“Slow versions” support Theory of Relativelvisity

The Theory Of RelativelvisityHow we perceive something is often relative to our starting point. For instance, people who became fans when Elvis first rose to fame in the mid-1950s often view him differently than those who became fans after his comeback of 1968 or his death in 1977.

Many of those earliest fans seem to favor the 1950s recordings. That is, after all, how they first discovered Elvis. Being the rebel that she is, my mom is actually an exception to that generalization. She became an Elvis fan in 1956, but she definitely favors his 1968-1977 recordings – often to the exclusion of anything else.

I’ve mentioned before that the first Elvis record I can remember listening to is “My Way” backed with “America, The Beautiful,” recorded live in 1977 and 1975 respectively. I had definitely heard Elvis music before that record came out, but those are the earliest specific songs I can remember.

After that, the next major Elvis recording in my life was a cassette tape of 1972’s As Recorded At Madison Square Garden. My mom played that tape just about every time we went for a car ride in the early-to-mid-1980s. It may still hold the record as the concert I’ve heard most often.

She would always crank it up when certain songs came on, especially “Suspicious Minds.” She still does that, in fact. If you are ever in my town and a car drives past you blaring Elvis, it is far more likely to be my mom than me behind the wheel.

Eventually, the Madison Square Garden tape began to wear thin. She next switched to a tape copy of the 1977 album Elvis In Concert. Though it lost a few points for not including “Suspicious Minds,” she played that one almost as much as she did Madison Square Garden.

For the longest time, other than the occasional radio song or record album that my family played around the house, those two live concerts tapes were Elvis to me.

Eventually, I started to collect my own albums. One of the first ones I acquired was Elvis’ Golden Records, which compiles some of his hits from 1956 and 1957.

Keeping in mind that my perception of most of them was based almost entirely on As Recorded At Madison Square Garden and Elvis In Concert, I was sure in for a shock when I played the original studio versions of some of the songs from those live albums:

  • Hound Dog
  • All Shook Up
  • Heartbreak Hotel
  • Jailhouse Rock
  • Love Me
  • Don’t Be Cruel
  • Teddy Bear
  • Love Me Tender

Though I loved the overall sound of the record, many of the songs initially seemed “off” to me. I began to think of them as the “slow versions.” It took years for my perception of those songs to change.

While I came to love and appreciate the 1950s material, I am glad that my Elvis journey started like it did. I believe it allowed me to be much more sympathetic towards his later years than I otherwise might have been.

Besides, I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything. Thanks, Mom. Keep cranking it up!

6 thoughts on ““Slow versions” support Theory of Relativelvisity

  1. Excellent theory. First Elvis album I bought was ‘Spinout’ when it was first released in Oct. ’66. I thought wow, Elvis sounds great while listening to songs from the movie. But while listening to the bonus songs: Tomorrow is A Long Time, Down In The Alley and I’ll Remember You, I thought Elvis sounds different. I loved the bonus songs so much that I kept playing them over and over.

    Spinout Bonus PhotoWhile listening to the songs, I was looking at the bonus photo that came inside the album and thinking, although he looks cool, it was different than how a lot of teens were looking.

    The youth of America fell in love with British music and especially The Beatles. They were dressing like them as well. Trying to get anyone to take notice of my new album wasn’t easy. But when I mentioned Tomorrow is A Long Time they wanted to hear it. I couldn’t believe how many loved it! The same kids that made fun of Elvis were saying how much they loved Elvis’ version better than Dylan’s.

    My second and third Elvis albums were ‘Elvis’ Golden Records’ and ‘Elvis’ Gold Records – Volume Two. 50 Million Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong.’ Although I heard many songs before, many were for the first time.

    Elvis' Gold Records Volume 2While looking at the front covers, I thought he really looks awesome and started thinking how much Elvis changed over the years. And understanding why many Elvis fans were saying how great he was back in the 50s and someday he will be back on top.

    I had heard Elvis music before Tomorrow is A Long Time, Down In The Alley and I’ll Remember You but those songs made me appreciate the 50s material. I am glad that my Elvis journey started like it did and wouldn’t trade those memories for anything.


  2. Thanks for covering an interesting topic, Ty, one that I guess every fan can relate to. The first albums I got to know were a mixed lot, from a friend I borrowed Elvis In Concert, A Canadian Tribute, C’mon Everybody, I Got Lucky and Mahalo From Elvis, so I guess I got a little “something for everybody” from the start. But no doubt these records helped shape the way I look at Elvis, I still like the movie songs from the early 60’s (http://www.elvistodayblog.com/2011/10/i-got-lucky.html), and Elvis In Concert is one of my favorite albums. Your great post also made me remember a friend of mine who loved “Jailhouse Rock” from Elvis In Concert when I played it for him, but didn’t quite feel the same way when he bought a record with the original version on it (thinking it was the same version): http://www.elvistodayblog.com/2011/07/my-third-movie-was-called-jailhouse.html


    • Thomas, thanks for including that link to the post about your friend! Reading that post last year is actually what inspired this one. It’s been on my list of possible posts since way back in July, believe it or not. I actually meant to credit your post, but forgot after all this time. Funny!


  3. I must agree with you Ty, and me fellow fans, my father always played the Aloha from Hawaii album as I grew up and the 45’s of Burning Love and My Boy, as I bought my Elvis collection, I hit every concert from MSG to Elvis in Concert, really didn’t have much of the fifties Elvis until after I started to build my collection up. Then in 1984 I seen the 68 special on HBO and was Blown away, from the first close up till If I Can Dream after that I’ve always appreciated All of his amazing songs, from 54-77, and always did get a kick out of having a variety of different versions of his songs. Slow, fast, or just rehearsals. But 70’s Elvis was my intro, and still my favorite. So glad we still have his music!! Keep on Rockin’ Ty!! And tell Mom she’s got good taste and to crank it up for The King!! TCB!!!


  4. Some of us though are unreconstructed 50s men, probably because we were around then. My first Elvis single was Don’t and my first album (heard not bought because I could not afford it) was Golden Records Vol 1. Listening to the whole career as it unfolded I felt Elvis declined. His health suffered and he lost focus and his voice sometimes became ragged. But there is a but. Although, in my opinion, Elvis did decline he did grow as well. This is the fabulous paradox. The great thing about Elvis is that he made music in each of the three decades that was beyond him in the other decades. The fifties had energy and a beat, the sixties had a beautiful voice and the seventies caught emotional desolation. This is probably why different people respond in different ways. And, although I prefer his fifties music, I am glad that his 70s music did not repeat what he did in the fifties.


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