How Chuck Berry's lesser tunes fell on my adolescent ears

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Chuck Berry.


I called my brother John immediately upon hearing the sad news. "I know you're calling about Chuck Berry," John said.
Chuck was indeed my teenage rock 'n roll idol.
It's great that he got to live a full life, unlike my other R 'n R idol, Sam Cooke.
In addition to his guitar-playing and duck-walk, I was impressed by Berry's song writing.
In addition to Maybellene, School Days, Johnny B. Goode, Sweet Sixteen, and the other classics, I was impressed, as a wanna be writer, by the way the lyrics of his lesser tunes fell on my adolescent ears growing up in Hartford.
Lyrics, if memory serves, of such tunes as:

"Too Much Monkey Business"
Salesman talkin' to me - tryin' to run me up a creek.
Says you can buy it, gone try - you can pay me next week, ahh!
Too much monkey business. Too much monkey business.
Pay phone - something wrong - dime gone - will hold
I ought to sue the operator for spinning me a tale- ahh!
Too much monkey business. Too much monkey business.

Workin' in the fillin' station - too many tasks.
Wipe the windows - check the tires - check the oil - dollar gas!
Too much monkey business. Too much monkey business.
Don't want your botheration, get away, leave me!

Oh, Nadine
Honey, is that you?
Seems like every time I see you
Darling you got something else to do

I saw her from the corner when she turned and doubled back
And started walkin' toward a coffee colored Cadillac
I was pushin' through the crowd to get to where she's at
And I was campaign shouting like a southern diplomat

Nadine, honey is that you?

Oh, Nadine
Honey, where are you?
Seems like every time I catch up with you
You are up to something new

Downtown searching for 'er, looking all around
Saw her getting in a yellow cab heading up town
I caught a loaded taxi, paid up everybody's tab
Flipped a twenty dollar bill, told him 'catch that yellow cab

Nadine, honey is that you?...

"No Particular Place to Go:
Riding along in my automobile
My baby beside me at the wheel
I stole a kiss at the turn of a mile
My curiosity runnin' wild
Crusin' and playin' the radio
With no particular place to go

Riding along in my automobile
I was anxious to tell her the way I feel
So I told her softly and sincere
And she leaned and whispered in my ear
Cuddlin' more and drivin' slow
With no particular place to go...

"You Never Can Tell"
They had a hi-fi phono, boy, did they let it blast
Seven hundred little records,
all rock, rhythm and jazz
But when the sun went down,
the rapid tempo of the music fell
"C'est la vie", say the old folks,
it goes to show you never can tell


"Brown Eyed Handsome Man"
Milo Venus was a beautiful lass
She had the world in the palm of her hand
But she lost both her arms in a wrestling match
To get brown eyed handsome man
She fought and won herself a brown eyed handsome man

But don't get me started....

Les Payne is a former editor at Newsday and winner of the Pulitzer Prize in journalism

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