Jun 07

CHUCK BERRY – “My Ding-A-Ling”

FT + Popular66 comments • 8,602 views

#323, 4th November 1972


I’ve rarely liked listening to other people have fun and “My Ding-A-Ling” is no exception. You can’t deny they’re having it, though, except maybe the people who won’t sing, pursued by Chuck Berry with a slightly worrying fervour (obviously everyone was singing, but he still sounds strangely like Graham Norton’s character on Father Ted). Berry’s enjoying himself most of all – or else he fakes it very well – so I’ve no time for the people who think of this as a blot on the man’s copybook, and good for him if he made some money off it. Hard to imagine this scrappy bag of dick jokes being any kind of hit even a few years later, though.



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  1. 31
    Marcello Carlin on 14 Jun 2007 #

    Their routine to Gilbert O’Sullivan’s second number one was legendar(il)y (bad).

    Also from 1982: “Abracadabra” by the Steve Miller Band, again over the end credits but featuring a magician whom they’d obviously engaged at competitive rates from the classified ads section of The Stage performing highly original tricks with doves, glass-bottle-bottle-glass, rabbits &c. “Abracadabra,” you see (what they did there?).

  2. 32
    Chris Brown on 14 Jun 2007 #

    Not a terribly relevant comment, but I thought it might be worth mentioning that this is the first chart-topper since ‘My Sweet Lord’ that I actually have a copy of. Bit of a gap for me, the early Seventies.

  3. 33
    Anthony on 18 Jun 2007 #

    i love this song, for its freedom, and its low key obscenity, and its unadulrated joy.

  4. 34
    Rosie on 18 Jun 2007 #

    This was also a fixture on the Sphinx Bar jukebox. This time it was accompanied, not only by bad beer and pies, but also by a certain caste of student (presumably Engineers) bellowing along to it!

  5. 35
    Brian on 21 Jun 2007 #

    for CB fans re: Johnny Be Good


  6. 36
    Mike Jones on 31 Oct 2007 #

    So many of these early-’70s #1s evoke specific childhood memories (Mouldy Old Dough/School’s Out will forever been spliced together in my head with the zzzzcchuppp sound of my brother’s cassette recorder going in and out of rec-pause as we taped the audio off the TOTP Xmas ’72 broadcast).

    This one has stirred a memory from an end-of-term “disco” at my primary school in, I guess, summer ’78. It was a disco in the sense that we were allowed to bring in records and play them while we all sat at our desks eating crisps and drinking pop. I don’t believe dancing was encouraged. After Sweet, Blondie, Slade, Abba, whatever, came this. The girl who brought it in seemed a bit nervous about handing it over to the teacher; the record provoked gales of laughter (though I wasn’t sure why it was so funny) and the teacher (Mrs C4ulf13ld, I think) asked the girl, “Is it supposed to be funny?” Girl shrugged, producing a fiercer “I asked you, is it supposed to be FUNNY?” Girl was reduced to tears, disco was swiftly brought to an end.

  7. 37
    richard thompson on 23 May 2008 #

    Those TOTP drawings were drawn by Rolf Harris I have “reason to believe”, though this was the first time I had heard of Mr Berry as well, as I was 10 then, haven’t seen any repeated performances of it since and haven’t heard the long version yet.

  8. 38
    and everybody elses Mark G on 23 May 2008 #

    The long version is mostly consisting of Chuck teaching the chorus and telling the girls to sing “My” and the boys to sing “ding-a-ling”…

    Which is why he got a big laugh about one guy singing “my”

  9. 39
    ian mccolm on 11 Jul 2008 #

    Just discovered this site a few days ago : managed to hold my tongue on Comments till I got to this one.

    Fact 1 : this IS a truly appalling record
    Fact 2 : You can take jokes from some musicians, but CB is not one of them, due the mostly superb (as against just OK) music he had made up till then.

    This is surely just CB being incredibly lazy and earning loads of money.

  10. 40
    Erithian on 11 Jul 2008 #

    Welcome on board Ian, and don’t hold your tongue any more!

  11. 41
    Mark G on 11 Jul 2008 #

    Hell, the dude deserved a payday/testimonial!

  12. 42
    Mark G on 11 Jul 2008 #

    So was there ‘future parliament out there singing”?

    I always wondered. well, maybe not always…

  13. 43
    Erithian on 11 Jul 2008 #

    Mark – see point 3 in my posting #1!

  14. 44
    Modernairio on 1 Aug 2008 #

    It just hit me after enjoying this recording – dumb whiiipeeples singing along! The girls sang MY and the boys sang DINGALING! Ha!

    And Chuck’s “its a free country!” rings of gay black humor! Kick ass subversive Rock song in the spirit of Rock!

