POST ELVIS SONGS OR RECORDS THAT CHANGED YOUR LIFE!!!!
Self-explanatory, I think, so no arbitrary rules this time. Except that we're specifically talking here about singles or album cuts, NOT whole albums (a topic for another time). Also, I'm disqualifying anything by The Beatles on the grounds that there are just too damned many tunes by the Fabs to choose from and that they're a little too obvious choices in any case.
Okay, and my totally top of my head Top Nine, in chronological order, would be:
9. The Rolling Stones -- It's All Over Now
The Valentinos original of this (featuring Bobby Womack) is superficially similar -- two guitars, bass and drums, and a singer up front -- but if you've ever heard it, you know that it's actually kind of jolly. The Stones rethink keeps the basic arrangement model intact, but the guitars are stripped down to ominous Travis-picking meets scrubbed metal Chuck Berry, and the whole thing is invested with a palpable sense of menace completely unprecedented in pop music at the time. Plus: the concluding fade-out, with those circular guitar riffs altered just slightly each time as the echo creeps in, marks (no doubt about it) the birth of the style and esthetic we'd later call Minimalism. Alas, in the 70s, that moron Phillip Glass went on to adopt it for four-hour operas, thus totally missing the point, but this is what it's supposed to sound like.
Bottom line: Hearing this under a pillow via transistor radio over WMCA-AM is when I decided that Andrew Oldham's liner note claim -- that the Stones weren't just a band, they were a way of life -- wasn't as asinine as it seemed at first.
8. The Byrds -- The Bells of Rhymney
If there's a more beautiful sound in all of nature than that of a Rickenbacker 12-string guitar well played, I have yet to hear it. In any case, this song -- even more than "Mr. Tambourine Man" -- is where the Church of the Rickenbacker opened. Four decades later, I'm still dropping by for services, if you'll pardon the perhaps inelegant metaphor.
7. The Beach Boys -- When I Grow Up
Obviously, it's melodically gorgeous and the harmonies exquisite. But it's also the first rock song (for me anyway) that combines adolescent angst and something like mature wisdom; when people say that Brian Wilson invented the whole confessional California songwriting school that people usually associate with Joni Mitchell or Jackson Browne, this is the song they have in mind, I think. Although "In My Room" or "Don't Worry Baby" are contenders as well.
6. The Miracles -- The Tracks of My Tears
This wasn't the first r&b record I loved, but it's the first one I bought and played as obsessively as I did any Beatles 45. Everything about it just killed me; the oddly sinister yet lovely sound of the guitars at the beginning, the way the rhythm section falls effortlessly into place, the sensual longing in Smokey's voice contrasted with the almost churchy background vocals...I still can't listen to it without thinking there's some detail I've missed, one that if I could only hear at last then some tremendous secret would be revealed. I suspect I'm not the only person who feels that way, BTW.
5. Jimmy Cliff -- The Harder They Come
A great song and a great voice, to be sure, and recognizably rock-and-roll, but at the same time it was indisputably...well, something else. If Sly Stone hadn't already titled an album A Whole New Thing, the movie soundtrack this astounding song derives from could easily have copped it.
4. Bruce Springsteen -- Spirit in the Night
The first time I heard this, the snare drum and near-mythic sax wail that open it hit me so hard that I thought I'd been wacked upside the head with a 2X4. Then I noticed the lyrics and had the absolutely eerie sensation that Springsteen had been reading my mail. Want to know what it felt like to be a a 20-something with no direction home in the early 70s? All you have to do is listen....
3. R.E.M. -- Radio Free Europe
Some records just have a vibe about them. Here's one (and the same can be said of Murmur as a whole) that has it in spades, a certain indefinable something that simply grabs you (or at least me) and won't let go. First time I heard it, I remember thinking it sounded simultaneously space age modern and as old as the hills. Still an apt description, actually.
2. The La's -- There She Goes
Like "Tracks of My Tears" years before, when this first came out I played it over and over and over again in the hope of finally being able to hear into the sheer sonic density of it. I still do, from time to time, and to this day I haven't quite figured out what that twelve-string riff means. Or why Lee Mavers' voice sounds so simultaneously familiar and eerie. Or, finally, who she is and where the hell she's going.
And the number one life-changer here at Casa Simels, and if you've been following this here blog for any length of time you may already have guessed, has simply got to be...
1. Terry Reid -- Waterloo Sunset (live at The Joint)
Okay, okay, I know I'm cheating with this one -- hey, it's my freaking blog and I can do whatever I want, amirite -- and I have written about this particular performance and how utterly transplendent it is at some length on a previous occasion. Let's just say that I stand by every word; seven years after I accidentally chanced across it on YouTube it still seems like one of the most brave and emotionally devastating things I've ever heard and witnessed. Do yourself a favor and play it loud -- otherwise the bass will kind of disappear.
Awrighty then -- what would your choices be?