Saturday, April 12, 2008

Boss Tracks; Wear My Ring Around Your Neck, Elvis Presley

Elvis dropped on my doormat yesterday, or rather this fine double A side. RCA released this single in 1958 without designating the A or B side. Common practice back in the day, record companies would leave it up to the DJs to see which side would fly. As a result "Wear My Ring" would reach #3 on the Hot 100 chart, while the flip side "Dontcha' Think Its Time" reached #21. "Wear My Ring" would also reach #7 on the R&B charts, crossing over to African-American audiences. 1958 is the year where, according to some historians, R&R became terminally ill. It was the year that Elvis went to the army and came back as a wholesome American boy. Yet it is also part of the period where R&R and R&B started to have cross over success both ways and where the music scene would gradually become more integrated. The late fifties early sixties would prove to be the glory days of Pop, the golden days for producer records. Leiber & Stoller, Phil Spector, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil or King and Goffin would enjoy their biggest successes in this period before the British invasion. It were those Pop sounds that would form Springsteen through the radio of Adele Springsteen and instill him with a healthy dose of Pop sensibility later in his career.

For Elvis 1958 was not a good year. While in the army he started taking amphetamines. Shortly before leaving he had already retreated into Graceland, a fortified mansion , to escape the hysteria surrounding his persona. He had surrounded himself with a band of hanger ons and so-called friends he nicked the "Memphis Mafia". His only contact with reality would be his mother, who sadly passed away in '58 while Elvis was in Germany. Gladys Presley would live to be forty-six. Her passing would devastate Elvis and mark the start of his decline. In 1958 however he was still at the top of his game. He had taken Hollywood with a handful of decent movies and was arguably at the peak of his popularity. "Wear My Ring" would be released on the iconic "50.000.000" Elvis Fans Can't Be wrong". But Springsteen's famous attempt to meet Elvis in 1976 by jumping the Graceland gates perhaps symbolizes the isolation that success brought. At Graceland Elvis had cut himself off from the outside world, even for his successor who had just been on the covers of Time and Newsweek. The guards had no idea who Springsteen was. He was lucky they didn't set loose the dogs. Springsteen performed "Wear My Ring" eight times between '74 and '75.

"Wear My Ring (Around Your Neck)" - Elvis Presley
"Wear My Ring (Around Your Neck)" - Bruce Springsteen November 24th '75, Hammersmith Odeon, London

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