Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has entered the building. Despite being a superstar for well over a year, and with several of his most famous songs already being available in the UK (Hound Dog, Blue Suede Shoes, Heartbreak Hotel), and selling very well, it took All Shook Up to finally earn him his first UK number 1. Why? In the past I’ve reasoned that perhaps the more conservative record-buyers found him too dangerous to begin with, and considering how safe All Shook Up sounds compared to some of his earlier material, I might have had a point, but there’s also a more practical reason. To try and capitalise on his immense fame, all his previous singles were released very close to each other, and they ‘split the vote’, to steal a phrase. All Shook Up bucked this trend.
The origins of the song vary depending on which story you believe. It was credited to Otis Blackwell and Elvis though, and was the last time ‘the King’ received a songwriting credit. Allegedly, Blackwell was in Shalimar Music’s offices when Al Stanton, one of the owners, shook a bottle of Pepsi and suggested Blackwell write a song about being all shook up. However, Elvis claimed in an October 1957 interview that he once had a weird dream and woke up ‘all shook up’, and told Blackwell. But then actor David Hess, who used to go by the stage name David Hill, released his first version of the song just before Presley, and he claims he invented the title, Blackwell wrote it, and Elvis demanded a credit from Blackwell in order to get Presley to sing it. So, who knows?
What I do know is that All Shook Up is a pretty unassuming number. Maybe it’s that I’ve never been a huge Elvis fan (despite this song being the earliest number 1 I had in my collection before starting this blog). I get his cultural significance, I can see the charisma and influence, I just don’t always enjoy his songs. Having said that, I’d be an idiot to not appreciate some of his classic material. I guess this serves as an effective introduction to Presley. All the vocal mannerisms are there, and it’s a good showcase for his voice. I find the backing vocals from the Jordanaires a little wet though, and the piano backing is very bland. But it has left me wanting to know what a ‘fuzzy tree’ is.
I’m sure Elvis’s estate will be able to cope with my occasional faint praise, however. He has had more UK number 1s than any other artist – 21 in total. And his next chart-topper was a definite classic.
All Shook Up spent most of the summer on top of the charts. It was during this time that Prime Minister Harold Macmillan coined a phrase that made history. Still less than a year into his new role, he made an optimistic speech to Conervative Party members in Bedford on 20 July, stating that ‘most of our people have never had it so good’. In further good news for the country, and on the same day, Stirling Moss finished the British Grand Prix at Aintree in first position, driving a Vanwall VW5, the first British Car to win a World Championship race. On 5 August, the much-loved cheeky Northern cartoon character Andy Capp appeared in the Daily Mirror for the first time.
Written by: Otis Blackwell & Elvis Presley
Weeks at number 1: 7 (12 July-29 August)
Television presenter Fern Britton – 17 July
Figure skater Robin Cousins – 17 August
Snooker player Steve Davis – 22 August
Comedian Stephen Fry – 24 August
Painter David Bomberg – 19 August