JJ 04/60: Chuck Berry – Let It Rock / Too Pooped To Pop


“Let It Rock” is typical of Chuck Berry’s better performances – the amount of swing generated is breath-taking, and the lyrics, for a change, are interesting (“In the heat of the day, down in Mobile, Alabama/Workin’ on the rail­road with a steel drivin’ hammer/Gotta get some money, buy brand new shoes. . . “).

The playing time is very short and the echo thunderous, but the essential qualities remain, and anyone who cannot feel and appreciate them does not, I am sure, understand the nature of American Negro music. For, although the collector of blues, work-songs, rhythm-and-blues, New Orleans and early mid-Western jazz may have some justification for feeling that modern jazz, although often excellent musically, is lacking in content, the modern fan who dislikes folk jazz and who finds Chuck Berry ” vulgar” is thereby merely demonstrating his own ignorance and immaturity.

The music of the Negro did not suddenly become of age with Ellington or Charlie Parker – it was whole, complete art in the form of the early work songs, spirituals, hollers and blues. And it is within this folk tradition that people like Chuck Berry continue – it is with them, not with Miles, that you will find the essen­tials defined by the very earliest folk performers.

“Too Pooped” is a novelty number, and of little interest to anyone over the age of ten.
Tony Standish

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