Friday, 11 June 2010

Rockin' Song of the Week No.102 - Elvis Presley

Rockin' Song of the Week No.102 - Elvis Presley - Hard Knocks
Roustabout Soundtrack

The Elvis Presley career is always classified as three main areas, the rockin' 50's, the Hollywood 60's and the Vegas 70's. The middle period gets dismissed by all and sundry as a wasted decade of crap films and rubbish songs. To a large degree that's right, but there are some wonderful songs dotted about, it's just a case of wading through it to find the gems. By 1964 proper rock 'n' roll was hard to come by, with the exceptions standing out like lighthouses in a storm. Big Al Downing and Jack Scott spring to mind but the pickings were slim. That's what I find fascinating about tracks like Elvis' Hard Knocks. For the time and in the backdrop of the time, this was a spirited stab at hard rockin'.

The song was written by either one of a husband/wife team. Joy Byers was a songwriter who was married to Bob Johnson (Johnny Cash/Bob Dylan ) who claims that he wrote a lot of the Elvis stuff as Joe Byers, even penning the wonderful, It Hurts Me with Charlie Daniels. Whoever wrote it, it's a solid piece of rock 'n' roll for 1964. The lyrics aren't bad for an Elvis movie tune, a far cry Do The Clam. "I walked a million miles I bet, Tired and hungry and cold and wet, I’ve heard that lonesome whistle blow, From New York City down to Mexico, Some kids born fancy free, Nobody never gave nothing to me".

The song was recorded on March 2nd, 1964 at Radio Recorders in Hollywood, in a pretty productive session for the forthcoming Roustabout movie, that also spawned Little Egypt, Poison Ivy League and It's A Wonderful World. To my ears, that's a good quartet. The King was still using the crème de la crème of musicians at this time, with the likes of the Jordannaires, Scotty Moore, DJ Fontana, Bob Moore, Boots Randolph, Buddy Harman, Billy Strange and Barney Kessel.

The song might not be as good as the primetime 50's rockers and the film clip might not have the magnetism of the Loving You live scene, but it's still good. Don't just write this period off - there's some good rock 'n' roll to be had. Spinout, anyone?


vickyb said...

I stumbled onto your blog because I googled Sue Moreno and Jack Rabbit Slim to find out a bit more. Just wanted to say - great blog! I inherited a love of Elvis and, whilst everyone else was listening to Kylie and Jason in the '80s, my sister and I were watching Elvis films and singing along to the Sun hits. I don't have a lot of discernment when it comes to Elvis - I'll listen to just about anything he ever did! But I really like this film, this song and Little Egypt especially.

Thanks for the blog - you're on my favourites list!

Rockabillyville said...

Thank you Vicky. Sorry for the delay in replying, but I really appreciate the kind comments.