Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Elvis Presley - "Heartbreak Hotel"

The Dorsey Bros. Stage Show was Presley's first national television booking (that's right, before The Ed Sullivan Show). He played six shows in early 1956, performing two numbers on each with the Dorseys and their band. This recording is from the third show on 11 February, and marks the public debut of "Heartbreak Hotel".

The song had been recorded one month earlier during his first RCA session, and was to be the first single released under his new record deal. It was considered an unusual choice at the time, the adolescent exuberance of the Sun recordings replaced by a bleak emptiness. (In defiance of conventional wisdom, the single became Presley's first number one.) By contrast, the Dorsey Bros. orchestra turns it into a barn-burner with their dynamic drum fills and blaring horns. Plus, check out that big-band vamp at the end. Hardly the spirit of the original, but quite a showpiece nonetheless.

Four years after the release of the eight-record silver box, RCA saw fit to release the six-record Elvis: A Golden Celebration, this time celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Presley's birth. Let it never be said that the Presley estate passed up an opportunity to give the fans more product. This time it's a collection of mostly live performances, many from TV shows. Included is an awful recording of both sets (afternoon and evening) from the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show in Tupelo, consisting mostly of female screams, that stretches the definition of "archival value" to its limit. As far as I can find, the Dorsey performances don't appear on any album still in print.

No good story about the find this time, I'm afraid. The price tag on my copy says $39.99 and I'm pretty sure that's what I paid. At a record store in Chicago, I believe, from one of the first times I visited the city with who was at the time my girlfriend. She took me to meet her family, I made her take me record shopping. A fair enough trade, methinks. She's now my wife, so it's not like I blew it.

Buy it... on vinyl.

From my deck to you: Elvis Presley - "Heartbreak Hotel (featuring the Dorsey Bros. Band)"

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