Johnny B. Goode
|"Johnny B. Goode"|
|Single by Chuck Berry|
|from the album Chuck Berry Is on Top|
|B-side||"Around and Around"|
|Released||March 31, 1958|
|Recorded||January 6, 1958|
|Genre||Rock and roll|
|Producer(s)||Little "Bongo" Kraus|
|Chuck Berry singles chronology|
"Johnny B. Goode" is a 1958 rock-and-roll song written and first recorded by Chuck Berry. The song was a major hit, peaking at number two on Billboard magazine's Hot R&B Sides chart and number eight on its Hot 100 chart.
"Johnny B. Goode" is considered one of the most recognizable songs in the history of popular music. Credited as "the first rock & roll hit about rock & roll stardom", it has been recorded by many other artists and has received several honors and accolades. The song is also ranked seventh on Rolling Stone's list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".
Composition and recording
Written by Berry in 1955, the song is about an illiterate "country boy" from the New Orleans area, who plays a guitar "just like ringing a bell", and who might one day have his "name in lights". Berry acknowledged that the song is partly autobiographical and that the original lyrics referred to Johnny as a "colored boy", but he changed it to "country boy" to ensure radio play. As well as suggesting that the guitar player is good, the title hints at autobiographic elements, because Berry was born at 2520 Goode Avenue, in St. Louis. The song was initially inspired by Johnnie Johnson, the regular piano player in Berry's band, but developed into a song mainly about Berry himself. Johnson played on many other recordings by Berry, but Lafayette Leake played the piano on this song.
The opening guitar riff of "Johnny B. Goode" is essentially a note-for-note copy of the opening single-note solo on Louis Jordan's "Ain't That Just Like a Woman" (1946), played by guitarist Carl Hogan. Berry, in accordance with his custom, first recorded the intro and rhythm guitar and later overdubbed the other solo runs.
Berry wrote four more songs involving the character Johnny B. Goode, "Bye Bye Johnny", "Go Go Go", "Johnny B. Blues" and "Lady B. Goode"; and titled an album, and the nearly 19-minute instrumental title track from it, as "Concerto in B. Goode".
In The Guardian, Joe Queenan wrote that "Johnny B. Goode" is "probably the first song ever written about how much money a musician could make by playing the guitar", and argued that "no song in the history of rock'n'roll more jubilantly celebrates the downmarket socioeconomic roots of the genre". In Billboard, Jason Lipshutz stated that the song was "the first rock-star origin story", and that it featured "a swagger and showmanship that had not yet invaded radio."
When Chuck Berry was inducted during the first Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony on January 23, 1986, he performed "Johnny B. Goode" and "Rock and Roll Music", backed by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. The Hall of Fame included these songs and "Maybellene" in their list of the 500 songs that shaped rock and roll. It was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999, for its influence as a rock and roll single.
This song was featured in the 1985 time-travel film Back to the Future and in its 1989 sequel, although from a different perspective, and in one of the main scenes of the 1973 coming-of-age comedy-drama American Graffiti. The song is featured several times in the 1984 nuclear-war film Threads The song also appears in the 1995 JRPG EarthBound as Frank Fly's battle theme.
|List||Publisher||Rank||Year of publication|
|500 Greatest Songs of All Time||Rolling Stone||7||2004|
|100 Greatest Guitar Tracks||Q||42||2005|
|100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time||Rolling Stone||1||2008|
|Top 3000 Songs||Acclaimed Music||6||N/A|
|500 Songs That Shaped Rock||Rock and Roll Hall of Fame||N/A||1995|
|50 Greatest Guitar Solos||Guitar World||12||2009|
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The song has been recorded by a wide variety of artists in different genres.
The Beatles recorded a version of the song on January 7, 1964, at the Playhouse Theatre in London for the BBC radio show Saturday Club. The Beatles' version featured John Lennon on vocals and rhythm guitar, Paul McCartney on bass guitar, George Harrison on lead guitar, and Ringo Starr on drums. Chuck Berry was a favorite of the band members. They previously and subsequently recorded versions of other songs by Berry, including "Roll Over Beethoven", released on the album With the Beatles in 1963, and "Rock and Roll Music", released on Beatles for Sale in 1964, along with several others that subsequently were released on Live at the BBC.
Elvis Presley performed the song in many of his concert appearances from 1969-1973. Recorded live versions can be heard on two Elvis concert albums: Elvis in Person at the International Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada from 1969 and Aloha from Hawaii Via Satellite in 1973.
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