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When the new Sony/BMG corporation put out Elvis By The Presleys, it was undoubtedly meant to continue the hagiography of pop cultures most important saint, the King of Rock n Roll. But we humbly believe that a deeper appreciation of the man and his music can be made if we dont put the spotlight only on his achievements.
So to commemorate the coming 28th anniversary of his death on August 16, we present "A Stranger In My Own Home Town: The Other Side Of Elvis". The versions of these songs have never been officially released. We can only wait and hope that they will be.
Elvis was both complex and real. He was also imperfect, had too much of everything, was in over his head on the business side of things and didnt pay enough attention to his music, supplying his record company with both classics and dangerously puerile material. But even his worst material offered insight into the man. If only somebody had listened. Call this a cautionary tale for all those climbing up pops ladder to the top.
1. Beach Shack
If you really want to know what Elvis thought of his mid-period Hollywood years, youve got to hear this. A truly shallow song for a singer of Elvis stature, you have to wonder what he did to deserve this. Remember, 1966 was the year the Beatles put out Revolver and the Beach Boys, Pet Sounds. The musicians included Scotty Moore, DJ Fontana, Floyd Cramer and Boots Randolph. By then, Frank Zappa was already thinking "were only in it for the money". What do you think Elvis By The Presleys is all about?
2. Stranger In
My Own Home Town outtake
Stranger In My Own Home Town was a song Elvis remembered from his past. It was a pure blues tune written by Percy Mayfield also known as The Poet Of The Blues. For whatever reason, Elvis felt suddenly cemented to this song and insisted on recording it at the second of his American Studios sessions. The key line in the song is: "My home town wont accept me/ Just dont feel welcome round here no more" and it could be that Elvis was referring to the music scene that had moved on to harder and harder rock away from the blues. But on this "adult version", there was some serious cursing like he was screaming to say he was still the same man inspired by the blues despite the long years in Hollywood singing dumb songs. This contest continued throughout his lifetime. Stranger is one of Elvis more personal statements. It is remarkable that Elvis was never encouraged to record an album of blues tunes when he could sing them so well. Zappa comes to mind again.
3. Hurt outtake
By 1976, all had gone wrong. Elvis albums were no longer reaching the top. He was forced to tour and tour some more. 1969 seemed so far away and product was all the record company wanted. Elvis producer at the time was Felton Jarvis and he had the unenviable task of assembling a new album for RCA. It should be mentioned that Jarvis was tasked to find the "right" songs for Elvis to sing. But all Elvis wanted to sing were sad ballads.
Elvis was also unwilling to go into a studio to record. So Jarvis brought a mobile recording studio to Graceland and set up in Elvis playroom, called the "Tiger Room" for its elaborate curtains and furs. Bored to tears with the sessions, Elvis recorded from 9 pm to the next morning at 10 am. Most of the songs were melodramas that spoke directly of his unhappy predicament, trapped in a routine of album sessions and endless touring. To alleviate the boredom, Elvis sang old songs one was Roy Hamiltons Hurt, which Timi Yuro had made a hit in the early 60s. This version is distinctive for the lyric changes that Elvis made transforming the songs maudlin feel to fully express hurt as anger and frustration. The performance is also very moving. Elvis was to add this song to his setlist for the rest of his tours. But at the time, did anybody understand?
Legend has it that when Mrs Felton Jarvis heard this "version" of Hurt in her husbands studio, she removed the master tape and burnt it. This copy is supposedly sourced from a cassette "listening" copy.
4. Elvis speaks
In 1974, tabloids were reporting that he was "strung out". Much of the shows in Vegas have been recorded either by his record company or enterprising fans with hand-held recorders and they offer insight into the Kings declining years, his fantasy about himself and the obvious paranoia that gripped him. To break free, would require a tremendous amount of self-confidence and inner strength. This monologue demonstrated how hard it was.
On the opening night of this tour in Las Vegas, Aug 19, Elvis gave a glimpse of things to come:
"Play around youll lose your wife - I already done that Play too long, youll lose your life - I almost did that."
Its easy to
see with hindsight that Elvis was in deep trouble by 1974. Those closest
to him knew of his problems. Some tried to help, others ignored the warning
signs. For music fans collecting his records, it was harder to discern
what was happening. It is only with recordings like this that we can now
appreciate better how hard it was to be the King. But an album like Elvis
By The Presleys reminds us of the Colonels pragmatic statement when
Elvis died Aug 16, 1977. The Colonel when asked what he thought would
happen now, replied:
These are the original songs on Cut Me And I Bleed from which the above MP3s were extracted.
1 Ode To A Robin
Trade Freely. Not For Sale.
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