That Time Chuck Berry Reviewed the Ramones, The Clash, and Sex Pistols
“I only knew three chords, too,” Chuck Berry, who died Saturday at the age of 90, commented on the Ramones in an interview with the now-defunct Jet Lag zine.
The year was 1980, and the publication picked the legendary guitarist’s brain about the new music at the time. Specifically, punk rock. It’s an interesting time capsule from one of the progenitors of rock-n-roll. Most comical, however, is Berry’s possessiveness over the sounds. Claiming how some of these bands “threw in [his] riffs for good measure.”
The Sex Pistols — “God Save the Queen”
What’s this guy so angry about anyway? Guitar work and progression is like mine. Good backbeat. Can’t understand most of the vocals. If you’re going to be mad at least let the people know what you’re mad about.
The Clash — “Complete Control”
Sounds like the first one. The rhythm and chording work well together. Did this guy have a sore throat when he sang the vocals?
The Ramones — “Sheena is a Punk Rocker”
A good little jump number. These guys remind me of myself when I first started, I only knew three chords too.
The Romantics — “What I Like About You,” 20-20 — “Oh Cheri,” The Beat — “Different Kind of Girl”
Finally something you can dance to. Sounds a lot like the sixties with some of my riffs thrown in for good measure. You say this is new? I’ve heard this stuff plenty of times. I can’t understand the big fuss.
The Gladiators — “Sweet So Still,” Toots and the Maytals — “Funky Kingston,” Selector — “On The Radio”
This is good, real smooth and soulful. Real good to bump and shuffle to. Sounds a bit like my old buddy Bo Diddley, only a little slower I tried something similar once on a song called “Havana Moon.”
Talking Heads — “Psycho Killer”
A funky little number, that’s for sure. I like the bass a lot. Good mixture and a real good flow. The singer sounds like he has a bad case of stage fright.
Wire — “I Am the Fly” and Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures
So this is the so-called new stuff. It’s nothing I ain’t heard before. It sounds like an old blues jam that BB and Muddy would carry on backstage at the old amphitheatre in Chicago. The instruments may be different but the experiment’s the same.