Saturday, 29 October 2016

Elvis Presley

You may be wondering what is Elvis doing here. Well, I originally meant to include him because his classic, Jailhouse Rock, has a gay reference. Then, while doing my research, I realized that there's a credible theory going 'round making a case that Elvis might have been bisexual. So...

Also, because it's Elvis, this will be different than usual. No biography and no parade of songs in chronological order. We'll adress the bisexuality rumors and on the same time present my Elvis Presley Top 30 songs. Since I can't properly present 30 songs in one post (it would normally take at least 5 posts) there will be just a few words introducing each video. The list itself was made in just 30 minutes, so it may not be my definitive list, but it's close. Let's save time and start with #30: a song first recorded by Gwen McCrae and Brenda Lee in 1972 and later a hit for Willy Nelson and the Pet Shop Boys, Elvis' version, also in 1972, made #20 US. Here's Always On My Mind:

At #29, Hard Headed Woman, a platinum #1 rocker from 1958:

To be honest, I'm very cautious regarding the veracity of these claims. I have found two different sources and firstly I will quote what seems to be the more reliable one. Everyhting that you see in quotation marks are the words of Rob Buchanan, from an opinion piece in TheOutMost on 28th August, 2014.

At #28, a gold #4 single from 1961, (Marie's the Name) His Latest Flame:

At #27, (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear, a 2× Multi-Platinum #1 hit from 1957:

Says Mr Buchanan:

"Given Elvis Presley’s megastar status, it’s unsurprising that there has been a huge amount of speculation about his personal life over the years. But what did surprise me, given his massive straight sex-symbol status, was how much rumour there was about Elvis`s occasional gay dalliances. While a lot of these rumours came about after his death, there was sufficient suggestion when he was alive – from the sets of his questionable movies to almost barefaced flirtation with certain male interviewers."

At #26, I Need Your Love Tonight, a #4 hit from 1959:

At #25, Good Luck Charm, a platinum #1 hit from 1962:

"With so much of our queer heritage redacted from the history books, we can be forgiven for curious speculation, and the suggestion that Elvis was less than 100 per cent hetero is based on more than just tabloid sensationalism or even envious gossip spread by his contemporary competitors. Academics such as Professor Albert Goldman and Marjorie Garber have analysed Elvis’s androgynous sexual mystique and feminine qualities."

At #24, Reconsider Baby, an album track from 1960's Elvis Is Back!:

At #23, An American Trilogy, a 1972 single and a favorite concert piece. Here he is, live in Hawaii:

"The FBI Director and infamous self-hating homosexual, J. Edgar Hoover labeled The King a dangerous pervert and drug addict. Under his watch, the Bureau kept an extensive file on Elvis, reportedly 683 pages long. There are extensive tracts about Elvis’ “sexual mystique”. The reports cited his erotic performances as an actual danger to the security of the United States. They also highlighted the possibility that he could be the victim of extortion."

"Gay entrapment was one of FBI’s favourite tricks at the time to provide sufficient blackmail material to keep celebrities and politicians in their pocket. An actual extortion attempt was made by Laurenz Johannes Griessel-Landau, a fake doctor from South Africa who was treating Presley while he was serving in the army in Germany. Griessel-Landau made sexual advances on Elvis and when they were rejected he was fired. He threatened to ruin Elvis’ career and expose compromising photos of him. If there were no smoke without fire, surely Elvis would have wanted to drag this fake blackmailer into court?"

At #22, Kentucky Rain a gold hit from 1970:

At #21, Little Sister, a Top 5 hit from 1961:

"Speculation wasn’t just rife among the authorities but with people who were frequently in the star’s unguarded company. Gerald Peters, Presley’s chauffeur and close friend, described him as a “man’s man” who “although he loved Priscilla dearly, preferred the company of men”. He notoriously had an inner circle of male hangers-on, bodyguards and staff, known as ‘The Memphis Mafia’. Although there were some stories of homoerotic horseplay, it was little more than you’d see in your average GAA dressing room or stag party hotel suite. There was a notable exception, however, that went beyond male bonding."

At #20, One Night, a 1958 platinum hit. This is footage from the 1968 comeback special:

At #19, Viva Las Vegas, a gold hit from 1964:

"Actor Nick Adams was undoubtedly Presley’s best friend. Adams had previously lived with and had an affair with bisexual actor and teen icon, James Dean. Elvis and Nick met after Dean’s death, just as Presley’s star was starting to rise. The two became inseparable and the calming effect Adams had on Presley led his notoriously temperamental manager, Colonel Tom Parker to encourage the friendship."

Nick Adams (l), Elvis Presley (r)

"Drugs and copious amounts of alcohol were a large component in the pair’s socialising, as they both struggled with the vagaries of fame (although Elvis` superstardom greatly eclipsed Adams comparatively humble acting career). According to Elvis biographer Kathleen Tracy, The King would often ask Adams “to stay over on nights”."

