It is certainly possible that Elvis wasn't entirely happy with his movie career. He said to Gardner in '56 that he won't be singing in his movies. And, six years later, he had sung in all of them, as he bitterly confessed to Priscilla in his long distance calls to her. But he surely had hopes of getting more serious roles in the future, and his movies, even if formulaic, still had a certain level of integrity and quality.
What he couldn't imagine is the turn the events would eventually take place scarcely 18 months later. After wrapping up the March Nashville sessions, and with no decision made about the next single, Elvis was traveling his way out to L.A. in order to record the next bunch of songs for his yearly Wallis production, tentatively titled 'Girls! Girls! Girls!' a movie that pretended to cash in the 'Blue Hawaii' success, repeating setting and including again a lot of songs, though strangely many of them latin-flavored and not Hawaiian-style.
After the usual production meeting at Paramount, the first thing on the agenda was to record the soundtrack. After the 'Loving You' problems in 1957 and the uneventful RCA Studio C 'GI Blues' April '60 sessions there were no doubts about Radio Recorders Studio being the home base for Elvis' Hollywood sessions, so it was at this studio where the group gathered on the morning of March 26th, 1962.
DJ Fontana, Scotty Moore and the Jordanaires where on hand, and the band featured the 'regular' Hollywood players (Tiny Timbrel, Ray Siegel, Bernie Mattinson, Hal Blaine and some new faces, such as jazz legend guitar player Barney Kessel or the vocal group The Amigos. In all, three days where booked, with recording starting at around midday, and continued until mid afternoon on the first day, or to midnight on the second and third days, a far departure from the usual late night Nashville sessions.
The first day, three songs were recorded. With the great demand for new songs, the chances that new writers got their songs selected increased, and so,the first song, 'I Don't Want To', was submitted by a new team, Tarre and Spielman. It was a nice romantic ballad that gently flowed over a repeated guitar riff. It could have been selected on a regular session andit would have made a good album cut. It wasn't as good or original as 'Something Blue', but certainly of the same quality as other songs like 'For The Millionth And The Last Time' or 'Fountain Of Love', all recent Nashville cuts. Strangely enough, it was cut off of the movie, though it was at least included in the soundtrack album and even on the movie trailer. Just three takes where needed to complete the song. The session is missed on this song, as on many others from this soundtrack, so we don't know how many of those where complete. Have I said Elvis sung brilliantly? Well, he did.
The second song for the day was pure Hollywood, as the plot demanded not just a love song, like the previous one, but a song about some fisherman so happy because the boat was loaded with fresh fish. Strangely, although the song is kind of infectious, as it opened with an original bass-guitar figure and moved along with spark and beautiful vocal arrangements, and Elvis sounded committed and clever. Nothing memorable, and too short, but nice. The song infectiousness is maybe due to its writing credits (Blackwell and Scott).
Batchelor would contribute three songs for 'Girl! Girls! Girls!'. The first, 'Thanks To The Rolling Sea' was recorded as the third and last song of this first day of recording. It was a mediocre fishing chant, that lacked the spark of the previous song, but still managed to retain some charm (credit goes to Elvis and the band though!). Two arrangements where tried, one with a jungle drumming rhythm and the other sang a Capella by Elvis and the Jordanaires. The first made the album. Once again short and nice, but nothing more than that.
The next day started with 'Where Do You Come From?'. 'I met Elvis for the first time on the setting of 'Kid Galahad' and like him immediately' - remembers Ruth Batchelor, the writer - 'Lyrics meant a lot to him and he certainly went for the sentimental kind'. This song is indeed sentimental and nice. It took the band 14 takes to achieve a master. Only one take and the master have been located so far. 'Where Do You Come From?' shares with 'I Don't Want To' three things: both could have been recorded on a non-movie session, both were cut from the final picture, and both made the soundtrack album.
The next song, Leiber and Stoller's 'Girls! Girls! Girls!' will be the title song of the movie and it showcased a nice arrangement, a killer sax solo at the end, and wonderful double drumming job. The band was really cooking and sounding tighter than ever (remember this was the Hollywood band) on this little rocker. Lyric wise it was humorous and funny, even risque' ('on the beaches oh what peaches!'). Nice song.
