Gospel Elvis #1: “I Believe”

Today, I am beginning Gospel Elvis, a new, occasional series on The Mystery Train Blog. Gospel Elvis will examine songs of faith and inspiration that Elvis released during his lifetime. To be clear, each song won’t necessarily be “strictly” Gospel, but “Gospel Elvis” has a better ring to it than “Songs of Faith and Inspiration Elvis.” While I decided to start in 1957 for this first post, we won’t necessarily go in chronological order, either.


Elvis Presley in LOVING YOU (1957, Paramount)

Kicking off his first session of the new year, Elvis Presley recorded “I Believe” on January 12, 1957, at Radio Recorders in Hollywood. It was his first formal recording of a song of faith. The same session also produced the smash hit “All Shook Up,” which ruled atop the Billboard Top 100 chart for eight weeks to become the number one single of 1957.

RCA first released “I Believe” on the Peace In The Valley Extended Play (EP) album in April 1957. The song made its Long Play (LP) album debut on Elvis’ Christmas Album six months later. In October 1970, RCA released a reconfigured version of Elvis’ Christmas Album on its budget Camden label, leaving out “I Believe.” Instead, a reissue of “I Believe” appeared on the March 1971 Camden LP You’ll Never Walk Alone – one of the best of the Elvis budget releases.

Take a listen to Elvis’ recording of “I Believe” below or over on Youtube.

Credit: Vevo’s Elvis Presley channel (YouTube)

Ervin Drake, Irvin Graham, Jimmy Shirl, and Al Stillman wrote “I Believe” in 1952 for singer/actress Jane Froman. The most popular version, however, belongs to Frankie Laine‘s 1953 recording.

Elvis’ interpretation of the song did not seem to draw from Laine, however. Elvis named Roy Hamilton among his influences, and he no doubt had Hamilton’s 1955 version of “I Believe” in mind when he recorded it. Check it out on Youtube or below.

Credit: Roy Hamilton – Topic channel (YouTube)

What strikes me when listening to Hamilton’s sublime recording is that I can hear not only the influence on Elvis’ “I Believe” in particular, but also on Elvis’ vocals in general. Elvis had many influences, but most of them I do not hear as directly as that of Hamilton.

Now that we have heard two versions of “I Believe,” I want to attempt personally to interpret a couple lines of the lyrics within a Biblical context.

“I believe for everyone who goes astray, Someone will come to show the way.”

The truth is, as humans, all of us go astray. Jesus died so that our sins would be forgiven, however, and Heaven would still be available to us. He already paid for all of our sins, but our contribution to the admission ticket to Paradise is belief in Him (see John 3:16), for Jesus is literally the “way” to Heaven.

“Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.'”
John 14:6 NLT

Early Christians were even called “followers of the Way,” including in Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament.

“I believe above the storm the smallest prayer can still be heard.”

I was surprised to discover in the course of research for this post that there is actually some debate among Biblical scholars about whether God truly hears every prayer. To be clear, I do not claim to be a Bible expert. Though I have read it cover-to-cover four times, and currently working on two more read-throughs, the Bible is a dense work. However, in my humble opinion, there is no debate here. Of course God hears every prayer. He’s God! He’s omniscient. Does he grant every request? Of course not, but that’s a whole other discussion.

[Side Note: An interesting oddity about the Elvis version of “I Believe” is that he sings “the smallest prayer can still be heard” whereas the other half dozen or so versions I listened to by various singers for this post, including Hamilton, sing, “the smallest prayer will still be heard.” As this is The Mystery Train, I naturally used the Elvis version of the lyrics.]

One of the wonderful aspects of prayer is that you need not shout for God to hear you. He does, indeed, hear the quietest voice. In fact, you need not speak your prayer at all. You can think to God at any time, and He hears you. For believers, this is taken even a step further. If we can’t pray or don’t know what to pray, the Holy Spirit even steps in and prays for us (Romans 8:26-27).

