A-side: The Girl Of My Best Friend
The Rock 'n' Roll of the late 50's and early 60's is the first music I started to really get into, and it's the one that I always come back, the one that always feels like home, the one that I can listen to at any time, in any mood. It's my music. However I've always been a bit disdainful of Elvis - not that he didn't make some fantastic records, because he did. It's just that I always felt he had less to offer than many of his contemporaries. In my opinion, that wasn't always down to Elvis though - I think he had a management that realised that record and ticket sales could be made just as easily through pushing his charisma and sex appeal, than by encouraging the raw talent. As a result Elvis coasted from record to record, some good, others less so safe in the knowledge that they'd all sell anyway. It's a good business model, and has been employed successfully on many artists through the years - it just doesn't always lead to great records.
So what about The Girl Of My Best Friend - you may know it, it's pretty well known, maybe not as well known as some of his other hits, but it was popular and successful. This is Elvis post-army, when the die-hards say he stopped being Rock 'n' Roll. This may well be true, but it didn't necessarily mean that the less r 'n' r records weren't any good. The Girl Of My Best Friend has a swinging mambo feel to it, you almost can't help swaying along to it. Elvis's best asset was always his voice, and it's on fine form here, with the pitching and phrasing just right. This is a great track, my only reservation with it is that the ahh-ing of the Jordanaires in the background sounds a tad twee, and actually distracts from the sound, when they should be enhancing it.
A Mess Of Blues is on the flip-side. A less famous track, maybe, but a lesser song definitely not. Living up to the title, it has bluesy feel. Not, I'll admit, a rough and dirty blues - it's a little too clean cut and sanitised for that. Nonetheless Elvis is backed by great honky tonk piano sound, that boogie-woogies away throughout the song really helping to capture the atmosphere and bring the sound to life. It may have the less commercial sound, but I think A Mess Of Blues has the edge over the a-side just in terms of sound and feeling.
This is the kind of evidence that helps you believe that maybe he did really deserve to be The King.
Next time a girl group from 1990...