Hail! Hail! Top 10 songs inspired by Chuck Berry

From the Beatles and Beach Boys to Motörhead, the biggest names in music were so influenced by Berry they sometimes had to give him a writing credit. Here are the songs that owe a debt to the father of rock’n’roll

Ramones – Sheena Is a Punk Rocker

As Berry observed in Jet Lag magazine in 1980: “These guys remind me of myself when I first started. I only knew three chords, too.” Lots of punk was Chuck Berry, beefed up to the point of absurdity.

The Beach Boys – Surfin’ USA

The first great, defining Brian Wilson song was initially credited to him alone. From 1966 on, it was admitted Surfin’ USA was just Sweet Little Sixteen with different words, and the credit ran: Wilson/Berry.

Watch an early live performance of Surfin’ USA

The Beatles – Come Together

John Lennon settled out of court when sued over the lyrical resemblance between this and Berry’s You Can’t Catch Me. The Beatles’ debt to Berry was explicit.

The Rolling Stones – Little Queenie

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards bonded over Chuck Berry, and his songs featured in their live shows for decades.

T Rex – Jeepster

Glam rock owed a huge debt to Berry, and Marc Bolan owed a greater debt than most. Jeepster is a distinctly Berryish shuffle and boogie.

Dr Feelgood – All Through the City

Wilko Johnson’s hero was Mick Green, but the riff to this early standout from their career was pure Berry. And since Dr Feelgood inspired Gang of Four, there’s a direct link to post-punk.

MC5 – The American Ruse

The proto-punk godfathers covered Berry on their second album – and harnessed his guitar style to revolutionary sloganeering on The American Ruse.

Motörhead – (I Won’t) Pay Your Price

Lemmy loved 50s rock’n’roll above all else, and this track from their second album is structured exactly like a Berry song, with the same bounce on the beat.

Fleetwood Mac – Albatross

Peter Green’s slow blues might not be an obvious choice – but listen to it next to Berry’s Deep Feeling and you’ll see the link.

Faces – You’re So Rude

Berry’s brilliance as a lyricist is overlooked. In this classic, Ronnie Lane channelled his bawdiness in a very English way in his own writing, which is Berryish musically, too.


Michael Hann

The GuardianTramp

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