Songs Of The Day 11/1/2014: Elvis Presley - Unfortunate recordings from the '60s



Back in August when we were rehearsing for the Radio8Ball show in Olympia, Peter David Connelly, gentleman, scholar and steward of the Mona Reels was telling me about a bootleg album he'd come across online called, in high scatalogical order, Elvis' Greatest Shit. It's well known that after dominating the late '50s with stone classics and patriotically enlisting in the Army in 1958, Elvis returned to the pop scene of the '60s and perhaps didn't quite know what to do with himself. In a decision that seriously compromised his legend, Elvis made an oil drum's worth of movies in the '60s, all of them musicals and almost none of them any good. They didn't have to be. Movie moguls of the '80s would coarsely follow this economic model with the Police Academy series. But that's another blog.

Being the all-consumptive, very much hireable music expert I am, I knew that Elvis made music of great disrepute in the '60s. Perhaps in self-defense I never sought it out. But when Peter David started regaling me of some of the selections he'd come across on that bootleg, which actually came out in 1982, I knew I'd have to do some digging. Of particular interest to me was a song reportedly about shrimp.

Ho. Lee. Crap. This is staggeringly bad stuff. I don't see how Elvis could have recorded this music without hating every sordid clip, which I'm sure he did. In Elvis' defense, almost all of these songs were on the lamentable soundtracks to his movies and served as diagetic music: songs that had to be sung to somehow further the movie's plot or describe a certain situation. Frequently this meant recording comic songs that contained embarrassingly racist stereotypes of Hawaiians and Mexicans, since a lot of those movies involved Elvis traveling to a warm climate to charm the natives who weren't ready to slug his business manager.

Just one song won't do here. (As Bob Dylan once said about his double-album Self-Portrait, "if you're gonna put a lot of crap on it, you might as well load it up!") So I took a few selections from Elvis' Greatest Shit and fashioned them into a playlist that will haunt your nightmares forever. Some highlights:
  • "Old MacDonald": A freakily out-of-breath Elvis revives the children's song, adding an additional layer of culinary violence for misbehaving farm animals ("And when those chicks got out of line / Chicken fricassee!").

  • "Yoga Is As Yoga Does": Perhaps the least meditative, most awareness-free song about Eastern mysticism ever created ("I can see, lookin' at you / You just can't get settled / How can I even move / twisted like a pretzel?").

  • "Queenie Wahine's Papaya": This has got to be a euphemism but I can't quite nail down the details.

  • "Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce": A perversely written, needlessly dismissive, weirdly threatening piece of delicious catcall-enabling chauvinism ("Any male in Fort Lauderdale / who is not pursuing a cute female / will automatically land in jail / That's the law in Fort Lauderdale!").

  • "He's Your Uncle, Not Your Dad": I'm actually afraid to do too much investigation into what this song is supposed to be about.

  • And, of course, the aforementioned, absolutely incredible "Song of the Shrimp", the antidote to Finding Nemo, in which a baby shrimp answers an enticing advertisement in some sort of underwater newspaper or alt-weekly, abandons his mother and father and sets off to New Orleans for a life of adventure, too naive and untested to realize he's being lured to his death by an unnamed, diabolical shrimp fisherman. ("Oh my God," my friend Andras commented, "it's like 'Sail Away' for shrimp!")
Here you go. The day after Halloween I bring maybe the scariest thing you've ever heard. And it's the end of Daylight Savings Time tomorrow so you get an extra hour to enjoy it!
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