Elvis Presley was lost to the world 40 years ago and in a personal refection Getintothis’ Lauren Jones picks her top 40 Elvis songs.
How can anyone begin to describe what it’s like for someone who has shared your life with you and meant so much but never met you?
I mean, how can you even describe a ‘hero’ who you’ll never have a chance of meeting and mourn without knowing. Elvis has always been this godlike being for me. Omnipresent.
From birth it was like Elvis was a family member with me and my Dad dancing around our front room to Jailhouse Rock and Teddy Bear. Not to mention my godfather Nigel – also known as the Burmese Elvis- buying me a little piece of Elvis for each birthday as I grew up .
So forty years on from the death of an icon and to mark Elvis Week here are 40 tracks that are the hallmarks of my relationship with The King.
- Always On My Mind
A typical feature in any top Elvis track crap but this song is so, so utterly devastating. At a young age my grandad passed away suddenly and I understand that that happens, but it is just so cruel and unfair.I’ve had to grow up without a grandparent watching over me who had every right to be there. I was so close to him and I’ve always felt an empty void in my life where he should be. I’m typing through tears when I say this track reminds me of him and how I wish he could see what I’ve become. I know he’s with me every step of the way and that is the powerful comfort that this song has brought to me.
- Are You Lonesome Tonight?
We used to have one of those karaoke tape machines and alongside The Beatles Let It Be and House of Pain’s Jump Around was Elvis Presley’s Are You Lonesome Tonight? I was obsessed with singing and becoming a little pop star. I even entered my school’s Stars In Your Eyes competition around the same time. Anyway, I used to just press the play button on that karaoke machine and sing my little heart out to this Elvis track and I still know the spoken word bit in the middle: ‘I wonder if, you’re lonesome tonight, you know someone said that the world’s a stage and each must play a part – fate had me playing in love you as my sweetheart…’You get the picture – it goes on, but as chubby 10-year-old Lauren grew into her own, this song played a huge part in shaping my teenage years.
- Moody Blue
Title track of Elvis’ last album and arguably my favourite, Moody Blue has such a fun-loving seventies vibe that gets me wanting to get on that table and sing at the top of my lungs. It’s quite apt considering Elvis spent the majority of his last years in Las Vegas. The lyrics describe the saga of a gambler gal who the singer has fallen head over heels with her but she’s having none of it. Recorded in February 1976 in the Jungle Room at Graceland, it has a personal touch from the King, a real home recording.
- I’ve Lost You
This track became a hit song for Elvis and received gold record status.It’s quite fitting of the relationship Elvis had with his wife Priscilla – due to him being away, touring around Las Vegas and his drug dependence all leaving the relationship in a sour state. They separated less than a year and a half after this song became a hit. Priscilla has a special place in my heart and she went through a hell of a lot for the man she loved; ten years younger than him and being thrusted into a world not even Elvis really grasped. A heartbreaking true tale.
- Edge of Reality
I was obsessed with this track and the footage that accompanies it. A psychedelic cowboy showdown with oohs and aahs. this track really got me back into country music and is a real example of how Elvis was trying to keep up the popularity he received after the 68’ comeback special just two years later. If this was sung by Lee Hazlewood all these cool kids would be bowing down – it’s a shame people don’t feel that way about The King anymore.
- (Marie’s the Name) His Latest Flame
As a kid I was obsessed with the story behind this song although I’m still yet to experience a situation like it. The original Elvis rock’n’roll spirit is present with those Jerry Lee Lewis famed keys and clunky guitar. It’s so catchy and is a happy tale which has followed me throughout my teenage years.
- I Just Can’t Help Believin’
The live version of this track from That’s The Way It Is has an overwhelming power over me – Elvis had moved on and was trying to be happy, reflecting on his past. This soppy love song shares a lot of my experience with relationships and at the place I’m at right now, this is a positive and strong declaration of making things right and wanting what you’ll get.
- Can’t Help Falling In Love
I never had much of a pull towards this song, it’s beautiful and a true ode to love but last year this suddenly had a significant meaning for me.My other, much better half bought me a wonderful music box for Christmas that played this exact song and I couldn’t hold back my tears. Just like that, this song meant the world.
- Little Sister
Originally released in 1961, later versions appeal to me more, in particular the 1970s MGM sessions available on That’s The Way It Is DVD which combines the track with Beatles classic Get Back. It shows Elvis’ freedom, humour and love for the music which is something he rarely expressed in his youth. And by the way, the DVD is a total must-watch for any music fans- regardless if they like The King or not.
(A quick note on the side; the song lyric mentions ‘Jim Dandy’ which was the title of a 1956 by super-songstress LaVern Baker).
