Finding the right opener to write about Chuck Berry is a
daunting task: After all, among so much else, Berry crafted the greatest “lede”
in the history of rock and roll. The furious flurry of twanging, snapping
eighth notes that opens Berry’s 1956 hit “Roll Over
Beethoven”—and which reappears even more iconically atop 1958’s
“Johnny B. Goode”—is
to early rock and roll what Louis Armstrong’s trumpet introduction on 1928’s
“West End Blues” is to early jazz, a scorched-earth manifesto of craft and
virtuosity, laying out the stakes of an audacious new art form. Any
consideration of Chuck Berry starts there, with that burst of notes—I count 35
of them, whizzing by in a cool 6 seconds, although I’m on deadline and may have
missed a few. Listen closely enough and you’ll hear an entire generation of
young people, in the U.S., England, and elsewhere, informing their piano
teachers that they’ve decided to switch to electric guitar.
“Who invented rock and
roll?” is a truly unanswerable question, but Chuck Berry’s claim is as solid as
any. Jackie Brenston’s “Rocket 88,” the 1951 song most frequently cited as the
music’s Big Bang, predates Berry’s emergence by four years, and Lloyd Price,
Little Richard, Fats Domino, Carl Perkins, and even Elvis Presley had all made
records before Berry broke through with “Maybellene”
in 1955, at the shockingly advanced age of 28. But Berry was the first to
harness the new and unruly sounds into a sort of mission statement for a
generation, and many generations after. Years before Berry Gordy Jr. festooned
his fledgling Motown Records with the slogan “the Sound of Young America,”
Chuck Berry had worked to make each word of that perfect phrase intelligible.
Berry was rock and roll’s first great auteur,blessed with an effortless
ability to render the specific into the universal, and vice versa. He wrote
songs infused with play, humor, ennui, pain, rage, swagger, and sex. They spoke
to a generation who assumed they were about them, which was always only
Berry possessed many geniuses as a songwriter, but the most
consequential was his ability to write songs about being black in America that
could double as allegories for being a teenager in America, an audacious bit of
rhetorical alchemy that altered popular culture and reverberates to this day.
Berry brought the blues into America’s high schools, and somehow did so without
sacrificing any of the form’s lyricism, wit, and pathos, even while sometimes
sacrificing specificity. According to Berry, the “country boy” of “Johnny B.
Goode” was originally written as “colored boy”—Berry changed it to ensure the
song got radio play. “Brown Eyed Handsome Man,” written after Berry watched a
Latino man in California being harassed by the cops as female companions
pleaded his innocence, was originally “Brown Skinned Handsome Man.” And yet
there was power in the ambiguity, with Berry’s talent and charisma filling in
the blanks. Anyone who’s ever listened to “Johnny B. Goode” and assumed the
protagonist is white has issues that are well outside Berry’s purview. [Read More]
“My portraits of Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga as Norman and Norma Bates for the new season of Bates Motel. An homage to the original Psycho movie promo images. We re-created photos as closely as possible, replicating the poses, sets, propping and lighting, shooting both film and digital. Here Freddie poses just as Anthony Perkins did 55 years ago.” – Dylan Coulter
Jeffrey Dean Morgan
James Patrick Stuart
Richard Speight Jr.
Carrie Anne Fleming
And all the extras, the special guests, anyone else I may have left out. I FUCKING LOVE THEM ALL
“I received an e-mail from a reader that says, in part: ‘It was good to know he was out there.’ That cuts to the heart of the matter. You didn’t see George perform often, except in the occasional music video or tribute to Perkins or Dylan, or The Beatles’ Anthology. You didn’t hear from him often, his last album of new songs coming in 1987, but you always knew he was…out there. And it was good to know. Good to know that you shared living space with a person of such grace and artistry, especially considering the daily onslaught of savagery and hatred emanating from mass media. Knowing that people like Harrison, and the other Beatles, and figures from Jane Goodall to Muhammad Ali are 'out there’ is such a comfort. Even if they are doing nothing more than, as Harrison did in his final years, living quietly with family, gardening…
George once remarked of Lennon’s death that it still felt like his old mate was around. As if he had just gone off to New York, and had never come back. In that sense, maybe one can think of Harrison as still being 'around.’ He wasn’t a personal friend to most of us; he was a presence. Now the physical person has gone away, as Lennon did from him, but so much evidence of the presence remains. In song, film, interview, memory, and conversation.
So, in a way, George Harrison is still 'out there.’ He has just changed suits, as he would say.
I like to think that the new one shines brightly. Every morning at dawn.”
- Rip Rense, There Went The Sun: Reflection On The Passing Of George Harrison
“I received an e-mail from a reader that says, in part: ‘It was good to know he was out there.’ That cuts to the heart of the matter. You didn’t see George perform often, except in the occasional music video or tribute to Perkins or Dylan, or The Beatles’ Anthology. You didn’t hear from him often, his last album of new songs coming in 1987, but you always knew he was…out there…
"In a way, George Harrison is still ‘out there.’ He has just changed suits, as he would say…”