Elvis Night was originally going to be hosted by Chris Liddiard, who is far, far more knowledgeable about the King than I am, but I made an effort to compensate by wearing a 1950s style dress to add a bit of atmosphere.
The evening turned out to be what we now call ‘intimate’ due to the small numbers in attendance. However, these evenings often turn out to be very good. On this occasion, everyone sang two songs, then we went around a second time with a further song from everyone but me. Two from me was quite enough!
According to the usual pattern of events, I opened the evening with two Elvis songs: In the Ghetto and Gentle on my Mind. In the Ghetto is unusually political for Elvis and is more like a country song with its tearing of the emotions, but is placed in Chicago. Gentle on my mind, like In the Ghetto, was released in 1969, well after the rock and roll years and the early sixties film period.
Simon followed me with songs about Elvis Death-Deny-ers. One was a song he heard sung by Billy Ray Cyrus (of Achey-Breaky Heart fame) : ‘Hey Elvis’. Not everyone knew the Achey Breaky Heart song which lead to some distraction and interesting exchanges with the audience. Simon’s second song was ‘Galway to Graceland’ by Richard Thompson. According to Richard Thompson, everyone has an Elvis song and his is an Irish Elvis song. It appears to be very popular with Irish singers. It’s particularly beautiful with the voice of Eleanor Shanley who sings with the traditional Irish band Dé Danaan. Simon’s third song later on, was Gillian Welch song ‘Annabel’ A lovely sad country song. When we go to Jesus, we’ll understand why.
Chris Liddiard followed with two Elvis ballads: ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love with You’ and ‘Loving You’ from the film of the same title released in 1957. It looked like Chris had disappeared into sweet memories with these songs. His third Elvis song later in the evening was another ballad: ‘Are you Lonesome Tonight’. Chris shared with us the sad news that the Grammy Award winning Texas singer/songwriter Guy Clark had passed away today aged 74. He and Glyn paid tribute to Guy, famous for many songs including ‘L.A. Freeway’, later on singing ‘Pack up Your Wishes’. Thank you for that spontaneous tribute. Even I have heard of Guy Clark.
Pete and Roxy were on next with a powerful version of ‘Heartbreak Hotel’. Their second song was an arrangement of a song about the death of Elvis, including the lyrics ‘I am Death, Death oh Death, give me another year’. This was another potent song with a persistent rhythm on guitar and meaningful foot stamping. There was only one guitar and only one voice, but the combination was riveting. Their third song later, was Roxy’s beautiful rendition of ‘Debonair’ written by Pete and accompanied by him on guitar.
They were followed by Chris and Janet, (a.k.a. Rusty & Fish) who haven’t visited the club for twelve years. Not exactly regulars then, but although Chris hails from Brighton, Janet had come very much further to join us, all the way from Derbyshire. Chris was able to introduce us to some little known Elvis information which made their songs relevant to an Elvis night. The first little known fact that Elvis’s favourite colour was blue, lead them into a beautiful duet ‘Blue Cockade’ accompanied by Chris on guitar.
The next little known Elvis fact, that he was a great fan of the weather, leading them naturally into their second duet; ‘Here Comes the Rain Again’, their signature song. Because Janet had come such a long way to join us, I suggested that they perform two further songs for us in the second round.
Continuing very much in the ‘Folk’ vein, they gave us ‘The Fields of Athenry’, written by Pete St. John in the 1970s about a fictional character Michael from near Athenry, County Galway, who was sentenced to transportation to Botany Bay, Oz, for stealing food for his starving family during the Great Famine of 1845-1850. It’s a beautiful song, and was beautifully performed. This song was adopted by the Irish Republican Football team during the World Cup of 1990. The supporters sang it at the end of their match with Spain in 2012. Beautiful in a different way? Chris and Janet completed their set for the evening with a sea shanty: ‘Keep Hauling’ in close vocal harmony to just the tap of a foot. We do get to experience delightful variety with our performers.
Elvis was in the building, or was it really Clive? Singing through a mask was a great visual but interfered with the sound of his voice. (I don’t think he could see very well either). The singing came out a bit muffled for his two first songs: ‘His Latest Flame’ and ‘The Girl of My Best Friend’. Clive persevered through both songs in the mask but made a much better impact with his third song, as himself, later in the evening, giving us a very lively ‘Jailhouse Rock’ and had us rocking. I had expected more rocking music, but that was probably down to my general ignorance of Elvis’s work as well as the particular eclectic mix of performers present.
John sat down at the mic and did give us two great slide rock and roll pieces: ‘Little Sister’ and ‘All shook up’. As with Clive’s Jailhouse Rock, these are the energetic songs I tend to associate with Elvis, so for me there was a real Elvis vibe going on at this point in the evening.
Helga followed John with a Rhumba in A Minor, which continued the dancing idea, although not very rock and roll; a beautiful piece on flute. Her second song was an a cappella version of ‘Stormy Weather’. Having expressed doubts about how she would fare, she completed the song with greater apparent confidence than she was perhaps feeling. As this is a song she is ‘working on’, I believe we will hear her sing it with guitar accompaniment at some point in the future.
Glyn picked up the fast-moving Elvis vibe again with two early rockabilly style songs from 1955, when Glyn said he was 15. He gave us ‘Mystery Train’ with 16 coaches and there was a question from the audience that there is a version with 24. The song had been recorded by American blues musician Junior Parker in 1953 and listening to Elvis on Youtube, that train definitely had sixteen coaches. I can’t imagine Glyn would make a mistake on the numbers! His second song, also fast rockabilly and again with some very nice guitar, was ‘Just Because’, written in 1937 and recorded by Elvis in 1954.
And so we arrived at the end of the evening, following a very interesting mix of songs, not totally Elvis, but totally engaging and enjoyable, with John and Helga giving us a version of John Martyn’s ‘Sweet Little Mystery’, spinechillingly beautiful sung by the man himself, and beautifully sung by John with some sweet little guitar and Helga bringing in an extra dimension with more lyrical flute playing. A wonderful, if not-very-Elvis, mellow ending.
Thank you everyone for bringing so much to those few hours and thanks to Clive, assisted by Simon, on the sound desk. See you, or at least some of you, and maybe some others who were unable to join us – next time J Ella
With apologies for any mis-information. I made notes but they were sadly not entirely legible.
The person that runs the evening writes the blog
Note - You can leave a comment - by click ing on the blue "comments" link at the top and bottom of the blog.