- Viva Las Vegas
How I wish that there were 20 more hours in a day… Never has that ever rang truer than getting a full- time job and maintaining my party girl lifestyle – I wish! But this IS Las Vegas, glitz, glamour, money, women and Elvis. It has it all and this track really brought the new-wave Vegas we see today.
- Way Down
The last ever single Elvis recorded in October 1976, Way Down came to shape in the Jungle Room of Graceland.I deliberated for a while as to whether I should add this track to my list because, for me it symbolises the end and that wasn’t, as well all know, a very good one.His voice is weak and not as powerful as it was just a few years earlier – the passion flame was put out.But for people to appreciate The King they need to look at the end to appreciate the beginning and celebrate the life of the icon who shaped modern-day music.
- The Next Step Is Love
This is hope.For a young woman this is beautiful, I purr at this song through my speakers for its fun, timid and non-abrasive touch.This is the angel on my shoulder, offering a world of comfort. It’s hard to explain that feeling when you meet the ‘one’ but trust me, this nailed it for me.
- Big Love, Big Heartache
I learnt very abruptly what love shouldn’t be when I was moving into my teenage years.A difficult and horrific situation, but I found solace in tracks such as Big Love, Big Heartache which spelled out L.O.V.E in a basic and simple way for my broken mind to understand.As kids around me looked to My Chemical Romance, I looked to Elvis. I learned a lot from that.
14.In the Ghetto
If you ever wanted a song to make you appreciate your life, In the Ghetto is it.What a travesty it is when this song, nearly 50 years old, is still real and happening right now, across the world. This song grounds me.Originally titled The Vicious Circle, the lyrics speak for themselves: forget the instrumental, forget Elvis, this is real life.This song became Elvis’ first top 10 hit in four years and it isn’t hard to see why.
- Girl Happy
Taken from another film, this is that happy-go-lucky image of Elvis which Col Parker wanted him to depict.It’s hard for me not to sing along and fall into the same trap of adoring Elvis just like many other girls did.I know a few boys who portray the image of this song -good luck to them is all I say.
- Little Egypt
Originally recorded for The Coasters, Elvis covered this track – in what seems like twice as fast as it should really be- for the film Roustabout. Towards the end of his acting career Elvis didn’t care much at all about the films he was making due to the fact they all had the same storyline.But never mind. When I first heard this it blew my mind, last year this came back into to my mind and I’ve never been able to stop singing it! In between seeing customers at my part-time job at Leaf I used to go round and sing this in my head. It kept me focused.
- Make The World Go Away
Recently, I lost my great grandma and my heart will always be broken.This song had always struck a chord with me but once she passed, this was the only thing that got me through the tears and the pain of losing someone you realise after you should’ve been there for.I can imagine the words will hit a lot people. This song helped me through life’s pressures and so on. It just allows you to sing it loud and not care about anything around you.
- One Track Heart
I’m a one-track mind and have a one track heart – just as Elvis sings in the opening lines, a simple and another churned out hit for The King but it’s not a hard sell.
- True Love Travels on a Gravel Road
Originally recorded by Duane Dee in 1968 True Love is an underestimated song from The King. This is a powerful shout to ‘look at me, don’t be a fool in love like me’ and it speaks levels.Love isn’t always easy but, heck, what the hell is. This is like the 40 commandments of Elvis.
- Don’t Cry Daddy
There’s a lot of speculation about this track, many believe this was for Vernon – Elvis’ father- after the loss of Gladys in 1958. I don’t think there’s any doubt about what Elvis was thinking singing this track, it’s heartbreaking stuff in such turmoil.
- Return to Sender
My hopeless relationships with boys growing up is summed up in Return to Sender. I suppose can’t even call them relationships, but being ignored and jilted is never fun for girls or boys. But if Elvis keeps getting his letters returned then what hope do we have? By singing this catchy little number through my teenage-tears I got over it.
- Hound Dog
Toned down for mainstream audiences Elvis’ version of Hound Dog is an ode to Big Mama Thornton in a very controlled and not-as-meaty way, but somehow this was still seen as an absolute no-no.Now it’s hard to imagine but back then, Elvis’ version was still risky and added to that bad boy rocker image. Until they did that show and featured a bulldog…
- Bossa Nova Baby
Taken from Fun in Acapulco this is a typical churned out classic but wow it works. From Elvis’ moves and the 60s keys it is hard not to love this and this certainly gets me in the mood to party.
Taken from one of my favourite Elvis films, King Creole, this duet with jazz singer Kitty White is a soulful deep southern whole lotta lovin. It’s different which is strange for early Elvis as he was controlled by an egotistical idiot. First time I heard this track was watching the film when I was around seven years old – even then I knew something was special about it. Even Joe Strummer loved it.
