fools fall in love and have dirty dirty feelings about girls girls girls who then have bossa nova babies!

THE ROUND PLACE IN THE MIDDLE is my fav­er­avest rock & roll web­site! I found it once upon a time, kept coming back, posted a few com­ments, ended up in a con­ver­sa­tion with the host Nondis­pos­able­johnny, and now con­sider him an In­ternet friend. One of the cat­e­gories on his site is “Stupid Stuff People Say About Elvis,” which led me to get down and dirty about one of the stu­pidest things I have read about Elvis. 1

Cur­rently, there are eigh­teen en­tries on The Round Place In The Middle, each worth a read, if only to see that you simply cannot be­lieve what people say! Even (es­pe­cially?) people that you nor­mally as­sume know what they’re talking about!

I have been plan­ning on an ar­ticle for A Touch Of Gold that com­piles some of the stu­pidest stuff that Johnny has found, along with his nor­mally sane and often funny replies. But today I have this ar­ticle, which is my con­tri­bu­tion to John’s theme. Here’s some stupid stuff that someone fa­mous once said about Elvis:

“Many times, he would use the demon­stra­tion track that was used in New York and just sing over it. And that was re­leased as the new Elvis Presley single.”

This in­cred­ible state­ment ap­par­ently first found its way into print in the May 22, 1976, issue of the New Mu­sical Ex­press. It was in an ar­ticle with the ex­tra­or­di­narily silly and ap­par­ently con­de­scending title of “Well, Bless-uh Muh Soul, What’s-uh Wrong With Me?” by Mick Farren. 2

 

RoundPlace_header

This photo of Little Brenda Lee belting one outta the park in 1960 can be found atop every page of The Round Place In The Middle. The site’s sub-title is “Western He­roes, Girl Group Singers and Other Nice Things (Lifting the Best, Lamenting the Rest).” Aside from rock & roll, John writes about old western movies, the Shangri-Las, de­tec­tive fic­tion, the Shangri-Las, and pol­i­tics. (And the Shangri-Las.)

Fools fall in love in a hurry

Farren tells us that Phil Spector worked for Leiber and Stoller in the early ’60s, preparing demos of songs for Presley. Spector did work with Jerry and Mike then, learning his trade, and even con­tributing to a few songs. 3

Farren quotes Spector on the demos that he sup­pos­edly made for Leiber and Stoller to pitch songs to Presley:

“If there was a lick or a riff that ap­pealed to him, he wanted it in the record. In fact, many times he would use the demon­stra­tion track that was used in New York and just sing over it. And that was re­leased as the new Elvis Presley single. Far out, right?”

Far out, in­deed!

Of course, com­pletely un­true, but who gives a damn, right? Phil Spector says it’s so, so it’s so!

So?

 

Does anyone think that Leiber and Stoller wouldn’t have sued RCA for a piece of the ac­tion?

 

The ru­mors of Elvis using demo tracks for his records or slav­ishly copying demos (arrange­ments and vocal) have been part of the Elvis story for decades.

These sto­ries are usu­ally told by people who hate Elvis after he left Sun and ‘sold out’ to RCA Victor.

Or hate the Elvis sound­track al­bums of the ’60s.

Or hate Elvis in Vegas in the ’70s.

Or just plain hate Elvis.

There has never been any ev­i­dence to sup­port this kind of stuff, but that doesn’t stop Elvis-haters any­more than the elim­i­na­tion of mil­lions of jobs year after year during George Bush’s ad­min­is­tra­tion changed any true be­liever in the “Tax-cuts-for-the-wealthy-creates-jobs” mantra. 4

Farren can be for­given for be­lieving Spector, whose ca­pacity to lie was not yet the stuff of legend. In 1976, there wasn’t a single source of re­li­able in­for­ma­tion on recording ses­sions by any artist. If we read the rock lit­er­a­ture and crit­i­cism of the ’60s and ’70s today, the mis­in­for­ma­tion and stupid stuff that was said—often with pon­tif­ical seriousness—can be as­tounding or off-putting.

But these stupid things keep get­ting re­cy­cled: I found the same story in The Mam­moth Book Of Sex Drugs & Rock ‘N’ Roll (Run­ning Press) from 2010. There were thirty-four years to cor­rect the mis­takes, or at­tach a note of cor­rec­tion to the end of the article—anything to keep from spreading the stupid stuff around!

