Elvis: It’s Only Live

Elvis Presley's 1972 RCA single version of "An American Trilogy." (From the author's collection.)

Elvis Presley’s 1972 RCA single version of “An American Trilogy.” (From the author’s collection.)

I thought it might be interesting to start a list of live Elvis Presley songs officially released for which no formal studio recordings are available. It turned out longer than I expected – over 50 songs so far, and that is not including any that I might have missed.

  • Hearts Of Stone
  • Tweedlee Dee
  • Little Mama
  • Maybellene
  • Flip, Flop & Fly
  • Baby, What You Want Me To Do
  • Tiger Man [according to legend, Elvis recorded a studio version at SUN but it has yet to surface]
  • Yesterday
  • Runaway
  • My Babe
  • I Can’t Stop Loving You
  • Johnny B. Goode
  • Words
  • Proud Mary
  • Let It Be Me
  • Walk A Mile In My Shoes
  • Sweet Caroline
  • Polk Salad Annie
  • See See Rider
  • Release Me
  • The Wonder Of You
  • I Just Can’t Help Believin’
  • Something
  • You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’
  • When The Snow Is On The Roses
  • The Impossible Dream
  • An American Trilogy
  • Never Been To Spain
  • You Gave Me A Mountain
  • It’s Impossible
  • It’s Over
  • What Now My Love
  • I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry
  • Welcome To My World
  • Steamroller Blues
  • Mama Don’t Dance
  • Softly, As I Leave You
  • Why Me, Lord
  • Let Me Be There
  • You Can Have Her
  • Turn Around And Look At Me
  • Aubrey
  • Alright, Okay, You Win
  • You’re The Reason I’m Living
  • If You Love Me
  • Little Darlin’
  • Jambalaya
  • School Days
  • America The Beautiful [“studio” version recorded in Graceland den, but only a small fragment survives]
  • O Sole Mio
  • Auld Lang Syne
  • Unchained Melody
  • You Better Run

Note that many of these songs have non-live versions available – including rehearsals that are similar to formal recordings. For example, “Never Been To Spain” appears on Elvis On Tour: The Rehearsals, which was actually recorded at RCA’s Hollywood studio. However, I still consider the recording to be of an informal nature for the purposes of this list.

You've just crossed over into... the edge of reality. (With apologies to Serling.)

You’ve just crossed over into… the edge of reality. (With apologies to Serling.)

Most of the above songs actually work best for Elvis in a live context, but there are about a dozen for which I wish he had made formal studio recordings as well.

From the edge of reality, here is the track listing for an imaginary album of my picks.

Elvis: What Does It Matter

Side A

  1. Johnny B. Goode
  2. Baby, What You Want Me To Do
  3. Never Been To Spain
  4. I Just Can’t Help Believin’
  5. Walk A Mile In My Shoes
  6. When The Snow Is On The Roses

Side B

  1. I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry
  2. Maybellene
  3. My Babe
  4. I Can’t Stop Loving You
  5. Tiger Man
  6. Unchained Melody

How about you? From his live recordings, which do you feel Elvis should have tackled in the studio?

Thanks to reader Michel Cornec for inspiring this topic as well as performing some of the initial research.

4 thoughts on “Elvis: It’s Only Live

  1. “Never Been to Spain”, “It’s Over”. “Let Me Be There”, “Unchained Melody”. “Baby, What You Want Me to Do” might’ve fit well around the time of “Memphis, Tennessee”/”Big Boss Man” (another Jimmy Reed tune). He would’ve killed it then. When did he do “When the Snow…”? I missed that episode. Ed Ames tune.

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    • “When The Snow Is On The Roses” appears on Disc 2 of the Live In Las Vegas boxed set (BMG, 2001), right after the August 11, 1970, Midnight Show recorded for That’s The Way It Is.

      From the August 24, 1970, Midnight Show, “When The Snow Is On The Roses” is unfortunately an audience recording. However, what it lacks in sound quality it makes up for with a unique performance by Elvis – including him playing piano on the tune.

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      • Interesting. Did not know. I’ve wondered about “Johnny B. Goode”: where it ‘came from’, him deciding to do this classic so closely associated with someone else. It’s one of the live tracks I think he could’ve done so much more with if he didn’t race through it so quickly.


    • Elvis sang plenty of classics closely associated with others, so “Johnny B. Goode” has never jumped out at me in that regard. It wasn’t the first or last time. He surely connected with the song’s journey of a country boy turned rock ‘n’ roll hero.

      I love the tempo and Elvis’ vocals on “Johnny B. Goode” at the 1969 shows, though I much prefer James Burton’s 1970 & 1972 guitar riffs (rehearsals for That’s The Way It Is and Elvis On Tour) over those versions. Some combination of these would have been ideal to me. Still, the 1969 versions are stellar.

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