Chuck Berry

Too Much Monkey Business

Song Review by

By all accounts, Chuck Berry has long been a man not eager to part with a dollar unless it's absolutely necessary, and he held on to his day job as a hairdresser while playing guitar at night for quite some time until he was certain rock & roll paid better than hair styling. It's a little surprising, then, that Berry hasn't written more about the life of a working stiff, but when he did approach the subject on "Too Much Monkey Business," he came up with a doozy. "Runnin' to and fro/Hard workin' at the mill/Never fail, in the mail/Here come a rotten bill," Berry spits after a ringing staccato guitar into, and he sings the line with enough venom that you'd think the guy had just punched out after a shift at a steel mill. Chuck also shares his views on less-than-honest salesmen ("Say you can buy, go and try it/You can pay me next week"), dealing with telephone company ("Pay phone, somethin' wrong/Dime gone, will mail/I oughta sue the operator/For tellin' me a tale"), career opportunities in the military ("been to Yokohama/Been fightin' in the war/Army bunk, Army chow/Army bunk, Army corps"), and life in the service industries ("Workin' in the fillin' station/Too many tasks/Wipe the windows, check the tires, check the oil/Dollar gas!"). Throughout, Berry makes no effort to hide his disgust with having to work so long and so hard for so little, and to have so many people try to bilk him out of a buck; the annoyed "ahhh!" that ends most of the verses rings with an everyman's disgust, and his shout of "I don 't need your botheration!" at the end is truly inspired. The lean, wiry melody and insistent rhythms of Berry's performance speak of a man in the midst of an honest venting session, and while his verses on the perils of romance and the annoyance of school sound like they were thrown in to make the song ring truer for Chuck's usual audience, in context they sound all of a piece. Being a Chuck Berry song, "Too Much Monkey Business" spawned a fair number of cover versions over the years, but perhaps the oddest tribute to the song came when the Allman Brothers Band used the last two lines of the seventh verse as the title for its 1976 live album, Wipe the Windows, Check the Oil, Dollar Gas.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
After School Session 1957 Chess 2:56
No Image 1960 Pye
No Image 1964
No Image 1964 Chess
No Image 1976 Chess
The Great Twenty-Eight 1982 Chess 2:54
No Image 1983 Chess
No Image 1985 JEM / Passport
No Image 1986
Various Artists
Hail, Hail Rock 'N Roll 1988 Charly Records
The Chess Box 1988 Chess 2:53
Let Me Hear Some of That Rock and Roll Music! 1989 Peter Pan (ISP) 3:04
No Image 1990 Chess 0:00
Chess Rhythm & Roll 1994
Various Artists
Chess / MCA 2:55
Vintage Collectibles, Vol. 11: 1956-1969 1995
Various Artists
Universal Special Products 2:54
His Best, Vol. 1 1997 Chess 2:56
Member's Edition 1998 AAO Music
The Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Album of All Time 1999
Various Artists
Dressed To Kill 2:51
Rock 'N' Roll Hits 1999 Dressed To Kill 2:51
The Anthology 2000 MCA / Chess 2:56
Johnny B. Goode [Legacy] 2000 Legacy 2:50
Chuck Berry/More Chuck Berry 2002 Beat Goes On 2:55
Roots of Rock [Acrobat] 2003
Various Artists
Columbia River Entertainment Group
Mojo Chess Originals 2005
Various Artists
Chess 2:55
Reelin' and Rockin': The Very Best of Chuck Berry 2006 Universal Distribution / Chess / Universal International 2:55
Universal Masters Collection 2006 MCA 2:58
The Definitive Collection 2006 Geffen / Chess 2:55
Ultimate Chuck Berry 2007 UMVD 2:55
Maybellene [Goldies] 2007 Golden Stars 2:55
Yow 2007
Primo Records 2:58
The Rock 'N' Roll Explosion: 120 Hits That Rocked the World 2007
Various Artists
Acrobat Music 2:55
Johnny B. Goode: His Complete '50s Chess Recordings 2007 Hip-o Select 2:55
The Ultimate Collection, Disc 1 2007 Spectrum Music 2:55
Oh Yeah! Live in Detroit 2009 Geffen / Universal 3:32
60 Bar-B-Que Sizzlers 2010
Various Artists
Big 3 / Proper Records / Proper UK 2:56
Johnny B. Goode: His Greatest Hits 2010 ZYX 2:53
After School Session/Chuck Berry Is on Top 2011 Beat Goes On 2:56
Rocks 2011 Bear Family Records 2:56
Lipstick, Powder & Paint: The New York Dolls Heard Them Here First 2013
Various Artists
Ace 2:56
The Complete Chess Singles As & Bs 1955-1961 2015 Acrobat Music 2:55
Greatest Hits [10Ten Media] 2016 10Ten Media / Zebralution
The Singles, Vol. 3 2017 Cayenne Records
20 Greatest Hits Black Tulip
300 Hits: Rock 'n' Roll
Various Artists
Bellevue Publishing / Wienerworld 2:56
50 Favourites from the 50's
Various Artists
Gralin Music
50 Original Rhythm and Blues HiFi Hits, Vol. 2
Various Artists
Hifi Hits
Back in the USA: The Best of Chuck Berry Gralin Music
In the 1950s Chrome Dreams 2:56
Kings of Swing, Vol. 4
Various Artists
Sound and Vision
Red River Rock [Bellevue]
Various Artists
Bellevue Publishing 2:56
No Image
The Greatest R&B Hits of 1956, Vol. 2
Various Artists
Acrobat Music 2:56
The History of Rock 'n' Roll, Vol. 5 [Excalibur]
Various Artists
No Image Chess
You Can't Catch Me Snapper 2:55