Wednesday, July 20, 2016

SHG: Elvis Presley: "Love Me"

Elvis Presley: “Love Me”
Entered the chart on: 11/24/1956
Peaked on: 12/29/1956
Weeks at #2: 3 weeks
Song at #1: “Singing the Blues” by Guy Mitchell

The last song to peak at #2 in 1956 (but not the last #2 song to enter the chart in 1956), and it’s fitting that it’s from the man who spent the entirety of September and October in the top spot. I do hope I don’t need to tell you who Elvis Presley is, but we’ll get into some of the cultural and social ramifications of him and this song soon enough.

This isn’t one of his better-known songs. It isn’t unknown, by any means, but it isn’t one of the songs one thinks of immediately when Elvis’ name is brought up. Maybe it ought to be better-known. It was written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, one of the genius songwriting teams of early rock & roll. Note that Elvis only had his first hit in March of that year, and this was his tenth entry in the Top 40, half of those were #1 hits.

This is a ballad, but even this stands apart from the male ballads heretofore enjoying popularity. Listening to Elvis’ delivery, there’s an undeniably sexual undertone to his voice. You can sense the passion in every note he sings. You really get why young girls went crazy for him, and why their parents were scared of him. Elvis was the kind of guy who would get your daughter pregnant.

The obvious comparison here would be to Carl Perkins. Both Carl and Elvis were nurtured by Sam Phillips over at Sun Records. But while Carl continued to slum it over at Sun, Elvis graduated to RCA, where he enjoyed much bigger production values. Playing this (or any of Elvis’ early singles for RCA) back-to-back with “Blue Suede Shoes” is interesting, to compare the stripped-down Sun treatment to the big-budget treatment with a big vocal chorus on “Love Me.” You don’t even need to compare it to another artist, though, just listen to one of Elvis’ early sides for Sun, then compare it to this.

I didn’t used to like Elvis. My mom liked Elvis, so I always felt it was “her” music. Now, with both Elvis and Mom passed on, listening to his music evokes bittersweet memories. I definitely appreciate his talent a lot more now than I did then. And listening to this with fresh ears, I get it!

Rating: 5

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