16 August 2007

Honoring the King

I had planned to write a long post today about my love for Elvis Presley — how his music through 1960 and from 1968 until his death still wows me, reminiscing about my two pilgrimages to Graceland, showing you some of my Elvis tchotchkes — but I decided to hold that homage until his birthday. This anniversary of his death just didn’t feel like the appropriate time to gush. But I need to honor The King in some way … so of course I’m going down music boulevard. What better way to show the love?

Who doesn’t love covering Elvis Presley? Everyone wants to play King for a day — Sinatra and Bennett, rockers and country artists, our favorite alternative bands. There are two genres in my collection missing Elvis representation: punk and indie.

I guess the indie kids are too young to be influenced by Elvis. Too bad; wouldn’t you kill to hear Colin Meloy singing “The Wonder of You” … Scott McCaughey warbling “Clean up Your Own Backyard” … Sam Beam with “Kentucky Rain” … Chan Marshall breaking your heart with “Blue Moon” … Jeff Tweedy making “Mystery Train” his own? Maybe that’s my project for 2008: the hippest album of Elvis covers evah. Michael Stipe, are you listening?
I spent two weeks whittling down the list to a manageable fortysomething, trying to include as many styles and genres as I could. Click. Listen. Sing along. Shake your hips. Let me know which ones you like best.

  • Neil Young: That’s All Right

  • Vince Gill: That’s All Right

  • Bill Monroe & The Bluegrass Boys: Blue Moon of Kentucky

  • Tom Jones: I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone

  • Bob Dylan: I Forgot to Remember to Forget

  • Johnny Cash: I Forgot to Remember to Forget

  • Lloyd Cole & The Commotion: Mystery Train

  • Ann-Margret: Heartbreak Hotel

  • Guns N Roses: Heartbreak Hotel

  • Terence Trent Darby: Heartbreak Hotel

  • Willie Nelson: Heartbreak Hotel

  • Fleetwood Mac: Don’t Be Cruel

  • Marty Stuart: Don’t Be Cruel

  • Rolling Stones: Hound Dog

  • Frank Zappa: Hound Dog

  • The Beatles: Blue Suede Shoes

  • Jimi Hendrix: Blue Suede Shoes

  • Buddy Holly & The Crickets: Blue Suede Shoes

  • Cowboy Junkies: Blue Moon Revisited (Song for Elvis)

  • Chris Isaak: Blue Moon

  • Norah Jones + Adam Levy: Love Me Tender

  • Frank Sinatra + Elvis Presley: Love Me Tender

  • Percy Sledge: Love Me Tender

  • Jeff Beck Group: All Shook Up

  • Queen: Jailhouse Rock

  • Blues Brothers: Jailhouse Rock

  • Bryan Ferry: Are You Lonesome Tonight

  • Elvis Costello: His Latest Flame

  • Dwight Yoakum: Little Sister

  • Erasure: Can’t Help Falling in Love

  • Bono: Can’t Help Falling in Love

  • Pearl Jam: Can’t Help Falling in Love

  • Luka Bloom: Can’t Help Falling in Love

  • Dead Kennedys: Viva Las Vegas

  • Nick Cave: In the Ghetto

  • Cranberries: In the Ghetto

  • Melissa Etheridge: Burning Love

  • And because nobody has covered it (not that I’ve found, anyway), here’s one of my very favorite Elvis songs:

  • Elvis Presley: Kentucky Rain

  • They’re Caught in a Trap

    And they can’t get out from under the covers of “Suspicious Minds” — according to my MP3 collection, Elvis’ most-covered tune, at least in my MP3 collection. Here’s a sampling of those with suspicious minds:

    Belle & Sebastian
    Bowling for Soup
    Jessi Colter + Waylon Jennings
    Fine Young Cannibals
    Flaming Lips
    Roddy McDowall
    My Morning Jacket
    No Doubt
    B.J. Thomas
    Dwight Yoakum
    Pete Yorn

    The best live version of “Suspicious Minds” I’ve ever heard was in the early 1990s, during the encore of a 10,000 Maniacs show at Chastain Park Amphitheater. Pal Joe and I were lolling on the grass in the back, enjoying the music coursing through our ears and the vodka coursing through our veins. A sudden shout went up, as did we — to see our beloved Michael Stipe joining the band onstage. Joe and I were front and center with a time that Carl Lewis would be proud of. Michael and Natalie were brilliant — funny, flirty, having a good ol’ time singing it together. I have searched for a boot of this duo’s duet for fifteen years … so if you have a copy …

    * * * * * *

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    At 8/16/2007 11:16:00 AM, Blogger Eebie said...

