Discussion:
The Number Ones: Chuck Berry's "My Ding-A-Ling"
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Bob Roman
2019-04-03 10:06:26 UTC
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Breihan reaches (for our purposes at least) the end of the line...


Neil Diamond - "Song Sung Blue"
GRADE: 6/10

Bill Withers - "Lean On Me"
GRADE: 10/10

Gilbert O'Sullivan - "Alone Again (Naturally)"
GRADE: 3/10

Looking Glass - "Brandy (You're A Fine Girl)"
GRADE: 7/10

Three Dog Night - "Black & White"
GRADE: 6/10

Mac Davis - "Baby, Don't Get Hooked On Me"
GRADE: 2/10

Michael Jackson - "Ben"
GRADE: 8/10


Chuck Berry - "My Ding-A-Ling"

HIT #1: October 21, 1972

STAYED AT #1: 2 weeks

One week in the fall of 1972, two of the aging legends of '50s rock ‘n' roll held down the two top spots on the Billboard Hot 100. A 46-year-old Chuck Berry - the sly devil, the unsentimental mercenary, the genuine creep, the man with as good a claim on inventing rock ‘n' roll as anyone who ever lived - was in the #1 spot with a godawful novelty song about his dick. In one of the all-time great trivial absurdities of chart history, that song happens to be the only #1 single of Berry's career. "My Ding-A-Ling" was #1 for two weeks, and during the second of those weeks, Berry's contemporaries kept him company.

That same week, the 37-year-old Elvis Presley was at #2 with the unapologetically hammy country-soul workout "Burning Love." (It's a 7.) And a few spots down at #7, 32-year-old Rick (formerly Ricky) Nelson and his Stone Canyon Band showed up with their twangy ramble "Garden Party" - which namechecked Berry's "Johnny B. Goode," a song that had peaked at #8 in the pre-Hot 100 days of 1958. ("Garden Party" would eventually climb up to #3, and it's another 7.) That 1972 week was 14 years after Nelson had the trivial distinction of becoming the man with the first-ever #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100. A lot had changed in those 14 years. Berry, Presley, and Nelson were in there with the Moody Blues, Bill Withers, Curtis Mayfield, and Michael Jackson. And none of those three guys sounded the way they had in the '50s. But it meant something that all three of them were in there.

I don't know whether it started with that week in 1972, but the '70s were absolutely lousy with '50s nostalgia: American Graffiti, Happy Days, Grease. You could even argue that the early-days version of punk rock was at least partially informed by a slightly less kitschy version of '50s nostalgia. The music of the era was increasingly complex, and so was the world in general. Meanwhile, the Baby Boomers had mostly missed the early rock ‘n' roll days, or they'd experienced those days as little kids, so they hadn't gotten the full effect. Maybe they were celebrating a past that was recent but also somehow distant.

But maybe I'm just making excuses for the record-buying public. Because that record-buying public bought a whole lot of copies of "My Ding-A-Ling," and "My Ding-A-Ling" is fucking garbage.

Chuck Berry was a genuine innovator, and he was also a showman and a huckster. By the time of the rock ‘n' roll explosion, Berry was already a grown man, one who'd spent years in prison for armed robbery and then worked for years on a car assembly line. He'd come up in St. Louis, fusing the twang of country music with the groove of blues and developing an electric-shock guitar-lead style that still sounds pretty amazing today. Berry made hits, and "Sweet Little Sixteen" got to #2 in 1957, but he never climbed to the top spot. And in 1959, Berry was arrested for transporting a 14-year-old girl across state lines, the kind of thing that makes "Sweet Little Sixteen" sound a whole lot less cute. Berry was in and out of prison for a few years after that, and the hits mostly dried up. (Berry did get to #10 with 1964's "No Particular Place To Go." It's an 8.)

But while Berry wasn't making hit records, he was doing just fine on the road. The stars of the '60s all revered Berry. They talked him up in interviews and sometimes played shows with him. And all the kids who hadn't gotten to see Berry when his style was new got their chance in the years that followed. Berry toured tirelessly, and he had a singular and mythic way of doing things.

Berry wouldn't tour with a backing band. Instead, the local promoter would have to put a band together. Those musicians would have to learn all of Berry's songs as best they could beforehand. Berry would pull up in a rented Cadillac with his guitar. Typically, he wouldn't bring anyone with him. He'd get paid in cash up-front, and then he'd jump onstage. He wouldn't rehearse or even soundcheck with the band. If he didn't like the way one of the backing musicians was playing, he'd fire him mid-show. A lot of the time, the backup musicians wouldn't even get to meet Berry; he'd leave as soon as he stepped offstage.

