25 Questions with Shane Brown
author of the critically acclaimed - 'Reconsider Baby: Elvis Presley: A Listener's Guide'
EIN Interview by Nigel Patterson - September 2023
Since Elvis' death in 1977, thousands of books have been written about Presley, but very few concentrate on the most important thing: the music. Shane Brown's 'Reconsider Baby: Elvis Presley: A Listener's Guide', published in 2017, was a brilliantly detailed look into the remarkable and yet often frustrating musical legacy that Elvis left behind. In 2023 it has now been re-issued.
25 Questions with Shane Brown,
author of the critically acclaimed (and recently reissued):
Reconsider Baby – Elvis Presley: A Listener’s Guide
2023 Interview by EIN's Nigel Patterson
About Shane Brown: Shane Brown is the author of books on the music of Elvis Presley and Bobby Darin, and queer representation in early cinema. He has also written young adult novels (Breaking Point, Breaking Down, and A Ghost of a Chance), the horror novel Welcome to Marlington, and the ghost stories The Pied Piper, The School Bell, The Festive Symphony, and Ghost Stories for Christmas. Both Shane’s book on Bobby Darin and Elvis have been critically acclaimed. In 2023 Shane’s Reconsider Baby - Elvis Presley: A Listener’s Guide to Elvis Presley was recently published for the first time as a hardcover edition (as well as a fresh Kindle edition) with a small amount of new information.
This interview was conducted by EIN’s Nigel Patterson in September 2023
EIN: Shane, it must be an exciting time for you with Reconsider Baby – Elvis Presley: A Listener’s Guide now available in hardback and a fresh Kindle edition. Is there much new material in these editions?
SB: In short: no! The hardback edition is pretty much “by request,” to steal an Elvis marketing term. It wasn’t a rewrite or a new edition, but simply putting the 2017 edition into the hardback format. I took the opportunity to add in a small amount about releases since 2017 to bring it up to date, but we’re talking just a few pages. I certainly wouldn’t recommend people buying the hardback for the new material! I should add that the paperback and Kindle versions now have those extra few pages, too – one of the big pros of self-publishing is that you can do a little update like that and it’s not a big deal.
EIN: Going back to the first edition, what was the genesis for writing it?
SB: That goes a long way back – about thirty years. I wrote a small book on Elvis’s music and sent it off to publisher when I was about twenty. Bizarrely, it got accepted, but then the publisher went bankrupt, and it never came out. Looking back, I realise that was a blessing, as the book was awful. But, when I’d finished my PhD thesis in 2013, I had time on my hands and thought I’d have another go at it. It will probably come as no surprise to many readers that the Listener’s Guide format was inspired by Robert Matthew-Walker’s book on Elvis from the late 1970s.
EIN: Some commentators consider that on leaving Sun Records, Elvis’ recordings for RCA were a downward step. Do you agree with this?
SB: Not really. Even the Sun years weren’t all solid gold. I can certainly live without hearing those early ballads, that’s for sure (with the exception of Blue Moon). The music changed in 1956 when Elvis started recording for RCA, but I don’t think the quality got worse.
EIN: Was Elvis’ most consistently fertile musical period the 1950s?
SB: It’s difficult, really, because now we tend to look back at Elvis’s legacy in chronological order by session, rather than by release dates. It makes a huge difference. Bearing that in mind, were the 50s that consistent if you were living through them? The first album had those Sun leftovers like I Love You Because, and the Loving You album’s second side is certainly no masterpiece. The Christmas album has the Peace in the Valley EP included to fill it up – good music, but one has to wonder why four extra songs weren’t recorded that were actually about Christmas! And then there’s the songs from Love Me Tender, and four albums by the end of the decade that lasted only twenty minutes. Session by session, the 1950s were excellent – but RCA and Parker (and Elvis’s apparent uninterest in the release schedule) always seemed intent on showing things in the worst possible light.
But I have to say from a recording perspective that I think Elvis was most consistent from mid-1968 through to August 1970. The vast majority of those recordings are really wonderful – wonderful enough to excuse Life and the handful of other dogs from that era.
EIN: In Reconsider Baby, you make many interesting observations about Elvis and his impact. Regarding his six appearances on The Dorsey Brothers Stage Show you comment:
However, despite the myths that have built up over the years, Elvis’ appearances on the Stage Show did not send shock waves across America. Indeed, the ratings were low and did not increase substantially over the course of the six programmes.
How do we reconcile this with the many (during the mid-1950s) negative press headlines, police filming Elvis’ “lewd movements” in Chicago, FBI records, and audio-visual evidence including preachers decrying Elvis’ “devil’s music” and smashing his records?
