“Elvis Song Of The Year” for 2010

According to iTunes, out of 1,439 Elvis tracks, the one I played most often this year was: “Any Day Now” on 1969’s From Elvis In Memphis.

I listened to 6,749 Elvis songs using iTunes or my iPod in 2010 (including duplicates). That’s an average of 18 Elvis songs a day. Elvis is by no means the only artist I listen to, though.

Out of 2,694 non-Elvis tracks, my most played song this year was: “Halo” by Beyoncé on 2008’s I Am… Sasha Fierce.

Overall, I listened to 15,964 songs using iTunes or my iPod this year. That’s 44 songs a day. My daily average last year was 43, so at least I am consistent.

No matter how you cut the numbers, that’s a lot of music. The scary part is, that doesn’t even include my CD spins – which would probably add another 15 songs a day.

* * *

Thank you to all of those who read or supported The Mystery Train Elvis Blog in 2010. I hope to see you next year!

From “Harbor Lights” to “Unchained Melody” in 14 days

A few months ago, I spent three weeks listening in release order to all Elvis albums issued during his lifetime. Though I owned these songs for years, I had never played them in such a sequential manner before. I probably never would have, either, were it not for the convenience of modern technology – using iTunes and my iPod.

All of the great coverage around the web about Sony’s The Complete Elvis Presley Masters collection inspired me to undertake a similar journey in recent weeks. Using the Elvis Presley master recordings list as a guide, I created a new playlist to listen to all of the songs in recording order this time. While I was at it, I also tagged each song with a number so that I can easily sort them by recording order in the future.

It took me only two weeks to listen to over 700 Elvis songs, and it was an even better listening experience this way. As expected, the hardest years for me to sludge through were 1964 and 1965 (from about “Poison Ivy League” on down to “Queenie Wahine’s Papaya”). Even then, there were the occasional highlights like “Please Don’t Stop Loving Me” or “This Is My Heaven” – but most songs from this time represent the worst of the movie tunes.

Outside of that long rough spot, though, playing the songs in a coherent fashion like this made it even more obvious how solid most of his other recordings were over the years. It really made me appreciate the “sound” of individual sessions, something that is not always evident when listening to many of his albums. As a fan, it was an emotional experience as well, even more so than listening to them as albums.

When the Graceland sessions came to a close with “He’ll Have To Go,” I realized there were only three Elvis recordings left before he did just that. As he sang “If You Love Me,” and “Little Darlin’,” I knew the inevitable was coming. It was going by so fast, I wanted it to slow down, I wanted it not to happen this time.

He launched into his breathtaking version of “Unchained Melody” and when it was over . . . silence.

I sat and listened to that silence for awhile . . . and thought about what it represented.

“The silence of a falling star” (Playlist Recipes #1)

Any of you that have made your way to The Mystery Train Elvis Blog via my old sci fi blog know that school (night classes) always takes up a lot of my time during this part of the year. On top of that, I’ve had a couple of challenging projects going on at work as well.

Though I may not be posting here as often as I’d like at the moment, Elvis is never far from my thoughts. I’m usually able to listen to my iPod a bit at work, especially when I’m handling a writing-related assignment. It helps to block out the distractions of whatever else is going on around me and allow me to focus.

Just for fun, I made up a couple of standard playlists to use at work yesterday.

Elvis 1972: The Unreachable Star

  • Burning Love [Burning Love And Hits From His Movies, Volume 2]
  • For The Good Times[Walk A Mile In My Shoes]
  • Always On My Mind [Separate Ways]
  • Fool [Elvis (Fool)]
  • Where Do I Go From Here [Elvis (Fool)]
  • Separate Ways [Separate Ways]
  • Also Sprach Zarathustra/Opening Riff/That’s All Right (Live) [An Afternoon In The Garden]
  • Proud Mary (Live) [Elvis As Recorded At Madison Square Garden]
  • Never Been To Spain (Live) [Walk A Mile In My Shoes]
  • You Gave Me A Mountain (Live) [Walk A Mile In My Shoes]
  • Polk Salad Annie (Live) [Close Up]
  • A Big Hunk O’ Love (Live) [Walk A Mile In My Shoes]
  • The Impossible Dream (Live) [He Walks Beside Me]
  • Burning Love (Live) [Close Up]
  • Until It’s Time For You To Go (Live) [An Afternoon In The Garden]
  • Suspicious Minds (Live) [An Afternoon In The Garden]
  • It’s Impossible (Live) [Elvis (Fool)]
  • I Can’t Stop Loving You (Live) [Welcome To My World]
  • An American Trilogy (Live) [This Is Elvis]
  • Can’t Help Falling In Love/Closing Riff (Live) [Elvis As Recorded At Madison Square Garden]
  • Elvis Talks About His Father (“Make up your mind…”) [Eye Of The Hurricane]
  • Johnny B. Goode (Rehearsal) [Elvis On Tour: The Rehearsals]
  • The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (Rehearsal) [Elvis On Tour: The Rehearsals]
  • Young And Beautiful (Rehearsal) [Elvis On Tour: The Rehearsals]
  • Lawdy, Miss Clawdy (Rehearsal) [Elvis On Tour: The Rehearsals]
  • Funny How Time Slips Aways (Rehearsal) [Elvis On Tour: The Rehearsals]
  • Always On My Mind (Rehearsal)[This Is Elvis]