One night in February of 1972, Berry was in the UK town of Coventry to play the Lanchester Arts Festival. At that festival, he played alongside Pink Floyd, Billy Preston, Slade, and George Carlin - a weird, great bill. That night, Berry's backing band was a good one. Guitarist Onnie McIntyre and drummer Robbie McIntosh would go on to form Scottish funk unit Average White Band later that year, and bassist Nic Potter was already playing in the cult-favorite prog group Van Der Graaf Generator. (Average White Band will show up in this column eventually. Van Der Graaf Generator will not.) Some of Berry's set from that show ended up on his album The London Chuck Berry Sessions, and at the end of "Johnny B. Goode," you can hear the promoter begging the crowd to leave because the Pink Floyd show's supposed to start in 15 minutes.

One of the songs Berry played that night was "My Ding-A-Ling," which Berry called "a fourth-grade ditty" when he was introducing it. He wasn't kidding about that. (You can hear that on the album version of "My Ding-A-Ling," which runs - I swear to fucking God - 11 excruciating minutes.) "My Ding-A-Ling" is, quite obviously, an extended dick joke of a song: "Mother took me to grammar school / But I stopped off in the vestibule / Every time that bell would ring / Catch me playing with my ding-a-ling." It's the stupidest fucking thing. Berry sings it like he's getting away with something. And somehow, an edited live version of this song, from that festival in Coventry, became Berry's sole #1 hit.

The New Orleans bandleader Dave Bartholomew had written and recorded "My Ding-A-Ling" in 1952, and different versions of it had been going around since then. Berry himself had recorded a slightly-more-tasteful version called "My Tambourine" in 1968. But that night in Coventry, he went full ding-a-ling, getting the crowd to sing along as loudly as possible. He ad-libs like a game-show host or a vaudeville comedian, ad-libbing a whole new verse about how, if you're not singing along, you're playing with your own ding-a-ling. Real high-concept stuff.

On the record, Berry is clearly having a blast. In this Guardian piece, the writer Greg Freeman, who was there that night, claims that a baffled crowd was just humoring Berry, but it sounds to me like they're having a great time, too. It's not that hard to understand the appeal of joining in with a rock ‘n' roll legend on a giant, silly singalong about dicks. The record, however, is a whole other thing. It is a fun vacuum, a dirty joke that goes on too long and wasn't funny in the first place. Berry was always proud of "My Ding-A-Ling" and the money he made for recording it. But I can't hear it without going into a deep, painful inward cringe.

GRADE: 1/10
Roger Ford
2019-04-03 12:09:35 UTC
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On Wed, 3 Apr 2019 03:06:26 -0700 (PDT), Bob Roman
Post by Bob Roman
Breihan reaches (for our purposes at least) the end of the line...
Chuck Berry - "My Ding-A-Ling"
HIT #1: October 21, 1972
STAYED AT #1: 2 weeks
"My Ding-A-Ling" is fucking garbage.
Breihan exits stage left with a sentiment that I can agree 101% with!!

ROGER FORD
-----------------------

"Spam Free Zone" - to combat unwanted automatic spamming I have added
an extra "b" in my e-mail address (***@bblueyonder.co.uk) Please
delete same before responding.Thank you!
Dennis C
2019-04-03 13:08:21 UTC
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Keep the Breihan shit going up through the 80's!!

A lot of his musings are inspired!!
Roger Ford
2019-04-03 13:21:56 UTC
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On Wed, 3 Apr 2019 03:06:26 -0700 (PDT), Bob Roman
Post by Bob Roman
Breihan reaches (for our purposes at least) the end of the line...
I can't let this go without mentioning that the record that replaced
the dreaded "My Ding-A-Ling" at #1 on the BB Hot Hundred was my
favorite song by Johnny Nash---the catchy mock-reggae "I Can See
Clearly Now". I mention this simply because Nash debuted on wax only a
year later than Chuck Berry---in 1956.

Sadly he debuted with a song that was ever bit as godawful in its own
way as "My Ding-A-Ling"----it was a cover of a number originated by
Britain's own Max Bygraves (!) "Out Of Town" and is performed by him
in the 1956 movie "Charley Moon". It wasn't on YT until now (and if
you click the link you'll soon be wishing it had stayed that way :)



Hard to believe that this is the SAME Johnny Nash right? BUT IT IS!!

