5. Chuck Berry
"It's not so much what he played — it's what he didn't play. His music is very economical. His guitar leads drove the rhythm, as opposed to laying over the top. The economy of his licks and his leads — they pushed the song along. And he would build his solos so there was a nice little statement taking the song to a new place, so you're ready for the next verse. As a songwriter, Chuck Berry is like the Ernest Hemingway of rock & roll…. People will always cover Chuck Berry songs. When bands go do their homework, they will have to listen to Chuck Berry. If you want to learn about rock & roll, if you want to play rock & roll, you have to start there."—Joe Perry
Delve deeper into Berry's legacy with the DVD Impact!—Songs that Changed the World: Chuck Berry—Maybellene
"The hair was sloppier. The harmonies were a bit off. And I don't remember them smiling at all. They had the R&B traditionalist's attitude: 'We are not in show business. We are not pop music.' And the sex in Mick Jagger's voice was adult. This wasn't pop sex — holding hands, playing spin the bottle. This was the real thing. Jagger had that conversational quality that came from R&B singers and bluesmen, that sort of half-singing, not quite holding notes. The acceptance of Jagger's voice on pop radio was a turning point in rock & roll. He broke open the door for everyone else. Suddenly, Eric Burdon and Van Morrison weren't so weird — even Bob Dylan. It was completely unique: a white performer doing it in a black way. Elvis Presley did it. But the next guy was Jagger. There were no other white boys doing this. White singers stood there and sang, like the Beatles. The thing we associate with black performers goes back to the church — letting the spirit physically move you, letting go of social restraints, any form of embarrassment or humiliation. Not being in control: That's what Mick Jagger was communicating."—Steven Van Zandt ** The documentary Crossfire Hurricane has terrific, visceral footage of the band's evolution, while The Rolling Stones: The Illustrated Biography compresses all of that funky charisma into words and pictures.
"Out of Tupelo, Mississippi, out of Memphis, Tennessee, came this green, sharkskin-suited girl chaser, wearing eye shadow — a trucker-dandy white boy who must have risked his hide to act so black and dress so gay. This wasn't New York or even New Orleans; this was Memphis in the Fifties. This was punk rock. This was revolt. Elvis changed everything — musically, sexually, politically."—Bono
Elvis Thru the Years: Special Anniversary Edition DVD; Jailhouse Rock: Deluxe Edition
"He is a powerful singer and a great musical actor, with many characters in his voice. I could hear the politics in the early songs. It's very exciting to hear somebody singing so powerfully, with something to say. But what struck me was how the street had had such a profound effect on him: coming from Minnesota, setting out on the road and coming into New York. There was a hardness, a toughness, in the way he approached his songs and the characters in them. That was a rebellion, in a certain way, against the purity of folk music. He wasn't pussyfooting around on 'Like a Rolling Stone' or 'Ballad of a Thin Man.' This was the rebel rebelling against the rebellion.
I learned early on with Bob that the people he hung around with were not musicians. They were poets, like Allen Ginsberg. When we were in Europe, there'd be poets coming out of the woodwork. His writing came directly out of a tremendous poetic influence, a license to write in images that weren't in the Tin Pan Alley tradition or typically rock & roll, either."—Robbie Robertson, The Band
Look for the latest in the Dylan 'bootleg' series (#10) which we'll be carrying this fall. It has unreleased tracks from Self-Portrait and New Morning, festival recordings, demos, and more.
Meanwhile, check out The Mammoth Book of Bob Dylan.
"Every record was a shock when it came out. Compared to rabid R&B evangelists like the Rolling Stones, the Beatles arrived sounding like nothing else. They had already absorbed Buddy Holly, the Everly Brothers and Chuck Berry, but they were also writing their own songs. They made writing your own material expected, rather than exceptional.
John Lennon and Paul McCartney were exceptional songwriters; McCartney was, and is, a truly virtuoso musician; George Harrison wasn't the kind of guitar player who tore off wild, unpredictable solos, but you can sing the melodies of nearly all of his breaks. Most important, they always fit right into the arrangement. Ringo Starr played the drums with an incredibly unique feel that nobody can really copy, although many fine drummers have tried and failed. Most of all, John and Paul were fantastic singers.
Lennon, McCartney and Harrison had stunningly high standards as writers. Imagine releasing a song like 'Ask Me Why' or 'Things We Said Today' as a B side. These records were events, and not just advance notice of an album release.
Then they started to really grow up. They went from simple love lyrics to adult stories like 'Norwegian Wood,' which spoke of the sour side of love, and on to bigger ideas than you would expect to find in catchy pop lyrics.
My absolute favorite albums are Rubber Soul and Revolver. When you picked up Revolver, you knew it was something different. Heck, they are wearing sunglasses indoors in the picture on the back of the cover and not even looking at the camera ... and the music was so strange and yet so vivid. If I had to pick a favorite song from those albums, it would be 'And Your Bird Can Sing' ... no, 'Girl' ... no, 'For No One' ... and so on, and so on…."—Elvis Costello
- John Lennon: The Illustrated Biography
- Lennon Remembers (The interviews that Rolling Stone founder and editor Jann Wenner conducted with John Lennon and Yoko Ono in 1970)
- The Beatles Explosion: A Celebration of Beatlemania in a Rare Documentary
- Paul McCartney & Wings: Wings Over America (double CD documenting their 1976 world tour, newly remastered.)