But it is was reprinted in all its in­cred­ible stu­pidity, the ed­i­tors or Farren ap­par­ently un­con­cerned about in­ac­cu­ra­cies and er­ro­neous ac­cu­sa­tions. 5

 

Elvis CompleteIllustratedRecord 600

In 1982, Mick Farren and Roy Carr au­thored the first good book on Pres­ley’s ca­reer as a recording artist. As was typ­ical of the time, they were gen­erous in praising the ma­te­rial from the ’50s and often nasty about what fol­lowed. Still, this is a nec­es­sary book for any se­rious Elvis scholar! The British edi­tion above was ti­tled Elvis – The Com­plete Il­lus­trated Record (Eel Pie Pub­lishers).

I got a dirty dirty feeling going on

In 1998, Ernst Jor­gensen pub­lished Elvis Presley – A Life In Music: The Com­plete Recording Ses­sions (St. Mar­t­in’s Press, 1998). Ernst was RCA’s of­fi­cial Elvis his­to­rian and album com­piler; he had ac­cess to all the ex­tant pa­per­work and ses­sion tapes on Pres­ley’s ses­sions from 1954 through 1977. So what do we know now?

•  We know that every track re­leased by RCA Victor and cred­ited to Elvis Presley was recorded by Presley with his own mu­si­cians.

•  We know that Presley never over­dubbed his vocal on to a demo tape sent to him from New York or any­where else.

To think that Elvis and the Colonel and RCA Victor paid mu­si­cians for not playing and fal­si­fied Union and studio notes is ab­surd.

Spector was saying that RCA took an­other com­pa­ny’s backing track—another com­pa­ny’s copy­righted in­tel­lec­tual property—assigned their own ma­trix number to it, and then used it com­mer­cially!

Does anyone think that Leiber and Stoller would have missed the op­por­tu­nity to sue RCA—at the very least for a piece of the ac­tion when the money came in?

 

Elvis_LeiberStoller3

In 1980, RCA of Eng­land is­sued a com­pi­la­tion of all the Leiber and Stoller songs that Elvis had recorded in the ’50s and ’60s. It was a great col­lec­tion that had an in­ter­esting side-effect: it showed the de­cline of Presley from the pas­sion and humor of Hound Dog in 1956 to the bland­ness of Fools Fall In Love in 1966.

Girls girls girls and bossa nova babies

An­other decades-old ac­cu­sa­tion is of Elvis often just lifting his arrange­ments from other songs with little change. This is a less heinous crime, and it does ap­pear to have occurred—just as other artists recorded Elvis songs and lifted his arrange­ment. It’s just busi­ness.

But since we’re here, let’s have a look: during 1960-1966, Elvis recorded six Leiber & Stoller songs. By using videos from YouTube and Vimeo, we can listen to the orig­i­nals and to Pres­ley’s ver­sion and com­pare them. We can also listen and see if we can hear Elvis over­dub­bing his vocal on to a Spector demo.

The list below has the year in which Elvis recorded the song, fol­lowed by the song title. Below are notes and com­ments con­cerning the record­ings.

 

Elvis Presley-Dirty, Dirty Feeling (w/lyrics)

 

1960   Dirty, Dirty Feeling

This rocker was written es­pe­cially for Elvis in 1958, so Spector couldn’t have pro­duced a demo. Ac­cording to Leiber and Stoller:

“He wanted us to write songs for his new movie, King Creole. We sub­mitted four songs: King Creole, Trouble, Stead­fast Loyal And True, and Dirty Dirty Feeling. Elvis liked all four. Dirty Dirty Feeling was dropped from the score, but two years later, when Elvis got out of the Army, he re­mem­bered the tune and he recorded it.” 6

This recording doesn’t sound like any­thing else on the 1958 KING CREOLE album. Nor does it sound like any­thing on the 1960 ELVIS IS BACK album. In fact, it doesn’t sound like much of any­thing else in Pres­ley’s cat­alog. It does sound rushed, like a slightly slower pace might have ben­e­fited the song.

