Thoughts on Elvis '60s soundtracks (and their movies!)

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by ilistentoallkinds, Jul 12, 2017.

  1. ilistentoallkinds

    ilistentoallkinds Forum Resident Thread Starter

    MD/DC area, U.S.
    I know, I know-- it's not "cool" to admit that one gets much enjoyment, if any at all, from this era of Elvis Presley's career. Five or six years ago, now, when I was just beginning to rediscover my childhood love of Elvis (in my late 30s at the time), I traveled to visit a friend and his wife, and when they went out for a quick grocery run and returned to find me watching a 1960s Elvis movie, my friend asked me, incredulously, "What are you doing, man?" :)

    To be fair, I can understand his astonishment and near-disbelief. In current American popular culture, when "Elvis movies" of the 1960s are considered at all, they are almost universally derided and dismissed. I certainly won't deny that almost all of them are light and frivolous in tone, and/or that most of the soundtracks have at least some lamentable songs. These movies, and many of the songs in them, are surely part of the reason that Elvis, in general, is still, too often, treated as a pop-culture joke in much of the U.S. today. I hate that such a great artist isn't taken more seriously, more often, now, in the country of his birth... but I've learned to live with it (though I do still defend his artistry when I have the chance!).

    When it comes to the soundtracks and their movies though, over the last few years, I've actually made a genuine move from being almost ashamed to admit that I even listen to and watch them to actually wanting to make a case for their worth to people who are willing to listen.

    However, I'll start with a concession. When it comes to '60s Elvis movies, we're obviously not in the land of cinematic and musical masterpieces here. Rather, in terms of the plots and acting, we're in the land of the light-hearted, and often, the silly, and in terms of the music, with one movie, it can go, literally, from the sublime to the terrible. Elvis wanted to be a serious actor in serious movies, and personally, after years of reading about his internal artistic struggles, I have a strong sense that he didn't even really want to sing in movies at all... but for various reasons, that is not what usually happened. Therefore, I am dealing with what did happen here, not what I might wish had happened for Elvis, as a fan, in his movie career.

    Yes, some of the songs are bad. Yes, the movies are usually formulaic and frivolous. However, what is largely, and sadly, unacknowledged now (and maybe even unknown, for many people!), in most current critical evaluations of Elvis, is the fact that in the early-to-mid 1960s, he was truly in stunning voice-- perhaps the best, ever, in his entire career. Especially from 1960 to '66, he could sing "smooth," he could sing "rough," he could scale near-operatic heights, and he could deliver a quiet ballad in almost a whisper.

    In these years, the man could do almost anything, vocally, and do it very well. Anyone who doubts me here should listen to his early-60s albums, Elvis is Back! and Something for Everybody. Now, they are not movie soundtracks, and many of the songs in these albums are more artistically substantive than the usual '60s soundtracks... but the same quality of voice that shines on EIB and SFE can also often be heard on those soundtracks-- and what an amazing and pleasurable voice it is!

    Though one might not expect it from a fan of Elvis movies such as Blue Hawaii and It Happened at the World's Fair and Roustabout, most of my time watching films is actually spent with serious, and often, quite dark, cinema-- from the works of international masters such as Ingmar Bergman and Andrei Tarkovsky, to contemporary "slow-burn" horror movies, to "character study" dramas of the past and present. However, I have found (to my surprise, to some extent!) that after I watch three or four of these very dark, heavy, challenging films, the perfect palate-cleanser can be a light-hearted, "silly" '60s Elvis movie! :)

    Moreover, the experience of watching Elvis, in these cinematic confections, sometimes gives me more to enjoy, and even, to think about later, than I had initially expected. For example, consider how Elvis interacts with small children in his 1960s movies. There is a kindness, a warmheartedness, and even, a paternal nobilty, in how he both respects and cares for them, that can be clearly seen in his acting-- but these attributes are not only and merely flowing from his acting ability. There is acting involved here, to be sure, but part of the reason that his acting with these children is so effortlessly convincing and charming (unless one is just too upset that Elvis is in these kinds of movies, at all, for one to be able to appreciate them on any level) is that Elvis seems to genuinely like interacting with these small human beings.