SB: It’s all to do with the second Milton Berle show. Most writers didn’t view Elvis as controversial until then. And the story behind that is more complicated, too. The backlash after that performance of Hound Dog was started by New York Times columnist Jack Gould. But Jack Gould had a long-running dislike of Milton Berle, and he was very vocal about it, accusing Berle of being in bad taste, relying on risqué jokes etc. Elvis happened to perform Hound Dog in the way he did on the last episode of the Berle show – and Gould was geared up and ready to have one last attack. Unfortunately, that timing meant Elvis became the subject of Gould’s next moral crusade. Gould said that Elvis belonged on a burlesque runway – and had said exactly the same thing about Berle back in 1951 (and had continued to attack him along those lines ever since). Gould was hugely influential back then (as was the New York Times in general), and that, combined with the bump and grind finish of Hound Dog, just kickstarted everything. All of that is discussed in the book, of course.
EIN: Shane, it has been observed that the expectations placed on Elvis and his music are higher than for most other artists, hence the criticism of his film recordings and comments like John Lennon’s ‘Elvis died when he went into the Army’. Other major artists including Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin had successful musical film careers with their fair share of musical fluff or duds yet are not criticized as Elvis is. What is your perspective on this?
SB: I think there are several things going on. Firstly, I think many viewed Elvis as selling out from rock ‘n’ roll when he made those films in the 1960s – in fact, many still view it that way, I think. I don’t think there’s really a comparison with Sinatra & Co, because they were expected to make traditional Hollywood musicals, and started long before rock ‘n’ roll came along. Sure, they made a few duds, but they never ended up in films as bad as Clambake or Harum Scarum. And, musically, they didn’t have long stretches where they made more poor records than good records. People tend to look at Sinatra’s work in the first few years of the 1950s as particularly awful, but there are far more good recordings than bad. It wasn’t all Mama Will Bark. You can’t say that for Elvis in 1964 or 1965. So, I think the only people who would say Elvis gets over-criticised are fans. It’s very difficult to defend some of what Elvis recorded.
EIN: Following on from the previous question, Elvis’ infamous, post-Army movie years. Musically, were they as bad as many critics and fans suggest?
SB: I think people forget that Elvis wasn’t going to be recording Jailhouse Rock for a film like G.I. Blues or Blue Hawaii. There are people who tend to judge him because of that.
If you’re going to be an actor in musicals, you have to sing songs that are appropriate for them. It doesn’t matter whether you’re Elvis or Mario Lanza. And I mention Lanza because he’s important as his films are basically a prototype for the Elvis film of the 1960s. Especially his final films. When he returned to film after a break of a couple of years, he tried something serious (Serenade, 1956), and it wasn’t popular (think of it as his equivalent of Flaming Star or Wild in the Country), so he then ended up in Seven Hills of Rome (1957), a frothy musical comedy where he sang a number of songs that people thought he shouldn’t be singing. By that, I mean not serious opera but flimsy pop songs. That’s a pretty similar situation to Elvis not recording rock songs for G.I. Blues or whatever. And then Lanza went from Rome to Capri for his next film, For the First Time. Travelogues with a few songs and some pretty women, basically. Sound familiar? And in For the First Time, he even sings Pineapple Picker, a rock-lite song that is no better than Queenie Wahine’s Papaya. And if you take Elvis out of G I Blues, the film would work perfectly well with Lanza or Dean Martin in that role (with different songs). Of course, we don’t know how Lanza’s film career would have progressed in the 1960s, as he passed away in 1959.
I think the other thing to remember here is that, in 1960, Elvis wasn’t 20 any longer. He couldn’t play the delinquent anymore. His image changed while he was in the army. And, sadly, the musical wasn’t having a great time in the early 1960s. G I Blues is a traditional Hollywood musical, like those in the 40s (and one of the last for several years), but Blue Hawaii (and what came after) was much more in line with the other musicals of the period: the beach movies.
But, to go back to your question, despite everything I’ve said, there was no more reason for Elvis singing something as bad as Stop Where You Are, as there was for Lanza to be singing Pineapple Picker. They both could (and should) have had better songs.
That period in the mid-60s for Elvis (in the movies) is pretty damn awful – and it was all made worse by the soundtracks being marketed as regular Elvis albums. Guess who else had his soundtracks marketed in that way? Yep, Mario Lanza. What label was he on? RCA.
All of that said, I feel I’ve rather come to terms with Elvis’s lesser efforts over the last couple of years. I went through the 60CD set during lockdown, and suddenly those movie soundtracks were providing a welcome distraction from what was going on, and I became willing to embrace their silliness. Perhaps people felt the same way during the Cold War. The Girls! Girls! Girls! soundtrack came out a week after the Cuban Missile Crisis ended. Perhaps it was light relief then, too.