    Damn, I only knew of less than 1/2 of the covers of Suspicious Minds. It still surprises me everytime that for all the uproar around his shakin and energy on stage, his #1 hits were mostly soft slow ballads.

    At 8/16/2007 11:42:00 AM, Blogger Bubs said...

    Beautiful, beautiful!

    I love it! I am totally impressed with all the covers of Suspicious Minds--I had no idea. I ended up sitting up last night with my youngest, watching Larry King (!?!?) talk to Priscilla Presley from Graceland. We've only been there once, and I hear it's getting a big facelift now. I'm looking forward to another visit. And I agree with you about saving your big tribute for his birthday. The whole death anniversary hoopla doesn't seem quite right.

    By the way, ever hear of a Memphis band called The Dempseys? They played musicians in the movie Walk The Line, and they played for Bush and Koizumi when they visited Graceland last year. Check them out.

    At 8/16/2007 12:33:00 PM, Blogger coffeypot said...

    I saw Dwight Yoakum in concert and he did Suspicious Mind. It was really very good. Sometimes only the original artist can make a song theirs. But Dwight’s rendition was, to me, as good as Elvis’s version.

    At 8/16/2007 01:07:00 PM, Blogger Blowing Shit Up With Gas said...

    Funny, a local station was doing an Elvis tribute this morning on the way to work and I actually thought of you & your blog for a moment... They played Man in the Moon by REM in that set, which of course mentions Elvis briefly.

    At 8/16/2007 01:21:00 PM, Blogger Blowing Shit Up With Gas said...

    Also, I suspect there are a gazillion covers of Can't Help Falling In Love. There's a reggae version played quite a bit around here, and I recall a cool version on the soundtrack of the movie "Some Kind of Wonderful."

    At 8/16/2007 02:20:00 PM, Blogger jkirlin - your lowly and humble photographic servant said...

    Best.Post.Ever. :)

    At 8/16/2007 02:32:00 PM, Blogger New and Used Records said...

    It will take me a little while to get through all of these songs, but I am very excited. I think the king is rather poised for a resurgence among the indie kids ... he just has so many little nuggets waiting to be discovered, like when "A Little Less Conversation" became a hit a few years back.

    I really like Elvis's movies - their fun and kitschy. I especially like Viva Las Vegas which just has a killer soundtrack, and I love seeing the vegas strip as it looked in its glory days.

    At 8/16/2007 02:53:00 PM, Anonymous gifted typist said...

    Thanks Beth. That is a very classy tribute. He probably would have appreciated it

    At 8/16/2007 04:14:00 PM, Blogger Moxie said...

    Maybe I should do an Elvis cover at karaoke...now that would be interesting. I'll have to listen to some of his tunes and pick out a couple possibilities.

    Mr. Ex-Moxie and I had UB40's cover of "Can't Help Falling in Love" as our song. It's still hard for me to listen to that song.

    At 8/16/2007 06:25:00 PM, Blogger pistols at dawn said...

    I can't believe you didn't include UB40's cover from the soundtrack to the greatest movie of all time, Sliver. I think that's "Fools Rush In?"

    I am not a big Elvis guy, preferring to take Chuck D's stance: "Elvis was a hero to most/but he never meant [poop] to me."

    God, when don't I take Chuck D's stance? It's getting embarrassing.

    At 8/16/2007 07:36:00 PM, Blogger Mountjoy said...

    No Viva Las Vegas from Bruce?

    At 8/16/2007 07:53:00 PM, Blogger BeckEye said...

    "Suspicious Minds" is killer. Who wouldn't want to cover it??

    My fave Elvis song is "(You're So Square) Baby I Don't Care." I don't know why my heart flips (for it), I only know it does.

    At 8/16/2007 08:43:00 PM, Anonymous rcofchs said...

    Great tribute to the King. It is a sad day for me to remember Elvis death every year on this date. It also is the same date I lost my friend Auggie Doggie.

    At 8/16/2007 10:39:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

    EEBIE: I hope you downloaded some of the more fun “Suspicious Minds.” Good point about his hits being ballads … but, damn, I love to watch his young hips move.

    BUBS: Thank you, thank you! I forgot about Priscilla’s appearance last night; that’s what I get for working long hours. Did she look freaky? I hear she’s taking plastic surgery to a new level. I’m not familiar with The Dempseys … but I’ll be checking them out tonight. Thanks for the tip!

    COFFEYPOT: I’ve seen Dwight twice (maybe we were just rows away, uncle!). Dwight’s “Suspicious Minds” cover is probably my fave. Have you seen the video? Naughty.

