I wasn’t planning to do a Friday Evening Video this week; I only have half a dozen other entries on my “to-do” list, including a review of The Force Awakens, which will no doubt run a bit long (ahem). But when one of my Facebook friends posted the following in honor of the late, great Elvis Presley’s birthday today (he would’ve been 81, as difficult as that is to imagine), I simply couldn’t resist doing the same here.
This isn’t a music video per se; rather, it’s a clip from the 1968 movie Live a Little, Love a Little. However, Elvis’ movies were arguably long-form ancestors of the MTV-style video, existing for little reason other than to sell his music, as well as a particular image of Elvis himself (it’s not by accident that he almost always plays some kind of sexy, fun-loving playboy in those flicks). In addition, Elvis movies, like MTV videos, usually take place in some kind of artificial reality that is weirder, funnier, more exotic, and more glamorous than our own, populated by beautiful young people who don’t behave quite like any real person you’ve ever known, and always throbbing with an undercurrent of decadent lust. And the blue-screen effects are always atrocious, too. It really wasn’t that big a leap from Live a Little, Love a Little to “Hungry Like the Wolf.”
But hey, how about we do as the song requests and talk a little less:
“A Little Less Conversation” was released a month prior to the film as the B-side to a single called “Almost in Love,” and it became a minor hit. Elvis also recorded an alternate version of the song for his 1968 television special (usually referred to as the “comeback special,” even though it wasn’t officially titled as such; it’s also known as “the one where he wore that black leather outfit”), but the alternate ultimately wasn’t used in the special and it wouldn’t be officially released until it turned up 30 years later on a 1998 compilation album. I wouldn’t say either of version of the song was remembered as an important part of the Presley oeuvre, at least not until the start of the 21st century.
Then things got weird. The song was briefly heard in the 2001 George Clooney/Brad Pitt film Ocean’s Eleven, and suddenly it was back on the pop-cultural radar. An electronic remix of the tune by Junkie XL (or JXL) became a smash hit around the world, reaching the number-one chart position in at least 10 different countries. A version of the remix was used in a Nike ad and credited to “Elvis vs. JXL,” and that was a number-one hit in 20 countries. In the U.S., the Elvis vs. JXL cut peaked at number 50 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Elvis’ first Hot 100 appearance since 1981 (remember he died in 1977). According to Wikipedia, one version or another of the tune has since been heard in TV shows, movie trailers, films, advertisements, and even political campaigns. Not bad for a minor tune from an era that’s widely dismissed as a low point in the King’s career.
One more thought: one of my greatest disappointments is that real-life computers do not have lots of meaningless blinking lights or make bleep-bleep noises…