How we perceive something is often relative to our starting point. For instance, people who became fans when Elvis first rose to fame in the mid-1950s often view him differently than those who became fans after his comeback of 1968 or his death in 1977.
Many of those earliest fans seem to favor the 1950s recordings. That is, after all, how they first discovered Elvis. Being the rebel that she is, my mom is actually an exception to that generalization. She became an Elvis fan in 1956, but she definitely favors his 1968-1977 recordings – often to the exclusion of anything else.
I’ve mentioned before that the first Elvis record I can remember listening to is “My Way” backed with “America, The Beautiful,” recorded live in 1977 and 1975 respectively. I had definitely heard Elvis music before that record came out, but those are the earliest specific songs I can remember.
After that, the next major Elvis recording in my life was a cassette tape of 1972’s As Recorded At Madison Square Garden. My mom played that tape just about every time we went for a car ride in the early-to-mid-1980s. It may still hold the record as the concert I’ve heard most often.
She would always crank it up when certain songs came on, especially “Suspicious Minds.” She still does that, in fact. If you are ever in Richmond and a car drives past you blaring Elvis, it is far more likely to be my mom than me behind the wheel.
Eventually, the Madison Square Garden tape began to wear thin. She next switched to a tape copy of the 1977 album Elvis In Concert. Though it lost a few points for not including “Suspicious Minds,” she played that one almost as much as she did Madison Square Garden.
For the longest time, other than the occasional radio song or record album that my family played around the house, those two live concerts tapes were Elvis to me.
Eventually, I started to collect my own albums. One of the first ones I acquired was Elvis’ Golden Records, which compiles some of his hits from 1956 and 1957.
Keeping in mind that my perception of most of them was based almost entirely on As Recorded At Madison Square Garden and Elvis In Concert, I was sure in for a shock when I played the original studio versions of some of the songs from those live albums:
- Hound Dog
- All Shook Up
- Heartbreak Hotel
- Jailhouse Rock
- Love Me
- Don’t Be Cruel
- Teddy Bear
- Love Me Tender
Though I loved the overall sound of the record, many of the songs initially seemed “off” to me. I began to think of them as the “slow versions.” It took years for my perception of those songs to change.
While I came to love and appreciate the 1950s material, I am glad that my Elvis journey started like it did. I believe it allowed me to be much more sympathetic towards his later years than I otherwise might have been.
Besides, I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything. Thanks, Mom. Keep cranking it up!