Archive for the ‘Rock n Roll 1958 Part 2’ Category

by Robert Seoane
 
ELVIS IN THE ARMY – THE EVERLY BROTHERS – DUANE EDDY – ALVIN & THE CHIPMUNKS


ELVIS ENTERS THE ARMY

“Some people tap their feet, some people snap their fingers, and some people sway back and forth. I just sorta do ‘em together I guess.” – Elvis Presley

As “The Adventures of Superman” completed its final season after six years, rock ‘n’ roll had already begun to change by 1958. In the two and a half years since Bill Haley shocked parental senses with “Rock Around The Clock”, The Establishment, made up of every teenager’s parent, decided to dedicate themselves to systematically softening rock ‘n’ roll’s rough edges, replacing singers screaming sexuality like Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard with clean cut, white teen pop idols like Bobby Darin, Dion, Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell and Ricky Nelson,; good-looking kids except for one thing, the crucial, missing factor. Unlike Elvis and the aforementioned artists, these pop idols didn’t have rock ‘n’ roll coursing through their veins. They just sang pop songs. The recording industry was busy replacing the screamers with the doo-wop singers and dangerous sounding black folks with safe-sounding white folks, with even a few tame black voices sprinkled in there to appear diverse, and hoped nobody would notice.

Little Richard’s musical output slowed down and came to a sudden halt because he had turned to religion by 1958 and set his designs on becoming a Minister. It seems he was riddled with guilt over his own proclivities and was convinced he was playing the devil’s music. Jerry Lee Lewis’ thought so also, but he continued to rock out until his career came to a stunning halt at around the same time as Little Richard’s when it was revealed that the nineteen-year-old had married his thirteen-year-old cousin.

“The same music they kicked me out of school for is the same kind of music they play in their churches today. The difference is, I know I’m playing for the devil and they don’t.” –Jerry Lee Lewis

Chuck Berry and Ray Charles were still recording and putting out great music, but Charles wasn’t always composing rock ‘n’ roll tunes. Ray Charles’ range encompassed a deep love for Country & Western and an instinct for Rhythm & Blues, as well as a command of Gospel and Contemporary Jazz. As a result, Ray Charles released singles like “What’d I Say”, “Georgia”, “I Can’t Stop Loving You” and “Hit The Road Jack”, songs that varied in the genre but also became huge hits. Chuck Berry would soon also lose tremendous clout when he is arrested for breaking the Mann Act law in 1961 after traveling with an underage girl across state lines.

The new artists being marketed were already a lot different than those who sang the roots of rock ‘n’ roll. Elvis lookalikes were being marketed in the hopes of hitting on the next teenage idol. Girl groups were popping up, novelty acts were developing. Only a handful of artists like Duane Eddy and Buddy Holly were producing true rock ‘n’ roll during this time of transition, and despite parents’ disdain for this noisy so-called music, they didn’t make too much of a fuss over them. Buddy Holly looked totally non-threatening; a nerdy looking white boy with glasses who sang catchy rockabilly songs. But he too would come to a sudden end soon. As for Elvis Presley, the young man that The Establishment was the most afraid of due to his sullen good looks, sensual singing style, and sexual gyrations, he was already placed on the treadmill for indoctrination, ordered to march back and forth for two years.

“Mr. Presley has no discernible singing ability… His phrasing, if it can be called that, consists of the stereotyped variations that go with a beginner’s aria in a bathtub… His own specialty is an accented movement of the body…” Jack Gould – The New York Times

On March 24, 1958, Elvis Presley was inducted into the U.S. Army, urged to do so by his manager Col. Tom Parker. Elvis was convinced his career was over, particularly because Parker persuaded him to serve his country as a regular soldier instead of going into Special Services which would allow him to still tour and stay in touch with his fans. He felt he had made a big mistake and by the time he’d get out in 1960, he’d be forgotten, despite the fact that he had recorded a handful of records before entering military service to stay in the forefront of the genre he had helped catapult into the limelight.

Elvis arrived that day to Fort Chaffee near Fort Smith, Arkansas where hundreds of fans and reporters awaited his presence. Conducting brief interviews, he entered the facility where they were to quickly cut his hair down to a military style. Then, he disappeared into the military machine only to be brought out on certain occasions for an interview here and there and the very occasional respite granted to him for personal and business matters. During his stint in the military, three life-changing events happened to Elvis Presley that would change the direction of his life, and one of them would ultimately doom him to an early death. The first two events occurred in 1958.

