When Chess Records kept Chuck Berry’s release schedule of the early 1960s active with a new live album, it was a tactic that paid dividends. Chuck Berry On Stage had already become his first US chart album, a couple of months earlier, when it entered the UK chart on October 5, 1963 on its way to becoming his first Top 10 LP there.
Listen to Chuck Berry On Stage right now.
Strangely, the great rock‘n’roller from St. Louis had made his UK album chart debut before his American one, reaching No.12 with a self-titled set released by Chess earlier that year. It’s both a travesty and a mystery that his first run of scintillating LPs, including After School Session, One Dozen Berrys and Chuck Berry On Top, didn’t chart on either side of the Atlantic. In fairness, those appeared in the days when the shiny new 45 rpm single was king, and albums usually of secondary importance.
Energy, live or not
Chuck Berry On Stage was a collection of many of his best-known songs to that point, including “Maybellene,” “Memphis, Tennessee,” “Sweet Little Sixteen” and “Brown Eyed Handsome Man.” It purported to be recorded at the Tivoli Theatre in Chicago, but while many observers have since noted that the applause has the overdubbed feel of many “live” releases of the time, it nevertheless captures the sheer energy of Berry’s songcraft and guitar brilliance.
The album, which peaked at No.29 in the US, entered the UK chart at No.13. It went on to spend five weeks in the top ten, twice reaching No.6. The original 13-track release was later augmented into the 25-track edition below. In the week of the LP’s British debut, Chuck also arrived on the now less publicized EP chart with the Pye release of his combined offering with his fellow rock‘n’roll frontiersman Bo Diddley, Chuck and Bo.
As Chuck also prepared for a major Top 10 hit in the UK with the double-headed “Let It Rock” and “Memphis, Tennessee,” Record Mirror observed that he was “one of the spearheads of the R&B rage, which is exploding chart-wise.”
Chuck Berry On Stage can be bought here.
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