    Actually, I honestly can't think of almost any adult actor or actress, today, who strikes me in this same warm, kind-hearted way, in movies with small children, as Elvis does. I know that some of his fans cringe at the parts of his movies which feature children, but for me (and believe me, as a rock fan, I am as much of a devotee of the wild, raucous, "early rock and roll" Elvis as one will find!), I genuinely enjoy seeing him interacting with them. There is a warm, caring innocence, and, as I stated above, a kind of paternal nobility, which he shows in these moments which I almost cannot imagine seeing in any contemporary movie of any kind today. By sad contrast, even most of today's "children's movies" seem to be so filled with snark, sarcasm, and/or innuendo....

    There are many other attributes which I enjoy about Elvis movies, but life calls me away (temporarily) from these forums, so, in summation, I'm a formerly-guilty "'60s Elvis movie watcher" who no longer feels guilty at all about enjoying (many at least) of them! There are genuine musical and cinematic pleasures to be had here! Does anyone else agree? :) (Elvis is a gifted comedic actor too!)
  2. Devotional

    Devotional Forum Resident

    Oslo, Norway
    What a great post! I haven't actually seen any of those movies, but I love so many songs from the soundtracks that I can't imagine a life without them. You are very right in saying that most of the soundtrack albums range from sublime to terrible. Imho, Paradise, Hawaiian Style is by far the worst of them all, followed by Roustabout, Girl Happy and Easy Come, Easy Go. I also don't really count Tickle Me, as that has mostly old songs, but save for those, there's at least one track that I really love on all of the soundtracks.

    The controversy around this period will never go away, and reading Careless Love, I found it astonishing to learn how much the Colonel actually influenced things. The most extreme example I can think of is probably June 1966, where Elvis was in the middle of his most soul searching spiritual phase, listening to everything from Bob Dylan to The Rolling Stones and Aretha Franklin, and having just recorded How Great Thou Art with Felton Jarvis. Then - for the Double Trouble soundtrack, they made him sing "Old Macdonald"...

    But inspired by your post, I've made a chronological two-disc compilation of my 32 favourite tracks from the 60's soundtracks. There are many nuggets here, and it should work as a pretty good primer too for those not too familiar with the music. Some of the ballads are up there with the best tracks he ever recorded. I mean, "Tender Feeling" is just incredible, for a start, and "They Remind Me Too Much Of You" is Sinatra-level sentimentality.

    Looking forward to following the thread, I know there are other fans of the soundtrack-era out there! And the rest of you, give these tracks a chance:

    Elvis Presley - The Best Of The 1960's Soundtracks

    Disc 1

    1 Pocketful Of Rainbows
    2 Shoppin' Around
    3 What's She Really Like
    From G. I. Blues
    4 Can't Help Falling In Love
    5 Rock-A-Hula Baby
    From Blue Hawaii
    6 Follow That Dream
    From Follow That Dream
    7 Home Is Where The Heart Is
    8 I Got Lucky
    From Kid Galahad
    9 Where Do You Come From
    10 We're Coming In Loaded
    From Girls! Girls! Girls!
    11 They Remind Me Too Much Of You
    12 I'm Falling In Love Tonight
    13 Cotton Candy Land
    From It Happened At The World's Fair
    14 Love Me Tonight
    From Fun In Acapulco
    15 Tender Feeling
    16 Anyone (Could Fall In Love With You)
    From Kissin' Cousins

    Disc 2

    1 I Need Somebody To Lean On
    2 C'mon Everybody
    3 Today, Tomorrow And Forever
    From Viva Las Vegas
    4 So Close, Yet So Far
    5 Kismet
    6 Golden Coins
    From Harum Scarum
    7 Please Don't Stop Loving Me
    From Frankie And Johnny
    8 I'll Remember You
    From Spinout
    9 Never Ending
    10 Blue River
    From Double Trouble
    11 Guitar Man
    12 You Don't Know Me
    13 Big Boss Man
    From Clambake
    14 Your Time Hasn't Come Yet, Baby
    15 Mine
    16 Suppose
    From Speedway
    Bonus track on the digital version: "It Hurts Me" (B-side of "Kissin' Cousins" 7").
    Royce, willy, Hep Alien and 5 others like this.
  3. kollektionist

    kollektionist Forum Resident

    Sure, the movies look rather dated but I loved them as a kid. Still love the music as much as anything else Elvis ever did. There's the odd clunker but no more than a handful afaic. Which leaves an abundance of good to great tracks from which I'll just mention my absolute favorite : the Kid Galahad EP. Love those Double Feature CDs ! And I still watch the occasional movie too ;)
  4. Where are you Simon

