Johnny B. Goode

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For the posthumous live album by Jimi Hendrix, see Johnny B. Goode (album).
"Johnny B. Goode"
Single by Chuck Berry
from the album Chuck Berry Is on Top
B-side "Around & Around"
Released March 31, 1958
Format 7" 45 RPM, 10" 78 RPM
Recorded January 6, 1958, Chess Studios, Chicago, Illinois
Genre Rock and roll
Length 2:41
Label Chess
Writer(s) Chuck Berry
Producer(s) Little "Bongo" Kraus
Chuck Berry singles chronology
"Sweet Little Sixteen"
(1958)
"Johnny B. Goode"
(1958)
"Beautiful Delilah"
(1958)
Audio sample
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"Johnny B. Goode" is a 1958 rock-and-roll song written and first recorded by Chuck Berry. The song was a major hit among both black and white audiences, peaking at number 2 on Billboard magazine's Hot R&B Sides chart and number 8 on its Hot 100 chart.[1]

The song is one of Berry's most famous. It has been covered by many artists and has received several honors and accolades. It is also considered one of the most recognizable songs in music history. The song is ranked as number seven on Rolling Stone's list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time"[2]

Composition and recording[edit]

Written by Berry in 1955, the song is about a "country boy" who plays a guitar "just like ringing a bell," and who might one day have his "name in lights."[3] Berry has 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.[4] 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.[3] The song was initially inspired by Johnnie Johnson, the regular piano player in Berry's band,[5][6] 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.[3]

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.[7] Neither the guitar intro nor the solo are played at once. Berry played the introductory parts together with the rhythm guitar and later overdubbed the solo runs.[8]

Berry wrote two other songs involving the character Johnny B. Goode—"Bye Bye Johnny" and "Go Go Go"—and released an album of instrumental tracks entitled Concerto in B Goode.

Musicians[edit]

Legacy[edit]

Berry's recording of the song was included on the Voyager Golden Record, attached to the Voyager spacecraft as representing rock and roll, one of four American songs included among many cultural achievements of humanity.

When Chuck Berry was inducted into the first Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on January 23, 1986, he performed "Johnny B. Goode" and "Rock and Roll Music", backed by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.[9] The Hall of Fame included these songs and "Maybellene" in their list of the 500 songs that shaped Rock and Roll.[10] It was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999, for its influence as a rock and roll single.[11]

In the 1984 film Threads, the song is heard three times. The first time is when core characters Ruth Beckett and Jimmy Kemp discuss the future of their relationship before the outbreak of nuclear war, in his car overlooking Sheffield. The second time is when Jimmy is at a pub, drinking with his mate. The last time is fourteen years after the nuclear holocaust, as Ruth and Jimmy's daughter Jane, heavily pregnant, struggles to find a hospital in which to give birth. The song seems to be emanating from a nightclub, pub or brothel within the devastated post-apocalyptic town.

In the 1985 film Back to the Future, Marty McFly performs the song with the fictional band Marvin Berry and the Starlighters during the "Enchantment Under the Sea" high school dance, set in November 1955.[12] Mark Campbell (of Jack Mack and the Heart Attack fame) sang the vocals and Tim May played the guitar, with Michael J. Fox shown miming to both. This scene was revisited in Back to the Future Part II (1989). During Marty's rendition of the song, Marvin telephones his cousin Chuck, to have him hear what might be the "new sound" Chuck is looking for.

During his time in World Championship Wrestling, Marc Mero wrestled under the ring name Johnny B. Badd, an homage to the song.

This song plays whenever Calgary Flames player Johnny Gaudreau scores, as well as Tampa Bay Lightning's Tyler Johnson.

Accolades[edit]

List Publisher Rank Year of publication
500 Greatest Songs of All Time Rolling Stone 7 2010
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

Cover versions[edit]

"Johnny Be Good"
Single by Judas Priest
from the album Ram It Down
B-side "Rock You All Around the World" (live)
Released 1988
Format 7" 45 RPM, 12" maxi
Recorded 1987
Genre Heavy metal
Length 4:36
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Chuck Berry
Producer(s) Tom Allom, Glenn Tipton, K. K. Downing, Rob Halford
Judas Priest singles chronology
"Ram It Down/Heavy Metal"
(1988)
"Johnny Be Good"
(1988)
"Painkiller"
(1990)

The song has been covered by a wide variety of artistes from different genres.

