Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Brown-Eyed Handsome Man

It seems Chuck Berry's recording of "Brown-Eyed Handsome Man" appeared in 1956, but I recall hearing it on a 75 rpm in the early 1960s. My father's second job then was tending bar at night, and sometimes he came home with 75's that had been removed from the juke box. That's how I first heard "Folsom Prison Blues," an excellent formative song for a young lad.

There's immense wit and joy in some early rock-n-roll songs, and Berry's song's an excellent example of this. There's also a lot more than meets the ear in the lyrics.

Anyway, here's a link to a video that captures a performance of the song by Robert Cray, with Mr. Berry and Keith Richards assisting. All of the verses still make me laugh. A bonus is the sub-titles.


And here is a link to an audio recording of the original:


Not long ago, Sun Records released a compilation of old cast-off recordings featuring Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Elvis Presley goofing around in the Sun Records studio [which one may still see as it was in Memphis], and over the course of several cuts, they mess around with "Brown Eyed Handsome Man," and it's clear the song is one they wished they'd written. As Mr. Berry did in the original recording, they pronounce "Milo" [Venus de Milo, or 'Milo Venus,' in the song] "Marlo." Charming. "Milo Venus was a beautiful lass./ She had the world in the palms of her hands./She lost both her arms in a 'rasslin' match/To get a brown-eyed handsome man--she fought and won herself a brown-eyed handsome man."
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