And lastly.....
Post by Bob Roman
BTW There's even a #1 act in the 70's whose first record release was
in 1952---and no that is NOT a typo!!
Okay let me answer this one.....

Followng Johnny Nash at #1 came The Temps and "Papa Was A Rollin'
Stone" then Helen Reddy and "I Am Woman"---and then came our "mystery
artist"...

yes BILLY PAUL and "Me And Mrs Jones"

'Twas Billy Paul who debuted on Jubilee in 1952 with "You Didn't
Know"/"The Stars Are Mine" which record I've never seen and neither
side is on YT or any other source I know of

Anyone ever heard it?

ROGER FORD
-----------------------

"Spam Free Zone" - to combat unwanted automatic spamming I have added
an extra "b" in my e-mail address (***@bblueyonder.co.uk) Please
delete same before responding.Thank you!
Mark Dintenfass
2019-04-03 15:19:19 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Roger Ford
On Wed, 3 Apr 2019 03:06:26 -0700 (PDT), Bob Roman
Post by Bob Roman
Breihan reaches (for our purposes at least) the end of the line...
I can't let this go without mentioning that the record that replaced
the dreaded "My Ding-A-Ling" at #1 on the BB Hot Hundred was my
favorite song by Johnny Nash---the catchy mock-reggae "I Can See
Clearly Now". I mention this simply because Nash debuted on wax only a
year later than Chuck Berry---in 1956.
Sadly he debuted with a song that was ever bit as godawful in its own
way as "My Ding-A-Ling"----it was a cover of a number originated by
Britain's own Max Bygraves (!) "Out Of Town" and is performed by him
in the 1956 movie "Charley Moon". It wasn't on YT until now (and if
you click the link you'll soon be wishing it had stayed that way :)
http://youtu.be/2dD6c-cR_hc
Hard to believe that this is the SAME Johnny Nash right? BUT IT IS!!
I vaguely remember hearing some Johnny Nash in the 50s or early 60s and
thinking he was merely a Johnny Mathis wannabe. But he certainly could
sing and when he hit upon material that allowed him to, he was
occasionally great. As a reggae fan I guess I'm supposed to frown upon
his imitations, but I don't. In addition to "Clearly Now," which is
also my favorite by him, I really like "Stir It Up" (where he shows us
how limited a singer Bob Marley actually was), "Ooh What A Feelin', and
"Hold Me Tight." It sure took him a while, but when he hit he was
really good.
--
--md
_________
Remove xx's from address to reply
Dennis C
2019-04-03 15:21:56 UTC
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"Teen Comandments"




