Monthly Archives: July 2012

C. Berry

Last winter I saw the King of Rock ‘n Roll.  It’s pretty hard to believe that he’s still alive, let alone still performing, but it’s true.  Once a month Chuck Berry plays a concert at a place called Blueberry Hill here in St. Louis.  It’s a kitschy restaurant full of dusty memorabilia cases and old arcade games.  There’s two bars, one upstairs and another in the basement which is called The Duck Room.  Named after Berry’s signature dance move (you’ve seen it even if you didn’t know what it was called, Michael J. Fox does it at the end of BACK TO THE FUTURE) The Duck Room is not a glamorous place, it looks exactly like the basement of a restaurant.  Only with a bar and a funny ha-ha duck decor.  Blue Berry Hill has quite a few concerts down in the Duck Room, I’ve seen a few acts there–but the only time I’ve ever seen the place sell-out is when Chuck Berry plays.

Usually The Duck Room is a standing-room-only affair, but for Berry they owners brought out a few crappy chairs.  The audience was mixed, young and old, there were more than a few people pushing 70 in the crowd.  Which seems about right considering Berry himself is 85 years old.  A serviceable cover band opened the show (sorry I can’t remember their name) and once they finished, Chuck Berry’s band, which consists of his children and family friends, took to the tiny stage.  After a little intro music a very tall, very spry man shuffled up onto the stage.  He was wearing a white captains hat and had a guitar.  If you’ve ever seen a picture of Chuck Berry, from any year, then you know what he looks like to this very day.   It’s amazing how some people age…and how others don’t.  I’d like to think that in Berry’s case, it’s rock ‘n roll that’s kept him young.

Seeing Chuck Berry play songs like “Sweet Little Sixteen,” “No Particular Place To Go,” “You Never Can Tell,” and yes “Johnny B. Goode,” was akin to the times I saw  Paul McCartney and The Rolling Stones.  It still doesn’t feel real to me that I’ve been in the same room as them.  And as amazing as they were, Berry is in a whole class to himself.   Open up Keith Richards (excellent) autobiography LIFE.  Go ahead, open up that massive book to just about any page and chances are you’ll see Chuck Berry’s name–he talks about Berry endlessly.  I’ve read more than one rock biography or interview where Berry’s name was spoken as though he were a living, breathing God.  We sort of take it for granted now, but once there was a time when there was no rock music.  White people liked really boring big band music (or whatever) and black people played blues music for each other. Berry didn’t invent rock ‘n roll, that suggests that he plucked it out of thin air or that it’s components didn’t already exist.  No, Berry took rhythm and blues music and he distilled it like Jack Daniels, into the potent concoction we know today.

It’s pretty amazing that Berry is still alive and even more amazing that he still performs regularly.  I feel honored to live in the same city as the man who changed pop music forever.  The rest of St. Louis feels the same way because recently a monument was built in Berry’s honor.  Located directly across the street from Blueberry Hill (and a stones throw from Vintage Vinyl, the city’s best record store), the monument features Berry’s lyrics carved into the ground, an illuminated wall that displays the musical notes for “Johnny B. Good,” and an 8-foot bronze statue of the man himself.  All hail the King of Rock ‘N Roll! Long live the king.

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Check Out This Sweet SAY ANYTHING Bear

My wife gave me this framed picture of a bear imitating John Cusack from SAY ANYTHING for my birthday.

Check it out:

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Depression & “Redondo Beach” with Morrissey

Lately I’ve hit a bit of a rough patch. I’m not depressed, per say, but I’m definitely bummed out. Nothing really big and terrible has happened, it’s just a bunch of little things all adding to a larger pile of misery. While wallowing last week, a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to see Morrissey in New York this October. Of course I had to say “no” (Defending Axl Rose hasn’t made me a millionaire yet). She’s never seen Morrissey live and as someone who has I encouraged her to go without me.

That conversation got me thinking about Morrissey and why I love him so much. His band The Smiths were super influential and anyone even thinking about writing songs (happy or sad) should definitely check out the work of The Smiths. But Morrissey’s specialty is really sad songs. I can’t think of another human being who (at least on the surface) is more depressed than Morrissey. God help us all if Morrissey ever finds happiness. In fact, as terrible as it is, I truly do not wish happiness upon ‘ol Moz. I don’t think he could handle it.

Is Morrissey gay? Is Morrissey straight? Will he get back with The Smiths? I could care less about these tabloid questions that so obsess the British media. All I care is he’s fucking miserable and recording music. I guess I’m old fashioned.

Here Morrissey is sad because someone scribbled all over his guitar…

One of my favorite songs I’ve ever heard him sing is a cover of the Patti Smith song “Redondo Beach.” It’s a tragic song about two lovers one of whom (spoiler) kills herself after the couple has a fight near Redondo Beach. Morrissey released a live cover of “Redondo Beach” in 2004 in support of his LIVE AT EARLS COURT album. As songs go, it’s good even though it is pretty melodramatic. The song’s narrator sings about how he got in a “quarrel” with “you” (his lover) who he now can’t seem to find. In a seemingly unrelated bit of news a girl has washed up on Redondo Beach…and in the end it his love is gone forever because:

Down by the ocean

It was so dismal

I was just standing

With shock on my face though

The hearse pulled away

And the girl that had died it was you

Shakespeare this isn’t, but the tragedy, especially when Morrissey (our main-man of depression) is singing it I can’t help but feel bad. And I like that. I guess the same part of us that likes to watch scary movies is the same part that likes to hear sad songs. I don’t know about you, but when I’m sad I like to hear sad songs. I can’t imagine trying to hear something super-happy and upbeat when I’m feeling down.

Morrissey’s built an entire career around this sort of emo-music (please kill me in the comments for calling Morrissey “emo”) and even though it might seem a bit strange he provides a service humanity really needs. I highly recommend anyone feeling depressed, blue, disenfranchised, pissed off, confused, or otherwise unsatisfied to check out the massive library of awesomely depressing music recorded by Morrissey.

Morrissey Depression Super-Mix

1. “Let Me Kiss You” from YOU ARE THE QUARRY

2. “Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me” from STRANGEWAYS, HERE WE COME

3. “Redondo Beach” from LIVE AT EARLS COURT

4. “Satan Rejected My Soul” from MALADJUSTED

5. “One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell” from YEARS OF REFUSAL

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