“When I woke up the next day I was a different guy”. For me that is the most memorable sentence from Keith Richards’s “Life”. It describes the effect on him of hearing Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel” on Radio Luxembourg one night. As it says on page 58 of my hardback edition:
“That was the stunner. I’d never heard it before, or anything like it. I’d never heard of Elvis before. It was almost as if I’d been waiting for it to happen. When I woke up the next day I was a different guy.”
The link to the song that I was using three years ago has been taken down in the UK but this link works for now.
On his 6Music Radio Show a while back John Cooper Clarke said something similar about “Sister Ray” by the Velvet Underground. If you’ve never heard it before, he advised, shut yourself away for the required 17 minutes and 30 seconds and listen to the song uninterrupted, maybe through headphones. When you leave the room you will not be the same person you were when you entered it. If you haven’t heard it before you can try it here, if you have 20 minutes to yourself. (You might need a few minutes after it ends to compose yourself)
I came across a third example of this concept in “Hound Dog”, the interview-based autobiography of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, co-writers of hits for Elvis Presley, The Coasters, Peggy Lee and many others. Jerry Leiber (the lyricist in the duo) talks about his time working the graveyard shift at Clifton’s Cafeteria in downtown LA. One night, carrying a tray of dirty dishes into the kitchen, he heard Jimmy Witherspoon’s “Ain’t Nobody’s Business”, and it had this effect on him:
“I can’t explain my reaction, but at that very moment I was transported into a realm of mystical understanding. The light came on. Witherspoon turned on the light. Maybe it was the power and absolute confidence of his voice. Maybe it was the lyrics … Whatever it was, I was never the same again … The doors had opened. I had entered his world.”
I have no doubt come across this idea in other places but these are the only three instances that come readily to mind, and I don’t have a recording or transcript of John Cooper Clarke’s advice regarding “Sister Ray”. I have echoed this sentiment over the last year myself to describe how I felt after listening to every UK #1 single, in chronological order, something I set out to do last autumn. Most of it came from this playlist on Spotify, but some artists (notably the Beatles) are not available, so their songs are performed by tribute acts. In most cases I found the original versions of their songs after hearing whichever tribute band version was used on Spotify. Looking back I probably played all 1300+ songs in too short a period of time (just over a month). Perhaps I should have played no more than a year’s worth of songs per day, and maybe used the principle of 5:2, taking two days off every week. It would have then taken over three months to play every UK #1 single. The sequence begins with Al Martino’s “Here in my heart”. When it was over (Adele’s “Hello” was #1 at the time) I was not the same person as when I began, and not in a good way.