elvis presley

We remember 1967 as a year which brought us “Lucy In The Sky (With Diamonds)” as well as “Judy In Disguise With Glasses.” But it was also the year Elvis Presley’s recording career began to wake from a deep slumber.

To get a perspective on Presley’s music in 1967, you have to go back to sessions in 1966 and 1961. His music career was still being driven by his movie commitments, and still being hamstrung by his management’s insistence on exclusively cutting songs owned by their publishing company.

  

  

Around our house, whenever an MGM movie starts, if my wife doesn’t say it first, I’ll chime in: “You know, that lion came from the Memphis Zoo.” The lion’s name was Volney, by the way, and the roar was in fact recorded in the old Carnivora building at the zoo. He died in 1944.

Elvis '66

Aug 31, 2012

The title of the article, written by Maureen Cleave and published in the London Evening Standard in early 1966 was “How Does A Beatle Live?” Buried in the middle of quips and quotes were typical brash John Lennon throwaway lines. “Christianity will go,” he said, “it will vanish and shrink.” John added, “We’re more popular than Jesus now.” Virtually unnoticed at the time, the lines were quoted ala carte in an American teen magazine that summer, and the backlash they drew in the states hit its peak right around the time of the band’s appearance at the Mid-South Coliseum.

Elvis Presley left his building, Graceland mansion, in the back of an ambulance heading for Baptist Hospital the afternoon of August 16, 1977.

The paramedics who attended him before departure, and his personal physician who pounded, pleaded and coaxed, knew what we all would learn shortly. An era had ended. Presley had travel plans to head for Portland, Maine to kick off a concert tour that very night, but those dates would be tragically unfulfilled.

When the Beatles came to Elvis Presley’s Bel Air home in 1965 for a meeting orchestrated by managers Brian Epstein and Colonel Tom Parker, John Lennon asked if Elvis had any ideas for his next movie project. Elvis said he would probably play a country boy with a guitar who meets a few girls and sings a few songs. Elvis couldn’t keep a straight face long after making that statement, and laughingly explained that the only time one of his films strayed from that format was the only time he came close to losing money on a movie.

In May, 1963, Elvis Presley spent a couple of days in RCA’s Studio B in Nashville working on an album project. Fourteen songs were recorded, of which “Devil In Disguise” and “Please Don’t Drag That String Around” were immediately siphoned off as a single. The balance of the tunes never did coalesce as a unit, but were parceled off as single B-sides or album filler.

There’s an old adage that runs through the thread of rock-and-roll lore. Whatever feat of fame or infamy some latter day rock star performs, someone will trot out the maxim “Elvis did it first, did it best, and looked better doing it!” But for all the firsts and ‘greatests‘, it actually took Elvis a while to finally do something many artists who followed took for granted. It took Presley almost seven years to get around to recording a song he actually wrote. There were two of them.

Colonel Tom Parker knew there would never be another 1956. It was highly unlikely that Elvis Presley, or perhaps anyone, would so dominate the record charts, spending half the year at number one with multiple million-selling releases. The colonel knew, in fact, that as that first blush of the teeny-boppers of the 50’s matured and were abducted by real life, record sales were declining. Even though Elvis still put out million-selling records, the sales figures had been trending downward since “Jailhouse Rock”.