Wonderful !
Mark Dintenfass
2019-04-03 15:24:45 UTC
Reply
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Post by Bob Roman
Breihan reaches (for our purposes at least) the end of the line...
Neil Diamond - "Song Sung Blue"
GRADE: 6/10
Bill Withers - "Lean On Me"
GRADE: 10/10
Gilbert O'Sullivan - "Alone Again (Naturally)"
GRADE: 3/10
Looking Glass - "Brandy (You're A Fine Girl)"
GRADE: 7/10
Three Dog Night - "Black & White"
GRADE: 6/10
Mac Davis - "Baby, Don't Get Hooked On Me"
GRADE: 2/10
Michael Jackson - "Ben"
GRADE: 8/10
Chuck Berry - "My Ding-A-Ling"
HIT #1: October 21, 1972
STAYED AT #1: 2 weeks
One week in the fall of 1972, two of the aging legends of '50s rock Œn' roll
held down the two top spots on the Billboard Hot 100. A 46-year-old Chuck
Berry - the sly devil, the unsentimental mercenary, the genuine creep, the
man with as good a claim on inventing rock Œn' roll as anyone who ever lived
- was in the #1 spot with a godawful novelty song about his dick. In one of
the all-time great trivial absurdities of chart history, that song happens to
be the only #1 single of Berry's career. "My Ding-A-Ling" was #1 for two
weeks, and during the second of those weeks, Berry's contemporaries kept him
company.
That same week, the 37-year-old Elvis Presley was at #2 with the
unapologetically hammy country-soul workout "Burning Love." (It's a 7.) And a
few spots down at #7, 32-year-old Rick (formerly Ricky) Nelson and his Stone
Canyon Band showed up with their twangy ramble "Garden Party" - which
namechecked Berry's "Johnny B. Goode," a song that had peaked at #8 in the
pre-Hot 100 days of 1958. ("Garden Party" would eventually climb up to #3,
and it's another 7.) That 1972 week was 14 years after Nelson had the trivial
distinction of becoming the man with the first-ever #1 song on the Billboard
Hot 100. A lot had changed in those 14 years. Berry, Presley, and Nelson were
in there with the Moody Blues, Bill Withers, Curtis Mayfield, and Michael
Jackson. And none of those three guys sounded the way they had in the '50s.
But it meant something that all three of them were in there.
I don't know whether it started with that week in 1972, but the '70s were
absolutely lousy with '50s nostalgia: American Graffiti, Happy Days, Grease.
You could even argue that the early-days version of punk rock was at least
partially informed by a slightly less kitschy version of '50s nostalgia. The
music of the era was increasingly complex, and so was the world in general.
Meanwhile, the Baby Boomers had mostly missed the early rock Œn' roll days,
or they'd experienced those days as little kids, so they hadn't gotten the
full effect. Maybe they were celebrating a past that was recent but also
somehow distant.
But maybe I'm just making excuses for the record-buying public. Because that
record-buying public bought a whole lot of copies of "My Ding-A-Ling," and
"My Ding-A-Ling" is fucking garbage.
Chuck Berry was a genuine innovator, and he was also a showman and a
huckster. By the time of the rock Œn' roll explosion, Berry was already a
grown man, one who'd spent years in prison for armed robbery and then worked
for years on a car assembly line. He'd come up in St. Louis, fusing the twang
of country music with the groove of blues and developing an electric-shock
guitar-lead style that still sounds pretty amazing today. Berry made hits,
and "Sweet Little Sixteen" got to #2 in 1957, but he never climbed to the top
spot. And in 1959, Berry was arrested for transporting a 14-year-old girl
across state lines, the kind of thing that makes "Sweet Little Sixteen" sound
a whole lot less cute. Berry was in and out of prison for a few years after
that, and the hits mostly dried up. (Berry did get to #10 with 1964's "No
Particular Place To Go." It's an 8.)
But while Berry wasn't making hit records, he was doing just fine on the
road. The stars of the '60s all revered Berry. They talked him up in
interviews and sometimes played shows with him. And all the kids who hadn't
gotten to see Berry when his style was new got their chance in the years that
followed. Berry toured tirelessly, and he had a singular and mythic way of
doing things.
Berry wouldn't tour with a backing band. Instead, the local promoter would
have to put a band together. Those musicians would have to learn all of
Berry's songs as best they could beforehand. Berry would pull up in a rented
Cadillac with his guitar. Typically, he wouldn't bring anyone with him. He'd
get paid in cash up-front, and then he'd jump onstage. He wouldn't rehearse
or even soundcheck with the band. If he didn't like the way one of the
backing musicians was playing, he'd fire him mid-show. A lot of the time, the
backup musicians wouldn't even get to meet Berry; he'd leave as soon as he
