I remember the sock hop well. It was 2ndgrade. The girls were in poodle skirts the boys were in faux leather jackets and short sleeved white button ups. It was the first day that year that we were able to get out of our school uniforms.
What I remember the most is everyone in class having a ball, dancing with our shoes off, and that music. The music was so different than the bubblegum pop my babysitters were listening to, my dad’s 70s rock, and my mom’s show tunes. It was electric, energetic, and so fun.
When I got in the car after school that day, it was the first thing I mentioned to my mom. I was so obsessed that it resulted in me going to Border’s bookstore and picking out my first ever CD. I chose Elvis ’56, a compilation album of Elvis’ greatest hits from, you guessed it, 1956. His look on the cover is pensive as he sits cross-legged in the recording studio. He’s not the bloated Elvis of the late 1970s but rather still a kid, still trying to perfect his sound, still just wanting to sing. I was infatuated.
I brought that album everywhere with me…I would listen to it on the way to school in the morning, put it in my rolling backpack so I could keep it safe during the day, and then listen to it in the aforementioned babysitter’s car on the way home from school and just about everywhere in between. “Paralyzed” was my favorite. When Elvis sang, “I want you, I need you, and I love you” on the song of the same name, I was positively swooning.
With a track list of songs like “Don’t Be Cruel”, “Heartbreak Hotel”, and “Blue Suede Shoes”, Elvis ’56 was an impeccable collection of Elvis’ halcyon days as a performer. Before listening to his entire discography, I would mentally keep Elvis in this period. Even though I heard the hits (“Suspicious Minds” is a top ten contender for sure), I was wary of later period Elvis. I kept seeing the jumpsuits, sequins, and the cheesy, Vegas weddings of it all.
Going through his 24 studio albums forced me to embrace the full Elvis. I had to accept that he did not stay the same as the young man on the cover of Elvis ’56, but morphed into a complicated, troubled, and yet still very, very talented musician. And there were some pleasant surprises too. I found myself loving the early-mid 70s soul, country sound Elvis had going. And on the occasions where he was both in full vocal glory and the song quality was top notch? Nothing could top him.
Although there were some duds, (if you would like an album full of them, just search out “Love Letters from Elvis”. I promise you will be disappointed.) Listening to his albums and seeing his progression as an artist alerted me to all the nuances of Elvis Presley: some good, some bad, but summing up to an incredible whole that became the king of rock n’ roll.
It was a heckuva good time. Next week, we go to Britney.
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