    BLOWING SH*T UP WITH GAS: I looked everywhere for a still from the “Man on the Moon” video, the shot of Stipe doing his Elvis move. I nearly included “MotM” — along with Gillian Welch’s “Elvis Presley Blues” and Warren Zevon’s “Porcelain Monkey” — but realized I had posted enough songs to keep y’all out of trouble. (p.s. I’m glad you think of the blog and me when you hear R.E.M.; my work is done here.)

    At 8/16/2007 10:42:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

    JKIRLIN: Thank.you.very.much.

    NEW AND USED RECORDS: You know how I value your music opinions, so come back and let me know which ones are treasures. Maybe The Passionistas could cover a little Presley for me? The movies are fun, aren’t they? I’ve read that Tom Hanks can’t leave the house if an Elvis movie is playing; he has to watch it until the credits roll.

    GIFTED TYPIST: I think he would, too. Thanks!

    MOXIE: I’m thinking you should tackle “The Wonder of You” at karaoke; that would be a hoot! Hate to tell you … but, damn, I hate UB40, ever since that lame cover of Al Green’s “Here I Am (Come and Take Me).”

    At 8/16/2007 10:46:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

    PISTOLS AT DAWN: (See above.) You should head to Atlanta since you’re all Chuck D; he lives here now. I love Chuck D.

    MOUNTJOY: I don’t have Bruce’s “VLV”! It would be here if I owned it. Feel like sharing the love?

    BECKEYE: I think you and Glenn should duet on “Suspicious Minds” … because, of course, he’s thinking of me and making you all suspicious.

    RCOFCHS: Thank you, sir. I didn’t realize Auggie Doggie passed on this date. Now I’m sad.

    At 8/16/2007 10:50:00 PM, Blogger Barbara Bruederlin said...

    You are the awesomist! I had absolutely no idea about all those Suspicious Minds covers. And naturally I am completely charmed by the Belle and Sebastian one - they always sound like they are having such a good time at their concerts, there are handclaps all the way through, and they are available for weddings to boot!

    I think the king would approve.

    At 8/16/2007 10:59:00 PM, Blogger Bubs said...

    Beth, my daughter hit it right on the head--Priscilla looked like a plasticized version of Catherine O'Hara as the mom from "Beetlejuice". She looked great at first glance, but when you looked closer and realized this was a 62 year old woman affecting the hairstyle and makeup of a 30-something it was jarring.

    At 8/16/2007 11:05:00 PM, Blogger mellowlee said...

    WOOOOOOOOOOOOOT! It's an mp3 buffet! yay Beth! I can't wait to get my paws on these songs, thank you! :O)

    At 8/17/2007 01:42:00 AM, Blogger Johnny Yen said...

    When my laptop is out of the shop, I'm emailing you Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash's cover of Elvis' "That's All Right Mama."

    At 8/17/2007 08:46:00 PM, Blogger Dale said...

    You're clogging the arteries of my hard drive with all your majestic goodness Beth. Thanks. You too Elvis.

    At 8/17/2007 10:55:00 PM, Blogger Splotchy said...

    Great, great stuff. I got to get to downloading it.

    I second BSUWG's comment about the great cover of Can't Help on the Some Kind Of Wonderful soundtrack. Really inspired.

    At 8/18/2007 11:59:00 AM, Blogger Beth said...

    BARBARA: I like that: The Awesomist. I think that will be my band’s name. I knew you’d be thrilled with the Belle & Sebastian cover; I thought of you as soon as I found it.

    BUBS: Heartbreaking. She was always so lovely. I bet she’d still be lovely if she’d kept her real face. Does she look like Bruce Campbell was her plastic surgeon (a la Escape from L.A.)?

    MELLOWLEE: Come back and let me know which ones you think are the best.

    JOHNNY YEN: Can’t wait! I love anything Bob and Johnny did together. Speaking of Bob … I just bought my tix for Dylan, Costello and Amos Lee in September!!!

    DALE: I love being the butter of your hard drive, Dale.

    SPLOTCHY: Lick the Tins covered that on the Some Kind of Wonderful soundtrack. I’ve been trying to find a digital copy for a while; maybe I’ll have it in time for Elvis’ birthday.

    At 8/20/2007 12:10:00 PM, Blogger Tony Alva said...

    Two of the greatest Elvis covers are UFO's "Mystery Train" off of No Place To Run, and ZZ Tops "Heartbreak Hotel" off of Fandango!

    At 8/20/2007 05:05:00 PM, Blogger anandamide said...

    how about going the other way: Elvis best cover tune?

    My fave is his version of Bob Dylan's "Tomorrow is a Long Time". Priceless....

    At 8/31/2007 08:03:00 PM, Blogger mellowlee said...

    AAAAHhhhhhhhhhhhhhh I finally got all the Elvis song's YAY. My soundtrack for this friday night is pretty much set! Thanks Beth xox


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