Look back at The Beach Boys screaming performance of Chuck Berry’s ‘Johnny B. Goode’ from 1964
We’re dipping into the Far Out Magazine vault and having a party with The Beach Boys. Or should we say, a shindig? We’re looking back at the surfin’ Californian’s performance of Chuck Berry hit ‘Johnny B. Goode’ back in 1964.
The performance came on a Christmas episode of ‘Shindig!’ which welcomed The Beach Boys alongside other acts Bobby Sherman, The Righteous Brothers and Marvin Gaye to the variety show. Gaye would close out the evening but The Beach Boys would steal the show.
The group were on the TV show to act as the newly beating heart of the sixties among the more traditional acts. With the full group in tow, the band not only play Christmas hit ‘Little Saint Nick’ but also deliver a couple of sensational covers, ‘Monster Mash’ and ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’ being particular family-friendly highlights. But it was on their final cover that The Beach Boys would show their true identities.
During The Beach Boys performance of Chuck Berry’s rock classic ‘Johnny B. Goode’ you can see them visibly enthralled by the song. They all jive and jump without choreography and are possessed by the rock and roll spirit of the legendary duck-walking guitarist.
Berry was a huge influence on The Beach Boys and especially Brian Wilson. He told Rolling Stone, “He taught me how to write rock & roll melodies, the way the vocals should go. His lyrics were very, very good. They were unusually good lyrics. I liked ‘Johnny B. Goode,’ all about a young, little kid who played his guitar.”
“He inspired me as a lyricist,” he says. “He made me want to write about cars and surfing. I liked the lyrics to ‘Roll Over Beethoven.’ It felt like what he was doing was new.” It’s an influence that went as far as to appropriate some of the chord patterns from Berry’s ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’, “the melody and the chord pattern inspired me to write ‘Surfin’ U.S.A.’”
The guitarist clearly acted as an inspiration to Wilson, the fledgeling songwriter. It would be an influence that would dare Wilson to always push the envelope and not listen to the grey-haired men in record label offices. It would lead Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys to transcend their surf-rock roots and create timeless records that still hold high acclaim to this day.
Listening to Chuck Berry’s ‘Johnny B. Goode’ may have led Wilson and the rest of the group to great things, but when they’re playing the song, well, they’re just having a great time.
Watch The Beach Boys covering Chuck Berry’s ‘Johnny B. Goode’ on ‘Shindig!’ in 1964