suspicious minds (just how good can one record be?)

Es­ti­mated reading time is 2 min­utes.

DO I WANT TO OPEN THIS AR­TICLE by making a state­ment (“Elvis pops up in the most un­ex­pected places”) or by asking a ques­tion (“Just how good can one record be?”)? Last night we slipped the Coen Brothers’ In­tol­er­able Cru­elty into the DVD player and sat back to enjoy George Clooney as Miles Massey (hand­some, charming, amoral) match wits with Catherine Zeta-Jones as Mar­ilyn Rexroth (beau­tiful, in­scrutable, equally amoral).

While the mu­sical foun­da­tion of the movie would prove to be the early songs of Paul Simon, the opening credits fea­tured “Sus­pi­cious Minds” in the back­ground. Elvis in a Coen brothers’ movie? Well, why not! After all, Billy Bob Thornton is in it! *

And, de­spite “April, Come She Will” (the song the priest sings at the wed­ding cer­e­mony) and “The Boxer,” it’s “Sus­pi­cious Minds” that sets the tone for the story that follows.

After Elvis fin­ished singing, I put the movie on pause, turned to Berni, and said, “You know, if Elvis had been an un­known singer who recorded just one single, Sus­pi­cious Minds, and then died be­fore he could record a follow-up, I still think I might con­sider him my fa­vorite singer.”

That’s how good Sus­pi­cious Minds is.

If someone does an Amer­ican re­make of LOVE AC­TU­ALLY, I want Billy Bob Thornton to play the Bill Nighy role but as an over-the-hill, for­merly slightly sleazy Elvis-type rocker-cum-crooner Click To Tweet

Elvis LasVegas 1969 black outfit 1500 crop

FEA­TURED IMAGE: Elvis on stage at the In­ter­na­tional Hotel in Las Vegas in Au­gust 1969. Prior to adopting the white jump­suits, his stage outfit was a mod­i­fied karate gi in plain black. A por­tion of his live per­for­mance of Sus­pi­cious Minds was recorded and tagged onto the end of the studio recording from ear­lier in the year and re­leased as a single. (Uh oh! That last state­ment is in­cor­rect; refer to An­thony Britch’s com­ment below.)



*   If someone de­cides to do an Amer­ican take on Love Ac­tu­ally, I want Billy Bob Thornton to play the Bill Nighy role but as an over-the-hill, for­merly slightly sleazy Elvis-type rocker-cum-crooner.



11 thoughts on “suspicious minds (just how good can one record be?)”

  1. 1. I know SM has been voted nu­merous times as the Best Elvis single ever, as well as the Fans all-time fav. Per­son­ally, I think The King’s greatest 5 yr pe­riod was ’68-’73 (Comeback-Aloha). I also think the Mem­phis Ses­sion was his most in­no­v­a­tive. With that said, SM is Not my fav. Not even of his Mem­phis Sessions.

    I was in HS when it came out & was happy it hit #1, as did “Ghetto” here in NY & on Cash Box. As a Rocker, nei­ther were my favs. I wanted Elvis to ROCK! Best we got at that time on 45 was “Rub­ber­neckin’.” A goody, but a B‑side.

    2. Every 45 from ’69-’72 was a ballad. Fi­nally, in ’72, we got “Burning Love.” 1st time I heard it, I thought, “Yea, a Rocker!” Right away, I could hear “I Got Stung” & “Big Hunk O’ Love” com­bined. Years after he passed, we find out Elvis hated the song & the GREAT Ronnie Tutt had to talk him into recording it…Tutt even pro­duced it in ab­sence of Jarvis! Doesn’t sur­prise me how good it came out, as I’m no fan of Country-bumpkin Jarvis.

    Back in the day, Elvis be­came rel­e­vant & re­spected again, but us youn­gins all wanted to know, “Why doesn’t Elvis Rock any­more?” So much so, he was even asked that in the Madison Sq. Garden Press Conf. We all know his gen­eral, eva­sive re­sponse, all the while knowing full well he had BL in the vault.

    When it got re­leased, it was like an atom bomb! Per­son­ally, I think Elvis even­tu­ally came to love it. How could he Not!? Even tho BL is also not my per­sonal fav, I would still have to say it made a bigger im­pact & was more mem­o­rable than SM. To this day, at least here in NY, I run into people who find out I’m a E‑fan & they say to me, “OMG, I love ‘Burning Love.’ That song kix ass!”

    3. I have Never heard that re­ac­tion to SM. It’s simply too pas­sive. It’s like com­paring “Love Me Tender” to “Jail­house” or “Hound Dog”! ANY­body could do SM & LMT. NO­body could do BL, JR & HD!

    So, no, I wouldn’t be a fan if SM was the only song he ever recorded. Now, if it was TTWII ver­sion, then I might concur!