In life, all of us encounter many storms. As a follower of Jesus, I now find comfort in Him through any such disturbances. I went through multiple life-changing events last year, for instance, many of which could have turned into tumultuous storms, but I approached each of them with much prayer, and Jesus brought me peace (John 14:27) and calm.

“The ropes of death entangled me; floods of destruction swept over me. The grave wrapped its ropes around me; death laid a trap in my path. But in my distress I cried out to the LORD; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry to him reached his ears.”
Psalm 18:4-6 NLT

My first exposure to “I Believe” was probably Elvis’ You’ll Never Walk Alone album. When I was a teenager in the 1980s, my family and I were on vacation somewhere or other. Anytime we went to a different place, I would always scour any store we happened to visit for Elvis items not available at home. At a Kmart or similar store, I found a cassette tape version of You’ll Never Walk Alone.

By this time, I had my first Walkman. This was about the third pre-recorded Elvis tape I ever owned. I would go on to acquire less than a dozen total, as my focus was on records and, later, CDs. Tapes were usually either releases I couldn’t find on record or gifts from others. Of course, I probably made well over a hundred Elvis mix tapes for my own use, which was the real appeal of cassette decks.

Anyway, I knew nothing about You’ll Never Walk Alone when I bought it. I just saw it had a lot of song titles I didn’t recognize. It was actually the first Elvis gospel album I ever owned. I can remember playing it on my Walkman in the car ride home from that vacation. Headphones allow for such an intimate listening experience, and they were perfect for You’ll Never Walk Alone.

I didn’t have any Elvis reference books at the time, so I thought the songs were all recorded around the same time. It sounded like a coherent album. In reality, the compilation included songs from throughout the range of 1957-1969. Elvis’ gospel and Christmas songs from various decades mix together better than his other music.

“I Believe” kicked off Side 2 of the cassette. As with many other songs on that release, it became a favorite. What I love about Elvis’ version of the song is how his voice eases back and forth effortlessly between gentle innocence and assertive conviction. I should note that I believed in God for as long as I could remember, but I was more skeptical about the Jesus aspect. However, I would explore and encounter Him in different ways over the years, including through Elvis’ many gospel recordings. It wasn’t until 2018 that all the puzzle pieces came together for me, and I was led to Jesus.

At that point, as a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), I began to experience the world in fresh ways. For instance, I was never an “outdoors” person. Now, I am often drawn to it. Walking in parks has become a favorite activity.

Music I had heard for decades began to take on new meanings. Suddenly, Elvis’ catalog of gospel was not just a collection of beautifully performed songs, but the most compelling and personal statements of his entire career.

My best friend taught me something she calls, “finding signs of Him.” What she means by that is taking a few minutes to stop, breathe, listen, look, and find God. There are signs of Him everywhere. “I Believe” understands this as well with the lyrics, “Every time I hear a newborn baby cry or touch a leaf or see the sky, then I know why I believe.” Evidence of God literally surrounds us.

To conclude our look at “I Believe” today, I want to sign off with my favorite version. This is Mahalia Jackson, 1953. Listen to her voice, surely evidence of God.

Credit: Mahalia Jackson – Topic channel (YouTube)


“And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.”
Hebrews 11:6

Vinyl Elvis #1: Building Dreams on 1982’s SUSPICIOUS MINDS

Although I have restored about 85% of the posts from the first iteration of The Mystery Train Blog, I still have many Elvis posts that I first published on my pop-culture blogs. Since those blogs are now retired, I will occasionally revisit, brush off, and update one of those Elvis entries as a “Special Edition Bonus Post” here on The Mystery Train Blog. As a Labor Day Special, here is the first such bonus post. I am starting with this one because I want to begin adding new posts in the Vinyl Elvis series soon.


For some modern fans, enjoying the music of Elvis Presley is a family experience. This has certainly been the case with me. Mom became a fan in 1956. She later passed her “Elvis gene” on to both my older brother and me. Some of my best memories involve listening to Elvis music with my family. By the time I was in middle school, my brother allowed me to borrow his Elvis records. I would take albums one at a time from his bedroom and carefully play them.

