Michael J. Fox recalls putting pressure on himself to nail the guitar parts in Back to the Future’s iconic Johnny B. Goode scene

For adults of a certain age, Michael J. Fox’s electric guitar performance of Johnny B. Goode in 1985’s Back to the Future – a scene in which he accidentally invents rock ‘n’ roll by playing the song to a crowd of high schoolers in 1955 – is as iconic as the actual Chuck Berry recording itself.

Now, in a new interview with Empire, Fox, who plays guitar (he is rumored to have once auditioned for Canadian glam metallers Helix) reveals that he put pressure on himself to nail the scene to the best of his ability.

“When I did the Johnny B. Goode scene, I had a great guitar teacher who taught me how to play,” he said.

“I said to [director] Bob [Zemeckis], ‘When I do this scene, I play guitar, so you can finger sync me. Feel free to cut to my hands any time you want.’ Having said that, it put pressure on me to get it fucking right. So I had this guy named Paul Hanson, who was my guitar teacher.”

Fox goes on to state that it wasn’t just about playing the guitar parts correctly – he wanted to move right as well.

“For about four weeks we worked this piece and at the same time I was working with this choreographer for Madonna,” he recalled.

“I said, ‘I dance like a duck. I can’t dance. But what I’d like to do is incorporate all the characteristics and mannerisms and quirks of my favorite guitarists, so a Pete Townshend windmill, and Jimi Hendrix behind the back, and a Chuck Berry duck walk.’

“And we worked all that in, and he made it flow. It was moments like that when you don’t think, I’m tired or I feel pressure to do this. You just do it and have a blast.”

In other Back to the Future-related news, Chicago-based Doner Designs recently paid tribute to the movie’s time-traveling DeLorean with the Time Machine bass, featuring flashing lights, a selectable destination year display and, of course, a device resembling a flux capacitor.

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Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.