    • D

      1. For me:
      Best 5‑year pe­riod is 1954–1958 with no runner-up.
      Best 4‑year pe­riod is 1954–1957 with no runner-up.
      Best 3‑year pe­riod is 1954–1956 with 1968–1970 as a close runner-up.

      2. First time I hear “Burning Love” I thought it was the brightest record of the year (al­though “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” and “Tum­bling Dice” were right up there with it). Even today, no matter where or when I hear it, I light up like no other record from the ’70s by any artist lights me up.

      I would have loved it if Elvis had de­voted even one-third of his ses­sions to recording new rockers.

      But he didn’t.

      3. In­ter­esting: I never thought of “Sus­pi­cious Minds” as pas­sive but I can see how you do. I sup­pose since I’ve been in that sit­u­a­tion, I know how much hard work and heartache it takes to be pas­sive and hang in there hoping.

      I have heard lots of ren­di­tions of “Love Me Tender” and not one comes close to sounding be­liev­able ex­cept Elvis.

      As for “Sus­pi­cious Minds”:

      • Mark James’ orig­inal ver­sion is a great record (and the blue­print for Elvis’s ver­sion) with a mediocre vocal.
      • The Fine Young Can­ni­bals ver­sion is a fine tribute to Elvis but the vo­cals are a little too man­nered in places.
      • I want to like Dwight Yoakam’s ver­sion but it’s too... too... passive.

      Rock­ahula, baby!


      PS: It’s not too late for Tom Jones to record “Sus­pi­cious Minds.”

  2. Hi Neal, cap­tion on the pic­ture above states “por­tion of his live per­for­mance of Sus­pi­cious Minds was recorded and tagged onto the end of the studio recording from ear­lier in the year and re­leased as a single.” Ive not read that be­fore. I checked Keith Fly­nn’s site for the specifics on the master:

    Jan­uary 22, 23 & 24. May 7, 1969
    Ex­tended (M) 4:27 Splice of 0:00–3:03+2:47–3:03+2:47–3:03+2:47–3:03+2:47–3:24
    Faded M 4:29 Fade out 3:19–3:34 / fade in 3:34–3:47 of ex­tended master

    Au­gust 7, 1969 at United Recording in Las Vegas was the brass over­dubs on the Mono and Stereo Master for the Single.

    I couldn’t find any ref­er­ence to part of the Au­gust 1969 live per­for­mances being added to the single. Where did you read/hear about that?

    • A

      I have it in my head that, decades ago, I read that Felton Jarvis recorded a part of the live ver­sion of “Sus­pi­cious Minds” at the In­ter­na­tional Hotel in early Au­gust and he dubbed it onto the coda of the single. As you point out, that does not seem to be the case. But the fact that the brass parts were recorded in a studio in Vegas in Au­gust leads me to be­lieve one of two things:

      1. I am ac­cu­rately re­mem­bering an ar­ticle from forty-some years ago that in­cor­rectly re­ported that a part of the single was recorded on stage in Las Vegas

      2. I am in­ac­cu­rately re­mem­bering an ar­ticle from forty-some years ago that cor­rectly re­ported that a part of the single was recorded at a studio in Las Vegas.

      Ei­ther way, thanks for catching the error and my apolo­gies for not looking it up. The funny thing is I’m a com­pul­sive re­searcher be­cause I haven’t trusted my mem­o­ries ever since I gave up bad drugs, hard al­cohol, ex­treme sports, and the type of women you never ever take home to meet your family.

      Keep on keepin’ on!


  3. 1. An­thony, I concur. You are Cor­rect. I don’t know where Mr. N got that from ei­ther…. wishful thinkin’, or a bad pipe full from back in the dayz. Checking K.Flynn’s page was a great source to do so. To the best of my knowl­edge, nothing was ever recorded ‘live’ for SM single. 100%, there’s nothing ‘live’ on it.

    2. We’ve all heard the sto­ries about the fade-out & fade-in: to en­tice radio play, or trying to cap­ture the live build up ending, which it doesn’t, etc. Per­son­ally, I found an­noying as hell from 1st listen. I ac­tu­ally hated the song til I saw it in TTWII… now THAT’S ELVIS & THAT’S SM!! Not that bs boring 45. Do-do-do my ars! Ya hear more of the Sweet In­spi­ra­tions (who I love) than you do The King.

