Elvis Presley: Girl Happy

Elvis catches an ocean’s worth of memorable pop songs

There are a number of commonly held misconceptions about Elvis Presley’s film career: Elvis couldn’t act, his movies were all throwaways, and the soundtracks were populated entirely with substandard material. But key films in the King’s catalog show that he could indeed act, if called upon, there are several high-quality dramatic and musical films in Elvis’ oeuvre, alongside many good lightweight romantic musical comedies, and his soundtracks are laced with hits and terrific albums sides. To measure the highpoints of Elvis’ soundtrack catalog by virtue of the low points (of which there are admittedly many) is to miss out on a valuable dimension of Presley’s musical career.

1965’s Girl Happy was Elvis’ seventeenth film, the second of three with the word “Girls” in the title, and the first of three featuring co-star Shelley Fabares. Though the beach party plot was nothing new, Elvis generated some sweet chemistry with Fabares, and seemed more interested in the soundtrack than he had on the previous Roustabout. The soundtrack was recorded in Hollywood with the usual mix of West Coast studio players (including guitarists Tiny Timbrell and Tommy Tedesco), Nashville transplants Floyd Cramer and Boots Randolph, and longtime Elvis associates Scotty Moore and the Jordanaires. The songs were penned by the usual crew of Sid Tepper, Roy C. Bennett, Sid Wayne, Ben Weisman, and the trio of Florence Kaye, Bernie Baum and Bill Giant. Unlike Elvis’ previous outing nowever, the lightweight songs are quite surprisingly memorable.

The film opens with Doc Pomus and Norman Meade’s exuberant title theme, and even the throwaway lyrics of “Startin’ Tonight” can’t dim it’s rock ‘n’ roll energy. Elvis and the Jordanaires just about run out of breath on Joy Byers’ “The Meanest Girl in Town” with Boots Randolph adding a wailing sax solo. The calypso “Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce” is cleverly written, the ballad “Do Not Disturb” gives Elvis a chance to do some romancing, and “Puppet on a String” is sweet and tender. The film’s performance centerpiece, “Wolf Call,” is just as much fun on CD as it was in the fictional club scene, and makes you wish that Gary Crosby had really been in Elvis’ band!

“Do the Clam,” one of the album’s two hits (the other was “Puppet on a String”), will have you dancing the sensation that didn’t quite sweep the nation, and the CD includes the original soundtrack bonus, “You’ll Be Gone.” Recorded in 1961 the latter song is one of Elvis’ few co-writes, and was tacked onto the album despite not having been used in the film. Sony’s reissue features a four-panel booklet and no liner notes discussing the music or its making. The 24-minute running time suggests that the earlier import two-fer or Follow That Dream’s collector’s edition might be more compelling to Elvis diehards. Still, the budget price and remastered sound make this reissue very attractive. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]

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