Elvis 1973: Part I – The Midnight Train

  • Also Sprach Zarathustra/Opening Riff/See See Rider (Live) [Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite]
  • Burning Love (Live) [Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite]
  • You Gave Me A Mountain (Live) [Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite]
  • Steamroller Blues (Live) [Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite]
  • Love Me (Live) [Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite]
  • Johnny B. Goode (Live) [Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite]
  • It’s Over (Live) [Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite]
  • I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry (Live) [Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite]
  • What Now My Love (Live) [Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite]
  • Fever (Live)[The Alternate Aloha]
  • Welcome To My World (Live) [Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite]
  • Suspicious Minds (Live)[The Alternate Aloha]
  • I’ll Remember You (Live) [Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite]
  • An American Trilogy (Live) [Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite]
  • A Big Hunk O’ Love (Live) [Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite]
  • Can’t Help Falling In Love/Closing Riff (Live) [Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite]
  • Blue Hawaii (Remake) [A Legendary Performer, Volume 2]
  • Hawaiian Wedding Song (Remake) [Mahalo From Elvis]
  • No More (Remake) [Mahalo From Elvis]
  • Early Morning Rain (Remake) [Mahalo From Elvis]
  • Baby, What You Want Me To Do (Informal) [Elvis By The Presleys]
  • Just A Little Bit [Raised On Rock]
  • For Ol’ Times Sake [Raised On Rock]
  • Sweet Angeline [Raised On Rock]
  • If You Don’t Come Back [Raised On Rock]
  • I Miss You [Raised On Rock]
  • Are You Sincere [Raised On Rock]
  • It’s Different Now (Rehearsal) [Walk A Mile In My Shoes]
  • I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry (Informal) [Elvis By The Presleys]

I made it through the 1972 playlist, which was fantastic – a real testament to the power of Elvis during that year. For 1973, I only made it as far as “See See Rider” before it was time to go. Aloha sounded like so much fun, though, that I decided to watch the 2004 edition when I got home last night.

One of the things I love about Aloha, as well as a number of other Elvis events, actually, is watching his eyes. Particularly evident on the 2004 cut, you can see a “We’re all in on the same joke/Isn’t it crazy that this is going on?” expression of bemusement. Even in this concert, where he is sometimes criticized as being too serious, Elvis never really takes himself too seriously.

After a quick run-through of the obligatory “Hound Dog,” he says, “I was just a baby when I did that song. I was about 12-years-old, had sideburns. I’m lying like a rug, too.” Too bad this line was cut from the 1973 album and subsequent NBC broadcast.

The ability to laugh at himself was one of Elvis’ most endearing qualities, and that’s no lie.

“Anyone could lose his heart like me”

Don’t you love when an Elvis song that you previously paid little attention to comes out and smacks you across the forehead? You suddenly realize that it’s a great song. That’s what happened to me just now with 1963’s “Anyone” from the Kissin’ Cousins soundtrack.

I had iTunes on shuffle, using a smart playlist. It was “There Goes My Baby” by the Drifters, then “I Just Call You Mine” by Martina McBride, “Irreplaceable” by Beyoncé, Elvis foolin’ around on “The Cattle Call,” and then, BOOM, “Anyone.”

Why have I never noticed this beautiful song before? I had it rated as a measly two stars. I’ve bumped it up to four.

* * *

My pal Thomas over at the Elvis Today blog seems a little down in his latest post about the forthcoming Follow That Dream Records releases. Up next will be a book and CD combo for 1958’s King Creole.

Unfortunately, the CD contains only previously released material, and misses being comprehensive by leaving out a couple tracks that were available on Hits Like Never Before. After that, there will be a vinyl release capturing highlights from the Classic Albums series version of Good Times.

Cheer up, Thomas. What’s the best thing about FTD? Variety. 1950s releases are few and far between on FTD, and perhaps the King Creole book (and potential sound upgrades) will be good enough to make this underdog a special release.

In the US, I have a slight advantage because I’ll be able to read some of the reviews from around the world before our pre-order period is over.

The other releases we’re waiting for, such as Promised Land, will come eventually. As you said, Elvis On Tour is on the way. We can’t have everything at once now, can we? We don’t want to be spoiled.

