Flash: The King is Cranky

This just in:

Chuck Berry's got a dark side.

Oh yeah and there's steroids in baseball, Britney Spears has given new meaning to the phrase "white trash" and the blood and treasure maw that is the war in Iraq isn’t going to work out for the best.


This illuminating fact was highlighted by Taylor Hackford, the director of Hail!, Hail! Rock 'n' Roll, the biopic about Berry that’s seeing a 20th anniversary re-release. One of a handful of music films that can truly be called great, Hail!, Hail! was hell, hell to make, thanks to its subject, for whom the term "dark", doesn’t even begin scratch the surface. Chuck is epically secretive and unfathomable. Ever hear of the so-called "toilet tapes" debacle? Read all about it and other Berry episodes in Pamela Des Barres chronicle of rock's wreck and ruin, Rock Bottom: Dark Moments in Music Babylon. . In the Reuters story I read about the DVD re-release, Hackford calls Berry "a major sexual animal." Given Chuck's predilection towards litigiousness, I’d say about 30 seconds elapsed after that story was published before he heard from one of Berry’s barristers.

None of this should be too shocking. Berry (THE MAN as far as I'm concerned), Elvis (who was never the king but merely a prince), Jerry Lee Lewis (a species other than human): I mean c’mon, choir boys could not have invented rock 'n' roll. Inventing the devils music means you almost have become one yourself. It's entirely appropriate that Chuck's unpredictable and onry. Cuddly ain't in the rock and roll dictionary.

The funny part is that as hard as the original generation of rock stars lived and as much ungodly shit as they’ve been through, self-inflicted and otherwise, they’re all still alive. Chuck is 79 and still doing one nighters. I've saw one of the once a month gigs he does at Blueberry Hill in St. Louis and all I gotta say is Johnny (still) B. Goode.

Adam Sohmer's picture

He's Chuck Berry. His catalogue is one of the most important in the history of popular music. He overcame record company a*****es and assorted vermin who tried to rip him off, so let him get paid in advance with a bag of cash and whatever else he wants. We owe him. Big time.