The Johnny B Goode paradox

Posted by Chris Hornby on August 27, 2015 Our Blog | | No comments


For this blog I’m focusing in on one of our most-played songs, and the song we *usually* choose to wrap up a set with, Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B Goode”.

This is probably his most famous and popular song (coming in at number 7 on Rolling Stone’s 500 greatest songs of all time) and it’s the perfect pairing to Roll Over Beethoven which is an even faster Berry number.

However, it’s also nicely paired with another one of our songs “Power of Love” because they BOTH appear in one of the most iconic films of all time, 1985’s Back to the Future Part 1*

The song is a basic 12 bar blues riff, played by us in C, and the arrangement of it in the film is very similar so let’s just brush over the fact that none of the instruments appear to be plugged in, plus there are no PA speakers, but it’s so loud that Marvin Berry (a fictional cousin of Chuck) has to shout in one of the side scenes…. if you haven’t watched the clip above, do so now…
Iin the film Marty McFly (played by Michael J Fox) tells the audience “this is an oldie, where I come from”; he pauses, unsure what to tell the crowd as Marty is in 1955, and it’s still 3 years until the song is actually released. He launches into a rendition of the song (again, just ignore that nothing is plugged in) and Marvin Berry (the lead singer of the band who are playing at the Enchantment under the sea dance and Chuck Berry’s fictional cousin) scuttles off to make a phone call to Chuck.

He holds the phone up and gives him an earshot of the song that Marty McFly is currently blasting out….


“Chuck, it’s your cousin, Marvin. Marvin Berry. You know that new sound you were looking for? Well listen to this”

So here’s the dilemma. Marty McFly knows the song because he’s probably heard it thousands of times in 1985, and them Marvin Berry phones Chuck Berry and introduces him to the song, which he’s written.

Who wrote the song? Marty or Chuck?

*I was five when this film came out, and I went to The Regal in Northwich TWICE to see it, because I was absolutely mad about cars and there was something utterly fascinating about turning a car into a time machine. I hated part III because the car got crushed.


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