Berry really doesn't think he did anything very special, and credits all his reputation to the audience. He seems to have a mystical trust in that audience's judgement, and surrenders himself to its needs.

If there is a demand somewhere for a live performance by Chuck Berry, Chuck will get himself there, provided he gets paid what he feels he's worth (and in advance please) thirty minutes before the show starts (cash not cheques thank you).

And while Berry trusts his audience, he mistrusts anybody who stands between himself and would-be listeners.

And that includes me.

He's right, too. If I had had anything to do with managing Chuck Berry, or recording him, I would never have let him touch that 'Ding A Ling' song.

Not because I didn't like it, but because I was sure it would only do harm to his image. Chuck knows better, about his image and his audience, and the way his songs can hang around before finally taking off.

OFF THE SHELF

"ONE THING about CB songs, they don't go right away. I record them, they get shelved, and sometime later they become hits."

Some times, Chuck could have added, he has to record them twice before anybody realises what's there. 'Ding A Ling', for instance.

Berry first recorded that under the name 'My Tambourine' in 1966 for Mercury, who didn't release it until 1969 on the LP St. Louie to Frisco, which was at least two years after Berry had introduced it to his regular stage act. But although he's been using the song as a crowd pleaser ever since, its success on record took him by surprise: "I never dreamed it would be a hit."

Curiously, the follow-up now in the charts, 'Reelin' and Rockin'', is also a song Chuck has recorded before; it was previously the 'B' side of 'Sweet Little Sixteen' in 1958.

"Yes," said Berry, "but that was the – I almost said 'clean' – that was the other version. People are ready for a more open attitude to things now."

As far as Britain is concerned, Chuck Berry was put on a shelf for the first six years of his recording career. Check the NME charts for the years 1955-60, and you'll find that only 'Sweet Little Sixteen' made the top twenty, and even that just got to number 16.

Was there a conspiracy to keep him hidden?

Decca put out most of his 45s on the London label, but didn't issue either of his first two LPs. Lots of casual pop fans at the time who knew Elvis, Little Richard, Jerry Lee and Fats Domino can't remember ever hearing Chuck Berry at all.

But if the music business was deaf to Berry records, people who played guitar or wrote songs knew all about them.

While Chuck's American career was temporarily interrupted by a court case which landed him in jail for a couple of years (1962-4), almost every British group filled out their repertoires with his songs, and recorded them as tracks on EPs or LPs.

Pressured by fans to meet this new interest in Berry, Pye put out a 45 coupling two 1959 recordings, 'Memphis' and 'Let It Rock', which made the top ten in 1963, and the following year Chuck came out of jail and returned to the top ten both here and in the States with 'No Particular Place To Go', a new lyric struck on the tune of his 1957 hit, 'School Day'.

IT SEEMED that the interest of the Beatles, Stones and others had drawn Chuck back into the Charts, but return proved to be temporary.

While British groups gained more confidence in their own writing abilities, and wrote songs that reflected moods of the time, Berry seemed to have lost his knack of writing anthems that a whole generation could identify with and absorb.

From 1966 to 1969, he recorded regularly for Mercury without once making any charts, lacking a clear image at a time when black singers were expected to exude soul or play blues, and when rock guitarists were expected to take off on ten-minute solos.

Chuck did his best to do what was expected, but it didn't feel right, and he had to sit out that period, waiting for a time when people would open their minds again and be ready for anything.

NOW HE'S back on top, seeing the headlines that announce Chuck Berry as King of rock 'n' roll, the Father of rock 'n' roll, even the Grandfather of rock 'n' roll.

He reads them, enjoys them, but he doesn't agree, doesn't feel he deserves the titles. What he wishes is that he could be a great sentimental singer – his term – like Nat Cole or Frank Sinatra.

"But I don't have the voice for that. Whereas I can fake rock – whatever it is, I seem to get by."

I'm shocked by his self criticism. Fake? If what he does is faking it, what about anybody else?

"No, they call me 'the father of rock,' but that's not me. There is such a person somewhere, but whoever it is, it isn't me. I've never really created anything. I just re-expose what I hear."

In some cases, I can agree. There had been earlier versions of 'Ding A Ling' for instance, and the famous Chuck Berry guitar break in 'Johnny B. Goode' is almost a note-for-note copy of a T-Bone Walker break in an instrumental called 'Strollin' With Bones'.

But in several cases, Chuck was the first songwriter I know of who approached a number of subjects which have since become regular themes for songs.

'Maybellene', for instance. Who wrote a song about cars racing on a highway before that?

"Oh, there was a very popular country song called 'Ida Red' which had the same theme as 'Maybellene'. In fact when I went to the session, I wanted to sing 'Ida Red' but the record company wanted me to do a new song, so I wrote 'Maybellene'.

"I don't know who sang Ida Red, but I heard it on the radio a lot. The strongest station in St. Louis at the time was a country station, KMOX. A country station in a country town for country folk."

I wanted to know if that last catch-phrase was a jingle on KMOX, but Berry laughed and said no, it was his own phrase. "It's lucky I don't live in St. Louis any more, the people there wouldn't like it if they read that."

Still determined to prove that Chuck was more of a creator than he gives himself credit for, but a bit shaken to find that 'Maybellene' was based on somebody else's song. I moved on to his next hit, 'Roll Over Beethoven'. Surely that was an original inspiration.

"Yes, I wrote that at home. My sister did a lot of classics, Strauss, all those names. And when I was hanging around I tried to read the sheet music she left on the piano, which was far in advance of my one-finger chromatic scale technique.

