|Elvis Express Radio News
|HOW 'SUSPICIOUS MINDS' FOUND IT'S WAY TO ELVIS
September 28, 2017 - Tennessean / Elvis Express Radio
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|It was a tough blow for songwriting great Mark James when his 1968 single, "Suspicious Minds" — which he recorded himself — failed to become a hit.
But it ended up being a blessing in disguise when Elvis Presley recorded the song one year later, taking it to the top of the charts. It's gone on to become one of his most beloved,
In a conversation with Bart Herbison of Nashville Songwriters Association International, James told the story of writing the song and how he got it into Elvis' hands.
Bart Herbison: Let’s start with the fact that you did (the song) first.
Mark James: I did, oh yeah. 1968. I recorded for Scepter Records. Worked with Chips (Moman, producer). They loved it, up at Scepter Records. They said, “Smash!” Chips and I
went up there and we had a big party, a big promotional thing, 25 promotional people were there. They all said "smash, smash, smash" and they even gave Chips a Rolls Royce for
producing that. … It was a small label and maybe they didn’t know how to market it like Atlantic or other people. Anyway, it never happened.
BH: Let’s go back, though, to when you wrote it. Tell me about writing that song.
MJ: The title came to me one night. I was playing organ bass pedals at an apartment I was living in and I was getting kind of a riff thing, same riff, and I was getting the groove of it,
playing bass pedals. And then when I got a certain portion, I went to the studio and finished it up on grand piano. And when Chips heard it, he said, “Man, I want to cut that on you,”
and he was real excited.
But, let me skip to when Elvis was coming in — they had booked the studio for two weeks. I didn’t know he was coming in with 40 songs. I didn’t know that. But I kept working on it,
trying to come up with that one song and I can feel it sometimes. I know when a song is in the air, I know when something’s there, and I try to grab it or capture it. But I kept saying
something’s there and I was trying to capture it, and Don Crews was the publisher, and every time I’d go back to American Studios he’d say, “Well, you capture that for Elvis yet?
You know he’s coming in in a week and a half.” And I said, "No, not yet, not yet." … We went to about two days before and he says, “You know Elvis is coming in two days.” I was
down, man, because I still hadn’t come up with anything. (Don) says, “What about your old catalog?”
… By the time I hit “Suspicious Minds,” he said, “What about 'Suspicious Minds'?” I turned around in the chair and it was like seeing a golden number one and I knew that was the
song I’d been looking for. And of course, I said, “That’s the song I’m looking for, that’s the song!” And I felt like — and I knew most of the guys with Elvis, some of them working there,
around Memphis — felt like telling George Klein, Marty Lacker, I felt like even shaking Elvis and saying, “This is a great one for you, man, to record.” But I knew probably everyone in
the world had probably said that to him. So all I could do is tell all the guys around him, “Get him to cut this, this is a great one for him!”
… Sure enough, when Elvis came in, he played it for him and Elvis said, “Let’s hear that again.” And I wasn’t there. I stayed away. And sure enough, he got it several times, liked it
so much Chips made a tape for him. He took it home.
I stayed away (from the recording session), but I went to the studio one time. I went upstairs and I heard they were taking a break. … I was curious and at the same time I said, “Is he
really Elvis and is he going to cut ‘Suspicious Minds’?” — that’s the main reason I went in there. And I went in there and he happened to be leaning up against the baffle. It’s real
funny, I said, “Hey Elvis, I heard you might cut ‘Suspicious Minds.’ ” And he said, “Hey Mark, been thinking about it,” you know, just like Elvis would say it. ... But, I mean, this was a
great guy. He invited me to Vegas when “Suspicious Minds” was going up, and I remember he was at a table talking in a long room with Sammy Davis or Andy Williams, two people,
way across the room. And I came in the room and he walked, stood up, walked clear across the room and said, “Hi Mark. How you been doing?”
I said, “Man, this guy is something else, y’all.” Classy guy, you know?
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