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Flashback: The Kinks Debut With a Cover of Little Richard’s ‘Long Tall Sally’

“When you heard Little Richard, you felt like you were going somewhere,” Dave Davies says of late rock & roll pioneer

In early 1964, a few months before “You Really Got Me” made the Kinks into stars, they released their debut single: a cover of Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally.”

Like the Beatles, who also covered “Long Tall Sally” in 1964, the Kinks were captivated by the late rock & roll pioneer, who died Saturday at the age of 87. “He pounded the shit out of the piano, and his voice was so stunning,” guitarist Dave Davies tells Rolling Stone. “I’d never heard anybody sing like that. It was so screechy and loud. He made the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.”

The band performed “Long Tall Sally” — a song co-written by Little Richard, Robert “Bumps” Blackwell, and Enotris Johnson — at the famous Cavern Club in Liverpool; you can watch footage above. “Gonna tell Aunt Mary about Uncle John/He says he got the blues but he has a lot of fun,” Davies, his brother, Ray, and bassist Pete Quaife sing, setting up a blistering harmonica solo by Ray. “I wanted to do a heavier version of ‘Long Tall Sally’ because his version is really upbeat,” Davies recalls of the cover. “It was OK, but I think his version is better.”

Davies met Little Richard only once — in the Eighties, at L.A.’s Hyatt House, where the singer was living at the time. “I met him in an elevator and I was too star-struck, and he just stared through me with his wonderful, glaring eyes,” Davies remembers. “I just said, ‘Hello,’ and he said, ‘I know who you are.’ I said, ‘You’re a big idol of mine.’ I was like a little kid, hypnotized.”

When asked to characterize Richard’s overall impact on rock & roll, Davies uses the words “rebellious” and “abandoned.” “We all felt that when you heard Little Richard, you felt like you were going somewhere,” he says. “You didn’t know where or even care, but you always sensed it would be somewhere wonderful. There’ll never be another.”