  15. 45
    Clairybums on 18 Jan 2009 #

    Richard, I know i’m a bit late… I am so glad someone else knows about the Rolf Harris drawings. I actually remember watching top of the pops that day. I was hoping there might be some footage on youtube but this is the only site I managed to find anything about it.

    Ahhhhh, the good old days!

  16. 46
    Cumbrian on 13 Nov 2010 #

    I’m currently watching Chuck Berry (and Rocking Horse – presumably his backing band for that particular night) on BBC4 and it inspired me to look up this entry.

    As opposed to just listening to the record, it becomes apparent on watching that Chuck’s mugging constantly through most of his numbers – not just this but also Memphis, Tennessee, Carol, Roll Over Beethoven et al. As such, this is, on one level, an accurate reflection of Chuck’s character (previously obvious from the lyrics – particularly on my own personal favourite No Particular Place To Go – but writ large in performance). Unfortunately, it is about the only thing that it does have going for it. I’d just about have preferred any of Chuck’s records to get to #1 instead of this. Thankfully, as far as my perception of him goes, it’s little more than a footnote – for me, it’s not overshadowing any of his classic singles from earlier in his career – and I doubt I am alone in this perception.

    Other things coming out of the show that’s on right now for me; I have to admit he is a good showman (notwithstanding my knowledge of his reportedly difficult behaviour with the bands he uses for backing) – I’ve got to say, I’d still pay good money to go and see Chuck now, if this is any indication of what he is still capable of (admittedly, this footage looks to be at least 35 years old, if not more).

    Also, well done Chuck for using basically the same opening guitar line (the Johnny B Goode lick) on every single above mid tempo tune in his set. Great job turning one, admittedly pretty great, trick into legendary status. Him and Bo Diddley – peas in a pod in some respects.

    Following this is The Culture Show special on Keith Richards – I assume he’s going to cop to nicking all of Chuck’s ideas, we shall see…

  17. 47
    wichita lineman on 13 Nov 2010 #

    The Chess documentary that preceded the Chuck special was noticeably mute on this, they just said that Chess hit the skids in 1970 and was gone by ’75; some transatlantic number ones tend to spoil the narrative.

    Not only was Chuck more than capable of bettering this bad joke, so were Liverpool group Rockin’ Horse who made a gorgeous album around this time – Merseybeat updated for the early 70s, super-melodic but wildly out of synch with everything bar Badfinger

  18. 48
    Cumbrian on 13 Nov 2010 #

    I was out with the girlfriend and only got back in to see the very end of the Chess Doc – one for iPlayer I reckon, as I am sure it was interesting. As with every doc though, it doesn’t surprise me that they’ll alter the narrative, however slightly, to keep to time constraints and streamline towards the aspects of the tale that they want to tell. I’ll take it with the usual pinch of salt.

    Presumably there are some decent books about Chess out there WL? Any ideas as to a worthwhile read? Christmas is coming up after all.

    Interesting note on Rocking Horse too – I’d never heard of them, being a child of the 80s (despite my interest in music well preceding my arrival) – will be worth a look.

  19. 49
    wichita lineman on 13 Nov 2010 #

    There’s a short book called Machers And Rockers on the Chess story, mostly from the business angle, which is good. It ends in 1969. And Universal put A Complete Introduction To Chess out this year, a cheap, well annotated 4cd set, nicely put together, which starts with Jackie Brenston’s Rocket 88 and ends with My Ding A Ling (huzzah!).

    Rockin’ Horse were put together by Jimmy Campbell, one of those lost Liverpool stars who everyone in the city seemed to know. Maybe his best single was in 1967, under the name 23rd Turnoff: Michaelangelo is one of the dreamiest, wooziest pieces of British psychedelia. French horn, mellotron, phasing, drop dead melody. Amazing.



  20. 50
    Jimmy the Swede on 13 Jan 2011 #

    Did anyone catch that excellent offering from Radio 2 last night with Pam Grier outlining the history of funk? Extremely interesting. The most fascinating part for me was when she mentioned “a bunch of white boys from Scotland” who recorded for Atlantic records. This was of course The Average White Band, who took the US by storm with “Pick Up The Pieces”, which was such a huge hit that it topped the mainstream pop chart there. Grier admitted that most Americans assumed that the AWB were a domestic outfit and black. The eventual revelation that they were foreign and white came as a surprise to most and a total shock to some. No less a personage than James Brown, who I’m sure fitted into the second category, responded with an offering recorded under the name The More Than Average Black Band. Two members of the AWB interviewd for the Radio 2 show very diplomatically insisted that this action by Brown was the ultimate compliment to their own work from one of the great masters. I can personally remember others in this country who did not agree and accused Brown of going off on a strop. Pointless to speculate, I suppose. What was funnier for me was when it was also mentioned that AWB members backed Chuck Berry on “My Ding-A-Ling”, which Marcello touched on at the top of this thread. This is terrific, even if it doesn’t alter the awfulness of this truly wretched record.

