Chuck Berry: 20 Essential Songs

"Johnny B. Goode," "Roll Over Beethoven" and other masterpieces that laid the groundwork for rock & roll as we know it

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"Tulane" (1970)

Berry returned to Chess Records after years at Mercury with his 1970 album Back Home, and its standout track is one of his great later gems. With a taut, rollicking riff, "Tulane" is a funny, detailed story song with timely lyrics about a pair of hippie pals who run a "novelty shop," specializing in "the cream of the crop." When the place gets busted and one of them ends up in "a rotten, funky jail," they're able to call in "a lawyer in the clique of politics" to get the whole thing fixed. In a simple, fun two-and-a-half-minutes, Berry is able to poke loving fun at the counterculture he helped create while pointing out some light American class hypocrisy.  

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