"All of this is indicative of hardly anything other than a platonic bromance. But there was more to this than simple friendship. The two were rumoured to regularly indulge in threesomes with female groupies and famous actresses. One notorious documented third in these sexual encounters was actress Natalie Wood. Several sources including New York Times reporter Danforth Prince, biographer Darwin Porter, and Adams’ personal assistant William Dakota, claimed the pair indulged in oral sex with each other and mutual masturbation. Elvis’ doctor and confidant, George C. Nichopoulos also hinted in interviews about Elvis’s same-sex dalliances, although undoubtedly one must question the word of any medical professional who is willing to divulge confidential information about a patient, especially gossip that was posthumously profitable."

At #18, Guitar Man was a 1968 hit:

At #17, Crying In The Chapel, originally a hit for Darrell Glenn as well as for the Orioles in 1953, Elvis' version was a #3 platinum hit in 1965:

"Indeed, given the money that could once be made from gossip about Presley, we should err on the side of caution when it comes to stories about his sexuality. If proof that Elvis was indeed queer were released today, decades after his death, it would still generate global headlines. So can you imagine how much of a tabloid goldmine it would have been in the first years after his death, when all the hangers-on came out of the woodwork peddling hearsay and scoops."

At #16, one of his earliest Sun pre-fame recordings, from 1954, Milkcow Blues Boogie:

At #15, one of his greatest hits ever, Love Me Tender:

"We must always be conscious not to appropriate the dead for our own purposes. It’s easy to understand how we might try and illuminate the hidden LGBT history, but it is wrong to rainbow-wash the past in an attempt to reclaim our lost heritage. Incorrect historical revisionism is as unjust as deliberate omission. We can’t forget that Elvis was not a fictional character in a dry historical text. He was a human being with an inner life who deserves respect. But in a strange way, by being so eager to embrace stories about his queerness, the LGBT community is honouring Elvis by saying we would be glad if he had been one of us. One way or the other, it’s possible we will never know the truth. Elvis has unfortunately left the building."

At #14, Burning Love, a #2 platinum hit from 1972:

At #13, It’s Now Or Never, based on the Italian evergreen O Sole Mio. A platinum #1 hit from 1960:

In an even more reliable source, Nick Adams' Wikipedia page, we get more info:

"Nick Adams' widely publicized friendship with Elvis Presley began in 1956 on the set of Presley's film Love Me Tender during the second day of shooting. Presley had admired James Dean and when the singer arrived in Hollywood he was encouraged by studio executives to be seen with some of the "hip" new young actors there. Meanwhile, his manager Colonel Tom Parker was worried that Elvis' new Hollywood acquaintances might influence Presley and even tell him what they were paying their managers and agents (usually a fraction of what Parker was getting). Elaine Dundy called Parker a "master manipulator" who used Nick Adams and others in the entourage (including Parker's own brother-in-law Bitsy Mott) to counter possible subversion against him and control Elvis' movements. She later wrote a scathing characterization of Adams:

...brash struggling young actor whose main scheme to further his career was to hitch his wagon to a star, the first being James Dean, about whose friendship he was noisily boastful... this made it easy for Parker to suggest that Nick be invited to join Elvis' growing entourage of paid companions, and for Nick to accept... following Adams' hiring, there appeared a newspaper item stating that Nick and Parker were writing a book on Elvis together."

At #12, If I Can Dream, a spiritual song, a gold hit from 1968:

At #11 a proper Gospel tune: How Great Thou Art, a 1969 song.

"Dundy also wrote, "Of all Elvis' new friends, Nick Adams, by background and temperament the most insecure, was also his closest." Adams was Dennis Hopper's roommate during this period and the three reportedly socialized together, with Presley "...hanging out more and more with Nick and his friends" and glad his manager "liked Nick." Decades later, Kathleen Tracy recalled Adams often met Presley backstage or at Graceland, where Elvis often asked Adams "to stay over on nights": "He and Elvis would go motorcycle riding late at night and stay up until all hours talking about the pain of celebrity" and enjoying prescription drugs."

At #10, In the Ghetto. A beautiful platinum Mac Davis penned hit:

At #9, one of his early 1955 Sun recordings, originally recorded by Junior Parker in 1953: Mystery Train.

"Almost forty years later, writer Peter Guralnick wrote that Presley found it "good running around with Nick ... – there was always something happening, and the hotel suite was like a private clubhouse where you needed to know the secret password to get in and he got to change the password every day." Presley's girlfriend June Juanico complained the singer was always talking about his friend Adams and James Dean. She was also upset that Adams had started inviting himself to see Elvis, and Juanico felt that she was trying to compete for Elvis' attention. Adams would talk often about Natalie Wood to Elvis, constantly discussing her figure and her beauty, something else that caused Juanico to feel that she would soon lose Elvis to the glitz of Hollywood. Presley's own mother even commented about Adams, "He sure is a pushy little fellow".

