opening day 1996/1997
opening day 1998/1999

chuck berry

After a layoff while I took care of some other business, we're back to the Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums of All Time with #21, The Great Twenty-Eight, a compilation of Chuck Berry singles. Singles artists are always short-changed in lists of great albums, none more so than artists from the 50s, before albums became the primary outlet for pop music. If you were only able to choose two figures to represent the entire history of rock and roll music, one of those two would be Chuck Berry, so the #21 ranking is a bit unfair, even if it is consistent with the notion that a list of great albums should be, in fact, a list of albums rather than anthologies. Suffice to say that only two of the first 26 albums on the list are singles compilations, one for Elvis and one for Chuck, and you'll understand how important those two were.

It is entirely appropriate that a Chuck Berry song was launched into outer space in the mid-70s, so that distant civilizations would better understand America. Elvis may be the greatest rock and roll artist, but Chuck Berry is the one about whom you say, "without him, there is nothing." He was the first poet laureate of rock and roll, and he gave us our best-known anthems. Elvis lived the story of "Johnny B. Goode," but Chuck Berry wrote it ... and there's an alternate history of rock and roll hidden beneath the fact that Berry originally wrote the song about a "colored boy named Johnny B. Goode" but changed it to "country boy" to broaden the song's appeal.

On a personal note, Chuck Berry also headlined the first rock concert I ever attended, playing the Fillmore along with Eric Burdon and the Animals and the Steve Miller Blues Band. Miller's band backed up Berry for his sets, part of which ended up on Berry's album Live at the Fillmore Auditorium. It's not a bad way to introduce yourself to rock and roll shows, watching Chuck Berry.

Simply put, there is no album you can buy that is a better collection of songs than Chuck Berry's The Great Twenty-Eight.