With a new album out joining the work of Elvis and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Hazel Davis has been thinking about the King.
The fact I have never even been is strange when you consider that more or less all I did as a child from the moment I could hear music was listen to Elvis. (Oh yeah, by the way we’re talking the mid-late 80s when IT WAS QUITE DEFINITELY NOT COOL).
Here are just some of the songs that shaped the massive dork you see before you.
Stuck On You
OK, you pretty much have to disregard the entire lyrics of this one (different times, people, different times). But, just for kicks, let’s take a look anyway. “Gonna run my fingers thru your long black hair, squeeze you tighter than a grizzly bear, Uh-uh-uh.”
Ouch, probably, but not so bad. Until… “Hide in the kitchen, hide in the hall / Ain’t gonna do you no good at all / ‘Cause once I catch ya and the kissin’ starts / A team o’ wild horses couldn’t tear us apart.”
Hmm. Like I said, different times. Anyway. I listened to this song as a child, over and over again, wondering what it must be like to have someone catch you and kiss you against your will. I was basically gagging for it from around the age of 12 and this didn’t help.
I know everyone knows and loves the Marcels’ bom-bom-bom-bom-a-dang-a-dang-dang version of this (and they’re right to) but Elvis’s hollow and strange version, from his debut studio album, is utterly bewitching. Sparse and experimental-sounding with an unsettling falsetto, it’s hard to believe it was recorded in 1955. I can never, ever get bored with it.
I only have to listen to the opening, insistent bassline of this to feel my chest rising and my breath quickening. It’s got to be one of the sexiest songs ever made. I say “made” because the writing is kind of by-the-by in the face of Elvis raunchily demanding for one more night with this girl (me).
The amount of longing he manages to extract from the words “one night” is astonishing. He’s praying for it. “Just call my name.” OK! ELVIS, ELVIS!!! Stick this on the turntable and smooch out. How everyone didn’t get pregnant in 1959 is inexplicable.
“I used to sit on the carpet and laugh uproariously at the way a bloated and sweating Elvis deliberately corpses the words to Are You Lonesome Tonight (“I see you there, without any hair”). He was SUCH a wag!”
Fun fact: the original recording was called One Night Of Sin but this, in the 1950s, caused controversy so Elvis rewrote it. Ironically, the original ‘racy’ version (released in the 1980s) is a strange and diluted ode to regret with none of the longing of the actual single. Morons.
How Great Thou Art
Everyone has a favourite Elvis. You’ve got your young, gyrating, sullen Elvis, your smiley, leather, comeback Elvis, your peanut-butter-and-jam jumpsuit Elvis… But mine is probably Holy Elvis.
Released in 1967 on the album of the same name (which is the best album cover ever: Elvis and a church. Does what it says on the collecting tin), it’s his second stab at gospel songs, though he was obviously raised on them, and it won a Grammy.
Oh my. The drums on “I hear the rolling thunder”, the Imperials’ gentle-and-then-bombastic harmonies, the Lisztian piano.
It’s schmaltzy as heck but HOW ON EARTH anyone could listen to it and not well up is beyond me. I wanna testify!
I had an ACTUAL blue version of this album as a kid, everybody. A see-through BLUE disc! I probably spent as much time looking at it as I did listening to it, but the title track is a humdinger.
Again, the opening chords send me straight back to Kent in the mid-80s (not usually a good thing – EVER – but as it was the most miserable time of my life it was also the most musically fertile).
There’s not much of note about the song itself, other than it’s unreasonably upbeat, despite its subject matter. I think I mainly love it because I liked watching it go round on the turntable (they’re like mp3 players but massive and round) all blue. It was also his last number one (in his lifetime). Sad face.
Are You Lonesome Tonight?
So, let’s skip back to my childhood again (basically all these Elvises/Elvi soundtrack my childhood one way or another). My best friends: a well-worn copy of Elvis And Me by Priscilla Presley and a very tired VHS of 1977’s Elvis In Concert.
I used to sit on the carpet and laugh uproariously at the way a bloated and sweating Elvis deliberately corpses the words to Are You Lonesome Tonight (“I see you there, without any hair”). He was SUCH a wag! Until I realised many years later that in this recording he was completely off his tits and his band were probably furious/wondering whether he’d be alive the next year (he wasn’t). Anyway the song (studio version here) is simply beautiful. And who doesn’t love an earnest spoken interlude?
Crying in the Chapel
Yep, it’s another gospel number, though being raised as a filthy heathen I could ONLY interpret it as someone getting married. Meet your neighbour in the chapel, join with him in tears of joy, could literally only mean my dad bumping into Reg next-door-but-one at Vicki from down the road’s wedding and having a bit of a sob about their clapped-out bangers. While on their knees. Later (though I remain a filthy heathen) I realised it was pretty powerful stoof.3707 Views
Hazel Davis is a freelance writer from West Yorkshire. She has two tiny children but the majority of her hours are taken up with thinking about Alec Baldwin singing sea shanties and the time someone once called her "moreishly interesting".