jlw_LEAD

Today marks the anniversary of a fine 1957 moment in the legend of rock and roll, as a man with a purported higher power walked into a famous Memphis studio and recorded one of the pillars of the genre’s panache – “Great Balls of Fire.”

Jerry Lee Lewis was only 22-years-young when he chased the same sinful fame Elvis struck at Sun Studio. Whereas Elvis’ devil-associations lied in his hips, and wasn’t necessarily shared by his performer, Lewis actually believed what post-war America was trying to label the budding new wild genre – the devil’s music – captured in the take-session conversation of the song on this day, with Sun Studios owner Sam Phillips reassuring Lewis that he can “save souls,” Lewis infamously replying, “How can the devil save souls? I got the devil in me!

The song was actually written by a famous songwriter of the time, Otis Blackwell. And literally takes its title from a Southern expression that defines the unholy experience of talking in tongues. That, combined with Lewis’ brilliantly possessed ivory hammerings should be written into its own biblical text – the bible of rock and roll. Consider the opening verse, before the band clobbers in:

You shake my nerves and you rattle my brain
Too much love drives a man insane
You broke my will, oh what a thrill
Goodness gracious great balls of fire