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Elvis Presley‘s “Heartbreak Hotel” had a huge impact on The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards. He said the song sounded like nothing he’d heard before. During an interview, Richards proposed a theory as to why few artists have covered “Heartbreak Hotel” or The Rolling Stones’ songs.

Elvis Presley with a guitar
Elvis Presley | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards had to ‘take off’ his hat for Elvis Presley because of his sound

In Richards’ 2010 autobiography, Life, the guitarist discussed the impact various artists had on him. He recalled his introduction to “Heartbreak Hotel.” “It was the last trigger,” he wrote. “That was the first rock ‘n’ roll I heard.”

Richards explained why he felt “Heartbreak Hotel” felt unique to him. “It was a totally different way of delivering a song, a totally different sound, stripped down, burnt, no bulls***, no violins and ladies’ choruses and schmaltz, totally different,” the rocker wrote. “It was bare, right to the roots that you had a feeling were there but hadn’t yet heard. I’ve got to take my hat off to Elvis for that.”

Keith Richards said singers don’t cover Elvis Presley’s ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ and The Rolling Stones’ songs because the original versions are the ‘ultimate’ versions

Richards said the classic King of Rock ‘n’ Roll tune taught him something about music. “The silence is your canvas, that’s your frame, that’s what you work on; don’t try and deafen it out,” he said. “That’s what ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ did to me. It was the first time I’d heard something so stark. Then I had to go back to what this cat had done before.”

According to the book Keith Richards on Keith Richards: Interviews & Encounters, Richards discussed “Heartbreak Hotel” in a 1986 interview. “People haven’t covered our songs too much, but I take that as a compliment,” he said. “You don’t really hear versions of ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ either. What it means is that your version is pretty much seen as the ultimate.”


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The way fans in the United States and the United Kingdom reacted to ‘Heartbreak Hotel’

“Heartbreak Hotel” became a massive hit for Elvis. The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits says the song was No. 1 on the Billboard Top 100 for eight weeks. “Heartbreak Hotel” appeared on the compilation album The Essential Elvis Presley. The Essential Elvis Presley was No. 42 on the Billboard 200. It remained on the chart for 90 weeks.

The Official Charts Company says “Heartbreak Hotel” became a hit in the United Kingdom too. “Heartbreak Hotel” peaked at No. 2 in 1956, staying on the chart for 22 weeks. In 1971, the song reached No. 10 and in 1996, the song reached No. 45. Meanwhile, The Essential Elvis Presley never charted in the U.K.

“Heartbreak Hotel” became a huge hit — and it made an impact on Richards.