At #8, one of his greatest hits ever, a double A-side with a song we'll get to hear a little later. Don’t Be Cruel was a 4× Multi-Platinum #1 hit from 1956:

At #7, another great song and a glorious comeback hit. Suspicious Minds was his first #1 in 7 years, a platinum hit in 1969:

"As with Dean, Adams capitalized on his association with Presley, publishing an account of their friendship in May 1957. In August 1958 after Elvis' mother Gladys died, Parker wrote in a letter, "Nicky Adams [sic] came out to be with Elvis last Week which [sic] was so very kind of him to be there with his friend."

"The Rebel and the King" by Nick Adams is a first-person account written by Adams about his friendship with Presley. The manuscript was written in 1956 by Nick during Presley's eight days in Memphis when the singer returned home for his big Tupelo Homecoming. The manuscript was discovered 45 years later by Adams' daughter, and published.

At #6, this is my favorite Elvis ballad. Can't Help Falling in Love was a platinum #2 hit in 1961:

Bill Dakota, Adams' personal assistant, tells the Gossip Columnist:

"Both Nick and Elvis were bisexual, although both enjoyed men as companions and lovers more than women. Elvis was always with the so called Memphis Mafia, more than women. I recall many times that Elvis paid Nick's airfare to Memphis, whenever he visited Graceland. One day they had a falling out and Nick spent the day at the front gate with Elvis's uncle Vester Presley. On several occasions I would be with Nick when he picked up his airline tickets."

At #5 here's a song that we'll be talking more about, because it's the one with the gay mention, even if it's fleeting. A 2× Multi-Platinum #1 hit from 1957, Jailhouse Rock was written by the prolific and inspired duo of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. As the title suggests, it is set in a jailhouse, where, as people always believed, gay sex thrives. The song contains the suggestion of gay romance when inmate Number 47 tells Number 3, 'You're the cutest jailbird I ever did see'.

Gender studies scholars cite the song for "its famous reference to homoerotics behind bars," while music critic Garry Mulholland writes, "Jailhouse Rock was always a queer lyric, in both senses." Douglas Brode writes of the filmed production number that it's "amazing that the sequence passed by the censors".

At #4, the song that lit the fuse of the Elvis frenzy. His first #1, Heartbreak Hotel was a 2× Multi-Platinum smash in 1956:

At #3, it's All Shook Up, another one of his monster hits, a 2× Multi-Platinum #1 smash in 1957:

At #2 is the other side of Don’t Be Cruel: the explosive Hound Dog was also a 4× Multi-Platinum #1 hit from 1956.

Finally, at #1 is the song that started it all. That’s All Right was the first song that Elvis recorded in Sam Phillips' Sun studios on July 5, 1954. It was written and originally performed by blues singer Arthur Crudup. Elvis' version didn't chart nationally, but it still managed to sell in excess of 500,000 copies, receving a gold certification. It was his calling card to the world - and boy, the world did respond!

I hope that the way I edited today's article wasn't too confusing. Otherwise, it would have been a whole lot of text followed by a whole lot of videos. Somehow, that didn't feel right. As for not giving you the full Elvis biography, I did the same with the Rolling Stones and will do the same with Bob Dylan starting tomorrow. When an artist is this huge, you can find their life facts everywhere. I'm trying to add these things that are harder to find. I hope you've enjoyed it.


  1. Interesting list yianang. I'm aware our tastes generally tend to mirror one another's so I must confess I'm surprised at the lack of love for what would certainly be in my top ten Elvis songs - Return To Sender. Also, to a lesser extent, Are You Lonesome Tonight. I guess my tastes run to the more pop side of his recordings.
    For many of us here in the Islands, Blue Hawaii will forever hold a place near and dear to our hearts. The movie is kitschy and campy as all get out but to say it was huge here is an understatement. Of course, Can't Help Falling In Love is a masterpiece but there are several hidden gems to be found throughout the movie and if I may, I'd like to present some of my favorites, corny as they may be, to your readers:
    Blue Hawaii: oJicfKZ-aBk
    Rock-A-Hula-Baby: TXadJcbcMR0
    Almost Always True: q0GZS1VMzfM
    Moonlight Swim: JDjm0s_-QPU
    Hawaiian Wedding Song: ghKmDuLfv5Q
    Can't Help Falling In Love: EJ_r8RUGkXo
    and one of my personal favorites-
    Kuuipo: oWIxnn31aD8
    Elvis in those tight white shorts - yum!

    1. Rock-A-Hula-Baby is just outside my Top 30, while Return To Sender is 2-3 positions lower. I'm not too fond of Are You Lonesome Tonight. I'll check out all the other Blue Hawaii songs that you mention, because it's been decades since I've listened to them. Knowing you and your taste, I'm sure that I'll like them.

  2. Another note on "Jailhouse Rock" is the line "the whole rhythm section was the purple gang." In the 1950's, the Lavender Scare was government firing of gays. Lavender being basically the color purple, the rhythm section in Jailhouse Rock could also be a gay prisoner reference.

    1. That's a great observation, Jeff! To be honest, I never noticed, but now that you mention it, it makes perfect sense. Thanks!