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If you put on a general music radio station at any point in the day, the chance is that if you listen for long enough you'll hear a song by the Beatles, and a song by Elvis Presley.
I was a belated Beatlemaniac while my Mum liked strictly Elvis; they both had 17 #1's in the UK - until A Little Less Conversation took the top spot in 2002, by which time Mum, please God, had gone to meet her idol as well as her God. But Elvis' musical influence extends far beyond his own corpus - hence nods to his vocal style in John Lennon's (Just Like) Starting Over, released barely a month beofre his own death, REM's Man in the Moon and countless others between and beyond.
We've recently had the 75th anniversary of Elvis' birth, so I decided I'd like to look at songs that might not be by Elvis but, given the the adulation accorded to him only grows as the years go by, I thought I'd do a top ten about Elvis.
10 - Real Good Lookin' Boy
This is the Who's guitarist Pete Townshend eulogising vocalist Roger Daltrey's 11-year-old epiphany upon seeing Elvis perform live. Already showing the rebellious streak that would hake him a perfect frontman for the band, , Songfacts quotes him as saying: "I loved him because everybody under the age of 20 thought they were Elvis and dressed like him. Everybody over 20 hated them and that was good enough for me."
9 - King's Call
Thin Lizzy's Phil Lynott enlists Mark Knopfler's help to put into words the desolation shared by many upon hearing of the death of Elvis. Listen out for the excerpt from Are you lonesome tonight.
8 - Boy from Tupelo
Here Emmy Lou Harris sings about the legend who originated from this Mississippi town before his family moved to Memphis in Tennessee when he'd just achieved double figures.
7 - Move it
Cliff Richard performs one of his first hits with the Shadows. I don't think I need gild the lily as to the influence of Elvis on this quintessentially Engish pop star, just watch!
6 - Walking in Memphis
Cher perfectly covers Mark Cohn's salute to the culture of Memphis, prominently featuring the city's prodigious Beale St, and also WC Handy, "Father of the Blues". Elvis would make both internationally famous.
5 - Plaisir d'Amour
Writing Can't Help Falling in Love, which was a huge hit for Elvis, George Weiss, Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatori put English words to Jean Paul Egide Martini's (right) 1780 song Plaisir d'Amour (The Joy of Love). Here's Nana Mouscouri singing the bittersweet words in their original French.
4- Always on my Mind
When in 1987 camp band the Pet Shop Boys recorded a video - not always perfectly lip-synched - of the classic made famous by Elvis (among many others, notably Willie Nelson - there was a degree of scepticism if not consternation at their electronica treatment. But due to the unexpected level of interest it was then released as a single which reached the top ten in the US and Australia, and reached the pole position in the UK, Canada and Germany. Suddenly, renewed interest in Elvis was injected into this decade that maistream music and fashion forgot.
3 - Elvis Presley Boulevard
I'd tried to find Billy Joel singing Chris Trapper's 2002 song as the two men are linked by the drummer Ronnie Tutt, who played for the King from 1969 on, but most prominently with the Aloha from Hawaii concert; Tutt also played on Joel's 1973 Piano Man album. Here's Illinois singer-songwriter Tommy Neal performing the song, warning those who would seek a sort of salvation in the minutiae of Elvis' life, with his wife Breann.
2 - Black Velvet
Elvis' face depicted on velvet, often black, is so widespread that evangelist preacher and writer Rob Bell called his book on "repainting the Christian faith" Velvet Elvis. Likewise, David Tyson and Christopher Ward's paean to influences (like Jimmy Rogers) upon Elvis when he was growing up in Mississippi and Tennessee is called Black Velvet. Here's the best-known version by Allanah Miles.
1 - If I can dream
Elvis was always a deeply religious person and read many books on the subject while on tour or at Vegas. Upon his passing there was a rumour of a deathbed conversion to Catholicism, but unfortunately I can't find any info proving this or otherwise. One of my favourite of his songs is If I can dream, whose powerful lyrics both referenced Martin Luther King, who had been assassinated shortly before the release, and posed the question asked by many religious people abuot why God gives us the ability to wish for something better when those wishes come true at best slowly - the conclusion being that he trusts "somehow things are gonne be alright". Enjoy.
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