I heard so many Elvis songs for the first time via my brother’s albums. As much as I enjoy listening to CDs and iTunes, there is nothing quite like hearing Elvis on vinyl. These days, my brother no longer has a turntable. Since he felt they would be in good hands, he gave me all of his Elvis albums. His touching generosity more than doubled my Elvis record collection. It has also inspired this series of posts that will examine a variety of Elvis records – starting today with one I received from my brother.

SUSPICIOUS MINDS (Camden, 1982; from Tygrrius’ collection) | Click image for full-color version

Suspicious Minds
Label: Camden
Catalog Number: CDS 1206 (Label) / CDSV 1206 (Outer Sleeve)
Recorded: 1956-1969 | Nashville, Hollywood, Memphis
Released: 1982

Since the title song is one of my brother’s favorites (mine as well), I have decided to kick off this series with Suspicious Minds, a 1982 compilation album released by the United Kingdom’s Pickwick International on the Camden label.

I remember loving the “in your face” cover of this album when I first played it around 1988.

As far as I have been able to determine, there was not a United States version of this album. This appears to be a German pressing that somehow made its way here to the US.

Side 1 of SUSPICIOUS MINDS (Camden, 1982; from Tygrrius’ collection) | Click image for full-color version

Side 1

  1. Suspicious Minds (1969)
    Though a great choice to open the album, the sound is slightly “muddy.” This is the stereo version, which actually had only first been released a year earlier on Greatest Hits, Volume One. I remember noticing the horns and the double fade-out on this version way back when, as the only studio version I had probably heard to that point was on The Number One Hits and The Top Ten Hits. Rather than use the vintage mono or stereo mixes, those albums used a 1987 mix with an early fade and no horns that was created for The Memphis Record.
  2. Got A Lot O’Livin’ To Do (1957)
    This one sounds great! I cleaned up the record prior to playing it, and I have yet to hear a crackle or static on it at all. Though it was recorded in mono, I suspect this version is electronically processed to simulate stereo. If so, I am surprised to admit that I actually do not mind the effect at all.
  3. Return To Sender (1962)
    Good sound quality continues. Definitely a nice series of opening selections for this album – despite being all over the map in terms of when recorded. That is actually part of the fun of some of these older compilations, though. The only theme here is “Elvis Music,” and that is enough. There seems to be a little edit or something on the sax solo as the song fades that I am not used to hearing.
  4. A Big Hunk O’ Love (1958)
    This one sounds really loud! It also sounds like the treble is turned way up. Welcome to the 1980s, Elvis. Really loving this album, though.
  5. In The Ghetto (1969)
    The pace finally lets up, with the beautiful “In The Ghetto.” The treble still sounds high to me, oddly enough.
  6. One Night (1957)
    One of Elvis’ best songs, and it sounds incredible here. What an extraordinary first side to a record.

Side 2 of SUSPICIOUS MINDS (Camden, 1982; from Tygrrius’ collection) | Click image for full-color version

Side 2

  1. Good Luck Charm (1961)
    Another hit opens this side of the record, though not nearly as perfect as “Suspicious Minds.” This also marks the first time I have heard any popping noises on this record.
  2. U.S. Male (1968)
    This is a fun song. Sound quality slightly lower here than I am used to, though. It is kind of “tinny.” This might be another instance of the treble being increased. I am pretty sure this record was the first time I had ever heard this song. I remember getting a kick out of it back then, and I still do. “You’re talkin’ to the U.S. male. The American U.S. male,” Elvis says in his best country voice.
  3. Party (1957)
    And it is back to 1957 with this rocker from Loving You. This was also “new to me” back when I first played this record. Still sounds great all these years later.
  4. Fever (1960)
    In 1988, I only knew “Fever” from the live Aloha From Hawaii version (1973). I remember not liking the studio version nearly as much, though finding the additional lyrics of interest.
  5. Old Shep (1956)
    This song about a loyal dog can be a difficult listen for dog lovers like me. It does exemplify the variety of songs included on Suspicious Minds.
  6. You’re The Devil In Disguise (1963)
    Though it gets repetitive, it is hard not to like “Devil In Disguise.” It is an odd choice to close this album, though. I was ready for another song!