DON’T/I BEG OF YOU – ELVIS PRESLEY

“Don’t… don’t… that’s what you say… each time I hold you this way, when I feel like this and I want to hold you, baby don’t say don’t…” Don’t – Elvis Presley

This double A-side single was released on January 7, 1958, and was one of the songs that had been recorded and reserved for release. It quickly became Presley’s eleventh Number One and also made it to Number Four in the R&B chart. “Don’t” was written by Jerry Lieber & Mike Stoller, the songwriting geniuses who made The Coasters huge stars and wrote songs like “Hound Dog”. “Don’t” was a torchy ballad that showcased Elvis’ unique voice and a much better, more emotionally sung composition than the boring “Love Me Tender”. He pronounces the title twice at the beginning, with nothing but a soft piano and soft cymbal playing in the background after the second “don’t”. Soon, the background vocals come in and Elvis leads you into a soaring vocal by the third line, only to come back down into a bed of ‘oohs’ and complete his sentiment in a lilting voice. By then, hearts were heard already melting around the world in big globs.

Its flip side “I Beg Of You” managed to also make it to the Top Ten at Number Eight. Written by Rose Marie McCoy, a songwriter who had written other songs for non-rock ‘n’ rollers like Louis Jordan, “IBOY” was a typical bouncy, happy rock ‘n’ roll song that Elvis knew how to sing like nobody’s business.

“You got me at your mercy, now that I’m in love with you, so please don’t take advantage, ‘cause you know my love is true, darlin’ please, please love me too I beg of you.” I Beg Of You – Elvis Presley

WEAR MY RING AROUND YOUR NECK – ELVIS PRESLEY

Elvis second single of 1958 was more of a pop song than a rock ‘n’ roll song. It was released in April 1958, by the time his last two songs left the chart. RCA Records was hell-bent on keeping their most profitable star in the limelight for as long as they possibly could during the King’s hiatus. It made it just short of the Number One spot on the Billboard pop chart but became his sixth Number One on the R&B chart. It’s truly amusing in retrospect to see how closed-minded American society was to consider Elvis a danger to American teenagers, especially since the closest word that could have been construed as offensive is “heck”.

Won’t you wear my ring around your neck, to tell the world I’m yours by heck, let them see your love for me and let them see by the ring around your neck.” Wear My Ring Around Your Neck – Elvis Presley

Writers of the song, Bert Carroll and Russell Moody, were a songwriting duo out of New York who made a living selling their songs by having unknowns sing demos of their compositions in order to send them to established artists in the hopes that they would pick them up. “WMRAYN” was their biggest songwriting hit, selling over two million copies.

Despite Elvis’ continued success on the radio and his fans’ undying loyalty, Elvis was still feeling insecure about the future of his still young career. Of course, he needn’t have worried. Nevertheless, he returned to the studio as soon as he received a two-week leave in June. He recorded five songs in Nashville right after he completed basic training in Fort Hood, Texas. In the meantime, another of the songs ready to be released and recorded before his military stint began, was released.

HARD HEADED WOMAN – ELVIS PRESLEY

Elvis the rock ‘n’ roller had come back. Sung in the same style as he did when he delivered “Jailhouse Rock”, “Hard Headed Woman” shook the rafters with its power and Elvis sang it with a growling urgency that made you want to not just dance, but convulse. Its electric guitar solo sounded like a fire alarm going off, reminiscent of Chuck Berry’s famous licks.

Claude Demetrius, the song’s composer had been in the music business quite a while, writing tunes for Louis Armstrong and Louis Jordan, among others, but his fortunes changed dramatically when he was tapped to write songs for Elvis. He had written two B-sides for the King already, “I Was The One” and “Mean Woman Blues” from Elvis’ 1957 motion picture soundtrack “Loving You”. “Hard Headed Woman” was his biggest hit.