- You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’
Obviously first recorded by The Righteous Brothers in 1964 yet Elvis takes this track and spins his own little web. Adding his gospel blues to the sweet melody and lyrics, this is one of my favourite covers Elvis ever did. His take on this is just mindblowing. Especially for the early 70s.I never realised how many versions of this track there is – but of course this beats them all.
26. The Wonder of You
Your love for me is everything – The Wonder of You was one of The King’s most successful records in the UK ever, topping the UK Singles Chart for six weeks in the summer of 1970.It takes me back to the Elvis exhibition at the Albert Dock in 2003, I remember being completely star struck at the objects behind the glass cabinets – Elvis’ suits, cars and the like. It definitely was the wonder of Elvis.
- (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear
From a little girl the swinging bassline of Teddy Bear has always made my feet twirl. In my first childhood home I remember being in the front room with my Dad, blasting Elvis on the stereo and dancing on my tiptoes trying to keep up. Happy memories indeed.
- Crying in the Chapel
Elvis had his first take at Crying in the Chapel in 1960 during sessions for the magnificent gospel album, His Hand in Mine. In the end, it was held for a single release and went straight to number three – becoming one of the greatest successes for Elvis in six years.Religion is a sticky subject but this made me really think about the possibilities of religion and its whole concept here on this tiny planet. Who knows what is out there, but this song brings calm and solace to a chaotic world full of hate and terror.
- Polk Salad Annie
Dad-rock, plain and simple. This is a jacked up, funky, 70s disco Elvis – fun loving and totally going for it is my cup of tea. Those fast karate kick dance moves fly as this is played from the 1970 On Stage release.
- Jailhouse Rock
Behind bars, locked up but breaking free.Potentially the most well-known Elvis songs, Jailhouse Rock is an easy track to pick up as a kid, I can’t remember the exact moment when Elvis clicked with me, but I know this song had something to do with it.
- If I Can Dream
“We’re trapped in a world that’s troubled with pain” – Another powerful message that is buried within Elvis’ hits and commercial bull. This is better than any therapy, when I am unsure of plans or reluctant to make changes, I channel this song with the hope it’ll pull me in the right direction – it hasn’t done me wrong yet.
- A Little Bit of Green
I always giggle at this song, it reminds me of Elvis smoking weed and I don’t know why I find it so funny. I love it, it’s a classic and that’s why it’s on my list.
- Kentucky Rain
An early hit for Elvis in the 70s, Kentucky Rain is a slow burner. It took me a while to fall in love with this rogue cowboy. Once I fell, I fell hard. I’ve never been to America but I want to go to the US and go to Kentucky to experience this rain.
- Just Pretend
This is another uncanny track that mirrors the hurt in Elvis’ vocals that speak volumes about his relationship with Priscilla. He loved her but was battling with so much, as was she. I can’t imagine what it was like for them but this was definitely a nod to their relationship.
- I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry
This lonesome number is a drunken slur of poetic lyrics placed together with wide ranging vocals that curdle tears and freeze in time. I feel numb listening to this painful track which is mumbled by Elvis. It lacks emotion which I think is true of being lonely, it’s a downward spiral.
- Walk A Mile In My Shoes
As the title says, walk a mile in my shoes – when someone has riled me up, this is played at the max – I feel in the later years this summarised Elvis’ feelings and his beliefs at the time.Best performance of this was in 1970 at the International Hotel in Las Vegas.
- Mary In The Morning
First sung by Ed Ames in 1957 Mary in the Morning is an exceptional cover song, even performed by the late-great Glen Campbell. It is a classic example of how Elvis shone his crooning and soulful vocals
- You Gave Me A Mountain
When I first heard this it blew my socks off, literally. The powerful vocals mixed with the highly-charged emotive lyrics moved me uncontrollably. I think from tracks such as this we can learn two things, Elvis’ acting was better than depicted on screen and he could really channel from his own life experience.It leaves a lasting legacy from Elvis, an imprint on life.
- What Now My Love
The first time this really got a hold of me was his performance in Hawaii – Aloha from Hawaii Via Satellite in 1973.Footage of this and the addition of his backing band, pushes Elvis’ voice beyond his own capability, his power and strength fights with the instrumental and gives me goosebumps every time and then he calmly walks off with a slight ‘phew’.
- I’ll Remember You
I suppose it’s fitting to end with I’ll Remember You. It’s hard to ignore the heartbreak Elvis felt when Priscilla decided to go and every time I see a live performance, the emotion poured into this track is unbelievable.Elvis’ life was full of heartbreak, his twin brother dying at birth and the death of his mother Gladys hurt him in more ways than one can imagine.His own untimely death was unjustified and unfair. I’d like to leave this song as an ode to the great man who has followed and will walk the rest of my life with me, through music.
Elvis has not left the building, he lives on. Forever.