Reelin' & A-Rocking Down Under!

Reelin' & A-Rocking Down Under!




Sure Chuck Berry had his biggest hits in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s but it could be said that it was the ‘70s was his decade too. The first half of the ‘70s in particular – that was the time when EVERYONE played a Berry song or two. By then – obviously thanks to the Beatles and Stones in the early and mid ‘60s, and subsequently the back to roots movement that followed psychedelia in the late 60s - everyone realised that his songs were the bedrock on which Rock was built and his influence was absolutely ubiquitous.

In Australia it was no different to the rest of the world. Indeed two of Australia’s biggest bands even served as Chuck’s backing band at different points. Daddy Cool’s drummer Gary Young and late bassplayer Wayne Duncan served as Chuck’s rhythm section in Australia in ’72, and a few years later the Keystone Angels, who would shortly become just the Angels, did the honours.

So, in memory of the late and great and very merry Mister Chuck Berry, and to show what he meant to us Aussies, let’s have a listen to some of the best Aussie covers of his songs from the ‘70s (with a couple from the ‘60s and one from the ‘80s in there for good measure). If you can think of any other good ones, let us know!


First up, a stonking version of one of the standards from early Melbourne pub rock perennials, Buster Brown, featuring a not-yet-bald Angry Anderson and a pre-AC/DC Phil Rudd. Did Angry ever figure out what scholastics meant, we wonder?

Buster Brown - "Roll Over Beethoven"


We recently posted about Angus’s love of Chuck Berry. Although the only Berry song AC/DC have recorded is "School Days" on TNT (High Voltage in the US), they covered others, including "Nadine" and "No Particular Place to Go" back in the very early days, when Dave Evans was their singer.

 AC/DC - "School Days"


LOVE this! The Warumpi’s, from very early on – 1981 – before they broke out of the Territory. Originally from a cassette only released on CAAMA before they ever made a record. Finally reappeared with a handful of other tracks from the same session on Festival’s Warumpi Band 4 Ever 2CD set a couple of years ago.

Warumpi Band - "The Promised Land"

No doubt Angus’ love of Chuck Berry ran in the family, just like great songwriting and great guitar playing did. Here’s older brother George playing some Chuck, from one of the Easybeats' very first recording sessions.

Easybeats - "Little Queenie"

Skyhooks guitarist Bongo Starkie is a massive Chuck Berry fan and continues to perform the man’s songs when he plays today. It’s no surprise that the first cover the ‘Hooks ever released was a Chuck Berry cover; they had something of a hit with this great live version in ’77. For a recently remastered version of this and all the ‘Hooks hits, check out the great Hits’n’Riffs collection from 2015.

Skyhooks - "Let It Rock"


With an entire shtick derived from the ‘50s, it’s no surprise that the Fives did a bunch of Chuck tunes - this one, and a version of "School Days" featured on their Take It Greasy album, whilst a great run through of "Roll Over Beethoven" appreared on their FivesLiveJive LP. For all that and more, get your hands on the recent Time To Rock’n’Roll Ol’55 anthology.

Ol’55 - "Almost Grown"


This great live recording from 1979 showed up on the expanded and remastered version of the Falcons' classic Screaming Targets album a couple of years back, alongside countless bonus tracks, including a whole disc of live stuff. Last time we saw the Falcons a couple of months ago they cranked out a great version of "Carol". Chuck Berry’s music is indeed timeless.

Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons - "The Promised Land"

Yep, Chuck had a big influence on Glam Rock, just like he later had on Punk. Catch Les Gock leading Sydney’s great Glamsters Hush, here live at Sydney Town Hall in pre-colour TV days…  

Hush - "Johnny B. Goode"


Like Ol’55 later on, Daddy Cool’s collective head was very much in the ‘50s so there were no shortage of Berry tunes in their repertoire. DC were one of the first bands in the world to revive the ‘50s stuff, and they did it better than anybody. Fans including Elton John, Marc Bolan and Tom Petty would no doubt agree! RIP Hanna and Wayne.

