This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #302: Suspicious Minds by Elvis Presley.
For many people, the topic of who the most important or influential musicians in Rock n’ Roll history are often revolves around one, Elvis Aron Presley. He is not referred to as, “The King of Rock n’ Roll” without merit. Elvis Presley did not discover nor invent Rock n’ Roll but, he, more than anyone else, was responsible for bringing it to the masses (and, by “the masses”, I mean, white America). Elvis Presley, with his handsome features, deep, rich singing voice and provocative dance moves (which some maintained unleashed a sexual power that is the actual essence of Rock music), is unrivalled in his star power. For proof that Elvis is, indeed, “The King”, look no further that the single fact that he is the highest selling musical artist, in any genre, in any era, of all-time! Mic drop!
Elvis Aron Presley began his career in the mid 1950s and quickly became the face of a cultural revolution. Signed to Sun Records and managed by Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis Presley enjoyed an impressive start to his career with numerous #1 hits such as “Jailhouse Rock”, “Heartbreak Hotel” and many more. But, a funny thing happened while he sat atop the Music World in the early 1960s, Elvis joined the Army. At the time, it was not only patriotism that caused Elvis to leave music behind and enlist as a G.I. but, it was felt that it was a good career move, too. The idea of the handsome music star sacrificing his career for love of Country was a dream for a marketer like, Col. Parker. So, off Elvis went.
When Elvis was honourably discharged several years later, his management team decided to capitalize on the latest trend for big musical acts (like The Beatles) and have Elvis begin a career in the movies. So, for the next four or five years, Elvis starred in a string of B-movies. During that period of time, his entire musical output consisted of contributing songs for the soundtrack albums to these movies. So, while Elvis was starring in “Blue Hawaii” and “G.I. Blues”, the world of music moved on without him and before he knew it, it had been almost a full decade since he had released any original material under his own name. As hard as it may seem to believe, Elvis had almost become irrelevant. So, in 1969, Elvis demanded of Col. Parker, that he be allowed to begin touring again. In order to re-launch his music career, he signed with TV Channel, “NBC”, to air a concert of his where he would play some hits but, also, introduce new material, too. One of the new songs he released at that moment was “Suspicious Minds”.
Like many of the songs that Elvis sang, “Suspicious Minds” was written by somebody else. Motown was not the only musical entity that had teams of songwriters busily writing songs to be sung by other singers. Around Nashville, there were many aspiring musicians who began their careers as songwriters for hire. One such performer was a man named Mark James. He wrote “Suspicious Minds” for himself and based it upon a situation in his own life whereby he was married but still was in love with his high school sweetheart. The Mark James-version of “Suspicious Minds” did not chart. But, when Elvis started thinking about re-vitalizing his career, he put out word that he was seeking good songs to sing. Eventually, Mark James was made aware of this and presented his demo of “Suspicious Minds” to Elvis. Needless to say, Elvis saw something of merit in it and agreed to buy it from James. “Suspicious Minds” became the very last #1 hit that Elvis ever had in his career.
As Elvis re-launched the second phase of his career, he did so by taking up residence in Las Vegas, donning his famous/infamous white suit and playing his hits, over and over, again. Even though he remained a popular performer, Elvis, never again, attained the lofty career heights that he did at the beginning of his reign as “The King of Rock”. Overweight and addicted to prescription drugs, Elvis died alone, in his bathroom, at Graceland in 1976.
When you examine Elvis’ discography, you will discover that of all of the albums released that bear his image, his voice and his name, less than one-quarter were actual Elvis Presley albums filled with original music. A great many were movie soundtrack albums. But, by far, the greatest number of Elvis albums circulating in the world today were released posthumously. There are, literally, dozens and dozens of these post-death Elvis albums. You see, Elvis was always entangled in contracts with people like Col. Parker, who always made sure to take their share of any revenue he generated. Even in death, Elvis was the gift that kept on giving. He was a good son and a good singer, too but, he was an industry, in his own right, as well. So, I suppose it is, somewhat, fitting that a career that shook America to its core, when it started, should end in a polyester jumpsuit, in a manufactured town in the desert.
So it was with “Suspicious Minds”…the final hit from the man who changed Rock n’ Roll forever. Ladies and Gentlemen, here is “The King”, Mr. Elvis Presley. Enjoy.
The link to the video for the song, “Suspicious Minds” by Elvis Presley, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Elvis Presley, can be found here.
Thanks to KEXP for helping to inspire the writing of this post. The link to their fabulous website can be found here.