Back cover of SUSPICIOUS MINDS (Camden, 1982; from Tygrrius’ collection) | Click image for original black & white version

While Suspicious Minds did not contain any previously unreleased material, it is an entertaining album that is well worth picking up if you ever come across it in vinyl format. Thank you to my brother for giving me the Elvis records that inspired this series of posts.


“A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.”
Proverb 17:17

From sea to shining sea

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” –From The Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, July 4, 1776

America The Beautiful: A History of Elvis Presley Releases

  • December 6, 1975, Live, Las Vegas, Midnight Show: Live In Las Vegas
  • December 13, 1975, Live, Las Vegas, Dinner Show: Dinner At Eight
  • December 13, 1975, Live, Las Vegas, Midnight Show: Single, b/w “My Way”
  • December 14, 1975, Live, Las Vegas, Midnight Show: Fashion For A King
  • February 8, 1976, Memphis: The Jungle Room Sessions (incomplete)
  • April 22, 1976, Live, Omaha: America
  • July 3, 1976, Live, Fort Worth: Rocking Across Texas
  • July 30, 1976, Live, New Haven: New Haven 76
  • October 18, 1976, Live, Sioux Falls: A Minnesota Moment

[Information source: Elvis In Norway Session Notes]

Cover of America The Beautiful, 1977 single

Oh beautiful,
For spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountains, majesty,
Above the fruited plains,
America, America,
God shed His grace on thee,
And He crowns thy good,
With brotherhood,
From sea to shining sea

–From “America The Beautiful,” Elvis Presley song, 1975 (written by Katharine Lee Bates & Samuel Ward)

America The Beautiful, 1977 single


UPDATE: Check out today’s entry of The Sheila Variations blog for another look at Elvis Presley’s “America The Beautiful.”

Elvis 1967: The Once And Future Album (The Edge Of Reality #3)

There are infinite universes, beyond that which is known to man. Imagine, if you will, one such alternate dimension in which an entertainer named Elvis Aaron Presley set a slightly different course for his life. In that universe, one of the entertainer’s fans was also born thirty years sooner. This allowed him to document what happened when the entertainer took a stand in 1967. Submitted for your approval is this brief glance into… the edge of reality.

The Mystery Train Elvis Newsletter (November 1967)

The Mystery Train Elvis Newsletter (November 1967)

THE MYSTERY TRAIN ELVIS NEWSLETTER
Volume XII, Issue 4, Number 48
November 1967
– Page 2 –

Hitchhike all the way down to Memphis with Big El
A review of Elvis Sings Guitar Man by Ty.

Word has it that Elvis had a major blow-up with RCA Records over Elvis Sings Guitar Man, which hit record stores last week. RCA originally planned to issue some of these songs on a soundtrack record for the new Clambake movie, which will be playing at a theater near you later this month.

Elvis insisted on an album with no movie songs, though. If the rumors are true, he apparently even threatened to fire his long-time manager over the debacle until the Colonel worked it out with RCA. Meanwhile, Elvis’ newly hired personal attorney is still reviewing management and recording contracts he signed earlier this year. With two cancelled movie soundtrack albums in as many years, could major shakeups be on the way? Stay tuned.

Ironically, the similarly-titled Elvis Sings Memphis, Tennessee came about due to similar circumstances back in 1963. As you probably recall, the legend goes that Elvis nearly fired the Colonel back then, too. Seems the Colonel wanted to replace that album’s release with a new installment of the Golden Records series. Elvis’ instincts proved right back then, for the platinum-selling Memphis, Tennessee album made it to number three on the charts.

In any event, with the Clambake songs shelved for now, we Elvis fans get this album instead. Was he right to take the same stand for Guitar Man as he did for Memphis, Tennessee? Let’s find out.