    Where are you Simon Well-Known Member

    Here's a funny Elvis story.
    A late friend of mine was a mad Elvis fan from day one.
    He went on a trip to Las Vegas with his local Elvis fan club to see his hero live.
    He had a few drinks on the plane and had a late one or two in the casino where they were staying to combat jet lag.
    Went up to his room had a shower and went to bed.
    He slept for nearly 48 hours missed the concert and flew home the next day.
    The poor bloke never lived that down until the day he died.
    MRamble, PepiJean, fuse999 and 6 others like this.
  5. ilistentoallkinds

    ilistentoallkinds Forum Resident Thread Starter

    MD/DC area, U.S.
    Thanks so much for the responses (both in "likes" and replies) to my initial post, everyone! I wasn't at all sure that a post on such an often-ridiculed-and-maligned musical topic would even bring responses, period, here, much less positive ones, but my worries turned out to be unfounded! :)

    I'll reply to each of you later today, or tonight, when I have more time to write. Thanks again for responding! I love Elvis and these forums! :goodie:
    willy, Hep Alien and kollektionist like this.
  6. ilistentoallkinds

    ilistentoallkinds Forum Resident Thread Starter

    MD/DC area, U.S.
    Thanks for your kind words about my post, and thanks for the great list of Elvis soundtrack songs! There are so many gems here!

    I agree completely about "They Remind Me Too Much Of You" being a song and a vocal performance that is reminiscent of Sinatra. It's gratifying to know that someone else sees the greatness of that often-overlooked soundtrack song! The first time that I seriously listened to it, a few years ago, I couldn't believe that it hadn't gotten more recognition over the years. It really is a subtle but quite moving performance from Elvis.

    "Tender Feeling" is a beautiful track too. It's fascinating how some of Elvis's most wonderful songs can be found in these movies which are dismissed by so many people!

    You mention Roustabout as one of your least favorite soundtracks, but I actually enjoy most of it quite a bit (except for "It's Carnival Time" and "Carny Town"-- both are dreadful)! I particularly like the title track, "Little Egypt," "Hard Knocks," and "One Track Heart."

    Even as a fan of Elvis movies, overall, I have to admit that it is more than a bit ironic that he was making some of these lighthearted, silly movies at a time when, personally, he was on an intense spiritual search and listening to more substantive rock, soul, and gospel. Perhaps the very lightness and silliness of the movies helped to drive him in a more serious direction in his personal life-- looking for sustenance, spiritually, at the same time that he was not always finding it, artistically speaking?

    I still do enjoy many of the movies, though, flaws and all. Elvis had such a magnetic presence that he could move a film in a more compelling direction, sometimes, simply by walking into a room! This very thoughtful essay is the the best piece of writing that I have found on Elvis movies, and it helps to explain much of their appeal for me: Mama’s Little Baby Loves Elvis, Elvis | New Beverly Cinema
    Hep Alien and Devotional like this.
  7. ilistentoallkinds

    ilistentoallkinds Forum Resident Thread Starter

    MD/DC area, U.S.
    In some ways, the "dated" nature of these movies actually appeals to me. They are cinematic, musical postcards from a time that was, at least in certain ways, more innocent and more polite. I know that for some Elvis fans who love his early rock songs (and I do too), the last qualities that they want to see from him are innocence and politeness, but such qualities in his '60s movies really did open up a new audience to him that might not have ever given him a chance otherwise. My great-grandmother did not like Elvis when he first appeared on the musical scene, but she eventually became a dedicated fan, and I think that his '60s movies had a lot to do with her change of heart.

