You Gotta Hear This Alternate Version Of Elvis’ “Suspicious Minds”

When Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds” hit # 1 in September 1969, it marked one of the most amazing comebacks in Rock & Roll history. Elvis hadn’t had a number one record since “Don’t Be Cruel” in March of 1962, back when the world seemed like a different planet altogether. The Rock Revolution changed music (and the world) so fundamentally that by 1969, the old Elvis tunes might as well have been from 20 or 30 years earlier, so far removed had they become from the mainstream.

But this was a new Elvis, not exactly a Rock Elvis but a Modern Elvis, doing a contemporary-sounding song with a contemporary-sounding arrangement, and it sounded great. In a perfect world, it would have marked the beginning of a second career for The King, rebuilding his artistic integrity for a new generation by re-interpreting high quality singer-songwriter material from the Seventies and beyond. Sadly that didn’t happen, and who knows how pop and country might have turned out differently if it did.

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In any case “Suspicious Minds” will always be a triumph for him, his last of 18 number one hits, and it still sounds great. Last week the people behind an upcoming HBO special called Elvis Presley: The Searcher released an alternate take of the song, and it is a fantastic listen. Stripped of all the strings and backing vocals, this version is a reminder of what a truly fine piece of songwriting Mark James delivered (his other claim to songwriting fame was “You Were Always On My Mind”).

And without all the musical adornments, and with a single-tracked as opposed to double-tracked lead vocal, this version also serves to remind us what a truly extraordinary voice Elvis had. Sure makes me eager to watch this TV special, which premieres on April 14. The three-hour, two-part doc focuses on Elvis’ artistry and how music defined his life from boyhood up until the bitter end. It’s never a bad time to take another look at the man who lit the flame so long ago.


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