1959-68 Revisited: Elvis

1959-68 Revisited: Elvis

Elvis is really good. Although, for the record, if one of his movie characters sings to you "Cross my heart, I hope to die, well I wouldn't tell you no lie", that character is probably lying to you.

The current One Man Academy (OMA) project is listening to the Grammy's Album of the Year nominees and re-choosing winners, absent of historical context. In the 1959-68 Revisited series, we relisten to some favorite artists from that time period in more depth.

Spotify playlist for this post: OMAs 1959-68: Elvis

If you only listen to one song: Cross My Heart and Hope to Die

In the context of his other music, his gospel albums feel quite insincere. (For the record, it's possible that Elvis preferred to record nothing but gospel records, and that his label/management team wouldn't let him.)

Listening to 10 years of Elvis soundtrack albums, consecutively, is bizarre, delightful, and, at times, a mind-numbing joy. It feels like a velvet-voiced slide into madness.

One of my favorite games was trying to discern each movie's basic plot, only using its title and the songs on the soundtrack. The basic outline of any given movie seemed fairly predictable:

  1. Elvis the vagabond comes to town / Elvis the vagabound is about town
  2. Elvis finds/has a girl.
  3. Elvis loses a girl.
  4. Elvis finds a girl.

From there, only a few minor details remain:

  • What's our setting? Are we going to the World's Fair? In the army? In the Bayou? In the Caribbean?
  • Who's the girl and why is it complicated? (It's never all-that-complicated.) Is she not into Elvis? Does Elvis have committment issues? Is there another guy involved and is he an Ivy League jagoff??
  • How does the losing happen?
  • How does the finding happen?

Another favorite activity was witnessing Elvis and his team basically run out of ideas immediately.

  • G.I. Blues is a solid enough premise (Elvis the soldier) and one of my favorite soundtracks of the bunch.
  • I believe the collective points of the movies Harum Scarum (featuring the amazingly problematic song "Harem Holiday"), Fun in Acapulco, Blue Hawaii, and Paradise, Hawaiian Style are, collectively, "Look! Something different! Isn't it exotic??!"
  • Kissin' Cousins is a movie that happened.
  • Double Trouble is also a movie that happened. My first thought was "... so Elvis is daing twins? Maybe Elvis has a twin and they're both dating the same person??" Upon listening to the soundtrack, I think Elvis was simply in love with two women at the same time, no twins involved.
  • In the Fully Phoning It In Because We're All Out Of Ideas category: Girl Happy, which isn't to be confused with Girls! Girls! Girls!.

I think Elvis is a carny in Roustabout... I believe he was a drag racer in Spinout, but I'm not positive. I legitamately have no idea what Frankie and Johnny is about. Your ears really glaze over, at some point.

I'm pretty sure Elvis' voice takes a turn at Harum Scarum... I noticed right away and wrote myself a note.

Coincidentally, that's also the point at which the soundtracks really start to blur together.

Apparently I love Elvis songs with vocal harmonies that sound like train whistles. Please see: "Frankfurt Special", "Little Egypt", and "Like A Baby".

While listening to "They Remind Me Too Much Of You", I wrote the following note to myself...

"Elvis had a legit beautiful voice."

For the most part, Elvis sounds like Elvis, right? No matter how terrible the impression, you always know when someone is doing Elvis Voice.[1] I know Elvis is beloved, and that Elvis has some truly great songs, but I didn't realize he had a legitimately beautiful singing voice. I really thought Elvis was just hips, lip snarls, and a boatload of charisma. Throw in some performance chops, of course say everything in Elvis Voice, and tada....

It reminds me of the first time I saw Miley Cyrus on SNL... I was shocked that she was actually talented.[2] When people are pushing such a strong schtick, I always assume they're compensating for a lack of ability.

These moments usually make me wonder: if you're actually talented, why all the bells and whistles? Listening to "They Remind Me Too Much Of You" led me to wonder if there could have been an Elvis that wasn't so ☆★☆ELVIS☆★☆. An Elvis that led a fairly low key life and just made good, interesting music. An Elvis that could go to a coffee shop or grocery store without being noticed. And if that's the person Elvis, in quiet moments, wishes he could have been.

  1. For the record, it's a great branding/marketing trick to have a sound that sounds like you and doesn't sound like anyone else. People always recognize your songs. ↩︎

  2. See also: T-Pain and how everyone lost their mind when he did that Tiny Desk Concert. ↩︎