stepped offstage.
One night in February of 1972, Berry was in the UK town of Coventry to play
the Lanchester Arts Festival. At that festival, he played alongside Pink
Floyd, Billy Preston, Slade, and George Carlin - a weird, great bill. That
night, Berry's backing band was a good one. Guitarist Onnie McIntyre and
drummer Robbie McIntosh would go on to form Scottish funk unit Average White
Band later that year, and bassist Nic Potter was already playing in the
cult-favorite prog group Van Der Graaf Generator. (Average White Band will
show up in this column eventually. Van Der Graaf Generator will not.) Some of
Berry's set from that show ended up on his album The London Chuck Berry
Sessions, and at the end of "Johnny B. Goode," you can hear the promoter
begging the crowd to leave because the Pink Floyd show's supposed to start in
15 minutes.
One of the songs Berry played that night was "My Ding-A-Ling," which Berry
called "a fourth-grade ditty" when he was introducing it. He wasn't kidding
about that. (You can hear that on the album version of "My Ding-A-Ling,"
which runs - I swear to fucking God - 11 excruciating minutes.) "My
Ding-A-Ling" is, quite obviously, an extended dick joke of a song: "Mother
took me to grammar school / But I stopped off in the vestibule / Every time
that bell would ring / Catch me playing with my ding-a-ling." It's the
stupidest fucking thing. Berry sings it like he's getting away with
something. And somehow, an edited live version of this song, from that
festival in Coventry, became Berry's sole #1 hit.
The New Orleans bandleader Dave Bartholomew had written and recorded "My
Ding-A-Ling" in 1952, and different versions of it had been going around
since then. Berry himself had recorded a slightly-more-tasteful version
called "My Tambourine" in 1968. But that night in Coventry, he went full
ding-a-ling, getting the crowd to sing along as loudly as possible. He
ad-libs like a game-show host or a vaudeville comedian, ad-libbing a whole
new verse about how, if you're not singing along, you're playing with your
own ding-a-ling. Real high-concept stuff.
On the record, Berry is clearly having a blast. In this Guardian piece, the
writer Greg Freeman, who was there that night, claims that a baffled crowd
was just humoring Berry, but it sounds to me like they're having a great
time, too. It's not that hard to understand the appeal of joining in with a
rock Œn' roll legend on a giant, silly singalong about dicks. The record,
however, is a whole other thing. It is a fun vacuum, a dirty joke that goes
on too long and wasn't funny in the first place. Berry was always proud of
"My Ding-A-Ling" and the money he made for recording it. But I can't hear it without going into a deep, painful inward cringe.
GRADE: 1/10
Clearly the audience was having fun with it, especially after the rough
blues-y takes that make up a lot of the rest of the album, so I have no
problem with him having it done it in concert. That it became a hit
wasn't Chuck's fault, after all, but it was certainly a sign that the
new generation lacking in taste, which they proved again and again as
the 70s went along.
--
--md
_________
Remove xx's from address to reply
Steve Mc
2019-04-03 16:10:41 UTC
Reply
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Post by Mark Dintenfass
Post by Bob Roman
On the record, Berry is clearly having a blast. In this Guardian piece, the
writer Greg Freeman, who was there that night, claims that a baffled crowd
was just humoring Berry, but it sounds to me like they're having a great
time, too. It's not that hard to understand the appeal of joining in with a
rock Œn' roll legend on a giant, silly singalong about dicks. The record,
however, is a whole other thing. It is a fun vacuum, a dirty joke that goes
on too long and wasn't funny in the first place. Berry was always proud of
"My Ding-A-Ling" and the money he made for recording it. But I can't hear it without going into a deep, painful inward cringe.
GRADE: 1/10
Clearly the audience was having fun with it, especially after the rough
blues-y takes that make up a lot of the rest of the album, so I have no
problem with him having it done it in concert. That it became a hit
wasn't Chuck's fault, after all, but it was certainly a sign that the
new generation lacking in taste, which they proved again and again as
the 70s went along.
-- --md _________
I do find it almost unconscionable that that was his only #1, however, I
saw him do it at the Fillmore West around that same time, and he had the
entire auditorium going crazy. And I don’t recall if I ever saw an
artist enjoying his audience’s reaction as much as that. So whenever I
hear it, I flashback to that very enjoyable experience.
--
Steve Mc