SIDE 1

Guitar Man: Elvis has gone Country & Western? That’s what this first song tells us. Musically, this is much better than anything on the Double Trouble LP and the Easy Come, Easy Go EP from earlier this year. In terms of Elvis’ commitment, this is more on par with the How Great Thou Art LP Gospel album that kicked off this year. Can the whole album live up to this first song, though?

Tomorrow Is A Long Time: While writer Bob Dylan has not released this song himself, Folk music fans may have heard it on the Odetta Sings Dylan album that she put out a couple years ago. I must admit, I never expected Elvis to sing Dylan, though! Even more so than “Guitar Man,” this is a very unusual song compared to what we are used to from him. I like it as something different, but hope the entire album isn’t like this.

Big Boss Man: Some people think that Country & Western is about as far apart from the Blues as you can get. Apparently not Elvis, who delivers yet another fine performance. This time, it is a Blues song done in what is almost a Country & Western style. It was combining different styles of music that helped Elvis to create Rock ‘n’ Roll back in the old days anyway. Be sure to listen out for a slight change to the words. Instead of “I want a little drink of water, but you won’t let Jimmy stop,” he sings, “I want a little drink of water, but you won’t let Big El stop.” I like the sound of that. I think I’ll call him that from now on. Of note, RCA originally planned this for release on 45 in the fall. They even put out ads for it, but the single was held back – probably while waiting for the various parties to resolve the whole Clambake album controversy.

Love Letters: After such a start, this is a ballad for the ladies. Not as strong as “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” but more along the lines of “Ask Me.” You might remember that Big El had a bit of a hit last year with this on 45 RPM.

Indescribably Blue: We know this one already, too. It was a 45 earlier this year. Though it didn’t do very well, I still say it is one of his best records. Sounds a lot like a modern take on his early days. I don’t mind hearing it again in the context of what is starting to sound like, dare I think it, his finest album in years.

Fools Fall In Love: Now the B-side of the above single. I didn’t like this one as much. Stick with the Drifters for this one. From the sound of things, Big El might have thought this one was for a movie. Most albums have a little filler, though.

High Heel Sneakers: Finally, back to new songs. Big El takes the Blues head on here and triumphs. A real treat!

SIDE 2

Down In The Alley: Big El starts Side 2 in much the same way that he ended Side 1, with a Blues number. Not as effective as “High Heel Sneakers” and a little whiney for my tastes, but still an enjoyable performance. At least he sounds like he cares about these songs.

Come What May: This was the flip side to the “Love Letters” 45. Big El’s version is a little faster than Clyde McPhatter’s from ten years ago. Much like “Fools Fall In Love,” the arrangement here sounds like a movie song. He has to be more careful not to let that sound carry over into his “real” music. After taking his stand against RCA, would he have been better served to demand another recording session to properly finish this album? Maybe that’s expecting too much at once.

Mine: Here we are on the very next song and Big El makes up for “Come What May” and then some. “Mine” is a beautiful song, one of his very best love songs – right up there with “Can’t Help Falling In Love.” Way better than “Love Me Tender.”

Just Call Me Lonesome: And now the album turns Country & Western again! You can’t say you’re not getting variety here. Only Big El could pull off making all of these styles work as one album.

You Don’t Know Me: Ever since I first heard the Ray Charles version of this Eddy Arnold Country & Western song a few years ago, I always wondered what an Elvis version would sound like. Now, I no longer have to wonder. Big El turns in a somber performance that truly conveys the heartache of the lyrics. This is Elvis at his best. Look for a version of this when you go see Clambake. Is it possible that the rest of the Clambake songs were this good? I have a hard time believing that, but I guess we’ll know when the movie comes out.

Singing Tree: Big El stays in the Country & Western neighborhood for this one. While it does not compare to “Mine” or “You Don’t Know Me,” this song about lost love is still interesting and a fine performance.

