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Chuck Berry's Reviews of Old Punk Records Are Wonderful

A rediscovered 1980 interview from 'Jet Lag' has the rock 'n' roll icon taking on The Sex Pistols, Joy Division, and The Ramones.

by Alex Robert Ross
Mar 19 2017, 5:47pm

Chuck Berry, who died yesterday at the age of 90, was a pioneer, an icon, and an idol. He was "rock's greatest practitioner, guitarist, and the greatest pure rock 'n' roll writer who ever lived," Bruce Springsteen wrote yesterday. "He didn't help define or was part of the fabric," according to Questlove, "he literally was THE STANDARD of rock n roll." Alice Cooper tweeted that "all of us in rock have now lost our father." All of these tributes echo John Lennon: "If you tried to give rock 'n' roll another name, you might call it 'Chuck Berry,'"' he famously said. It's impossible to imagine the past 60 years of American culture without Berry's influence.

Among the tributes, one of the greatest items to re-emerge in the last 18 hours is a copy of a St Louis-based zine called Jet Lag. All the way back in 1980, still in their first year of publishing, the zine sat down with Berry and asked him to review a new brand of pioneers—the punk rock and new wave bands who were dominating at the time. The brilliant, often hilarious short reviews were originally uncovered by DangerousMinds.net in 2013 and republished by Louder Than War this morning. 

Berry wonders why Johnny Rotten was so angry, muses on David Byrne's stage fright, and remarks that both Wire and Joy Division "ain't nothing I ain't heard before." Read Berry's punk reviews below and take a look at the original scans of Jet Lag beneath that.

The Sex Pistols' "God Save the Queen":
What's this guy so angry about anyway? Guitar work and progression is like mine. Good backbeat. Can't understand most of the vocals. If you're going to be mad at least let the people know what you're mad about.
The Clash's "Complete Control":
Sounds like the first one. The rhythm and chording work well together. Did this guy have a sore throat when he sang the vocals?
The Ramones' "Sheena is a Punk Rocker":
A good little jump number. These guys remind me of myself when I first started, I only knew three chords too.
The Romantics' "What I Like About You":
Finally something you can dance to. Sounds a lot like the sixties with some of my riffs thrown in for good measure. You say this is new? I've heard this stuff plenty of times. I can't understand the big fuss.
Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer":
A funky little number, that's for sure. I like the bass a lot. Good mixture and a real good flow. The singer sounds like he has a bad case of stage fright.
Wire's "I Am the Fly" and Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures:
So this is the so-called new stuff. It's nothing I ain't heard before. It sounds like an old blues jam that BB and Muddy would carry on backstage at the old amphitheatre in Chicago. The instruments may be different but the experiment's the same.

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