DNA to SBC to respond
Tony
2019-04-03 15:35:34 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Bob Roman
Breihan reaches (for our purposes at least) the end of the line...
Neil Diamond - "Song Sung Blue"
GRADE: 6/10
Bill Withers - "Lean On Me"
GRADE: 10/10
Gilbert O'Sullivan - "Alone Again (Naturally)"
GRADE: 3/10
Looking Glass - "Brandy (You're A Fine Girl)"
GRADE: 7/10
Three Dog Night - "Black & White"
GRADE: 6/10
Mac Davis - "Baby, Don't Get Hooked On Me"
GRADE: 2/10
Michael Jackson - "Ben"
GRADE: 8/10
Chuck Berry - "My Ding-A-Ling"
HIT #1: October 21, 1972
STAYED AT #1: 2 weeks
One week in the fall of 1972, two of the aging legends of '50s rock ‘n' roll held down the two top spots on the Billboard Hot 100. A 46-year-old Chuck Berry - the sly devil, the unsentimental mercenary, the genuine creep, the man with as good a claim on inventing rock ‘n' roll as anyone who ever lived - was in the #1 spot with a godawful novelty song about his dick. In one of the all-time great trivial absurdities of chart history, that song happens to be the only #1 single of Berry's career. "My Ding-A-Ling" was #1 for two weeks, and during the second of those weeks, Berry's contemporaries kept him company.
That same week, the 37-year-old Elvis Presley was at #2 with the unapologetically hammy country-soul workout "Burning Love." (It's a 7.) And a few spots down at #7, 32-year-old Rick (formerly Ricky) Nelson and his Stone Canyon Band showed up with their twangy ramble "Garden Party" - which namechecked Berry's "Johnny B. Goode," a song that had peaked at #8 in the pre-Hot 100 days of 1958. ("Garden Party" would eventually climb up to #3, and it's another 7.) That 1972 week was 14 years after Nelson had the trivial distinction of becoming the man with the first-ever #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100. A lot had changed in those 14 years. Berry, Presley, and Nelson were in there with the Moody Blues, Bill Withers, Curtis Mayfield, and Michael Jackson. And none of those three guys sounded the way they had in the '50s. But it meant something that all three of them were in there.
I don't know whether it started with that week in 1972, but the '70s were absolutely lousy with '50s nostalgia: American Graffiti, Happy Days, Grease. You could even argue that the early-days version of punk rock was at least partially informed by a slightly less kitschy version of '50s nostalgia. The music of the era was increasingly complex, and so was the world in general. Meanwhile, the Baby Boomers had mostly missed the early rock ‘n' roll days, or they'd experienced those days as little kids, so they hadn't gotten the full effect. Maybe they were celebrating a past that was recent but also somehow distant.
But maybe I'm just making excuses for the record-buying public. Because that record-buying public bought a whole lot of copies of "My Ding-A-Ling," and "My Ding-A-Ling" is fucking garbage.
Chuck Berry was a genuine innovator, and he was also a showman and a huckster. By the time of the rock ‘n' roll explosion, Berry was already a grown man, one who'd spent years in prison for armed robbery and then worked for years on a car assembly line. He'd come up in St. Louis, fusing the twang of country music with the groove of blues and developing an electric-shock guitar-lead style that still sounds pretty amazing today. Berry made hits, and "Sweet Little Sixteen" got to #2 in 1957, but he never climbed to the top spot. And in 1959, Berry was arrested for transporting a 14-year-old girl across state lines, the kind of thing that makes "Sweet Little Sixteen" sound a whole lot less cute. Berry was in and out of prison for a few years after that, and the hits mostly dried up. (Berry did get to #10 with 1964's "No Particular Place To Go." It's an 8.)
But while Berry wasn't making hit records, he was doing just fine on the road. The stars of the '60s all revered Berry. They talked him up in interviews and sometimes played shows with him. And all the kids who hadn't gotten to see Berry when his style was new got their chance in the years that followed. Berry toured tirelessly, and he had a singular and mythic way of doing things.
Berry wouldn't tour with a backing band. Instead, the local promoter would have to put a band together. Those musicians would have to learn all of Berry's songs as best they could beforehand. Berry would pull up in a rented Cadillac with his guitar. Typically, he wouldn't bring anyone with him. He'd get paid in cash up-front, and then he'd jump onstage. He wouldn't rehearse or even soundcheck with the band. If he didn't like the way one of the backing musicians was playing, he'd fire him mid-show. A lot of the time, the backup musicians wouldn't even get to meet Berry; he'd leave as soon as he stepped offstage.
One night in February of 1972, Berry was in the UK town of Coventry to play the Lanchester Arts Festival. At that festival, he played alongside Pink Floyd, Billy Preston, Slade, and George Carlin - a weird, great bill. That night, Berry's backing band was a good one. Guitarist Onnie McIntyre and drummer Robbie McIntosh would go on to form Scottish funk unit Average White Band later that year, and bassist Nic Potter was already playing in the cult-favorite prog group Van Der Graaf Generator. (Average White Band will show up in this column eventually. Van Der Graaf Generator will not.) Some of Berry's set from that show ended up on his album The London Chuck Berry Sessions, and at the end of "Johnny B. Goode," you can hear the promoter begging the crowd to leave because the Pink Floyd show's supposed to start in 15 minutes.