During a Hill & Range meeting, with Colonel Parker present, Otis Blackwell commented that he hadn't any new material for the forthcoming movie (eventually he'd write 'We're Coming In Loaded') but mentioned a new composition of his, not written for the movie, but one he considered worth of Elvis. The Colonel, who seldom interfered in song selection (suggestions of 'Just A Little Walk With Thee' in 57 and 'Are you Lonesome Tonight?' in 1960 where as far as he had gone), but sensible to the increasing demand of material, ask him to play it, and like it so much that he promised Otis that the song would be in the movie.
That song was 'Return To Sender', and it was tackled in just 2 takes. It was a madison type of song, or atleast it could be danced as that. A strong song on its own, deprived of movie-script compromises, it was as serious candidate for single release. Built around a sax riff, with Elvis playing with the lyrics, the ever efficient Jordanaires, and the band with its usual level of excellence, there was no question that it was THE song of the movie, just like it had happened before with 'Can't Help Falling In Love'.
The fourth song of the day, 'Because Of Love' recorded around 5 p.m, was the third and last song submitted by Ruth Batchelor. Again a nice, sweet ballad, elegantly performed, with a hint of the latin feeling so present on many Elvis recordings from the early 60's. Along with 'Where Do You Come From' and 'Return To Sender', a song one wouldn't find out of place on an album like 'Pot Luck'.
After a one-hour break, three more songs were recorded, from 6:45 pm until midnight. All were written by Roy Bennett, Sid Tepper or by both of them. The first, 'The Walls Have Ears', filled a script demand that asked for a dance sequence between Elvis and his co-star. The song was an undemanding cliche', a Hollywood version of a tango. The last song of the second day, 'Song Of The Shrimp', has been criticized ever since it was released, used as a perfect example (along with 'Old Mc Donald' and 'Yoga Is As Yoga Does') of the questionable musical value of Elvis' Soundtrack recordings. The truth is that the chance of hearing the former King Of Rock And Roll singing the adventures of a little shrimp as if we were watching some Disney movie is a little surrealistic to say the least. But, taking that for granted, the song isn't as bad as initially suspected. It is a calypso little cutie song that fits a scene that demanded just that: a little cutie song.
The last song recorded on the 27th, offered more substance. 'A Boy Like Me, A Girl Like You' was a fine ballad that would have perfectly fitted a 40's or early 50's musical comedy. It just has this dated sound that strangely makes it work. We get the whole session here. Elvis confesses some problems with the line 'this ordinary world becomes a wonderland', working briefly on it while the engineer calls for Take 1 to start. Take 1 is incomplete, halted after the first chorus. Elvis comments about not having so much time to record, as they were running out of time. Take 2 is beautiful and unreleased. Take 3 really doesn't even exist. There is some strange echo in the room when the engineer calls 'KO', and Elvis insistently demands a trying out of the intro. Take 4 is complete. The master is take 5 finally polished and ready for the master reel.
For the last day of the sessions, some script demands were addressed. As the plot featured an anniversary scene with an old lady (just like 'Blue Hawaii', originality was not the goal here boys!), a song was needed. Pianist Dudley Brooks and musical director Charles O'Curran wrote a little song, 'Mama' right there. 'They needed a birthday song' - Dudley recalls - 'I made the arrangement'. The song was again latin-flavored and it was recorded thrice, as a solo version by Elvis, by The Amigos vocal group, and as an instrumental. A splice of both versions was released eight years later on the Camden escape 'Let's Be Friends'. All those versions, plus some alternates are featured on this special edition release.
The next song had to be sung by Elvis and a little Chinese girl in the movie, even featuring some Chinese speaking by our man. Hence both a movie version, with unspoken spots later to be overdubbed by the other singer and a record Elvis solo version to be released on the soundtrack. Nothing special or memorable about the song, 'Earth Boy', an adaptation of a traditional Chinese song, so just another international-flavored song to showcase this singer incredible versatility went into the can. A brief version of 'Dainty Little Moonbeams' and a reprise take with a new verse of the title song were recorded next and lately spliced as a movie finale.
Just two more songs were recorded. The first, 'I Don't Wanna Be Tied' is indeed a fan favorite, as recent comments on different Elvis forums about this release indicate. I used a word previously that I just had to use again: infectious. That's what this song is. Catching with the Chubby Checker twist craziness, this song is impeccably performed, with a great drum intro. Here FTD features the movie version. It is the same take as the usual record one, but the intro is spiced from take 10. I rate the take 8 master intro as the best of both.