 

Elvis Presley RARE // Just Tell Her Jim Said Hello // Early Takes & Master

 

1962  Just Tell Her Jim Said Hello

This was written for Elvis, so Spector ac­tu­ally could have pro­duced a demo for Elvis! As this video in­cludes four takes, we can hear the mu­si­cians subtly adapt their parts with each take as Elvis fig­ures out how he wants to sing it.

To­gether.

Which couldn’t happen if Elvis was singing to a pre-recorded demo.

 

Coasters Girls, Girls, Girls (Part II)

 

1962   Girls! Girls! Girls!

This was orig­i­nally cut by the Coasters in 1961, so Spector couldn’t have pro­duced a demo. The song was recorded in two sec­tions, Girls Girls Girls (Part 1) and Girls Girls Girls (Part 2). Both are pretty darn dumb songs, with the first part prac­ti­cally a kid­die’s record!

Pres­ley’s ver­sion has a sim­ilar arrange­ment to Part 2 but he sings the song straight with a lot more gusto. (Not that his ver­sion isn’t without humor, but Elvis-haters tend not to no­tice this in Presley. Don’t ask me why.) RCA or Para­mount added ex­cla­ma­tion marks to the title, making it Girls! Girls! Girls!

 

Tippy & The Clovers - Bossa Nova Baby (orig­inal ver­sion - 1962)

 

Elvis Sings Bossa Nova Baby (HD)

1963   Bossa Nova Baby

This is not a bossa nova number; it’s ba­si­cally one of many (many!) twist songs recorded in the early ’60s. It was orig­i­nally recorded by Tippie & The Clovers in 1962, so Spector couldn’t have pro­duced a demo.

The group name makes the band sound new, but Roo­sevelt “Tippie” Hub­bard was the new lead singer for the well-established Clovers. The orig­inal group had formed in 1946 and was one of the most suc­cessful black rhythm & blues vocal groups of the ’50s.

The Clovers’ ver­sion can also be heard as a nov­elty R&B dance tune. Pres­ley’s ver­sion has a sim­ilar arrange­ment but a very dif­ferent feel: Elvis sings it straight and hot. It’s a better record than the title would lead one to as­sume. And as the video above demon­strates, Elvis was one of the best damn twisters of all time!

 

The Coasters: Little egypt
Elvis Presley singing Little Egypt

1964   Little Egypt

This was an­other near-novelty number by the Coasters, a group who built a ca­reer on Leiber and Stoller songs that were both far­cical and bril­liant so­cial ob­ser­va­tions. It was orig­i­nally cut in 1962, so Spector couldn’t have pro­duced a demo.

By 1964, Elvis movies and their ac­com­pa­nying sound­tracks were so blah that this recording—which is nothing special—was one of the high­lights of the ROUSTABOUT sound­track album. Which was an album sorely in need of high­lights.

Elvis cut this song again for his 1968 tele­vi­sion spe­cial; that ver­sion siz­zled and was some­thing spe­cial! Alas, as it has nothing to do with ad­dressing Phil Spec­tor’s in­sane re­mark, so it’s not in­cluded here.

 

DRIFTERS - FOOLS FALL IN LOVE
Elvis Presley - “Fools Fall In Love” .

1966   Fools Fall In Love

This was orig­i­nally re­leased by the Drifters in 1957, so Spector couldn’t have pro­duced a demo. It was one in a long line of hit sin­gles by the group—regardless of who the mem­bers were!

Elvis recorded his ver­sion during the May 1966 ses­sions that pro­duced such gems as Love Let­ters, Down In The Alley, and To­morrow Is A Long Time, along with the bril­liant HOW GREAT THOU ART album. 

But Fools Fall In Love was one of the few lack­luster sides from those ses­sions. Why it was se­lected for re­lease as a single has al­ways puz­zled me. Every ver­sion of Pres­ley’s recording sounds like the tape was wound up a few revolutions-per-minute when mas­tered to disc, with both Elvis and the band sounding ‘thin.’

 

DocPomus MortSuman 500

This is a 1959 pub­licity shot of Mort Shuman and Doc Pomus for their pub­lisher, Hill & Range. Elvis recorded fif­teen of their songs be­tween 1960 and 1966, sev­eral of which have be­come oldies radio sta­tion sta­ples.