One of the songs Berry played that night was "My Ding-A-Ling," which Berry called "a fourth-grade ditty" when he was introducing it. He wasn't kidding about that. (You can hear that on the album version of "My Ding-A-Ling," which runs - I swear to fucking God - 11 excruciating minutes.) "My Ding-A-Ling" is, quite obviously, an extended dick joke of a song: "Mother took me to grammar school / But I stopped off in the vestibule / Every time that bell would ring / Catch me playing with my ding-a-ling." It's the stupidest fucking thing. Berry sings it like he's getting away with something. And somehow, an edited live version of this song, from that festival in Coventry, became Berry's sole #1 hit.
The New Orleans bandleader Dave Bartholomew had written and recorded "My Ding-A-Ling" in 1952, and different versions of it had been going around since then. Berry himself had recorded a slightly-more-tasteful version called "My Tambourine" in 1968. But that night in Coventry, he went full ding-a-ling, getting the crowd to sing along as loudly as possible. He ad-libs like a game-show host or a vaudeville comedian, ad-libbing a whole new verse about how, if you're not singing along, you're playing with your own ding-a-ling. Real high-concept stuff.
On the record, Berry is clearly having a blast. In this Guardian piece, the writer Greg Freeman, who was there that night, claims that a baffled crowd was just humoring Berry, but it sounds to me like they're having a great time, too. It's not that hard to understand the appeal of joining in with a rock ‘n' roll legend on a giant, silly singalong about dicks. The record, however, is a whole other thing. It is a fun vacuum, a dirty joke that goes on too long and wasn't funny in the first place. Berry was always proud of "My Ding-A-Ling" and the money he made for recording it. But I can't hear it without going into a deep, painful inward cringe.
GRADE: 1/10
Cringe on this,Breihan. GRADE: 6/10
YourGoldenRetriever
2019-05-24 02:01:37 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Bob Roman
Breihan reaches (for our purposes at least) the end of the line...
Neil Diamond - "Song Sung Blue"
GRADE: 6/10
Bill Withers - "Lean On Me"
GRADE: 10/10
Gilbert O'Sullivan - "Alone Again (Naturally)"
GRADE: 3/10
Looking Glass - "Brandy (You're A Fine Girl)"
GRADE: 7/10
Three Dog Night - "Black & White"
GRADE: 6/10
Mac Davis - "Baby, Don't Get Hooked On Me"
GRADE: 2/10
Michael Jackson - "Ben"
GRADE: 8/10
Chuck Berry - "My Ding-A-Ling"
HIT #1: October 21, 1972
STAYED AT #1: 2 weeks
One week in the fall of 1972, two of the aging legends of '50s rock ‘n' roll held down the two top spots on the Billboard Hot 100. A 46-year-old Chuck Berry - the sly devil, the unsentimental mercenary, the genuine creep, the man with as good a claim on inventing rock ‘n' roll as anyone who ever lived - was in the #1 spot with a godawful novelty song about his dick. In one of the all-time great trivial absurdities of chart history, that song happens to be the only #1 single of Berry's career. "My Ding-A-Ling" was #1 for two weeks, and during the second of those weeks, Berry's contemporaries kept him company.
That same week, the 37-year-old Elvis Presley was at #2 with the unapologetically hammy country-soul workout "Burning Love." (It's a 7.) And a few spots down at #7, 32-year-old Rick (formerly Ricky) Nelson and his Stone Canyon Band showed up with their twangy ramble "Garden Party" - which namechecked Berry's "Johnny B. Goode," a song that had peaked at #8 in the pre-Hot 100 days of 1958. ("Garden Party" would eventually climb up to #3, and it's another 7.) That 1972 week was 14 years after Nelson had the trivial distinction of becoming the man with the first-ever #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100. A lot had changed in those 14 years. Berry, Presley, and Nelson were in there with the Moody Blues, Bill Withers, Curtis Mayfield, and Michael Jackson. And none of those three guys sounded the way they had in the '50s. But it meant something that all three of them were in there.
I don't know whether it started with that week in 1972, but the '70s were absolutely lousy with '50s nostalgia: American Graffiti, Happy Days, Grease. You could even argue that the early-days version of punk rock was at least partially informed by a slightly less kitschy version of '50s nostalgia. The music of the era was increasingly complex, and so was the world in general. Meanwhile, the Baby Boomers had mostly missed the early rock ‘n' roll days, or they'd experienced those days as little kids, so they hadn't gotten the full effect. Maybe they were celebrating a past that was recent but also somehow distant.
But maybe I'm just making excuses for the record-buying public. Because that record-buying public bought a whole lot of copies of "My Ding-A-Ling," and "My Ding-A-Ling" is fucking garbage.
