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GI Blues– See the new Elvis!- (Part 6)

By Mariusz Ogieglo

The session was scheduled to start at 9 a.m. on April 27, 1960, but Elvis, dressed in a stylish black jacket, a red striped shirt, black pants, blue suede shoes with a buckle and a stylish hat, arrived at the studio a little late.

While waiting for his arrival, the musicians began rehearsals and then work on an instrumental version of Joel Gray’s 1957 hit, “Shoppin’ Around” (a year after Grey, Rusty Draper also recorded the same song). The song, written by Sid Tepper, Roy C. Bennett and Aron Schroeder, whose inclusion in the film was pushed for by Freddy Bienstock from Hill&Range from the very beginning.

Unfortunately, the nature of the new studio meant that both the band members and Elvis himself, who finally joined the group at the end of the last, fourth attempt, did not feel comfortable and needed a lot of time to find their way in it. ” The RCA studio was arranged in a completely different way than those in which (Elvis, author’s note) had previously worked, which immediately aroused his concern ,” he explained in his best-selling book “Platinum. A Life In Music”, Ernst Jorgensen. “ Recording soundtracks onto a three-track tape recorder allowed for more precise matching of the music in the film later, but the only way to fully utilize this system was to ensure minimal leakage from one channel to the other – hence the strange new microphone arrangement. So Elvis had no other choice and all he could do was adapt to the studio’s demands .


Despite the initial difficulties, Presley tried not to lose his good humor and approached the recording of the next version of “Shoppin’ Around” – this time with his vocals – with considerable enthusiasm.

Unfortunately, neither the initial involvement of Elvis, who even played the guitar in this one song, nor the presence of proven musicians in the studio helped, and the attempt to record the first song for the new soundtrack ended in failure.

After playing eleven takes*, the last of which was described as the master version (though never used), further recording was discontinued and work began on Sid Wayne and Sherman Edwards’ “Didja Ever”.

Unlike “Shoppin’ Around”, this one was completed after just two short rehearsals.

Elvis was very critical of the songs from his fifth film from the very beginning. When asked about them, he even stated that ” they are not worth even a pound of fluff .” Although this time, neither his admirers, nor contemporary critics, nor even the authors of later publications on his work, agreed with this opinion.

Especially since the soundtrack proposals included some really solid songs. Such as the ballad “Doin’ The Best I Can”, recorded right after “Didja Ever”. A joint composition of the American blues songwriter and singer, Doc Pomus (actually Jerome Solon Felder, because that was his real name) and Mort Shuman. The same ones who delivered Presley’s hit “A Mess Of Blues” just a few weeks earlier.


It is worth emphasizing here that, according to Ernst Jorgensen, “Doin’ The Best I Can”, which he described in his book as ” slow doo-wop perfectly matching the new, silky timbre of Elvis’s voice “, could have easily been an excellent material for his regular, non-film recording session.

It seems that Elvis himself also liked this composition and was heavily involved in recording it. By repeating it thirteen times, he seemed more focused and relaxed than when working on any of his previous pieces. He even joked with the band members between takes and from time to time surprised them with German phrases like ” you?” ” or “ Achtung! “, remembered from their stay in Germany.

There is another interesting story associated with the ballad “Doin’ The Best I Can”. Well, almost exactly a year after the recording session described here, in March 1961, this song was included on the so-called the setlist of Elvis’s charity concert at Pearl Harbor. On Presley’s handwritten list of songs (Presley wrote it on the letterhead of the Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel), it was in the eleventh position – between such hits as “Don’t Be Cruel” and “One Night”. However, at the last minute she was removed from it…

After playing the last, thirteenth take of Pomus and Shuman’s composition, which was later described as the ” perfectly refined master version “, Elvis and his band began working on the future title recording.

” I remember that when we received the script for the film, its working title had nothing to do with the army ,” explained the co-author of the song, Sid Tepper, in the book “Cafe Europa” (part of the four-disc set produced by MRS). ” Well, me and Roy Bennett came up with ‘GIBlues’ and we were really shocked when, after hearing the demo, Elvis, Colonel Parker and Hal Wallis decided to make it the title track .”

The second author, Roy C.Bennett, added: ” Every time the finished film was in the can, our publisher, Freddie Bienstock, called the composers and told them how they did. The title song was the authors’ most important achievement. We were proud of our work seeing that our songs were selected among other proposals submitted by other great composers .


Recording the song “GIBlues” went quite smoothly. Elvis, who, as Collin Escott noted in one of his studies, ” hoped he heard in it the military slang that Tepper and Bennett so skillfully wove into the song, ” approached the song with great enthusiasm and his involvement very quickly translated into equally satisfactory results.

Describing the first of seven approaches, slightly different in arrangement, Piers Beagley and David Tinson noted that he ” performed them without much effort ” and that his voice sounded ” simply fantastic, warm, rich and had an interesting timbre “. In turn, a moment before the start of the fourth rehearsal, Presley jokingly intoned a short fragment of the old ballad “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling”. Often incorrectly described by various sources as a traditional Irish folk song. In fact, the song was written in the late nineteenth century by Buffalo-born Chancellor Olcott and German-born George Graff Jr. (author of the music) and recorded (by Olcott himself) for the musical “The Isle O’Dreams” from 1912. Today it is difficult to say clearly whether Elvis knew this recording or whose performance he remembered this hit from. However, the most likely one seems to be a recording by Bing Crosby from 1939.

After playing the seventh take, the ” happy seven “, as the musicians present in the studio called it, Elvis suggested not to repeat the song again and to record its problematic part – specifically the ending – separately. ” Mr. Wallis ,” he said to the producer present in the building. ” We have to do the ending like this ,” he explained, and the band played three more rehearsals – this time repeating only the last verse. Ultimately, the ” most important title song ” was composed of fragments of two different approaches – the seventh and the tenth (the latter being the so-called work part ending, which could be translated as “work part of the ending”).

Ironically, “GI Blues” turned out to be the last song Elvis fully completed on his first day of work on the new soundtrack. After recording it, the musicians tried to compare to the composition “Tonight Is So Right For Love” by Abner Silver and Sid Wayne, but as Ernst Jorgensen aptly noticed, the song whose melodic line loosely referred to the classic melody “Barcarolle” by Jacques Offenbach (from the 1881 opera “The Tales Of Hoffman”) ” wasn’t exactly what Elvis and the rest of the band members grew up on .” For this reason, work on it was abandoned after seven attempts.

The remaining songs were treated in a similar way – the pop song “What She Really Like” (which was abandoned after five attempts) and the so-called a fast version of Sid Wayne and Sherman Edwards’ “Frankfort Special”, which was stopped after thirteen attempts.

” The work was hard and progress was slow ,” Ernst Jorgensen reported the last minutes of the session in his book. According to the preserved documents, after another unsuccessful attempt with “Frankfort Special”, Presley returned to “Tonight Is So Right For Love”, but the effect obtained after four subsequent attempts was still unsatisfactory and aroused ” strong reservations both from Elvis himself and Paramount “.

Finally, around 8 p.m., after nearly eleven hours of recording, the first day of work on the soundtrack to Elvis’ new film came to an end.

  • Keith Flynn on his website mentions three additional takes of “Shoppin’ Around” (its faster version, also described as the “final version”). However, these attempts were most likely deleted from the tape. Only approach 14 (described as master) has been preserved on acetate. It was released by FTD on the disc “Cafe Europa – GIBlues Vol.2” and MRS on the set “The Complete Movie Masters 1960 – 1962”

Article written and provided by EP Promised Land (Poland), Mariusz Ogieglo,

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