So long we've had a tango, a madison, a twist, a calypso, a Chinese song, and ode to all the lonely little shrimps looking for fame and fortune, some latin songs, what else do we need?? A rock song. But wait a minute!! We don't need some 'Hound Dog' or 'Johnny B. Goode' kind of rock. No way, we need a classic, we need a 'Plantation rock'. Lord have mercy! During the early sixties a new dance was coming out every two weeks so maybe they all wanted to cash in that creating a new, sensational dance. The song was recorded, but eventually cut from the movie and from the LP soundtrack. Here we have takes 10, 17, and an insert take.
They weren't through, as 'Mama' was finally not deemed worthy of release and so it was rejected, so O'Curran and Brooks wrote another song, 'We'll Be Together', cutting the instrumental track later to be overdubbed by Elvis, who overdubbed a vocal track maybe at the end of May. The song included a verse in Spanish ('juntos estaremos, siempre por siempre, junto a mi corazon siempre estaras') sung by Elvis with conviction.
In all, 16 songs had been recorded, 13 of which would make the body of the soundtrack album. The past success of 'Can't Help Falling In Love' explained on the 'Pot Luck With Elvis' review, and the obvious hit potential of 'Return To Sender' made the Colonel, Elvis and RCA change their policy (no singles pulled from soundtrack albums). So 'Return To Sender', coupled with 'Where Do You Come From', would fill the October singe slot, hence forcing the stellar 'Suspicion' and 'Easy Question' to become just album tracks.
Anyway, the single sold close to two million copies, being the best selling single for Elvis for all the 60's (in USA), selling better than 'It's Now Or Never'or 'Suspicious Minds' or any of the others. It never reached number 1, as 'Big Girls Don't Cry' was the number one record for the four weeks 'Return to Sender' was at number 2.
The original album was a huge success. It didn't reach the one million copies 'Blue Hawaii' was selling (and on its way to 2 million!!), but with 600.000 units, it sold twice as much as 'Elvis Is Back!', 'Pot Luck' and 'Something For Everybody'. If soundtracks provided sales of one million plus singles and half a million plus in album sales compaired to the Nashville recordings providing sales of 'almost a million singles' and 'quarter a million records', why keep on releasing those non-soundtrack songs?
But it will be some time until that question was finally addressed, as the Colonel would still resent (as a real feeling or just as well as a business tactic) releasing so many soundtracks, even going as far as almost canceling the 'Fun In Acapulco' soundtrack the next year. But that's another story to be told later on.
Technical note: Yet again a wonderful mastering job, it is almost like hearing it for the first time. Not a bunch of unreleased material, as original session reels remain uncoated, but still a precious work of love and dedication by FTD team. The lack of alternate takes made a side effect on me, as it made me concentrate on the masters. If you buy both this release and Pot Luck! you'll have the perfect tandem.
Original Soundtrack Album:
01. Girls! Girls! Girls! 02:34
02. I Don’t Wanna Be Tied 02:08
03. Where Do You Come From 02:08
04. I Don’t Want To 02:42
05. We’ll Be Together 02:17
06. A Boy Like Me, A Girl Like You 02:20
07. Earth Boy 02:24
08. Return To Sender 02:09
09. Because Of Love 02:34
10. Thanks To The Rolling Sea 01:31
11. Song Of The Shrimp 02:21
12. The Walls Have Ears 02:32
13. We’re Coming In Loaded 01:24
New Bonus Songs:
14. Mama 01:00
15. Plantation Rock 01:57
16. End Title: Dainty Little Moonbeams / Girls! Girls! Girls! 01:57
17. A Boy Like Me, A Girl Like You (takes 1, 2) 04:50
18. Mama (takes 1, 2, 3, 4) 03:21
19. Thanks To The Rolling Sea (take 3) 01:36
20. Where Do You Come From (take 13) 02:09
21. Earth Boy (movie version-splice of take 2 & 4) 03:31
22. We’ll Be Together (takes 8,10) 03:36
23. Mama (takes 5, 6, 7, 8) 04:04
24. I Don’t Wanna Be Tied (movie version-take 8 & take 10 intro) 02:26
25. A Boy Like Me, A Girl Like You (takes 3, 4) 03:37
26 Thanks To The Rolling Sea (take 10) 01:26
27. Plantation Rock (take 17 & insert) 02:30
28. Mama (take 9) 01:20
29. Mama (The Amigos) 02:19
30. Mama (instrumental) 00:44
31. Mama (1970 LET’S BE FRIENDS album version) 02:20
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