Chuck Berry: “No Particular Place to Go”
To say that Chuck Berry invented rock ‘n’ roll is barely a stretch. Along with just a handful of other musicians in the 1950s, he is responsible for many of what are now thought of as rock ‘n’ roll’s stereotypical moves, rhythms, riffs, etc. At the time, it was revolutionary and changed the landscape of popular music. The fact that his songs still hold up today are proof that he was creating a timeless sound, which you hear again and again throughout many of rock’s greatest songs by many of its greatest artists. Where would the Beatles, Stones, Beach Boys, and many other great artists have been without Chuck Berry?
Of course, his style and sound were repeated again and again throughout his own output as well. In a sense, if you’ve heard one Chuck Berry song, you’ve heard most of them — that definitive intro guitar lick and chugging rhythm, classic as they are, carry through a majority of his songs. That guitar lick gave teens of the day notice that they better get out on the dance floor if they weren’t already there, because it was time to rock with Chuck! That was true throughout the late ’50s, and continued that way when he returned from a 2-year federal prison stint (for a violation of the Mann Act that I’ll leave for you to look up elsewhere) to find the Beatles conquering the world in 1964. But given that their early material was heavily Berry-influenced, his sound was still very welcome and he came out with guitar blazing later that year with St. Louis to Liverpool (an obvious title nod to the Beatles, of course).
That album contained some great songs, and aside from a possible improvement in sound quality, you’d be hard-pressed to otherwise separate them from his earlier classics (when I was younger, I used to be under the impression that every Chuck Berry song, save for the ridiculous early ’70s song, “My Ding a Ling,” came into being simultaneously…apparently from some sort of Rock ‘n’ Roll Big Bang). And what I would have to consider my favorite Chuck Berry song, “No Particular Place to Go,” comes from that album. It’s one of rock’s greatest driving songs, all about cruising in his car and blasting the radio with his girl by his side. It’s a very funny song as well; after he parks and wants to go somewhere quiet with her but is unable to get her seatbelt undone, it contains the immortal lines:
Riding along in my calaboose
Still tryin’ to get her belt a-loose
All the way home I held a grudge
For the safety belt that wouldn’t budge
It’s great imagery set in some great rock ‘n’ roll music…a song that will connect with music fans for years to come.