I’ll Remember You: This one is another surprise, sounding like a cross between “Tomorrow Is A Long Time” from Side 1 and the Blue Hawaii soundtrack. With a little Country & Western thrown in. I’m not kidding! Again, only Big El could pull this off. Another beautiful song.

* * *

I don’t know in what insane universe RCA would waste these songs as filler on movie soundtracks, but I’m sure glad it’s not ours. 1967 has certainly been a year of change for Elvis. As covered in our previous newsletter, he married his longtime sweetheart just a few months ago. Early next year, he and Ann-Margret are expecting their first child (see article on page 1 of this issue). Let’s hope that How Great Thou Art and Elvis Sings Guitar Man mean more good things are on the way in 1968.

So, I know the completists among you are wondering about the songs recorded for the Clambake movie. Will we ever get to hear them on record? Word around the rumor mill (which sure has been busy this year) is that they might be combined with songs from last year’s cancelled Spinout soundtrack album to make an Elvis Double Feature album. Stranger things have happened.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Have a Happy Thanksgiving, a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year! See you in 1968!

A fairytale? A fantasy? A careless product of wild imagination? You can believe or disbelieve, accept or reject; but if this isn’t real, then we’re all condemned to… the edge of reality.

[With apologies to Serling.]


Throughout 2011, The Mystery Train is commemorating the 44th anniversary of 1967. Find out why here.

Elvis 1967: Album Release #1 (How Great Thou Art)

How Great Thou Art became Elvis’ first album release of 1967 when it hit record stores that February. The LP, recorded May 1966 in Nashville, featured the following songs:

SIDE 1

  • How Great Thou Art
  • In The Garden
  • Somebody Bigger Than You And I
  • Farther Along
  • Stand By Me
  • Without Him

SIDE 2

  • So High
  • Where Could I Go But To The Lord
  • By And By
  • If The Lord Wasn’t Walking By My Side
  • Run On
  • Where No One Stands Alone
  • Crying In The Chapel (October 1960)

Though he had been nominated ten times in the past, Elvis went on to earn his first Grammy award for the How Great Thou Art album, which won for Best Sacred Performance of 1967. By March 1968, How Great Thou Art had also sold enough copies to earn a gold record.

Billboard article, March 30, 1968

Billboard article, March 30, 1968

After the lean years of 1964 and 1965, arguably the low points of his entire recording career, Elvis fired the opening salvos of what eventually became his comeback during that May 1966 session. How Great Thou Art features many moving performances, perhaps none more so than the title song. It also showcases the raucous energy of “Run On,” a song that rocked more than any of his recent secular efforts.

* * *
Research Sources

  • Elvis Presley: A Life In Music – The Complete Recording Sessions by Ernst Jorgensen, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1998.
  • Billboard, Vol. 80, No. 13, Billboard Publications, Inc., March 30, 1968.
  • ELVIS: His Life From A To Z by Fred Worth and Steve Tamerius, Wings Books, New York, 1992.

Throughout 2011, The Mystery Train is commemorating the 44th anniversary of 1967. Why? Riders of this train love exploring Elvis’ entire career, not just the 1950s. Find out more here.

And all four speakers were blaring Elvis

The latest FTD release, Live In Vegas: August 26, 1969 Dinner Show, arrived at my house yesterday. I resisted the urge to give it a quick listen last night so that I can give it proper attention this weekend. I’ll be reviewing this one soon, and I can’t wait to hear it. I wonder if my neighbors would mind if I blared an Elvis concert at 6:30 in the morning? Of course, it wouldn’t be the first time.

* * *

Came across a nice little Elvis mention courtesy of Google News while web surfing last night. I started to post a link here, but was too sleepy to type coherently. I’m definitely a morning person, you see. Anyway, over on JSOnline, the web site of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, someone wrote the following comment and question to “Mr. Music:”

I know the peak time for quadraphonic albums is around 1975. But the first quad LP I bought was ‘Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite,’ the soundtrack of Elvis Presley’s 1973 Honolulu concert. Since this came out before quad’s heyday, is it the first quad album? I’ll bet it is the top-selling quad release. Also, did anyone ever make quad singles?”- Jeremy Norbert, Milwaukee

Quadraphonic sound was an early consumer version of what we now call surround sound. In stereo sound, the audio is separated into two distinct channels. In quadraphonic sound, the audio was separated into four distinct channels – meaning you would listen with four speakers. Though it was indeed used for Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite, the format did not catch on.