Spector and Pomus and Shuman

There seems to be anec­dotal ev­i­dence that Spector also pro­duced demos for the song­writing team of Pomus and Shuman. It’s men­tioned on sev­eral usu­ally re­li­able web­sites and usu­ally men­tions Phil pro­duced some demos in the early ’60s. Ap­par­ently, at least one was sub­mitted to Elvis.

I couldn’t find any real data on the pro­fes­sional as­so­ci­a­tion be­tween the men, but Ernst Jor­gensen men­tioned one demo in A Life In Music. On Oc­tober 15-16, 1961, Elvis first at­tempted cut­ting Pomus and Shu­man’s Night Rider:

“They didn’t have much better luck with Night Rider. By now they were tired, and no one could come up with a de­cent groove for the song; they ended up taking it at a break­neck pace, and though take 3 was ac­cepted as a master, everyone knew they could have done better.”

Elvis re­turned to the song on March 18-19, 1962, and a second at­tempt at cut­ting the song was made:

“Next Elvis wanted to give an­other shot to Night Rider, but he gave up after an hour of strug­gling, as no­body seemed to be able to see be­yond the typ­i­cally over­whelming arrange­ment on the Phil Spector-produced demo.”

That’s all that Ernst said. It would seem that the Spector-produced demo was in the studio during the ses­sions and used as a guide, a normal prac­tice among recording artists.

 

Farren_IllustratedElvis3

The Amer­ican edi­tion changed the cover art and dropped Com­plete from the title and was is­sued as Elvis – The Il­lus­trated Record (Har­mony Books). My fa­vorite pas­sage was a re­view of the Jan­uary 1964 single Kissin’ Cousins: “The single her­alded yet an­other atro­cious movie. In an­other galaxy, the Rolling Stones is­sued Not Fade Away.” Now if you’re going to offhand­edly dis­miss some­thing with con­de­scending aplomb, that is how to do it!

This is what happened to Elvis

Fi­nally, the Phil Spector thing isn’t the stu­pidest stuff that Farren wrote in his ar­ticle. In fact, it’s not even close! That be­longs to Mick’s opening para­graphs, which are reprinted below. I have num­bered the sen­tences so that I can ad­dress each state­ment in­di­vid­u­ally. I am using Roman nu­merals so that no one con­fuses these with the foot­notes below.

i.  “When an artist hasn’t pro­duced any­thing of note for some­thing like four­teen years, the world be­gins to judge him on just about any­thing but his talent. When no orig­inal work is forth­coming, a su­per­star tends to be eval­u­ated by his fans, his tastes, his vices, and his pri­vate life. This is ex­actly what hap­pened to Elvis Presley.”

ii.  “During the latter half of the 1950s, he vir­tu­ally turned pop­ular music in­side out. Then he was drafted into the US Army.”

iii. “When he re­turned to civilian life his ca­reer came to what amounted to al­most a full stop.”

iv.  “With a couple of no­table ex­cep­tions, nothing he pro­duced from 1962 on­wards had any cre­ative power what­so­ever.”

Uh huh …

 

Elvis_Devil_ps 

Elvis_Indescribably_ps 

Elvis_Kentucky_ps

Elvis_Leavin_ps

Elvis_T-R-O-U_ps

Hmm, I wonder if Mick Farren in­cluded the in­fec­tious Devil In Dis­guise (1963), the baro­quely beau­tiful In­de­scrib­ably Blue (1966), the gor­geous Ken­tucky Rain (1969), the sub­lime I’m Leavin’ (1971), or the hard-rocking  T-R-O-U-B-L-E (1975) in his con­cep­tion of “no­table ex­cep­tions” or thought that none of the above dis­played any “cre­ative power.”

Okay, here are my comments

i.  Of course, any artist that goes that long without pro­ducing “any­thing of note” will at­tract at­ten­tion to other parts of his life. Of course, nothing re­motely like that hap­pened to Elvis Presley—unless you’re blind, obliv­ious, or have the weirdest taste in the world.

ii. Hard to argue with that.

iii. Elvis re­turned to civilian life in March 1960, and the exact op­po­site oc­curred! In the nine months left him that year, he recorded four dozen mas­ters. Out of them came five million-selling sin­gles (Stuck On You, It’s Now Or Never, Are You Lone­some Tonight, Sur­render, and Crying In The Chapel) and two ex­tra­or­di­nary al­bums (ELVIS IS BACK and HIS HAND IN MINE).

