Bad Boys, Elvis Presley and First Albums

Last week I wrote about “bad boys” in film, and Elvis Presley’s name had cropped up. Now I have always been an Elvis fan, and am proud to admit it, so it  seems disloyal to call him a bad boy when we all know he had impeccable southern manners and respected his elders. There is no denying however that he caused a furore in the middle-class homes of America when he started appearing on television in the mid 1950s. So much so that he could only be filmed from the waist up, his pelvic rotations proving too animalistic and vulgar for viewers to handle! It seems laughable now but a letter from the Catholic church was sent to FBI director J Edgar Hoover warning him that “Presley is a definite danger to the security of the United States – His actions and motions were such as to rouse the sexual passions of teenaged youth”. So you see where I am coming from when I say that he was branded a “bad boy”.

1956-september-9-ed-sullivan-show

It makes me really sad now to think that many people only remember Elvis as the bloated, jumpsuited, cabaret singer who forgot the words to his songs and rambled incoherently during a performance (a lot to do with the sheer number of pretty appalling Elvis impersonators out there). I fortunately, have chosen to erase those Elvis images from my mind and remember mainly those great films from the ’60s, derided by the critics but loved by his fans. If you were a 10-year-old girl living in cold and windy Scotland, to watch an Elvis film set in Hawaii, was joy personified. My dad and I were great fans of musicals and during the long winter months when there was no gardening or outdoor chores to be done, we spent many a Sunday afternoon watching Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly and of course Elvis, sing and dance their way across our television screens.

And so it came to pass, that the first album I ever bought was an Elvis one. I am highly sceptical of those people whose supposed first purchase was something really cool like Pink Floyd. It is much more plausible that like me, their first purchase was something bought as a child with Christmas or birthday money from a relative, whilst accompanied by a parent. I remember that back in the late ’60s/early ’70s, the best place to buy records was Boots the Chemist’s music department (sounds strange I know but true) and the 10/- (ten shilling) postal order given to me as a present by an aunt was converted to pre-decimalisation cash and then used to buy “Elvis Sings Flaming Star” which was a compilation album released in 1969. An unlikely choice considering he had so many great film soundtrack albums to his name, but I am pretty sure the main reason was that it was a new release based on the success of the ’68 Comeback Special and was on sale for the special price of 9/6 (nine shillings and sixpence) so fitted my budget. I was happy however as the album was full of great Elvis songs including Flaming Star, the title track to the 1960 film of the same name.

Flaming Star by Elvis Presley:

I am pretty sure I had watched that film at some point with my dad, but it was one in which Elvis had a straight acting role with no songs. He desperately wanted to be taken seriously as an actor and turned in one of his best performances to date. Sadly, due to poor box office success compared to his previous films, where he always had a singing role, he was persuaded by his mentor and manager “Colonel” Tom Parker to return to the former. I wonder now how things would have turned out if he had been allowed to carry on with straight acting roles. It is often cited that his Hollywood years were his unhappiest – He knew the films received little or no critical acclaim but he was heavily controlled by those around him whose livelihood depended on them continuing. Generous to a fault, he did what was expected of him, and that hastened the start of his decline, as his dependence on prescription drugs ramped up a gear to cope with the relentless lifestyle.

elvis

Since buying my new turntable I have revisited the album but have just worked out today, when listening to the song again in the clip, that the key change I always thought happened half way through, must have been a scratch on the record causing the needle to jump. Only took me 45 years!

Flaming Star Lyrics
(Song by Sid Wayne/Sherman Edwards)

Ev’ry man, has a flaming star
A flaming star, over his shoulder
And when a man, sees his flaming star
He knows his time, his time has come

Flaming star, don’t shine on me, flaming star
Flaming star, keep behind me, flaming star
There’s a lot of livin’ I’ve got to do
Give me time to make a few dreams come true
Flaming star

When I ride, I feel that flaming star
That flaming star, over my shoulder
And so I ride, front of that flaming star
Never lookin’ around, never lookin’ around

One fine day, I’ll see that flaming star
That flaming star, over my shoulder
And when I see, that old flaming star
I’ll know my time, my time has come

Postscript:

After doing a little more digging it is all starting to make a bit more sense. We didn’t actually get to see the now legendary ’68 Comeback Special on television in the UK until about a year and a half later. I could only have been about 9 or 10 when it aired but I still remember that evening clearly. I had been sent down to our local village shop which opened late on a Friday – All the ladies at the tills were really excited about going home to watch Elvis later on that evening and were asking all the customers if they would be tuning in. I must have mentioned this to my family when I got home and thankfully we did watch this piece of television history. Elvis was clad in black leather, was looking good, singing well and turned in an amazing performance as only he could. He resurrected his career after years of being holed up in Hollywood churning out lacklustre movies and dubious soundtrack albums.

el

The sponsor of the NBC television special was the Singer Sewing Machine Company (yes really) and the company had put together an album called “Singer Presents Elvis Singing Flaming Star and Others” (all very confusing) as a promotional tie-in for retail outlets that sold their machines. In March 1969, after the success of the special, it was re-issued internationally for normal retail outlets as “Elvis Sings Flaming Star”, which is when I must have come across it. Wouldn’t have known any of this back story at the time but just goes to show how fascinating rock and pop trivia can be. RIP The King.

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was recorded for the film of the same name and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might finally work out the answer to his question, "What's it all about?"