    There are so many great songs to be found in the soundtrack material! You mentioned the Kid Galahad EP. I hate to admit it, but that is actually one of the Elvis movies with which I am least familiar, both as a film (I've never seen it) and regarding the music. That will soon change though, because the movie is finally being released on Blu-ray in the U.S. in August, as a limited edition from the Twilight Time company. I will definitely be buying it!
    bpmd1962 likes this.
  8. ilistentoallkinds

    ilistentoallkinds Forum Resident Thread Starter

    MD/DC area, U.S.
    I feel so sorry for your late friend's unfortunate experience! I never had a chance to see Elvis in concert (I was only four when he died), but if I had come as close as your friend did, and then missed the show, I can't imagine the regret I would feel! Poor guy!
  9. sons of nothing

    sons of nothing Forum Resident

    Jailhouse Rock, Love Me Tender, G.I. Blues, King Creole, Blue Hawaii, and Viva Las Vegas are my favorites.

    And the worst thing he ever did is this...
    ilistentoallkinds likes this.
  10. qwerty

    qwerty A resident of the SH_Forums.

    I have a mixed opinion of Elvis' films and soundtracks.

    On the negative, I find it quite sad that someone of his immense musical talent (and acting potential based on his first two movies) never applied this talent appropriately to what could have been artistically successful heights. Especially when there were the occasional albums and soundtrack songs which showed the talent which was largely dormant.

    But there is a positive. The movies, although tacky, do have an innocent charm. I enjoyed them when I was young as the Saturday afternoon TV movies, and have found they can still fill in time now.

    Elvis has always been an artist who divides opinion. Many people don't like him because they see him as the caricature the popular media has turned him into. Some people will like a period of his music and not another. And Elvis will come in and out of fashion. I have learned that ultimately it doesn't matter what others think, if you enjoy him, that is what matters most. Being an Elvis fan is nothing to be ashamed of.
  11. kollektionist

    kollektionist Forum Resident

    Definitely agree re: the dated element of the movies. It's just part of their charm. It dates them but who cares ! They were great times !
  12. MelodyFair

    MelodyFair Histoire de Melody Fair

    Vancouver BC
    Some of his films from the 60s are fun; Blue Hawaii is a wonderful campy 'period piece' of 60s cinema and one of my favourite movies.
  13. When In Rome

    When In Rome It's far from being all over...

    Firstly, I've got them all on DVD. As much I couldn't bear to part with them I reckon over a third of them I may never watch again. As a younger fan I could watch all of them anytime at all* but as I've gotten older and realised I haven't got unlimited time on the old mortal coil, I'm much more picky with what I do with a spare ninety odd minutes...
    But that said, there's always be a place in my heart for the Elvis movies and the time I enjoyed them wholeheartedly.

    * How many of you read those three words and thought of side 2, track 1 of 'A Hard Day's Night'? :D
    Hep Alien and ilistentoallkinds like this.
  14. aussievinyl

    aussievinyl Appreciator Of Creative Expression

    I myself am slowly buying the Elvis movies I don't have when I see them at op shops. I showed our kids 'Viva Las Vegas' but when my son saw the live concert film 'That's The Way It Is', he asked why Elvis moved the way he did. I said it was because he really felt the music. We then watched 'Elvis On Tour' which was when things changed. I told my son the story of what happened to Elvis in the last years of his life. I felt strange and sad explaining what happened, but also felt glad that we have Elvis's music and talent to celebrate and enjoy. The thread starter brought this home again so eloquently and reaffirmed the pull that Elvis has on those who recognise his incredible gifts, which no amount of smart a**, cheap shot journalism or remarks can dull or remove from my mind. Many times I've enjoyed Elvis's way with a song and wondered 'how did he communicate so well, in so many ways'? He simply did and does. We simply respond.
    Hep Alien and ilistentoallkinds like this.
  15. JLGB

    JLGB Forum Resident

    Something for everybody! :)
    ilistentoallkinds likes this.
  16. J.K. Baxter

    J.K. Baxter Forum Resident

    I ended up with the Elvis movie soundtracks box set, when I ordered the studio albums box set and got the wrong item, and of course the seller couldn't replace it, so....I just kept it. But I do have the soundtracks for Clambake and Roustabout in rotation in the car, yes I said Clambake......:uhhuh:

