Johnny B. Goode - "like a ringing a bell"

Kirill V.

Senior Member
Russian
Hello, everyone!

He could play the guitar like a ringing a bell
I think "like a ringing a bell" means "very well"... Is this a common expression, or perhaps sort of slang "deep down Louisiana"?

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" .... There stood a log cabin made of earth and wood
Where lived a country boy named Johnny B. Goode,
Who never ever learned to read or write so well
But he could play a guitar just like a ringin' a bell."

 
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  • heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I'd say it means that in contrast to the previous line 'He never ever learned to read or write so well', he could play the guitar naturally or instictively. And effortlessly - like ringing a bell.

    Note that this is a song, and in songs and poetry the choice of words is often as much to do with rhyming (well - bell) as meaning.

    Another view is: '"He could play the guitar just like a-ringing a bell," Berry sings in the first verse — a perfect description of his sound and the reverberations still running through every style of rock guitar, from the Beatles and the Stones on down.' Copied from here (cltampa.com Tampa Bay Creative Loafing)
     

    Kirill V.

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Oh, yes... "a-ringing" simply = "ringing"! Then it's an understandable metaphor.

    What I was confused about is what "a" had to do with "ringing", so I thought maybe it was a special slang / old-fashioned / standard expression perhaps having certain historical roots... I am sorry. Now I see. Thanks a lot!!
     

    JustKate

    Moderate Mod
    No, it's really not common, particularly with that "a" before "ringing." I just checked several lyric sites, and some render this "like ringing a bell," which makes the most sense to me, and some "like a ringing a bell," which is what it sounds to me that he's actually singing. Assuming the latter is the correct lyric, my guess is that a more accurate rendering of this would be "like a-ringin' a bell," as suggested by Heypresto and Cyberpedant. That a- in some dialects (including that of my mother-in-law) acts as sort of an intensifier - that he's not just ringing a bell but he's ringing a bell really loud.


    But whatever the lyric actually is, I would interpret it the meaning the same, and that is that he was playing clearly, loudly and tunefully. "Clear as a bell" is a very common expression, and my guess is that "like a-ringin' a bell" is related to that expression.
     

    Kirill V.

    Senior Member
    Russian
    That a- in some dialects (including that of my mother-in-law) acts as sort of an intensifier - that he's not just ringing a bell but he's ringing a bell really loud.

    But whatever the lyric actually is, I would interpret it the meaning the same, and that is that he was playing clearly, loudly and tunefully. "Clear as a bell" is a very common expression, and my guess is that "like a-ringin' a bell" is related to that expression.
    Thanks, I think I do get it now!
     
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