I didn’t even notice this last night, but another perusal of the article just now reveals that “Mr. Music” is none other than renowned record collecting and Elvis expert/author Jerry Osborne. No wonder I was so impressed with his response. I was surprised last night that a “mainstream media” member could give such a knowledgable reply without tossing in snide comments or jokes about Elvis in the 70s. Now it all makes sense.

Check out Osborne’s reply: “Elvis in Hawaii helped take sound to a new level” — JSOnline. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on Osborne’s Mr. Music column in the future.

An updated version of Osborne’s Elvis: Like Any Other Soldier book is available now. You can find out more information about his publications over at Jerry Osborne’s site.

Guest Blog #1: Elvis 1967 – Clambake!

When Ty announced that The Mystery Train Elvis Blog would honor the 44th anniversary of 1967 with special features on that Elvis year all throughout 2011, I couldn’t keep my fingers away from the keyboard. Not only does 1967 mark the year I was born, it also saw the release of the soundtrack album Clambake, and I’d like to talk a little bit about the latter.

Clambake (1967)

Clambake (1967)

Actually, Clambake isn’t strictly a soundtrack album as it includes no less than five bonus songs, four of them recorded in Nashville on September 10-11, 1967. No doubt this is a big part of the explanation why I like it. And although one of the worst soundtrack songs Elvis ever recorded is featured on it as well, a lot of the movie material works surprisingly well.

Clambake is the only soundtrack album to kick off with a bonus song, and what a start it is. For starving fans back in 1967 it must have been a joy to listen to Elvis belting out “Guitar Man.” This is one of the songs that revealed that Elvis was again showing signs of musical creativity and a newly found interest in his career.

Although the same thing can’t be said about the next song, I actually enjoy the title track “Clambake.” It’s a fun number and I love it when Elvis sings “Aaaaaaaallrigh” at the beginning of the instrumental break.

The duet “Who Needs Money?” is a dreary song, but what follows is the pretty little ballad “A House That Has Everything.” Unfortunately, it’s then time for “Confidence,” a song I would list among the five worst numbers Elvis ever recorded. A children’s song that is unlikely to appeal to any child, or grownup too, for that matter.

The last song on side 1 of the original LP is “Hey, Hey, Hey,” a number many fans think is crap. I agree that the lyrics are silly and that the scene in the movie where it’s sung is an awful one. But I think it works well on record, it’s a funky, enjoyable number.

Side two is actually better than the first one, no doubt because the rest of the bonus songs can be found on it, together with the beautiful “You Don’t Know Me,” certainly one of Elvis’ best soundtrack ballads. When I bought the LP I never understood why it was labeled “Specially recorded for records.” It was years later that I learned that Elvis wasn’t satisfied with the version recorded during the Clambake session, on February 21, 1967.

“The Girl I Never Loved” is another beauty, I love it when Elvis sighs while singing “The kiss I never got, somebody else will make…” A sensitive ballad.

Why is is that some of the best songs are always cut from the movies? “Animal Instinct” from Harum Scarum and “Sand Castles” from Paradise, Hawaiian Style are two such examples, the bonus song “How Can You Lose What You Never Had” from Clambake another.

The three excellent bonus songs “Big Boss Man,” “Singing Tree,” and “Just Call Me Lonesome” round off the original Clambake album, released in October 1967, four months after I was born. I first listened to it maybe fifteen years later, and still do now and then. Clambake, gonna have a clambake!

/Thomas, Elvis Today


Throughout 2011, The Mystery Train Elvis Blog is commemorating the 44th anniversary of 1967. Why? Riders of this train love exploring Elvis’ entire career, not just the 1950s. Find out more here.