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Chuck Berry’s Finest Deep Cuts: 10 Overlooked Gems

Delve deeper into the rock originator’s legacy with a selection of great tracks that goes beyond the huge hits

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Go beyond Chuck Berry's biggest hits with our list of 10 great overlooked tracks.

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Chuck Berry‘s peak years of artistic genius produced many classics beyond his
well-known hits. He was still making great recordings in the 1970s and even
the 1980s. Here are 10 obscure must-hear gems from throughout his
career.

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“Wuden’t Me” (1979)

“Promised Land” and “Brown Eyed Handsome Man” were coded race parables. The lead track from Berry’s last original album, Rock It, was explicit: Our hero runs a stop sign in the South, gets in trouble with his mouth and is tossed in jail with “no phone, no bail, no plea.” So he breaks out, gets chased by a Grand Dragon posse and seven bloodhounds. “Just meters from a canine jubilee” he’s saved by a kindly trucker – who’s wearing a “Swasti-KKK” armband. Vowing self-reliance (“That’s when he knew he had to get on, help himself/Instead of sitting, depending on somebody else”) he disappears into the woods, bound for freedom.

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“Oh What a Thrill” (1979)

Celebrating love and sex and music, as ever. And as much a phrasemaker as ever: “squeezing and teasing and pleasing the evening away,” “All the clouds from the west go east to confess it’s spring,” “those same sweet songs of a golden yesterday.” This tune was covered by Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe’s Rockpile a year later, but with less of the easy sunshine and simple joy of being granted the privilege of staying the night with that beautiful someone.

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“Wee Wee Hours” (1986)

Chuck idolized Muddy Waters and wanted to play the blues. But he was better at inventing rock & roll. He lives out his original dream, though, on this 1986 live take of the B-side of “Maybelline,” recorded at the 60th birthday concert captured in the documentary Hail, Hail Rock & Roll. Keith Richards leads a band that includes Berry’s original piano man, Johnnie Johnson; Eric Clapton joins on vocals and guitar. Johnson’s right hand swirls in rapture, and Clapton delivers a typically impressive B.B. King-style solo. “Take another one,” Chuck calls out. So Clapton does, unfurling impossibly rapid-fire notes that bend time, then slowing down to show how much sustained double-string bending and bell ringing he – and everyone else – learned from Berry himself.

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