Remembering the moment Chuck Berry and John Lennon jammed on ‘Johnny B. Goode’
“If you had to give rock and roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry.” – John Lennon
We’re diving into the Far Out Magazine vault to bring you the meeting of two rock and roll icons as John Lennon, Yoko Ono and rock ‘n’ roll’s forefather, Chuck Berry, share the stage to jam on the iconic hit, ‘Johnny B. Goode’.
The occasion happened when in 1972, John Lennon and Yoko Ono took over the US TV programme The Mike Douglas Show for a whole week. The mere thought of the duo gracing the screens at this point must’ve kept producers very intrigued as to what the pair may do and they didn’t disappoint with this Berry session undoubtedly the highlight.
Leaving the stars in charge bookings for a week turned out to be, not only a socially conscious affair, but also provide one of the musical world’s most legendary moments as two of rock ‘n’ roll’s leading figures converged in one studio. Chucky Berry joined The Beatles’ own John Lennon to perform ‘Johnny B. Goode’ and ‘Memphis Tennesee’.
Other guests on Lennon and Ono’s show included Ralph Nader, Jerry Rubin, and Surgeon General Dr. Jesse Steinfeld to complete what was certainly an interesting array of speakers. Opening up the programme to a brand new audience was what the producers of the show had hoped for when booking the pair—we’re unsure if that ever really happened in any sort of meaningful way. They also hoped Lennon and Berry could provide a memorable performance, this we’re certain that they did.
Lennon, like many musicians his age, was a huge fan of Berry often citing him as one of his main musical influences. In fact, for much of The Beatles early songwriting career, he and Paul McCartney would trade their lyrics and songs and they’d both be undoubtedly influenced by one man, Chuck Berry. “To us, he was a magician making music that was exotic, yet normal, at the same time,” Paul McCartney wrote on his website following Berry’s death. “We learnt so many things from him which led us into a dream world of rock & roll music.”
Back to the show and Lennon was equally as complementary to the star as he said: “He was writing good lyrics and intelligent lyrics in the 1950s when people were singing ‘Oh baby I love you so, it was people like him that influenced our generation to try and make sense out of the songs rather than just sing ‘do wah diddy.’”
He told Rolling Stone in 1971: “He is one of the all-time great poets, a rock poet you could call him,”. He continued: “He was well advanced of his time lyric-wise. We all owe a lot to him, including Dylan. I’ve loved everything he’s done, ever. He was in a different class from the other performers.”
The moment came at a good time for Berry, with nostalgia for the fifties growing in 1972 the stage was set for a small comeback. Berry even released some new music during the time. He did flirt with major success but his return to the top of the bill was short-lived.
More importantly than selling records, is this meeting of two great minds provided a wonderful moment and lucky enough we can all re-watch it right here.
Take a look below as John Lennon and Chuck Berry jam on ‘Johnny B. Goode’ back in 1972.