“Now Samson told Delilah, loud and clear, ‘Keep your cotton pickin’ fingers out my curly hair’. Oh yea, ever since the world began, a hard headed woman been a thorn in the side of man…” Hard Headed Woman – Elvis Presley

Of course, it shot up to Number One on the Billboard Pop chart and Number Two in the R&B chart. It had been recorded as a track to be included in his 1958 motion picture “King Creole” and was also included in its album’s soundtrack release. It was clear that this hard rockin’ song was what his teenage fans wanted to really hear because “Hard Headed Woman” became the first rock ‘n’ roll song to earn the RIAA certified Gold Record, having sold over a million copies of the single. Although “Don’t Be Cruel”, “Wear My Ring..” and other of his singles had moved a million units or more, the gold record awarded “DBC” came from his record company, RCA. The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) certification and distribution of gold records had only just started to award singles that year. Platinum Records didn’t come out until 1976 when the RIAA redefined its certification due to the increase in output and artists releasing big hits.

Before the summer ended, the first of the three life changing events for Elvis occurred in early August, 1958 when his mother was diagnosed with hepatitis. He was granted emergency leave to visit her in Memphis on August 12th. Two days later she died of heart failure at the young age of 46. Ironically, his mother’s death came two days before the date of his own death that would occur nineteen years later. Elvis, by then twenty-three years old, was devastated. He was very close to his mother and her death shook him to the core.

Elvis’ second of three life altering events occurred when he joined the 3rd Armored Division in Friedburg, Germany in October. Military life was strenuous so, according to some who were there, his sergeant introduced him and other soldiers to amphetamines while on maneuvers to maintain their stamina. Elvis was amazed at how well those pills worked, not only giving him additional energy but also helping him lose weight, a preponderance he always struggled with. It’s extremely ironic to see that The Establishment considered Elvis a danger simply because of his voice and sexy, gyrating dance moves, while the government encouraged and delivered him on the road to drug addiction.

His third important event also occurred in Germany but in 1959. It appeared in the form of a 14-year-old beauty named Priscilla.

ONE NIGHT/I GOT STUNG

“One Night” is a torchy ballad that took around a year and a half to be released due to its suggestive lyrics. Back in the Fifties, when the worst words Elvis had sung so far was “by heck” and “cotton pickin’”, the suggestion of the original lyrics of “One Night” was sure to turn teenager ears red and make parents unable to blink for a month.

Its original first line, for example, was: “One night of sin is what I’m now paying for.”
Ooh la la!

Elvis liked the song, its staccato Fifties piano and steady beat accompanying his plea for love and desire, so after he recorded this risque version in January of 1957, Elvis sat down and re-wrote the lyrics to:
“One night with you is what I’m now praying for.”
Clever lad.

Despite his altering the lyrics and recording it on February 23, 1957, it wasn’t released until October of 1958 as another single to be released during his two-year hiatus in the Army. It reached Number One in the UK not once but twice and managed to reach up to Number Four on the Billboard Pop chart.

A dubious distinction accompanies “One Night” as pointed out by rock critic Pete Johnson in that it destroys English language grammar with, not a double negative, but a triple negative: “I ain’t never did no wrong…”.

Rock ‘n’ roll may be a lot of good things for millions of people but it sure wasn’t a good way to learn English.

The staccato playing style in “One Night” may be similar to Fats Domino’s style of playing for a good reason. It’s co-written by Dave Bartholemew, Domino’s songwriting partner who had written hits for The Fat Man such as “Ain’t That A Shame”, one of more than forty songs he had composed with Domino for Imperial Records. Fats Domino had also recorded his own version of “One Night”. Bartholemew wrote the song with another Fifties hit-maker Earl King and Anita Steinman.

“I Got Stung” is one of those classic rock ‘n’ roll Elvis songs that can’t make you stop moving at least some part of your body. Released as the B-side to “One Night”, it managed to make it to Number Eight on the Billboard Pop chart but nevertheless managed to receive a Platinum album for a million copies sold. This was the first of the five songs released that Elvis recorded during his two-week leave from the Army in June 1958 and proved to be the last song he would record of the 1950s. His 1959 output would be the remaining four songs he recorded that fortnight as he endured another year of Army life until his release back into civilian life in 1960.

“Holy smoke, a-land sakes alive, I never thought this could happen to me, I got stung by a sweet honey bee, oh what a feeling come over me, it started in my eyes crept up to my head, flew to my heart ‘til I was stung dead, I’m done, uh-uh, I got stung, yeah…” I Got Stung – Elvis Presley

“I Got Stung” was written by Aaron Schroeder and David Hill, two composers that were to write more songs for the King during the first few years of the 1960s.

(more…)

Advertisements