Tue July 12, 2011
"I Want You, I Need You, I Love You"
By Rob Grayson
Memphis, TN – Ahh, the glamorous life in show biz. Tell that to the four musicians huddled over stale coffee, in the break room of a small airstrip outside El Dorado, Arkansas in the middle of the night, April 14th, 1956. A few hours earlier, the four, Elvis Presley, guitarist Scotty Moore, bassist Bill Black, and drummer DJ Fontana finished playing to a screaming-room-only crowd in Amarillo, Texas. At nine this morning, they are expected to be at RCA's studio in Nashville, ready to record. The stopover wasn't scheduled they took it because the pilot was lost in the dark.
Back in the air just before dawn, the next leg of the flight would have a few more white-knuckle moments, such as when they discovered the airstrip attendant hadn't filled up the empty fuel tank.
In contrast to the rickety prop plane headed for the Music City, the Elvis Presley machine seemed to be running on all cylinders at this point. Since recording Heartbreak Hotel, Elvis had fleshed out his first album at another session in New York. To open up Elvis' schedule on Saturday nights, his manager Colonel Tom Parker bought out his contract with the Louisiana Hayride and replaced those radio broadcasts with six appearances on the Dorsey Brothers' CBS TV program Stage Show between January and March of 1956. The evening of April 3rd, Elvis performed on the Milton Berle Show, broadcasting from the deck of the USS Hancock at the San Diego Naval Station.
RCA records had also released what was called an "EP", which was an extended play four-song single, the feature track being a cover of Carl Perkins' Blue Suede Shoes. Both the Presley version and the Perkins version were climbing the chart at the same time. A scheduled head-to-head showdown on TV between the two rockabilly rivals was scrapped when Carl Perkins and his two brothers were seriously injured in a car crash on the way to their national debut on the Perry Como show.
On the ground in Nashville, producer Steve Sholes waited for Presley with a Gold Record in hand to present for sales of Heartbreak Hotel. But the session to follow wasn't an award-winning performance in Sholes' book. The standard in Nashville was a three-hour session which would yield four sides, either two singles (front and back) or a single and two album cuts. The bumpy flight in, and sheer exhaustion from night after night of shows in town after town left Elvis only capable of knocking out twenty takes of one song. Then, at noon, Elvis was off in the rickety plane for a quick overnight in Memphis, and back to the rejoin tour in San Antonio, this time by commercial airliner. Producer Sholes edited parts of takes 14 and 17 into the master of I Want You, I Need You, I Love You. Released in May, it would spend the last week of July, 1956 at number one.
Now, let s move the clock ahead a couple of decades. Songwriter and record producer Jim Steinman was discussing his lack of success with a colleague who suggested Steinman's work was too complicated. Right about that time, Elvis' I Want You I Need You I Love You came on the radio, and the colleague asked why Steinman couldn't write a simpler love song in that vein. Steinman took that thought and added his own twist, and through his association with singer Meat Loaf gave Elvis' 1956 sentiment a revival in the late 70's. Well, he was able to work in at least two out of three of the sentiments, anyway.