Tonight, it’s Christmas with Elvis, but you needn’t flee. There will be no “Blue Christmas.” Oh, no, we have other swell tunes under the tree.
As we’ve written before, we dig Elvis. We didn’t always dig him, but we came around. We don’t dig everything he did, but we appreciate his greatness.
We especially don’t dig everything he did on his Christmas records. However, when he sings the Christmas blues, it’s just fine.
“Santa Claus Is Back In Town,” Elvis Presley, from “Elvis’ Christmas Album,” 1957.
Recorded Sept. 7, 1957, with backing vocals by the Jordanaires and Millie Kirkland. This is the first cut on the album. It starts with the Jordanaires’ sweet harmonies — “Christmas, Christmas, Christmas …” and some gentle piano. But then Elvis jumps in and gets downright nasty.
Elvis cut this album in three days at the end of a summer tour. This tune — originally titled “Christmas Blues” — was written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who also wrote “Jailhouse Rock,” which came out that year. According to Michael Hill’s liner notes on “Elvis Christmas,” a 2006 compilation of Elvis’ Christmas records from 1957 and 1971:
“The arrangement had a ribald, R&B feel, (and) the lyrics were filled with quick-witted double entendres.”
Indeed it did.
“Merry Christmas Baby,” Elvis Presley, from “Elvis Sings the Wonderful World Of Christmas,” 1971.
Recorded May 15, 1971. Elvis takes the tune made famous by Charles Brown and does it as a straight, gritty Memphis blues number.
Though both of these records are out of print as such, they’re available on that single CD, “Elvis Christmas,” with all the cuts on both albums intact.
“Merry Christmas Baby” (alternate edit), Elvis Presley, from “Reconsider Baby,” 1985. It’s out of print, and pricey if you can find it.
Recorded May 15, 1971. It’s the same tune, but this version runs a little over 7 minutes. The original clocked in at 5:37. This version comes off a 1985 record that collected Elvis’ blues tunes. It’s my favorite Elvis record, and that it’s on blue vinyl is just icing on the cake.