Tuesday 24 January 2023

Elvis Songs With Spoken Segments

In the 1950s, talking over the music was big, especially on slow songs. 

The question is, what qualifies as a spoken segment in a song? The answer is a good poetry or dramatic reading, or some idle chatter and everyday speech. As the spoken segment is part of the song, shout outs and cheering instructions to the crowd or band do not qualify. 

The goal of the spoken part in a song is to give the singer a chance to take a step back and offer a type of director's commentary on proceedings. 

Quite a few Elvis songs feature spoken segments. Obvious ones are That's When Your Heartaches Begin, Are You Lonesome Tonight and I'm Yours

Let's have a closer look at some more Elvis songs that contain a spoken segment:

1. U.S. MALE

In 1965 Elvis recorded movie songs ONLY. In my opinion his "comeback" already started when he recorded a Grammy Award-winning gospel album the next year. All through 1966-1968 it seems like Elvis experimented different ways to go musically, but no one (especially not the charts) took notice. One of these "comeback" songs was U.S. Male, a talking blues. I bet Elvis was eager to cut his teeth on this one.


On 31 July 1969 Elvis returned to live performances in Vegas. Mama Liked The Roses was recorded earlier the same year at the American Studio in Memphis. According to accounts, Elvis LOVED this song but had laryngitis, so a backing track was laid down and Elvis overdubbed his vocal at a later stage. 


This song was also recorded at the American Studio sessions. One time during the recording they had to stop as the engineer heard a strange buzzing sound on the tape. Turns out it was a car idling outside! It seems Elvis found Only The Strong Survived difficult to sing as he reprimanded himself throughout, but he did not give up and eventually did 29 takes of which the last one was seemingly used.


This song, which Elvis only recorded live on stage, is about the lifestyle of a poor girl and her family. It seems "polk salad" is a tall plant of which the leaves are eaten, after having been cooked several times, and goes well with ham. Elvis introduced this showstopper at his second Vegas season in Jan/Feb 1970. 


Elvis' July 1973 Stax Studio recording session had sound problems. One evening after noticing that his mic was gone, Elvis left and the band laid down four tracks to be later overdubbed at Elvis' home in Palm Springs via RCA mobile truck. Also present at the dubbing session was VOICE, Elvis' new personal backing group. Elvis was excited to get them on record and allocated most of his recording time to their demos. As a result Elvis overdubbed only one of his required backing tracks, in stead recording two VOICE suggested songs of which Are You Sincere was one. Parker was furious and ordered these tracks to be released as is, with no strings and horns overdubs.