Xavier Valiño dives among the Spanish versions of Chuck Berry’s songs and chooses a dozen of the most interesting.
Selection and texts: XAVIER VALIÑO.
Chuck Berry passed away just over a month ago. The father of rock and roll well deserved a tribute in Efe Eme. We begin here a series of reviews of his great songs in four installments. The first covers ten of the versions of his songs that have been made in Spanish and their respective alternatives (with an adaptation in Galician).
1. ‘Good chords’ by J. Teixi Band (“Good news”, 2001)
Is it a version, an adaptation, an original? Only the group knows it, but the truth is that the song appeared on the second album by J. Teixi Band as composed by Javier Teixidor. And, if you listen to it alongside Chuck Berry’s ‘Dear Dad’, they seem to be the same theme. Strange that its author did not receive a mention on an album in which there were three other perfectly credited versions.
Alternative: Caamagno Family: ‘Bule, bule, Rundolph’ (‘Run Run Rudolph’)
2. ‘Carol’ by Bruno Lomas with Los Rockeros (“Verano Llegado”, 1965)
The Valencian rocker Bruno Lomas included this version of Chuck Berry’s’ Carol ‘in one of the six epés that he published between March and December 1965. In this he was accompanied by two ballads that were in style then and another version, specifically of’ Melancolía ‘by the Italian Peppino di Capri. ‘Carol’, after ‘Memphis Tennessee’, is the Berry song that has had the most versions in Spanish, Siniestro Total, Els Dracs or Los Pumas, among others.
Alternative: The Dragons: ‘Carol’
3. ‘School Days’ by Johnny Comomollo and his Rhythm Gangsters (single ‘School Days’, 1982)
Yes, it sounds like ‘No Particular Place to Go’ or ‘Big Ben Blues’, but this is specifically a version of ‘School Days’ by Chuck Berry. It happens that Berry, displaying a fairly profitable economy of means, used the same melody in all three songs with little variation. The translation into Spanish was carried out by Johnny Comomollo and his Rhythm Gangsters in the early 80’s. “Good, good rock and roll to dance soaked in alcohol.”
Alternative: Los Pumas: “Carol”
4. ‘The train of happiness’ from Sombras de Frac (“New romantics”, 1982)
This ephemeral band from A Coruña released a single album at the beginning of the 80s. And although they titled it as one of the styles in vogue at the time, the “new romantics”, the truth is that they were closer to rock, as the versions that included show: Slade, Street Boys and this ‘The Happiness Train’ which, although it may not seem so because of its particular lyrics, is nothing more than a version of Chuck Berry’s ‘Memphis Tennessee’.
Alternative: Bruno Lomas: ‘Memphis Tennessee’
5. ‘Memphis’ by Los Locos del Ritmo (“Los Locos del Rhythm Vol VI”, 1965)
‘Memphis Tennessee’ is, without a doubt, the Chuck Berry song that has had the most adaptations in Spanish, with greater or lesser success. It was published by the Mexican rock pioneers Los Locos del Ritmo in 1965, after modifying the group’s first name, Pepe y sus Locos, after finishing second in a television contest for new musical talents in the United States.
Alternative: The Black Cats: ‘Memphis Tennessee’
6. ‘Who was going to suppose it’ by Santiago & Luis Auserón (“The bad tongues”, 2006)
The Auserón brothers joined forces in 2006 to record an album of covers by, among others, Otis Redding, The Velvet Underground, Eddie Cochran, The Kinks and The Troggs. They also included their adaptation of ‘You Never Can Tell’ by Chuck Berry, a song that twelve years earlier had reached its maximum popularity for the remembered dance of Uma Thurman and John Travolta in the film “Pulp Fiction”, one of the most memorable scenes of the history of cinema.
Alternativa: Mocedades: ‘C’est la vie’ (‘You Never Can Tell’)
7. ‘Rock and roll music’ by Sandro y los del Fuego (“In the heat of Sandro y los del Fuego”, 1965)
Precursors of Argentine “national rock”, their first name after forming in 1960 was Los Caniches de Oklahoma. Three years later, with their definitive name, they had specialized in recording Spanish versions of The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis … Chuck Berry too, of course, as his adaptation of ‘Rock and Roll Music’.
Alternative: Tony Vilaplana: ‘Mabellene’ (‘Maybellene’)
8. ‘San Carlos Club’ by Los Sírex (“Los Sírex interpret their own songs”, 1964)
In their fourth epé for the Vergara record company, Los Sírex included ‘San Carlos Club’, a tribute to the venue on Calle Mayor de Gracia (Barcelona) where they performed frequently during 1963. As did the J. Teixi Band, as we have already done. commented, Los Sírex also signed it as their own, although in reality it was nothing more than a version of the classic ‘Route 66’ by Bobby Troup that Chuck Berry had brought to the world of rock.
Alternative: Pappo: ‘Route 66’ (‘Route 66’)
9. ‘If I do it for you’ by Los Sírex (single ‘Eternidad’, 1966)
Two years later, Los Sírex recorded another version of Chuck Berry, this time crediting its author, in a single that had a song of its own on its face, ‘Eternity’. The side B, ‘Yes, I do it for you’ was his adaptation of a Berry song that had not had such an impact, ‘I’m Talking About You’.
Alternative: Caesar and his Senators: Conference (‘Memphis Tennessee’)
10. ‘Come Johnny, come’ from Black Cats (“I was born for you”, 1965)
In their fifth epé as Los Gatos Negros, and the first for the Vergara label, the group presented two songs of their own, a version of an Italian song and another version by Chuck Berry, ‘Johnny B. Goode’, which would not be the first or the last they would make of the American rocker, in this case providing a certain novelty with his organ arrangement.
Alternative: The Blue Pants: ‘Johnny, be nice’
‘Chuck Berry Fields Forever’ by Antonio (“Antonio”, 1980)
It is not a version, but in ‘Chuck Berry Fields Forever’ Antonio Flores joined a blues-rock of torn diction in which he paid homage to Chuck Berry by melting it in his title with the well-known Beatles song ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’.