Friday, February 3, 2012

Chuck Berry's Only Number One Hit - "My Ding-a-Ling" - Was Recorded 40 Years Ago Today

Posted By on Fri, Feb 3, 2012 at 6:07 AM

Chuck Berry's only number one hit -- the novelty track "My Ding-a-Ling" -- was recorded 40 years ago today in Coventry, England. - RFT FILE PHOTO.
  • RFT file photo.
  • Chuck Berry's only number one hit -- the novelty track "My Ding-a-Ling" -- was recorded 40 years ago today in Coventry, England.

What can be said about Chuck Berry's "My Ding-a-Ling" that hasn't already been said? It's a naughty crowd-pleaser that contains more double entendres than there are silver bells on a Christmas tree.

But the song holds some intriguing designations, besides that fact that it was utilized brilliantly during an episode of The Simpsons. The tune is a staple in Berry's live performances. Audiences adore singing the chorus. And to wit: "My Ding-a-Ling" happens to be Berry's only song to go to number one on the Billboard charts.

You read that right. Even though Berry created music so universally known that it was blasted into space as an example of human culture, "My Ding-a-Ling" was Berry's only number one hit on Billboard's Hot 100 charts.

The version of "My Ding-a-Ling" that actually went to number one happened to be recorded in Coventry, England, on this day in 1972. Berry was headlining the Lanchester Arts Festival, a performance that later was released as The London Chuck Berry Sessions.

Although the tune was released on July 1972, it didn't actually make its way up the charts until October of that same year. Boston disc jockey Jim Connors is credited with "discovering the song," which according to official biography was not a one-time occurrence.

Even though "My Ding-a-Ling" isn't as direct in its vulgarity as other songs out there, it still caused a stir in the oh-so-innocent 1970s. British morals crusader Mary Whitehouse, for instance, took aim at the song in the 1970s.

But while "My Ding-a-Ling's" success may perturb purists who believe something more accessible -- like "Johnny B. Goode" or "Roll Over Beethoven" -- was Berry's biggest hit, it's undeniable that it has made an impact within the music world. Perhaps music critic extraordinaire Robert Christgau put it best:

Even "My Ding-a-Ling," a fourth-grade wee-wee joke that used to mortify true believers at college concerts, permitted a lot of twelve-year-olds new insight into the moribund concept of "dirty" when it hit the airwaves.

The song changed again when an oldies crowd became as children to shout along with Uncle Chuck the night he received his gold record at Madison Square Garden.

To partly echo Jamie Lees' article from last year about the need to see Chuck Berry right now, it really doesn't matter whether "My Ding-a-Ling" was a second coming of a "Day in the Life." It's Chuck Berry. And from Berry's own words, maybe the song has a deeper meaning than anybody imagined.

"It happens to be a song of togetherness," Berry said during a 1972 performance. "If it wasn't for togetherness, I wouldn't be here. And, uh, none of the rest of you would be here either."

Maybe that quote is really all that needs to be said about "My Ding-a-Ling." Enjoy:

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