  21. 51
    Cumbrian on 13 Jan 2011 #

    @49: A belated thanks for the tips: I shall look them out. I must have just missed your original post back when it was made (I was out of the country for a couple of days starting the 13th and it must have dropped off the front page by the time I got back).

    That 23rd Turnoff track is pretty good. I didn’t turn up much when I went searching for Roundabout back when I watched the Chuck performance in November. I should probably give them another crack on the evidence of the posted track.

    @50: Missed that – much like the Chess Doc I missed up thread, sounds like it’s one where I’ll have to hit the iPlayer.

  22. 52
    punctum on 6 Mar 2011 #

    Apropos general R’n’R revival trend in ’72, here’s the latest TPL entry and there is a part of me that wishes that compilation albums still came out in this totally haphazard way: http://nobilliards.blogspot.com/2011/03/various-artists-25-rockin-rollin-greats.html

  23. 53
    Ed on 9 Mar 2011 #

    @52 Another one that fits perfectly into your trend, again from 1972 (at least as a single), is this:


    By a strange piece of coincidence I have been rediscovering it, prompted by him being booked for Glastonbury.

    In its love for 50s rock’n’roll, and its genuine hatred of the proto-prog of Byrds, Dylan, Beatles and Stones, it is more passionately back-to-basics than the Ramones or The Clash.

    Don Mclean as the true godfather of punk, anyone?

  24. 54
    punctum on 9 Mar 2011 #

    Well, that’s a new perspective for sure.

  25. 55
    Erithian on 9 Mar 2011 #

    Ed – the “Vincent” thread might be a good place for this debate!

  26. 56
    Conrad on 10 Mar 2011 #

    Re 50, talking of the James Brown offering – as self-effacing tribute band names go, The Below Average White Band always tickled me

  27. 57
    Ed on 10 Mar 2011 #

    #55 Thanks. There are some great comments there. I will ride my broken-backed horse in that direction.

  28. 58
    Lazarus on 27 Nov 2011 #

    Another one disinterred by The Kid on Smooth this evening. Time hasn’t improved it, sadly.

  29. 59
    richard thompson on 28 Feb 2012 #

    The black and white footage of TOTP on you tube is the same as the programme that was on BBC4 with one verse cut out and the colour xmas Rolf Harris version, though I recall seeing drawings for the one lost episode of TOTP with photos of Mr Berry, at the end of the song I’m sure he sings I wanna play with my dick before saying everybody my oh my.

  30. 60
    Lena on 21 Dec 2012 #

    C’mon let’s rock ‘n’ roll with the Osmonds: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/green-bubblegum-osmonds-crazy-horses.html Thanks for reading, everyone!

  31. 61
    Mark G on 20 Mar 2013 #

    #42, #1(pt.3) also:

    A recent Wire interview (The band, not the magazine)

    Graham Lewis: “I was the last off the bus, and as I was removing my last bag our eyes met and I said ‘hello’ and (Chuck Berry) said ‘hi’. I said ‘I saw you play in Coventry in 1971, which was the gig where you recorded ‘My Dingaling’. I was on the production crew for the gig when I was at art school’

    “You know that’s future members of post-punk band Wire out there singing !???”

  32. 62
    Adam on 22 Mar 2015 #

    A 1 from me… I have a completely irrational hatred of this song and can’t get through ten seconds. I’ll forgive the Brits but the fact this was Chuck’s only #1 Stateside is certainly a bigger sin than Engelbert/Strawberry Fields debacle. (Obligatory Chuck Berry Is Still Alive Reminder)

  33. 63
    Kinitawowi on 22 Mar 2015 #


  34. 64
    Jimmy the Swede on 18 Mar 2017 #

    RIP Chuck. A true rock and roll legend and indeed pioneer. 90, a great knock.

  35. 65
    lonepilgrim on 30 Nov 2018 #

    Young and innocent/ignorant at the time this hit number 1, I was bewildered by what made this (apparently) so funny. Older and ignorant in different ways I still don’t find it amusing. There’s a laconic drawl to Chuck’s delivery that raises it above complete inanity but otherwise I don’t care for it

  36. 66
    Gareth Parker on 6 May 2021 #

    (#10) Bob Dylan’s Mr Tambourine Man was also a UK Chart topper (for the Byrds). As for Chuck, Tom’s right with the 2/10, in my view.

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