"...it was like he came along and whispered some dream in everybody's ear, and somehow we all dreamed it." Bruce Springsteen
A perfect Springsteen quote for this Elvis find I would say. Not really a single but an EP, "Follow That Dream" is Elvis' soundtrack to the Hollywood flick by the same name released in 1962. Elvis had been home from the army for two years. The once R&R rebel had been transformed into an all American teddy bear, as harmless yet tasty as apple pie. Just how much the establishment had embraced him was illustrated by the welcome home bash Frank Sinatra threw him on television. Elvis went from R&R to a Pat Boonified brand of Pop faster than anybody would have thought possible. Serving in Germany had made a bona fide American hero out of him. Priscilla Beaulieu, whom Elvis met in Europe, arrived on American soil in 1962 and would soon make an honorable husband out of the nation's most desired bachelor. Maybe that's why the climax of "Follow That Dream" flick is Elvis singing the title song in an unbuttoned shirt, for all of America's teenage girls to gawk at.
Maybe its the cheesiness of the whole affair that makes the song stand out so much. "Follow That Dream" is arguably Elvis' strongest effort from the Hollywood era. Though sugar coated with a syrupy choir the song is propelled by a driving Rockabilly rhythm with some of the King's most convincing vocals of the times. Maybe because the song reflected the dream Elvis was pursuing when he ventured into the R&R business. Elvis hardly chased the aesthetics of R&R in his career, he rather used R&R as a vessel to get his slice of that American dream pie for himself. In my mind it is in this uninhibited hunger for success, including the glitter and glamor that came with it, that caused Elvis to become a caricature of the genre he propelled into orbit and that very American dream. Critics often feel that Elvis betrayed the dream of R&R, I wonder if it was his dream in the first place. I think the King just wanted to be part of that main stream America that was denied to his parents. The song is a stunning contrast with the fleeting Hollywood flick that only set out to cater the day dreams of little teenage girls and not much more.
It is no secret that Springsteen was a huge Elvis fan. Critics have often pegged Springsteen as the man who delivered Elvis' perceived promise, even though we would never agree on the Boss as much as the King. The cover of "Born to Run" can see him sporting an Elvis button on his crunchy leather jacket, perfectly in sync with this early myth building. On a side note, even the button has a mildly amusing story behind it that might indicate that the Boss once was part of 'the King's Court', a New York based fan club. Unfortunately the records of that fan club show no proof of that. But I wouldn't put it past the Boss to have been a fan boy, not quite dissimilar to us. Maybe that's why Springsteen couldn't resist the temptation of jumping Elvis' fence in '76 when he was playing Memphis.
Springsteen's admiration of Elvis led to him not only covering the song, but doing a re-write, trying to capture the spirit of the song while adapting it to his own voice. In Springsteen's hands the lyrics were significantly altered while the melody took the form of a prayer. Though the song debuted during the River tour, it wasn't recorded until 1983. Though the studio version was suggested by Jon Landau for the "Born in the USA" album, it didn't make the final cut. Together with "Protection," "Janey Don't You Loose Heart" and a ballad called "My Love" Bruce scratched those from Landau's proposed track list, proving to his own Colonel Tom Parker who's Boss perhaps. But it could simply be that Springsteen's camp wasn't looking forward to dealing with the legalities of including a song, changed as it may be, still had a strong lyrical resemblance to the version Elvis recorded. After the River tour where the song was played played 25 times, it would slowly fade from Springsteen's live sets. The next to last appearance of the song was by request of a fan during the '88 Basel Switzerland show, featured in the video above. After that the song disappeared in the vaults, being skipped once again for the "Tracks" boxed set. The song made one isolated reappearance during the Rising tour however, so who knows, with how the Magic tour is currently developing, we may get a taste of this gem yet.
"Follow That Dream"
Available on Elvis at the Movies
Bruce Springsteen, Mountainview 1986