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ELVIS PRESLEY: 20 ESSENTIAL SONGS
October 02, 2015 - The Telegraph / Elvis Express Radio
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01
THAT'S ALRIGHT, MAMA
was a blues song originally written and recorded by Arthur 'Big Boy' Crudup. Elvis
Presley's version was made at Sam Phillips's Memphis Recording Service. It was never released as a single in
the UK. Presley is pictured here with bass player Bill Black, guitarist Scotty Moore and Phillips. Most of the
Sun Sessions tracks would merit inclusion in a list of Presley's greatest songs, including wonderful tracks such
as Blue Moon of Kentucky, I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine, You're a Heartbreaker, I'm Left, You're Right,
She's Gone and Mystery Train.
02
HEARTBREAK HOTEL
is the favourite Presley song of both Paul McCartney and Cliff Richard. It was
Presley's first million-selling single and featured country guitarist Chet Atkins. The song was written in 1955 by
Mae Boren Axton, a high schoolteacher, and songwriter Tommy Durden, and is reportedly about a Miami man
who jumped to his death from a hotel window, leaving a suicide note with the single line, "I walk a lonely
street". Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant has said that the song "changed his life".
03
BLUE SUEDE SHOES
had been a big hit for Carl Perkins, a musician Presley knew well. The song was a key
promotional record in getting Presley known at the start of his career. He performed it on national television
three times in 1956, including on the influential Steve Allen Show.
04
HOUND DOG
is a rousing blues song that was first recorded by Willie Mae 'Big Mama' Thornton, in 1952.
More than 11 million copies of Presley's version have been sold, with his original 1956 RCA recording
inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1988.
Today, the UK newspaper the Telegraph, takes the time to list for their huge number of readers, the Essential 20 songs from Elvis' catalogue of great recordings and while their
choice of pictures for each song is very much hit or miss, their essential 20 songs are as follows....
05
DON'T BE CRUEL
was written by Otis Blackwell (with Presley getting a co-writing credit). New Yorker Blackwell
also wrote the classics Fever, Great Balls of Fire, Return to Sender and All Shook Up. The backing band on
Don't Be Cruel were The Jordanaires.
06
LOVE ME TENDER,
adapted from the Civil War ballad Aura Lea, is one of the most covered of Presley songs,
including later versions by BB King, Frank Sinatra, Percy Sledge and Tony Bennett. The song was chosen by
playwright Tennessee Williams as one of his Desert Island Discs and the writer described how gracious
Presley was to his mother when they met by chance on a train journey.
07
JAILHOUSE ROCK
was the title track of the 1957 film and was written by Jerry Leiber (above right) and Mike
Stoller (above left), who also composed Hound Dog. The song was a UK No1 for three weeks. The Purple
Gang mentioned in the lyrics was a real criminal mob.
08
ALL SHOOK UP
is another song co-written with Otis Blackwell. Presley (pictured here in his Jailhouse Rock
film outfit) said in 1957: "I've never even had an idea for a song. Just once, maybe. I went to bed one night,
had quite a dream, and woke up all shook up. I phoned a pal and told him about it. By morning, he had a new
song, All Shook Up."
09
BLUE CHRISTMAS
became a seasonal classic after appearing on Elvis Presley's 1957 LP Elvis' Christmas
Album. It was later recorded by Bruce Springsteen among many others.
10
ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT?
was written in 1927 by Lou Handman and Roy Turk. The spoken section,
loosely based on Shakespeare's As You Like It, was added in the 1950s, and included in a version by Al
Jolson. Elvis's 1960 cover was a worldwide hit but there is also a wonderful 1969 live version in which he falls
into uncontrollable laughter after changing the words "Do you gaze at your doorstep and picture me there?"
to jokingly sing "Do you gaze at your bald head and wish you had hair".
11
IT'S NOW OR NEVER
was a No1 record across the globe and the song that reportedly persuaded Barry
White to pursue a career in music.
12
(MARIE'S THE NAME) HIS LATEST FLAME
1961 was a golden year for Elvis Presley, including releasing the
songs Can't Help Falling in Love, Surrender, I Feel So Bad, Little Sister and, the pick of the bunch,  (MARIE'S
THE NAME) HIS LATEST FLAME This catchy tune came from the writing team of Doc Pomus and Mort
Shuman.
13
RETURN TO SENDER
was a UK No 1 and features the great Barney Kessel on electric guitar.
An interesting fact is that this song became Elvis' only UK Christmas Number 1 record in 1962.
14
CRYING IN THE CHAPEL
is the only Presley song to have been covered and released by Bob Marley,
though it was called Selassie is the Chapel. Elvis is pictured here with his bride, the former Priscilla Beaulieu,
at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas, after their wedding on May 1, 1967. Presley, 32, and Beaulieu, 21 met
while he was stationed in Germany with the US Army.
15
A LITTLE LESS CONVERSATION
is an Elvis song that has kept popping up in popular culture and was even
used by George W. Bush as the anthem of his re-election campaign in 2004. Presley had once persuaded
President Nixon (above) to give him an honorary drug enforcement agent badge. The song became a # 1
record around the world back in 2002 as it was given a remixed reworking by JXL and became the unofficial
anthem of the World Cup.
16
SUSPICIOUS MINDS
inspired a comeback and was his 17th and final No. 1 single in America.
17
IN THE GHETTO
was originally pitched to Sammy Davis, Jr by writer Mac Davis. Davis recorded a version
after Presley had a global hit with the song. It was later covered by Dolly Parton.
18
AN AMERICAN TRILOGY
was a medley of patriotic songs – including Dixie and The Battle Hymn of the
Republic – arranged by country singer Mickey Newbury. The song became a show-stopper section in all
Presley's concerts in the mid-1970s.
19
ALWAYS ON MY MIND
Elvis Presley (pictured in the 1970 film That's The Way It Is) recorded his version of
ALWAYS ON MY MIND on March 29, 1972, a few weeks after his separation from wife Priscilla. Willie Nelson
released a lovely version in 1982 that won a Grammy.
20
WAY DOWN
was the last single released before Presley's death on August 16, 1977, at the age of 42. The
gospel bass line was sung by JD Sumner.