11 thoughts on “Bad Boys, Elvis Presley and First Albums”

  1. Reblogged this on What's It All About, Alfie? and commented:

    Just about caught up with all the things I had let slide whilst blogging this year but here is one more older post that tells the story behind my first ever album purchase. I was only 10 so not embarrassed by it all and I am highly sceptical of those people whose first album purchase was something really “cool”. Having revisited it now and found out the whole back story, it finally makes sense and added to the Postscript at the bottom.

    All being well, back to business as usual this coming week!

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    1. A few comments on this…

      i) Any Elvis album (even a ropey soundtrack one) is cooler than a Pink Floyd album in my book.
      ii) Sadly, one of my earliest memories (I was only 5) was of Elvis’s death being announced on the evening news. Even my parents – who were from the pre-rock ‘n’ roll generation – were shocked and saddened by this. I didn’t really know who Elvis was, but I still felt the grief. In many ways, this was my first experience / recollection of human mortality.
      iii) My own first album purchase is far more embarrassing, being a follow-on from my first single purchase of a few weeks prior. (I did own some other records before this, but they were gifts, not bought with my own money.) The fact that I was 15 at the time means I don’t even have the “I was too young to know better” defence. (I was a late starter when it came to buying records: I’ve made up for that since.) Maybe I’ll save that revelation for a post of my own though…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for this – i) Pink Floyd actually passed me by and it wasn’t until they reformed for Live8 that I finally “got them”. ii) Remember the day Elvis died well as it was the first day back at school after the long summer holidays – A friend and I had always gone to see his films when they were shown at our local “fleapit” so we were both really sad. iii) It’s Jason D isn’t it?

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      1. Ha. No edit required, honest.

        Actually, some might say my actual first record is even worse! I’ve started writing a blog-confession, but it’s looking like it might be quite a long post as it’s brought back quite a lot of (pleasant) memories. Expect it by the end of the month.

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  2. I’m a bit late to the party here but I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed this post about the original rock & roll “bad boy,” Elvis Presley. Your path to his music was different than mine and we seem to prefer different eras of his career. I love his ’50s recordings and pretty much anything he did…especially live…in the ’70s, while his soundtrack work was hit-and-miss for me. Then again, I didn’t grow up watching his movies so that might be why I don’t have a close connection to those songs. We both agree about the greatness of the ’68 Comeback Special. Talk about an artist at the peak of his powers. As you know from my recent Pink Floyd post, “Animals” was one of my first purchases but not my first. Beyond the handful of albums my parents had that I listened to non-stop in my early years (“Meet The Beatles,” Hank Williams’ “14 Greatest Hits,” a couple of Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass LPs, a few classical collections), the initial purchases that were all my choice were Kiss’ early discography, Steve Miller’s “Fly Like An Eagle,” Stevie Wonder’s “Songs In The Key Of Life” (a life-altering and mind-opening album for my 10-year-old self) and one or two others before Pink Floyd. Never cared much about “cool.” For me it’s all about “like” or “don’t like.” Hence things like my “No Guilt, Just Pleasure” post a couple of years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you enjoyed the post – My 10-year-old self preferred his soundtrack albums but I can see now that much of it was pretty awful. Watched Viva Las Vegas over the Christmas break though and still enjoyed it especially as I now know that he’d had a little dalliance with Ann-Margret during the making of that one, so added to the frisson probably!

      If you read the above comment by Rol (who has a great blog called My Top Ten – http://histopten.blogspot.co.uk) there is a lot of talk there about why there should be “no guilty pleasures” in music and his most recent post is a case in point. I see he was also not very complimentary about Pink Floyd (oops!). On the upside however my husband often waxes lyrically about “Songs In The Key Of Life” and it has become a bit of an in-joke with us as every time he thinks he’s telling me about it for the first time.

      Hope you saw the little postscript above – The Singer Sewing Machine Company sponsored the Comback Special – What an odd match! Ironically I have been in Elvis mode today already as put my earphones in at work whilst doing a piece of work and no-one noticed except when American Trilogy came on – The sound had really “bled” apparently during the big, loud third section (Battle Hymn of teh Republic) and everyone was really curious as to what I was listening to. Very proud to say it was Elvis!

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      1. I checked out Rol’s blog. Lots of good stuff there. Wish I had more free time for reading so I could delve more deeply but I’ll try to remember to stop by there from time to time. It would be easier if he was on WordPress. Then again, he’s dismissive of Pink Floyd so maybe I’m not missing much. 😀

        I didn’t know about the Singer Sewing Machine connection until I got the 60-CD Elvis “Album Collection” box set last year. Before that I only had a handful of his original albums on CD, along with multiple box sets covering his whole career, but seeing the original releases replicated in that set was eye-opening.

        I love your “American Trilogy” anecdote. That’s one of my all-time favorite Elvis performances. I once played drums for a female singer who covered all kinds of music, and one of her showstoppers was “American Trilogy.” I was always so excited every time we played it.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes too many great blogs and not enough time – Spent far too long in the blogosphere today! Time to stop now but glad you liked my Amercan Trilogy tale (one of my all-time favs also as suits him just so well) and Rol is incredibly knowledgable so even if he’s not too keen on PF (maybe he said that for my benefit though) worth dropping by now and again. Just been over at your place again but said my piece so all done for today now. Thanks for your feedback by the way – very grateful that people take the time.

          Liked by 1 person

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