Daddy Cool - "You Never Can Tell"


The Sports in their early days followed very much in the Melbourne roots music wake of Daddy Cool in the ‘70s, so no surprise to hear they covered Chuck too. Although they probably knew that Chuck didn’t write this one – his record was based on a 1940 recording by Tampa Red. This storming live track was recorded live in ’78 and was one of a bounty of bonus tracks on the expanded edition of Sports' debut album Reckless that came out a couple of years ago.

Sports - "Don’t You Lie To Me"


Moving into the ‘80s now, the Mentals began life as an inner city R&B / rockabilly-type combo in the late-ish ‘70s, so they would’ve no doubt done more than their fair share of Chuck songs back in the day. This neato cover came fairly well into their career, featured in Yahoo Serious’s Young Einstein film and was a decent hit.

Mental As Anything - "Rock’n’Roll Music"

Okay this is an obscure one. This fab Sydney R&B band from the mid-late ‘70s (who are now back together by the way) were not only a formative influence on both the Mentals and the Cockroaches, but also pals with Radio Birdman, and their bassplayer was EMI house producer Rod Coe who produced both Slim Dusty and the Saints (I’m) Stranded album! Yep they were connected but back in the day they only managed to release one record, a great little 7” EP which featured this great track.

Mangrove Boogie Kings - "Dear Dad"

Deniz Tek always maintained that it was the Stones and not the Stooges or the MC5 who were his band’s chief influences, so no surprises that they would cover a Berry track made famous by the Stones. Although this is another one that Chuck didn’t write - the tune was written by Bobby Troupe and Nat King Cole had the first hit with it in 1946. It’s Chuck’s rocking cover of it that we, the Stones and Birdman loved though. Check out Birdman’s "Route 66" on this red hot Double J session from ’76 and enjoy an extra 20 or so minutes of prime Radio’s as a bonus!

Radio Birdman - "Route 66"


They started off as Australia’s answer to Black Sabbath, but by mid-decade they were a slide driven (thanks to former Band of Light slideman Norm Rouse) bar room blues band. Within in a couple of years, bassplayer Peter Wells would be playing slide in Rose Tattoo and singer Dave Tice would be across the water, fronting London pub rock greats, the Count Bishops.

Buffalo - "Little Queenie"

Jumping back to the mid-‘60s to one of the greatest Aussie bands of all time, who reckoned that Chuck Berry along with the likes of Bo Diddley, Jimmy Reed and Elmore James were the ‘masters’, so they called themselves the Master’s Apprentices. Check out how Jim Keays intro’d their rather sloppy cover of "Johnny B Goode" on their much-loved 1967 debut album.

Master's Apprentices - "Johnny B. Goode"

The La De Das probably held a position in New Zealand that was akin to where the Masters were at here in Australia in the late 60s, but they moved to Aus and became blues and R&B hitmakers in the ‘70s. Singer Phil Key split not long after they arrived to form the mighty Band of Light, but not before scoring a couple of local smashes and performing this fab version of "Round & Round" on GTK.

La De Das - "Round & Round"

After Phil Key’s departure, hotshot guitar wiz Kevin Borich stepped forward and took over lead vocal duties. The hits kept coming for a while, and this raunchy, almost glammy version of an obscure Berry 1959 tune (written by Billy Davis actually) was a national smash in ’74. 

La De Das - "Too Pooped To Pop"


Kevin Borich had competition in the guitar hero stakes in the early ‘70s no doubt, and the most iconic of the lot was the great Lobby Loyde, who first came to prominence in the mid-60s in the Purple Hearts. By the early ‘70s, after a stint with Thorpie, Lobby was out front of the incredible Coloured Balls, heard here taking "Johnny B Goode" into boogie overdrive at Sunbury ’73.

Coloured Balls - "Johnny B Goode"

And speaking of boogie overdrive… Thorpie was king in the early ‘70s - he loved his classic ’50s rock’n’roll, and he loved to crank the shit out of it. Here he medleys Chuck with a Little Richard classic and an Elvis rocker, and tries to tear the world a new one!

Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs - "Roll Over Beethoven"


We’ll finish off with yet another version of "Roll Over Beethoven". From Thorpie’s hero – the Real Wild Child himself – JO’K!

Johnny O’Keefe - "Roll Over Beethoven"

- DL

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