Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Great Albums: Elvis Presley by Elvis Presley

E is for Elvis. We are on day 5, or day E, of this year's alphabetically-inclined Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. So, as I was saying, E is for Elvis. Elvis Presley is arguably (no, make that inarguably) the greatest solo act in rock & roll history - so much so that they even named him the king of the genre. The man had 114 top 40 hits (almost twice as many as the second most) with 18 of those going all the way to number one (second only to The Beatles 20 number ones) and is the top selling artist of all-time. And yet, after all this success (the guy really is an icon), his best album was his first. His 1956 self-titled debut album may not have had the singer's greatest hits on it. There is no Hound Dog or Don't Be Cruel. There is no Love Me Tender nor any Heartbreak Hotel. There is no Shake, Rattle and Roll. Actually the majority of Elvis' earlier hits, as was the case with many artists of the day, were released as singles only. What this debut album does have is a solid track listing that shows off all of Presley's influences, from country to blues to gospel all blending together to form that just-then burgeoning new creature called rock & roll. And oh boy, could that boy rock & roll. After all, as I stated earlier, he was the King of Rock & Roll. And I don't think anyone of any respectability, could say otherwise. But what about this debut album? Let's talk about that.

To get all the statistical boilerplate stuff out of the way, this album, which incidentally spent ten weeks at number one, was the first rock & roll album to reach the top of the charts. The album was released by RCA (cat. #LPM 1254, for all you record heads in the audience), with recordings taking place in January of 1956. Seven of the twelve tracks on the album were recorded during these sessions, with the other five coming from previous recordings at Sun Studios in 1954 and 1955. Now although there are obvious country and western songs in here (rock & roll didn't really exist before this - not really, and Elvis was already beginning to make a splash on those charts) this is a rock & roll album, and this is obvious from those first few notes of the opening track. When Elvis says it's One for the Money, Two for the Show, we know it's showtime. Blue Suede Shoes, written and first recorded by Carl Perkins (though only a few short months before the King's version), is considered one of the first hit songs in the still burgeoning genre of the day - and it is the perfect song to open Elvis' debut album. Now this album, though technically the twenty-one year old's debut, wasn't the first time people heard the singer perform. As I stated above, he had made a splash on the country charts, and one of his biggest hits, Heartbreak Hotel, had been released as a single right after the recording sessions for this album. Just two months later, Elvis would release one of the biggest singles of all time, Hound Dog/Don't Be Cruel, a record so huge that both it's A side and B side were smash hits. So basically, what I'm trying to say here is that 1956 was the year Elvis Presley went through the veritable roof - and the success of this album was a big part of that.

Other tracks on the album (it wasn't all Blue Suede Shoes ya know) include country & western hit, I Love You Because; a cover of the Ray Charles hit, I Got A Woman, done in Elvis' rascally style, the 1929 song Just Because; Tutti Frutti, written and first recorded by Richard Wayne Penniman (you might know him as Little Richard); pop standard, I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Cry (Over You); and the Rodgers & Hart classic, Blue Moon. Truly a seminal album in the rock & roll genre (like I can't say that enough!) Elvis' eponymous debut belongs on any and all greatest albums list. It shows the versatility of the King, something that is usually not brought up when discussing the greatness of Elvis. Yeah, the guy could sing and make the ladies swoon, but he also was one versatile mofo, if ya know what I mean. Backed by such (mostly unknown today) music legends as Scotty Moore, Floyd Cramer, Shorty Long, and Chet Atkins, this 1956 album is still Elvis' best studio album - and one of my favourite albums, by anyone, to listen to. What more can a boy say? Not much. Now go out and listen to this album, from the rockabilly anthem that opens the album, straight through to the Clyde McPhatter song that ends the album. Then after that, listen to it again - and preferably on vinyl, of course. I'll be back in a couple weeks with the fifth in The Great Albums series. Since we will still be in the aforementioned Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, we will still be going all alphabetical. We'll be up to the Letter R by then, and will be celebrating by taking a look at an album that has a very similar look to the album we just discussed - and no, it's not London Calling. That would be under the Letter L, dummies. That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.


  1. I was introduced to Elvis at an early age. My mother, like most women of her generation, was a huge Elvis fan. She had a solid collection of his albums.

    I have fond memories of bebopping around the house with mom singing away.

    By age 5, I knew most of his songs off heart.

    Great post and thank you for bringing up wonderful memories.

  2. Thanx. And you are welcome for the memories.

    I too was brought up on Elvis by my mother. Between her and my aunt, I knew pretty much every Elvis song AND every Beatles song as a kid.

    Thanx for stopping by. See ya 'round the web.

  3. Elvis had 114 top 40 hits?!?!? Holy crap that's a lot! Probably not as much competition back then, but still. Wow. And yeah, my first though when seeing the album cover was London Calling.

    You're really mixing it up with these A to Z posts. I like that. Everyone else I read seems to have a theme or a story excerpt that ties together. I'm looking forward to your next posts.

    The Pedestrian Writer

  4. Thanx for the kudos. Yeah, I pretty much write on anything pop cultury, so I figured I wouldn't change that during the challenge.

    As for the Elvis cover, there are at least five albums that used a similar design. The Clash did one (of course) and so did k.d. lang, as well as the person who will be the subject of the day when the Letter R comes around. But I don't want to give too much away.

    Thanx for stopping by. It's always good to have people liking your stuff. See ya 'round the web.

  5. All hail the King... I remember the day he died, I was too young to be a fan, but I know people my age that are huge fans now... this posts makes me think there just isn't enough movies about Elvis... or musicals. I won't listen to it on vinyl but I'll do some online hinting now :) Reflex Reactions

  6. I love Elvis he was a great singer as well as a great actor and so fine looking.

  7. Elvis was the ultimate entertainer. Thanx to everyone for stopping by.