    3. I can play dev­il’s ad­vo­cate ei­ther way, but speaking per­son­ally, it was a dud, no better than “Judy” or “In­de­scrib­ably Blue” or any of those so-so 45s. Hell, I’d pick the rel­a­tively un­known classic “Clean Up Your Own Back Yard” over SM. Damn, that died a mis­er­able death on the charts! #35BB/#25CB smack dab in be­tween two #1’s! :(

    4. I guess in ’69, the record-buying, hippy-dippy ma­jority didn’t like country-rock vs hard-rock or slide guitar vs. lead guitar. How the hell did “Ghetto” & SM get to #1!!?? They sure as hell weren’t buyin’ that drab, de­pressing bs ei­ther! I can re­member like yes­terday, in ’71 when Tom Jones’ “She’s A Lady” came out & again in ’72 with Elvis’ “Burning Love,” the Rockers couldn’t be­lieve that was Tom Jones or Elvis! They laughing add, or oth­er­wise, they wouldn’t of bought them! But that’s an­other story for an­other time… EP & TJ got NO re­spect as Rockers in the ’70s. Fifty yrs later, I’m still fightin’ the good fight! ;)

    5. To get back to the story at hand: what we ALL shoulda heard coming over the radio waves in ’69 was that back drum beat intro to “Stranger In My Own Home Town” or the vi­brato har­monica intro to “Power Of My Love”! Those would have earned world­wide R‑E-S-P-E-C‑T for the King of RnR! In­stead of singing Humperdinck style crap. Not that Engle couldn’t sing, cus he damn well could. But he wasn’t a Rocker. He was a bal­ladeer in the vein of Sinatra. The King was Rockin’ as good as ever, the gen­eral public just wasn’t hearing it :(

    • D

      Thanks for an­other comment!

      1. I ad­dressed my boo-boo al­ready but I will apol­o­gize again for not doing the req­ui­site re­search and thank you guys for keeping me accurate!

      2. The fade-out/fade-in ending was cool the first few lis­ten­ings and did in­di­cate that Elvis and Felton were paying at­ten­tion to the many and vast ad­vances in studio tech­nology that were oc­cur­ring in the late ’60s.

      3. I love “Judy”! I love “In­de­scrib­ably Blue”! The reason for the lack of suc­cess of “Clean Up Your Own Back­yard” was that it was too damn country for rock and pop radio sta­tions in 1969. I would have liked to have seen it on the Back In Mem­phis album.

      4. The animosity/antagonism be­tween rockers and country people was al­most en­tirely brought about by the latter. Many on the country field (mu­si­cians and fans) were so “con­ser­v­a­tive” they’d be alt-righters today. In 1969, most country radio sta­tions were so re­ac­tionary that they wouldn’t even play Elvis’ records.

      That in­cludes “Clean Up Your Own Back­yard,” which didn’t even crack the Top 70! At the time, rockers were busy “in­venting” modern country-rock (Byrds, Dil­lard & Clark, Flying Bur­rito Brothers, etc.), laying the foun­da­tion that thou­sands of country mu­si­cians have fol­lowed or been in­flu­enced by since.

      5. You know I agree with you on “Stranger In My Own Home Town” and “Power Of My Love” and had Elvis or Fenton or the Colonel called me, I would have told them to pro­mote “Ru­vb­ber­neckin’ ” as the hit side, not the country ‑weeper “Don’t Cry Daddy.”

      Rock­ahula, baby!


      PS: I love hearing the term “hippy-dippy.” It gives me goose­bumps all over like I just dropped a tab of Or­ange Sun­shine and I’m starting to feel the pre-rush jitters.

      PS2: We aging ex-hippies still don’t con­sider “She’s A Lady” to be rock & roll!

  4. “Promised Land” was my fa­vorite ’70s Elvis song fol­lowed by “Burning Love” with (per­haps strangely to some) “The Wonder Of You.” Even stranger, I was never that big on “Sus­pi­cious Minds” when it came out and it took a while to grow on me.

    I must say that I like Tom Jones a lot but I just know I would not like his ver­sion of “Sus­pi­cious Minds.”

    • DG

      Thanks for an­other comment!

      As far as tracks re­leased as sin­gles, “Burning Love” is tops for me but I cer­tainly do like “Promised Land.” I also love “The Wonder Of You” but thought it was a ter­rible choice as a single when I first heard it on the radio in early 1970. Of course, I was wrong: It was a big hit here and even bigger hit in the UK, reaching #1 and sup­pos­edly being the biggest selling single of the year.

      I also love “I’m Leavin’ ” and “For The Heart” and there are sev­eral tracks on both That’s The Way It Is and Elvis Country that are among my all-time faves.

      Keep on keepin’ on!


      PS: When “Raised On Rock” came out, it sounded fan­tastic on the radio the first few times. Then it didn’t.

      • “Raised On Rock” is an odd song.I have al­ways liked it but the lyrics are at odds with Elvis.He is singing about being raised on some­thing he cre­ated or at least helped create and I fear it did not res­onate with his fans.As a stand alone track without putting too much thought into it it was a pretty good song.

        • DG

          “Raised On Rock” was okay: Good in­stru­mental track, de­cent vocal, but the bridge was al­most ab­surd as the lyrics.


          PS: If you take the thirty tracks that make up the three mid-1970s Mem­phis al­bums, you could boil them down to a pair of ex­cel­lent al­bums with twelve tracks each.


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