    Oh, and Blue Hawaii is obviously essential, and I have most of the movies on DVD.
    ilistentoallkinds likes this.
  17. drbryant

    drbryant Forum Resident

    Los Angeles, CA
    I have only seen three - Viva Las Vegas, Blue Hawaii and A Change of Habit. I think they're pretty good, especially Viva Las Vegas. That's an awesome time capsule. I keep reminding myself that I need to watch some of the early ones, as I have an uncle who worked on them.
    Hep Alien and ilistentoallkinds like this.
  18. Daniel Plainview

    Daniel Plainview God's Lonely Man

    I love the "Harum Scarum" album. I think it's a great batch of tunes. I like the exotic guitar sounds. "Animal Instinct" and "Golden Coins" are my favorites.

    I also find "It Happened at the World's Fair" strangely appealing at times.

    "G.I. Blues" is a fine album, even when he's singing about knockwurst and stuff.

    I like "Clambake" and "Spinout" but that's mostly because of the non-soundtrack 'bonus' songs like "Guitar Man". How can a masterpiece like "Tomorrow is a Long Time" be on the same album as "Smogasbord" and "Beach Shack"? Criminal.

    As for the films themselves... I must admit I don't pay much attention to them. I'm not even sure I've seen all of them. I don't think I have. If I see one on TCM I might stop watch a little and I enjoy the parts where Elvis is singing but mostly I just nod and switch the channel. It's fine, harmless entertainment, and I don't dislike them, really; I just can't sit still for them for long. I'd rather be watching "Jaws" for the millionth time.
  19. ilistentoallkinds

    ilistentoallkinds Forum Resident Thread Starter

    MD/DC area, U.S.
    Wow, thanks for the replies, and for keeping this thread going, everyone!! I'm really enjoying reading your observations and anecdotes about the soundtracks and films! I'll pop back in later to reply at greater length. I appreciate all of your thoughts on Elvis's artistry in this part of his career!
    aussievinyl, Hep Alien and JLGB like this.
  20. Malcolm Crowne

    Malcolm Crowne Forum Habitue

    Portland OR
    "Spinout" baby, dig that solid meaty Hal Blaine beat!
    And a Dylan cover to boot!
  21. Malcolm Crowne

    Malcolm Crowne Forum Habitue

    Portland OR
    ...I'm just gonna leave this here...
    Man at C&A, Mylene, JLGB and 3 others like this.
  22. John B Good

    John B Good Forum Hall Of Fame

    NS, Canada
    I've said elsewhere that a DVD fearing clips of the musical (and dance) numbers from a variety of his movies would be very entertaining and successful.

    Is it doable, or would licensing issues be overwhelmingly difficult?
    ilistentoallkinds and Hep Alien like this.
  23. The Slug Man

    The Slug Man Forum Resident

    North Carolina
    The best thing about Elvis movies are some of the hot chicks in them, like Ann Margret and Shelley Fabares, and whoever was the love interest in Live A Little, Love A Little.

    Best song? Obviously "Ito Eats" from Blue Hawaii.
  24. CowboyBill

    CowboyBill Forum Resident

    All 50's movies are supurb IMO.

    As for the 60's, I like a few ('Viva Las Vegas' is always a favorite!)

    "Blue Hawaii" is my favorite for the scenery alone. The songs are great (minus "Ito") and It's one I watched quite often as a kid.

    "Live A little, Love a Little" is my guilty pleasure. Elvis' character is pretty cool and I love that great dane (Not to mention Michele Carey!)

    A lot of the movie and soundtracks are stinkers and will never be relived by me. But I have seen them all. "Kissin' Cousins" is just an awful movie, but "Tender Feeling" is in my top ten favorite Elvis songs!
  25. kollektionist

    kollektionist Forum Resident

    I see Viva Las Vegas gets mentioned quite a bit. Kid Galahad may be my favorite soundtrack, but Viva Las Vegas is my favorite movie. The small neighborhood theater where I saw it doesn't exist anymore. But the place still exists in my mind. Spent many hours there watching movies with Elvis, Jerry Lewis and James Bond. Innocent times...
    ilistentoallkinds likes this.

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