"So I wrote a song about moving all that stuff out of the way.

"In fact, later I wrote another song which was all about how I wrote 'Roll Over Beethoven'. I forget the title but it had the line 'Strauss in the house' somewhere."

I'D GONE along to the interview armed with a copy of the new Chess double-LP, Golden Decade Volume 2, which lists every track issued by Chess up to 1966, so we pored over it in search of this piece of autobiography.

We got to the end of the Chess list without finding the title Chuck was after, and deduced it must be a Mercury track. I went back to my task of establishing that Chuck had been an innovator.

'School Days' was the first and is still the most complete description of being penned in behind a desk: Chuck's only comment was that he wrote it in Kansas City.

'Sweet Little Sixteen' was the first reflection of the rock 'n' roll audience, and I felt that it was also the first song about groupies, even though the girls in the lyric don't get anything more than autographs. Somehow, there was a suggestion of more intimate contact.

Berry was perplexed. "I wrote that in a hotel in Denver. I was just writing about the environment I was in. There were plenty of other people in the same environment, why would I have seen things differently?"

I didn't know, except that I used to think of Chuck as having been a more honest writer than anybody else. He laughed, "I won't try to change your mind."

AS WE TALKED, Berry looked over a copy of Golden Decade Vol. 2 and ran his eye down the sleeve discography, commenting on some of the titles.

"Sometimes the record company would put names on my tunes without consulting me, names I would never have chosen. 'Roli Poli', on the first LP – Ugh!

"And on this last album they have a song called 'London Berry Blues'. Man, is that corny. Chuck Berry would never use a title like that. 'Oran-utang', that's another one; I'd never even heard the word. I had to look it up in the dictionary. I was really upset when I found out what it meant.

"'Low Feeling' – they took another tune I had done called 'Blue Feeling', slowed it down, gave it a different name, and put them both on the same LP. Man!

"But Mercury beat all of that. I did a song about football called 'Hey Captain', which was about three plays. When Mercury got the tape, they took the first verse out and overlapped it with the third one.

"So that when the song came out, it was started with the second play, and then moved onto one that was a mixture of the third and the first. My friends heard it, they said, 'Hey, Chuck?'"

WITH MOST rock 'n' roll singers, the only variation on albums was that some songs were fast, others were slow. Berry's first LP, After School Session, had all kinds of styles on it; fast rockers, fast and slow blues, instrumentals, even a country ballad and a calypso.

I wondered if he was anticipating the decline of rock 'n' roll, and making sure he was ready with whatever was next. But I was too cynical.

"Variety is part of my make up, my composition, my image. I don't try to anticipate what people will like, but if I hear something good, I want to try to do something of the same kind, as well as I can.

"I did 'Havana Moon' in a calypso vein after hearing 'Jamaica Farewell' and 'Day Oh' by Belafonte, and 'Calypso Blues' by Nat Cole.

"I have always tried to do boogie and blues, swing and sentimental, and I get a thrill out of having accomplished a good cut of something. I hope people will like it.

"Most of the time, they have favoured the rock numbers. But recently, I've been getting requests to do 'Havana Moon' – after all these years when it never sold."

What singers and songs does he admire most? "Muddy, Nat Cole, Freddie Slack."

What about Carl Hogan, whose name I had seen in other interviews Chuck had given? Who was he?

"Yes, I should have mentioned him, he was guitarist for Louis Jordan's band, and Louis should be top of the list actually. I listened to him all the time.

"You know, it's funny, but an interviewer in Glasgow asked me who I liked, and I started to tell him...Frank Sinatra, June Christy, and I could see his face screw up.

"He didn't like what I was saying, and he said, what about... and he named somebody, Polka Dot Lee or something like that, and I said I'd never heard of him, and this interviewer just couldn't stand it. He said I must have heard of him. I think I really hurt his feelings."

Influential songs? "'Wake Up Little Suzie' – that song has terrific lyrics, I used to ponder on it for hours, it was a wonderfully put together song.

"And Marty Robbins' 'El Paso'. I've been trying to work something out on that song, it has such a beautiful story line, and that Mexican influence in the music. I love it."

I asked if he had any ideas about what he was going to put out as a follow-up to 'Reelin' and Rockin''.

"Yes," he said, "next question."

EARLIER IN the interview, I cautiously wondered if Chuck had been disappointed with the failure of some particular songs, which might have seemed to him like potential hits.

"I wouldn't say 'disppointed'; 'intrigued' would be better." But still he wouldn't be drawn into naming a particular song, so I had to prompt: how about 'Tulane', on the 1970 Chess LP, Back Home?

"Yes, I did think that might have been popular."

I had my own explanation for its failure ready – the voice is embedded in the instruments, so it's hard to hear the story line, a funny tale of a guy escaping from the police.

"Yes, that was because at the time of what we might call the acid period of rock, the voice tended to be buried in the mix.

"Whereas in the old days of Chess, the voice was up front because if you couldn't hear the words, many records tended to sound the same as each other."

What chance was there of Chuck instructing Chess to remix the track and reissue it?

"Oh, none, because that was recorded when the contract specified that they had final control of such things, whereas now its different. We have been able to progress and I have control. But we couldn't go back to that track."

So Berry goes back to America to consider how he can tune himself into an audience that just bought three million copies of a novelty song that exploited none of the qualities that he had previously been renowned for.

How long is a come-back? And how many can a man have in one lifetime?

© Charlie Gillett, 1973

Re: Adios NME

PostPosted: Fri Aug 07, 2015 8:31 pm
by Adam Blake
Thanks, John. That was really enjoyable.