Saturday, October 30, 2010

On The Speedway

I was pleasantly surprised to learn (thanks to the Elvis Information Network) that the title track from Elvis' 27th film Speedway is a hit among the listeners of the radio station Sveriges Radio P4 Jönköping. This is one of the 25 local radio stations in Sweden that makes up P4, the most popular radio channel in the country.

Apparently the station's morning show has an item on the program called Morgontoppen (loosely translated to The morning hit list), where the listeners can nominate songs and also vote for the candidates on the Internet. Each week the song with the least votes is kicked out while the best nominated song takes the fifth place.

"Speedway" was nominated a couple of weeks ago and quickly reached the number one spot, a position it has been defending successfully for the last three weeks. This is the score this week:
  1. Speedway - Elvis Presley
  2. Baby Love - Supremes
  3. Fortunate Son - Creedence Clearwater Revival
  4. Don´t eat the yellow snow - Frank Zappa
  5. Should I stay or should I go - Clash

Who would've believed this possible? Well, I for one. You see, a couple of years ago I worked as a journalist at another local radio station, called Sveriges Radio P4 Halland, where a similar hit list was in use.

I remember someone nominating "She Thinks I Still Care" and the pattern was the same as with "Speedway." Every week it got most of the votes and the number one spot. Finally the guys running the morning show decided that a song could only be at the top for ten weeks, then it had to go.

My guess is that it will be the same old story when it comes to "Speedway." If they don't decide to change the rules it will be occupying the number one spot for ever. Such is the power of Elvis, that even his lesser known songs can hold their own against more classic songs by other artists.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Guest Blog: "They Couldn't Put Diapers On Me"

In honor of Thomas and his wife having their first child, I've compiled a ranking of baby Elvis songs. Admittedly, not all of these songs refer to an infant baby. Many of them refer to a baby of the grown woman variety. I decided to leave those in because, after all, you can't have an infant baby without the other kind.

Before I get myself in any further trouble with the grown women of the world, on with the ranking . . . .

#1: Reconsider Baby
#2: Baby, Let's Play House
#3: Baby, What You Want Me To Do
#4: Baby, I Don't Care
#5: Like A Baby
#6: I've Got A Thing About You, Baby
#7: My Baby Left Me
#8: Merry Christmas Baby
#9: Bossa Nova Baby
#10: Rock-A-Hula Baby
#11: Santa Bring My Baby Back
#12: It's Your Baby, You Rock It
#13: Ain't That Loving You, Baby
#14: Baby, If You'll Give Me All Of Your Love
#15: I've Got To Find My Baby
#16: Your Time Hasn't Come Yet, Baby

Of course, if we expand this list to songs that include "baby" in the lyrics rather than the title, we'd have a lot more from which to choose. One fantastic song that comes to mind is "Your Love's Been A Long Time Coming" from the Promised Land album. Songwriter Rory Bourke talks about this one in Ken Sharp's Writing For The King (FTD):

"That song was written about my daughter, Allyson. I wrote it days after she was born. I think Elvis thought he was singing about a big grown up girl but in reality he was singing a song about my baby. His version was absolutely awesome. He caught the complete emotion of what I was trying to say about myself in relationship with this small bundle of love."

Elvis cut this song in 1973. By then, he had been a father for over five years. I personally think he knew exactly what kind of baby he was singing about, as he undoubtedly had similar thoughts while holding his own "bundle of love" for the first time. I've not joined the fatherhood club as of yet, but I imagine Thomas can suddenly relate to this song in a whole new way. Congratulations, buddy! All the best!

/Troy Y, The Mystery Train Elvis Blog

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Elvis Sings For My Baby Girl And Me Too!

Elvis Presley hasn't been very much on my mind these last couple of days, the reason being the birth of me and my wife's first child, a beautiful daughter. But he hasn't been totally absent, either.

The first night home from the hospital, I gave my baby girl her first CD, a reissue of the album Elvis Sings For Children And Grownups Too! called Elvis Sings For Kids. It's kind of a tradition, really, as I've given away these titles as presents to my brothers' and sister's children before.

Do you know the history of this album? According to Ernst Jorgensen the Colonel wanted to put out Elvis Sings For Children And Grownups Too! as early as 1975, but it wasn't until Elvis' death that RCA finally agreed to release it due to lack of new material.

Maybe this isn't the best collection to get kids interested in the music of Elvis, but I'm sure it isn't the worst either. As all the songs but one are from his movies and not originally intended for a children's album, it's kind of a mixed bag.

“Five Sleepyheads,” “Cotton Candy Land” and “Big Boots” (an alternate take I guess was released by mistake) are the only ones I would call strictly lullabies, but I'm sure kids can find delight in classic songs such as “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear” (I know I did!) and “Wooden Heart.”

And whatever you think of “Old MacDonald” it has a given place on this record. I'm not sure the same can be said about “Old Shep,” though, with it's emotional lyrics about shooting an old dog. I would've included “Your Time Hasn't Come Yet, Baby” instead. And how about “Confidence”?

I don't know if my daughter will grow up to like Elvis, but only three days old, his music was the first one she listened to. Maybe a bit silly, but that meant a lot to me.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Return Of The Original Elvis Tribute

The other day I received an e-mail from Arjan Deelen, who's the man behind "The Original Elvis Tribute" that has been touring Europe in both 2009 and 2010. Here's some of what he wrote:  
'The Original Elvis Tribute 2011' will be touring again in May '11, and for that tour this topnotch production will include the legendary Bobby Wood on piano, the elusive Johnny Christopher (first time in Europe!) on guitar & vocals, and the charismatic Duke Bardwell on bass. Three men who all played a key role in Elvis' career, brought together for the first time for this remarkable tribute show featuring some of the finest singers and musicians in the music business. This is one of the most authentic touring Elvis shows - and the only one featuring his original musicians.
I couldn't help but notice that this time around songwriter Michael Jarrett, who wrote "I'm Leavin'" and "I'll Be Home On Christmas Day" for Elvis, wasn't part of the band. I sent a reply to Arjan, asking him why.
Arjan Deelen: Michael Jarrett is a remarkable man, and a great songwriter & musician. He has been an inspiration to me on many different levels, especially personally. He adds a great deal to the shows, and that’s why I have brought him over to Europe for 19 shows so far. I have always felt that some  people that played a role in the Elvis story never really received the credit they deserved, and Michael is definitely one of them. Fortunately, the show has corrected that, and he is receiving far more credit now for his tremendous songs than he ever did.

