Songs That Make You Stop and Pull Over

Elvis Costello Courtesy of Getty Images

Editor’s Note: This was one of our very first posts, from way back in 2016. It sparked some good conversations then, so it seemed a good time to revisit it now.

It was one minute and twenty-three seconds long. And it changed my life. I was a teenager in Brooklyn in the 1970s: the very epicenter of disco and Saturday Night Fever — an absolute musical juggernaut that crushed everything in its thumping path. Looking back on it now, I remember those well-crafted songs fondly, but at the time they sucked the oxygen out of every other genre. It was suffocating. The only alternative was bloated, bland corporate rock playing on once-freeform FM stations.

It was grim. I didn’t think there was anything for me, either in music or the culture at large. This was not a promising worldview. And, then, one morning driving to school, a new radio station (the glorious-but-short-lived WPIX) threw me a life preserver.

Instead of

How deep is your love?
How deep is your love?
I really mean to learn

there was a young man nearly spitting the lyrics

Now that your picture’s in the paper being rhythmically admired
And you can have anyone that you have ever desired
All you gotta tell me now is why, why, why, why?

One minute and twenty-three seconds later, “Welcome to the Working Week” was over. It took me about fifteen of those seconds to pull over and wonder what the hell was happening. Most music geeks have epiphanies like this when a proverbial ray of light bursts through your personal clouds. A moment when you realize you’re not alone. That someone is speaking to you.

hair of rock merch

We’d like to collect a list of these “Stop and Pull Over” songs. Please tell us about the song that changed your life by posting a comment below or on our Facebook page. It should be fun to see which records served as personal lightning strikes. So let the list-making begin.

Al Cattabiani

Photo Credit: Elvis Costello by Gary Merrin/Keystone/Getty Images

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14 comments on “Songs That Make You Stop and Pull Over

  1. The “Game Changer” in my music appreciation that made me STOP has got to be Paul Weller/The Jam’s “That’s Entertainment” freshman year of college. It blew me away. That opened my ears to the tidal wave of new music coming out of the UK at the time from Nick Lowe to XTC to the Buzzcocks. I later met Paul Weller in the Kensington neighborhood of London the week after Live Aid.

  2. Jay Alford

    The song that totally changed my life was The Beatles and their song “A Hard Days Night”! It was the Spring of 1971 and I was 9 years old. The Beatles were in the news alot because they had officially broken up. I knew who they were because I had 3 older siblings. At the time I liked music, was playing the trumpet but Baseball ruled my world! I wanted to know what the fuss was about these Beatles so I put on my sisters 45 of Hard Days Night. Well, when I heard that opening chord it was like a lighting bolt had hit my very soul!! I knew then and there I wanted to play the guitar and I have been for the last 47 years!????????????

  3. I wasn’t driving or even of driving age, but when the screaming guitar intro to Prince’s “When Doves Cry,” interrupted my adolescent day of fine radio somewhere in the early 80s, I literally was frozen. It shocked me out of whatever I had been doing (I think I was studying). Then the amazing song that followed, still weird and evocative to this day, was most certainly like some kind of light. He seemed to be voicing something I should understand, even though I was too young to. Plus the shredding keyboard solo thrilled me (as a pianist in a rock band). I liked Prince before but he became one of my biggest musical influences after hearing WDC.

  4. Rod Edwards

    The Wind Knows My Name by Fairground Attraction. It was more of a metaphorical pullover. I was in Peaches Records & Tapes in the late 80s and a song came over the speakers in the store and I was mesmerized. This wasn’t the same stuff I was hearing on the radio , it had a sound like folk meets pop meets jazz and Edie Reader’s vocals wear playful, and sensual. It was probably the one and only time I walked up to the counter and asked “who is this”. To this day, First of a Million Kisses is one of my favorite albums.

  5. Lovely piece, Al.

  6. James Taggart

    I’ll Be You, by The Replacements. I was on the freeway and was so stunned I took the next off ramp so I could eventually who they were.

  7. “A Day in The Life”. The band had broken up for years when I first heard it. But this is the one that hooked me forever on the greatest rock group that can ever be.

  8. Charles W Throckmorton

    Jumpin’ Jack Flash: 1968 was a fantastic time to listen to AM radio, but holy —–, when I heard JJF for the first time, it was like it was literally “jumping” out of the radio and it strode the airwaves for weeks like a Colossus.

  9. Leonard Cohens …..Famous Blue Raincoat stopped me in my tracks.

  10. For me, it was Yes’ “Leave It”. Right off the top, the vocals without any instruments demanded to be heard and consumed. 90125 is still one of my top 10 favorite albums.

  11. Thanks, everyone, for all the great songs!

  12. rajastrums

    I had my transistor radio on the handle bar of my bike is 1964 when I Want to Hold Your Hand came on during my ride to school. The intro made me stop and think, “What is this?”

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