This Beatles Song Forced Chuck Berry’s Publisher to Sue John Lennon

If someone were to tell a musician, “Play a Chuck Berry type riff,” odds are they would have no trouble coming up with what to play. Berry’s musicality was era-defining. He was a trailblazer of the guitar riff and easily recognizable decades after his heyday.

Videos by American Songwriter

Berry’s influence was duly felt in the early days of rock n’ roll. His explosive playing was firmly on the minds of subsequent rockers trying to find their way in the relatively novel genre. Needless to say, almost anyone could be accused of copying Berry–at least in an abstract way. However, one musician who was distinctly targeted for toeing the plagiarism line was John Lennon.

All Beatles fans know “Come Together.” The jaunty, if a little off-kilter, song is a Fab Four staple. However, according to Berry’s team, it was also familiar.

[RELATED: Remember When a Drunk John Lennon and Harry Nilsson Were Kicked Out of an L.A. Club for Heckling the Smothers Brothers]

It’s hard to deny the similarities between the Beatles hit and Berry’s “You Can’t Catch Me.” Both songs include the line Here come old flat-top and there are obvious allusions to Berry’s titular sound. The comparison was damning enough for Lennon to settle out of court with the publisher of “You Can’t Catch Me,” putting a stain on one of the Beatles’ signature tunes.

Elsewhere, Paul McCartney more or less confirmed Lennon’s plagiarism.

He came in, and he basically brought in a Chuck Berry song,” McCartney once said. “Chuck Berry did a song called, ‘You Can’t Catch Me,’ which starts off, ‘Here come old flattop, He go…’ It’s the exact opening line.

“I go, ‘John! Stop! That’s ‘You Can’t Catch Me,’ by Chuck Berry,” he continued. “He goes, ‘Yeah, I know! It’s good though, isn’t it?’ I said, ‘No, you’ve got to do something with it.'”

A slower tempo and a bass line later and the song was the Beatles’. Compare the two songs below.

(Photo by C. Maher/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Leave a Reply

Live 8 Concert in Canada

Deep Purple Announce Short UK Tour in 2024