For the next tour, we wanted to highlight more musicians like Michael, who deserve to be better known by the fans. I am very proud of the fact that we will be bringing a.o. Johnny Christopher this time, who played rhythm guitar on the STAX sessions in ’73, and who wrote or co-wrote songs like “Always On My Mind”, “Mama Liked The Roses” and “If You Talk In Your Sleep”. Johnny has never been in Europe before, and he’s never done an Elvis tribute show.  Johnny will be playing guitar on the show, and he will also be singing his own songs, just like he did on the original demos for Elvis.

That’s what our show is really about. We want to bring the fans something fresh, a new angle on the Elvis story. Johnny will also be bringing his old buddy Bobby Wood from American Sound Studios. As you know, Bobby played on Elvis’ arguably finest moment, the FROM ELVIS IN MEMPHIS album. We’re all looking forward to working together with Johnny and Bobby, and we all believe that they will add a great deal to the show. Bobby has even promised me that he will be singing “If I’m A Fool (For Loving You)”, a song that he originally recorded in ’64 that Elvis later covered at the Memphis ’69 sessions.

Elvis Today: I think it's exciting that you combine musicians from different periods of Elvis' career, as well as live/studio musicians. What does this mix of musicians bring to the show, in your opinion?

Arjan Deelen: I think it brings a lot of freshness to the shows. I have been involved in the organization of Elvis meetings for many years, and in my honest opinion many of these shows featuring original musicians are in a bit of a rut, because they want to play the same old songs again and again. It seems to me that they are unwilling to take any chances. I also feel that it’s a pity that many fanclubs book the same acts again and again. I think that’s one of the reasons why the interest in Elvis shows in general is dwindling. I mean, how many times can you present the same show to people before they get sick and tired of it?

My aim is to present original musicians that people haven’t seen, or at least those that haven’t been overexposed, and I try to present them in a different context. Instead of letting them play with the musicians they’re used to, I present them together with top session players that are still eager to impress. Believe me, it makes the original guys work harder too! That’s why the shows that we have done so far have such a tremendous energy to them. To give you an example, just take a look at this clip from a show we did at a castle in Poznan, Poland last May:

"My Babe" (May, 2010)

We want to generate some of the original excitement and energy that Elvis himself created at his concerts, and I think it works. The crowd reaction at the shows has been amazing. It’s very satisfying to see that the show is doing so well all over Europe.
Sounds exciting, doesn't it? If you want to more information, I can recommend a visit to "The Original Elvis Tribute" website. There you'll find, among other things, details about the band, tour dates and rare audio including Bobby Wood's own 1964 recording of "If I'm A Fool (For Loving You)."

Friday, October 8, 2010

Like A Baby

Now I know how Elvis must have felt as the birth of Lisa Marie was approaching. Soon to have our first child ourselves, I've even acted like Elvis, having taken my wife on a couple of practice runs to the hospital just like he did, checking which entrance to drive to.

Being reminded of this Elvis episode, I looked it up in a couple of books. Turns out there are two versions of what happened when Elvis and Priscilla were driven to the hospital when she was having their baby.

According to Jerry Schilling, the plan was to go to Methodist Hospital, with him at the wheel. In his book Me And A Guy Named Elvis, he tells the story of how Charlie rode shotgun and pointed out that they had arrived at the wrong hospital, having forgotten to tell Jerry that they'd switched over to Baptist Hospital.

Alan Fortras (in his book Elvis From Memphis to Hollywood) as well as Lamar Fike (in Elvis And The Mempis Mafia) paints another picture, with a couple of decoy cars leading the press to Methodist Hospital while Jerry or Charlie (here their stories disagree) forgot the game plan and headed to Methodist as well.

It all worked out in the end though, Priscilla giving birth to Lisa Marie at Baptist, on February 1, 1968. She was a beautiful child and Elvis was, of course, both excited and proud. I'm sure I will be too, in a couple of days. And I'm confident we'll find the right hospital, although there are two of them here as well.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Caught In A Mine

As my wife's born in Chile, I've been following the reports about the trapped Chilean miners with interest. I can't even begin to imagine what it must feel like to be trapped 700 meters below ground, waiting for months to be rescued.

But in steps Elvis to lighten the mood. I was thrilled to read on the Elvis Information Network that one of the miners is an Elvis fan who not only insisted on a photograph of Elvis being sent down to him, he also raised the spirits of the other miners by organizing Elvis singalongs.

Hearing about his, EIN contributor Brian Quinn and others contacted Elvis Presley Enterprises, saying it would be a nice gesture if EPE were to arrange a free trip to Graceland for the trapped miner and perhaps, his colleagues, when they were rescued and had time to overcome some of their trauma. This was their answer:

"Yes, we are in touch with CNN Chile and have sent a big package of movies and music to him that they are sending down to him for the rest of the time. We are also talking with them about a visit!"

It's amazing, isn't it? There he is, this miner, a fan just like you and me, trapped deep underground for more than two months, waiting to be freed and finding strength through Elvis' movies and music. Elvis would've been proud, I'm sure.