He also made two movies, one of which pro­duced the G.I. BLUES album that im­me­di­ately be­came the biggest selling rock & roll re­lated album yet.

None of this mat­tered to Mick Farren, who was ap­plying a ro­man­ti­cized, post-Beatles, rock-is-art aes­thetic to a time, place, and person for whom that crit­i­cism was in­ap­pro­priate. This is an aes­thetic that does not rec­og­nize It’s Now Or Never, Are You Lone­some Tonight, or Sur­render as great records.

iv. Let’s read that again: “With a couple of no­table ex­cep­tions, nothing he pro­duced from 1962 on­wards had any cre­ative power what­so­ever.”

That just may be some of the stu­pidest stuff ever said about Elvis!

 

FarrenMick

Mick Farren as coverboy for The Daily Tele­graph Mag­a­zine (Sep­tember 28, 1973). Back in the ’90s, when I was doing the price guides and writing reg­u­larly for Gold­mine, I re­ceived a letter from Mick. He sug­gested that I do a discog­raphy and ar­ticle on the De­viants, which I never got around to doing. Mick passed away in 2013 at the young age of 69. 

Enough already with the stupid stuff!

There is a seem­ingly end­less supply of stupid stuff about Elvis on the In­ternet. There is a seem­ingly end­less supply of ‘writers’ who ei­ther loathe Presley or just don’t like to do an honest day’s re­search.

The in­for­ma­tion avail­able to me is avail­able to them. And what does that in­for­ma­tion tell us?

  Phil Spector may have pro­duced some demos for Elvis Presley in as­so­ci­a­tion with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller in the early ’60s.

  Phil Spector may have pro­duced some demos for Elvis Presley in as­so­ci­a­tion with Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman in the early ’60s.

  Elvis did not use any of these Spector-produced demos or any other demo on any of his records.

Oh, yeah, there also a seem­ingly end­less supply of people willing to be­lieve this stupid stuff about Elvis.

 

Elvis LeiberStoller 1000

FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page was taken in May or June 1957 on the set of Jail­house Rock. While it is sup­posed to be a candid shot of Presley ex­am­ining the sheet music for the title song while Leiber and Stoller look on, it is a very posed shot. I cropped the photo, col­ored it, and flipped it for a better header image.

 

POSTSCRIPTUALLY, this ar­ticle is not meant to pick on Mick Farren; he was a smart man and a suc­cessful writer. But back in the ’70s, he was a rock­writer, and after Elvis suc­cumbed to drugs and the er­satz re­ality of Las Vegas and drugs and lethargic country & western weepers and drugs, a lot of rock­writers ex­pressed their dis­il­lu­sion­ment in Presley by saying some in­cred­ibly stupid things.

As I said above, Farren can be for­given some of the fac­tual boners he made then, but those boners should not be cir­cu­lating now without ex­plana­tory caveats at­tached to them.

We all sat stupid stuff. As re­cently as a few weeks ago I was telling everyone that no matter how dumb they think politi­cians are in gen­eral and Rep*blican politi­cians in par­tic­ular, the RNC was not dumb enough to give their pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion to Donald Trump.

That may stand as one of the stu­pidest things that I have ever said, and hooboy is that saying some­thing!

 


FOOTNOTES:

1   In­stead of “my In­ternet friend,” I ini­tially wrote “my web-buddy.” Yeah, it sounds like it has some­thing to do with Spi­derman, so I opted for the other term.

2   Mick Farren pub­lished other books on Elvis along with other books of non-fiction and fic­tion.

3   No­tably, Spector is listed as co-writer with Stoller on Spanish Harlem.

4   Facts that dis­prove a be­lief rarely af­fect the faith of a true be­liever. In fact, quite the op­po­site: it ac­tu­ally tends to re­in­force that faith! That’s why ra­tional people never win ar­gu­ments with true be­lievers.

5   This should be an eye-opener to anyone who thinks the In­ternet in­tro­duced care­less­ness and the per­va­sive to-hell-with-facts at­ti­tude.

6    This quote is taken from Hound Dog – The Leiber And Stoller Au­to­bi­og­raphy (Simon & Schuster, 2009)

 

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