Country musician Buck Owens's version of "Johnny B. Goode" topped Billboard magazine's Hot Country Sides chart in 1969.[13]

Jimi Hendrix had a posthumous hit with "Johnny B. Goode", which peaked at number 35 on the UK Singles Chart in 1972[14] and number 13 on the New Zealand Top 50 in 1986.[15]

Peter Tosh's version of the song peaked at number 84 on the Billboard Hot 100,[16] number 48 on the UK Singles Chart,[17] number 10 in the Netherlands, and number 29 in New Zealand.[18]

The Rolling Stones have often played Johnny B. Goode live over the years although did not produce a studio version.

Elton John recorded a disco-flavored version on his 1979 album Victim of Love.

Johnny Winter frequently played the song live.

Judas Priest's version reached #64 on the UK Singles Chart in 1988.[14]Frontman Rob Halford was unenthusiastic about the cover, calling it "ridiculous".

The Beatles' version[edit]

"Johnny B. Goode"
Song by The Beatles from the album Live at the BBC
Released 30 November 1994 (UK)
5 December 1994 (US)
Recorded 7 January 1964, Playhouse Theatre, London, for the BBC radio show Saturday Club
Length 2:51
Label Apple
Writer(s) Chuck Berry
Producer(s) Bernie Andrews[19]

The Beatles recorded their version of the song on 7 January 1964 at the Playhouse Theatre in London for the BBC radio show Saturday Club. Chuck Berry was a favorite among the Beatles. They had 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, and several others that subsequently were released on Live at the BBC.[19]

Personnel[edit]

Personnel according to The Beatles Bible[19]

Other songs[edit]

Leo Sayer included "The Last Gig of Johnny B. Goode", a song about a fallen rock star, on his 1975 album, Another Year.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Charts & Awards: Chuck Berry – Billboard Singles". AllMusic. Rovi. Retrieved February 1, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time". Rolling Stone. April 2010. Retrieved September 18, 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Taylor, Timothy D. (2000). "Chapter 7 – His Name Was in Lights: Chuck Berry's 'Johnny B. Goode'". In Middleton, Richard. Reading Pop: Approaches to Textual Analysis in Popular Music. Oxford University Press. pp. 165–167, 177. ISBN 0-19-816611-7. 
  4. ^ "Johnny B. Goode : Rolling Stone". rollingstone.com. Archived from the original on December 28, 2006. Retrieved February 21, 2010. 
  5. ^ "Johnny Johnson". Blues Music Now. Retrieved February 21, 2010. 
  6. ^ Ratliff, Ben (April 14, 2005). "Johnnie Johnson, 80, Dies; Inspired 'Johnny B. Goode'". New York Times. Retrieved February 21, 2010. 
  7. ^ Miller, James (1999). Flowers in the Dustbin: The Rise of Rock and Roll, 1947–1977. Simon & Schuster. p. 104. ISBN 0-684-80873-0.
  8. ^ Dietmar Rudolph. "Johnny B. Goode take 3 isn't - I mean take 3 - The Chuck Berry Collectors Blog". Crlf.de. Retrieved 2016-08-29. 
  9. ^ Barker, Derek (2009). Liner notes to Bruce Springsteen's Jukebox: The Songs that Inspired the Man [CD]. Chrome Dreams.
  10. ^ "500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll by Artists (A-C)". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on May 24, 2007. 
  11. ^ "Grammy Hall of Fame – Past Recipients (Letter J)". The Grammy Awards. United States: National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Retrieved February 1, 2011. 
  12. ^ "Chuck Berry Johnny B Goode". Blues Guitar Expert. 2015-02-26. Retrieved 2015-07-14. 
  13. ^ "Charts & Awards: Buck Owens – Billboard Singles". Allmusic. United States: Rovi Corporation. Retrieved February 1, 2011. 
  14. ^ a b "Johnny B. Goode - Full Official Chart History". Official Charts Company. Official Charts Company. Retrieved 19 January 2016. 
  15. ^ ""Johnny B. Goode" by Jimi Hendrix" (ASP). New Zealand Top 50 Singles. Hung Medien. Retrieved February 1, 2011. 
  16. ^ "Charts & Awards: Peter Tosh – Billboard Singles". Allmusic. Rovi. Retrieved February 1, 2011. 
  17. ^ "Peter Tosh: Full Official Chart History". Official Charts Company. Official Charts Company. Retrieved 19 January 2016. 
  18. ^ ""Johnny B. Goode" by Peter Tosh" (ASP). australian-charts. Hung Medien. Retrieved February 1, 2011. 
  19. ^ a b c "The Beatles Bible: Johnny B Goode". Retrieved May 21, 2016. 
Preceded by
"I Love You More Today"
by Conway Twitty
Billboard Hot Country Singles
number-one single
(Buck Owens and the Buckaroos version)

July 26 – August 2, 1969
Succeeded by
"All I Have to Offer You (Is Me)"
by Charley Pride