Chuck Berry was a genuine innovator, and he was also a showman and a huckster. By the time of the rock ‘n' roll explosion, Berry was already a grown man, one who'd spent years in prison for armed robbery and then worked for years on a car assembly line. He'd come up in St. Louis, fusing the twang of country music with the groove of blues and developing an electric-shock guitar-lead style that still sounds pretty amazing today. Berry made hits, and "Sweet Little Sixteen" got to #2 in 1957, but he never climbed to the top spot. And in 1959, Berry was arrested for transporting a 14-year-old girl across state lines, the kind of thing that makes "Sweet Little Sixteen" sound a whole lot less cute. Berry was in and out of prison for a few years after that, and the hits mostly dried up. (Berry did get to #10 with 1964's "No Particular Place To Go." It's an 8.)
But while Berry wasn't making hit records, he was doing just fine on the road. The stars of the '60s all revered Berry. They talked him up in interviews and sometimes played shows with him. And all the kids who hadn't gotten to see Berry when his style was new got their chance in the years that followed. Berry toured tirelessly, and he had a singular and mythic way of doing things.
Berry wouldn't tour with a backing band. Instead, the local promoter would have to put a band together. Those musicians would have to learn all of Berry's songs as best they could beforehand. Berry would pull up in a rented Cadillac with his guitar. Typically, he wouldn't bring anyone with him. He'd get paid in cash up-front, and then he'd jump onstage. He wouldn't rehearse or even soundcheck with the band. If he didn't like the way one of the backing musicians was playing, he'd fire him mid-show. A lot of the time, the backup musicians wouldn't even get to meet Berry; he'd leave as soon as he stepped offstage.
One night in February of 1972, Berry was in the UK town of Coventry to play the Lanchester Arts Festival. At that festival, he played alongside Pink Floyd, Billy Preston, Slade, and George Carlin - a weird, great bill. That night, Berry's backing band was a good one. Guitarist Onnie McIntyre and drummer Robbie McIntosh would go on to form Scottish funk unit Average White Band later that year, and bassist Nic Potter was already playing in the cult-favorite prog group Van Der Graaf Generator. (Average White Band will show up in this column eventually. Van Der Graaf Generator will not.) Some of Berry's set from that show ended up on his album The London Chuck Berry Sessions, and at the end of "Johnny B. Goode," you can hear the promoter begging the crowd to leave because the Pink Floyd show's supposed to start in 15 minutes.
One of the songs Berry played that night was "My Ding-A-Ling," which Berry called "a fourth-grade ditty" when he was introducing it. He wasn't kidding about that. (You can hear that on the album version of "My Ding-A-Ling," which runs - I swear to fucking God - 11 excruciating minutes.) "My Ding-A-Ling" is, quite obviously, an extended dick joke of a song: "Mother took me to grammar school / But I stopped off in the vestibule / Every time that bell would ring / Catch me playing with my ding-a-ling." It's the stupidest fucking thing. Berry sings it like he's getting away with something. And somehow, an edited live version of this song, from that festival in Coventry, became Berry's sole #1 hit.
The New Orleans bandleader Dave Bartholomew had written and recorded "My Ding-A-Ling" in 1952, and different versions of it had been going around since then. Berry himself had recorded a slightly-more-tasteful version called "My Tambourine" in 1968. But that night in Coventry, he went full ding-a-ling, getting the crowd to sing along as loudly as possible. He ad-libs like a game-show host or a vaudeville comedian, ad-libbing a whole new verse about how, if you're not singing along, you're playing with your own ding-a-ling. Real high-concept stuff.
On the record, Berry is clearly having a blast. In this Guardian piece, the writer Greg Freeman, who was there that night, claims that a baffled crowd was just humoring Berry, but it sounds to me like they're having a great time, too. It's not that hard to understand the appeal of joining in with a rock ‘n' roll legend on a giant, silly singalong about dicks. The record, however, is a whole other thing. It is a fun vacuum, a dirty joke that goes on too long and wasn't funny in the first place. Berry was always proud of "My Ding-A-Ling" and the money he made for recording it. But I can't hear it without going into a deep, painful inward cringe.
GRADE: 1/10
Hard to believe that this is the SAME Johnny Nash right? BUT IT IS!!
I vaguely remember hearing some Johnny Nash in the 50s or early 60s and
thinking he was merely a Johnny Mathis wannabe. But he certainly could
sing and when he hit upon material that allowed him to, he was
occasionally great. As a reggae fan I guess I'm supposed to frown upon
his imitations, but I don't. In addition to "Clearly Now," which is
also my favorite by him, I really like "Stir It Up" (where he shows us
how limited a singer Bob Marley actually was), "Ooh What A Feelin', and
"Hold Me Tight." It sure took him a while, but when he hit he was
really good.
I like both Chuck and Johnny's stuff..the stuff Berry singds here is a good (on LP/CD) near 11:40 length (even the single was pushing it at 4:20) and I have both versions, and Nash's, pos-their chart debut.
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