How to Win Auction Items and Explore Elvis the Music Fan

I don’t usually pay a whole lot of attention to Elvis-related items that go up for auction. A lot of times, it is boring stuff like locks of his hair.

A recent British auction caught my eye, though. From Elvis Unlimited, here are excerpts from a description by Scotty Moore, Elvis’ first guitarist, of the lot he put up for auction in May:

I write this letter to confirm that I own a very special collection of records that used to belong to Elvis, and to confirm the story of the records: In early January 1968 […], Elvis asked if I could transfer his old favourite 78 RPM records to reel-to-reel tape for him at my studio. I told him yes.

When we met at the sessions in Nashville, which took place on January 15th and 16th 1968, Elvis brought with him a briefcase with 26 78s wrapped in the January 14th edition of the Memphis newspaper The Commercial Appeal.

Elvis left me the briefcase with the records and asked me to mail the tape back to his house in Memphis, which I did. I made a safety copy for myself and kept the records and tape in my studio in Nashville. Elvis never asked for the records to be returned. […]

Some years later – around 1973, I believe, I was cleaning out my studio when I noticed the briefcase with the 78 RPM records. I called Graceland who took notice of the titles, and I took the records back to my home studio in Nashville where they have been kept safe in my home ever since. […]

These records were some of Elvis’ first and all time favourite records. They influenced Elvis as a musician and vocalist for sure.”

For me, I find this a fascinating look at Elvis the music fan. That’s right, it’s Elvis as one of us.

Below is the list of records. If Elvis lived in modern times and had an iPod, this could certainly have been one of his playlists. I’ve italicized songs that Elvis is known to have professionally recorded.

  • Joe Turner: Corrine Corrina b/w Boogie Woogie Country Girl
  • The Dominoes: That’s What You’re Doing To Me b/w When The Swallows Come Back To Capistrano
  • Ivory Joe Hunter: It’s A Sin b/w Don’t You Believe Her
  • Roy Brown: Hurry, Hurry Baby b/w Travelin’ Man
  • Fats Domino: Blueberry Hill b/w Honey Chile
  • The Crickets: You’re Mine b/w Milk And Gin
  • Tommy Edwards: It’s All In The Game b/w All Over Again
  • Ray Charles: I Got A Woman b/w Come Back
  • Hank Snow: I’m Gonna Bid My Blues Goodbye b/w Just A Faded Petal From A Beautiful Bouquet
  • Louis Jones And His Band: Rock And Roll Bells b/w All Over, Goodbye
  • Lowell Fulson: Reconsider Baby b/w I Believe I’ll Give Up
  • Brownie Mcghee: I’m 10,000 Years Old b/w Cherry Red
  • The Four Lads: Moments To Remember b/w Dream On, My Love, Dream On
  • Johnny Ace With The Beale Streeter: My Song b/w Follow The Rule
  • Roy Hamilton: Hurt b/w Star Of Love
  • Sammy Davis Jr: Because Of You Parts 1 & 2
  • Fats Domino: Ain’t It A Shame b/w La-La
  • Lloyd Price: Lawdy Miss Clawdy b/w Mailman Blues
  • Buddy Blake: Rosie b/w You’ll Cry For Me
  • The Pearls: Your Cheatin’ Heart b/w I Sure Need You
  • Ivory Joe Hunter: Since I Met You Baby b/w You Can’t Stop This Rockin’ And Rollin’
  • Carl Perkins: Matchbox b/w Your True Love
  • Billy Ward And His Dominoes: Rags To Riches b/w Don’t Thank Me
  • The Billy Vaughn Orchestra: The Shifting Whispering Sands Parts 1 & 2
  • Arthur Gunter: Baby Let’s Play House b/w Blues After Hours
  • Willie Mae ‘Big Mama’ Thornton: Hound Dog b/w Night Mare

The lot of 26 records ending up fetching well over $100,000 US at auction. It was a big check to write, but I’m looking forward to receiving the records.

Just kidding, I don’t have that kind of splurge money. However, I did think of one relatively inexpensive way to “win” this auction – by buying and downloading the same songs from iTunes or Amazon. Plus, I already have a few of them on my iPod.

It turns out that 39 of the above songs are available on iTunes. The 13 “missing” songs are not currently available for download from the US versions of iTunes or Amazon. However, they may be available on CD – which I did not check as of yet.

A couple of CDs were released in the last few years purporting to contain songs that inspired Elvis, including some of the above tunes. Personally, I think it’s more fun to track down the exact ones in his collection – almost the equivalent of a young Elvis finding a much-wanted single in a Beale Street record shop.

In any event, for about $50 or less, you can download and listen to songs that Elvis enjoyed and gain new insight into the artist. For more information on the records, including pictures, see the official Scotty Moore site.