SONG TITLE: HEARTBREAK HOTEL
PERFORMER: ELVIS PRESLEY
SONGWRITER: MAE AXTON / TOMMY DURDEN / ELVIS PRESLEY
YEAR OF RELEASE: 1956
COMMENTS: Never has a musician shown more pure presence than did Elvis on his major label debut. This record came out well before I was born, but even now it is easy to imagine what kind of impact this must have made at the time.
The song itself is very good, with a good lyrical metaphor (the hotel of horror you can never will yourself to leave - a precursor among other things of the "Hotel California.") It is a slow blues, a description of near suicidal depression.
The best I can figure, this particular burst of charisma comes from doing two seemingly contrary things at once: Elvis made manic depression sexy. In my experience, deep depression is generally not sexy. James Dean tried to offer something like this in his acting, but he could never deliver the pure animal sexuality that Elvis did here, let alone in his more directly sexual moments, e.g. "Baby Let's Play House."
I don't think this was particularly in the song itself, but more in the performance. The bass is grinding out the pain of the lonesome days and years, but Elvis himself really makes it throb slowly and deeply (both with pain and an erection). "Well I think it's so LONE-ly, baby...I think it's so LONE-ly..." Listen to the effect as he reaches up for the "never, never look back." He's getting off on the depths of his depression.
However exactly it was done, Elvis and the boys made the hotel seem like a real place, with dark interiors and a literal desk clerk dressed in black.
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