EIN: You make an interesting comment about Elvis in the 1960s that ‘he was generally too keen to take the easy route, crooning his way through a group of bland songs’. How much was Elvis to blame for the direction of his career in the 1960s? If he wanted to record higher quality music, couldn’t he have insisted on better songs (and scripts)?
SB: I think we need to forget the idea that Elvis’s career went downhill because of The Beatles. It’s nonsense. It went downhill because Elvis was seemingly out of touch with the pop world of the early 1960s in general, and the reliance on inferior songs. Something for Everybody isn’t as good as Elvis is Back, and Pot Luck and the so-called “lost album” of 1963 aren’t as good as Something for Everybody. Elvis was in fine voice, but the songs were just rehashes of places he’d already been. In fact, the songs on those albums were no better than the ones on Fun in Acapulco or Girls! Girls! Girls! (with a few exceptions). But the regular writers were cheaper, I guess.
EIN: In discussing Elvis’ studio session on January 12, 1964, you comment in the book that for only the second time (Never Ending in 1963 being the first) Elvis incorporated a “soul element into his singing” of the ballad It Hurts Me. Could you expand on what you mean by “soul element”, and why do you think it took Elvis so long before adding it to his music - it would of course be an integral part of his American Sound Studio recordings in 1969.
SB: I think there’s the Sam Cooke influence, basically. Never Ending reminds me so much of that type of sound, and it’s a wonderful recording of an only OK song, but I have a very soft spot for it. And Sam Cooke is there in It Hurts Me, too, alongside a little Ben E. King in those louder sections. But just listen to “he never loved you / he never will / and darling don’t you know he’ll never change” in the bridge. It’s Sam Cooke and Ben E. King all the way. A wonderful vocal, one of Elvis’s best. I just wish that there was a different backing group to The Jordanaires on it. They were great, but I don’t think they understand the sound that Elvis was after on this record. I don’t think the 1968 version comes close, I should add – and thank heaven that ridiculous sequence was cut from the TV special.
EIN: In Reconsider Baby you comment on the surprising chart failure of a number of Elvis’ singles, for example, the haunting ballad, Indescribably Blue (#33 Billboard). What factors do you believe contributed to its relative lack of sales and chart success?
SB: To put it bluntly: Elvis. I just don’t think his music was getting noticed at the time because he wasn’t being taken seriously by that point. His image, his films. It could well have been a hit if it had someone else’s name on the sleeve – and I think that’s true for the 1967 singles that didn’t do as well as they should. Interestingly, the same is true of Bobby Darin (the subject of my other Listener’s Guide). I’m sure his songs When I Get Home and We Didn’t Ask To Be Brought Here would have been hits in 1965 if they were released under a different name.
EIN: And why weren’t the bombastic An American Trilogy (#66 Billboard) and exquisitely rocking Promised Land (#14 Billboard), major hit singles?
SB: I don’t honestly know – although I think T.R.O.U.B.L.E. is a better record than Promised Land, but that’s another question. Trilogy was big in the UK – but we hadn’t had the single by Mickie Newbury, so the Elvis version was the first one most Brits heard. The same is true of many of Elvis’s covers in the 1970s (both on singles and albums), and that may well be part of the reason why 70s Elvis is thought of more positively in the UK than in the States. But I think the theatrical element of Trilogy also appeals to us in the UK, too, in a way it might not in the States.
EIN: Around 1970, fan magazines discussed Elvis’ “message songs” quintet: U.S. Male, If I Can Dream, Clean Up Your Own Backyard, In the Ghetto, and (for some) Change of Habit. Do you think Elvis was actively looking for songs with a deeper meaning or were his song selections simply a reflection of the tenor of much of the songwriting at the time?
SB: I confess I’ve never thought of U.S. Male as a message song, although Walk a Mile in My Shoes certainly fits in there. I don’t think Elvis sought them out necessarily, but they were part of pop music at the time, along with those “personal statement” songs like I’ve Gotta Be Me by Sammy Davis Jr, and My Way by Sinatra. Probably Walk a Mile spoke to Elvis in some way. You can see why it would. And I think Clean Up Your Own Backyard is such a fine record, and it’s a great shame it’s never got the attention it deserves. It should have been a hit – and probably would have been if it hadn’t been for the link to a film called The Trouble With Girls. I guess that title just made people think of those mid-60s movies.
EIN: Elvis’ 1970s period was partly characterized by songs with a dramatic resonance and often a strong narrative. What does this signify as to where Elvis was in his musical progression?
SB: I think he was just singing what he happened to like. And I don’t necessarily think they were all that far removed from other dramatic songs from earlier in his career: Are You Lonesome Tonight, Lonesome Cowboy, There’s Always Me. Sure, the 70s songs were louder, but Elvis always loved a good dramatic number. I confess that I like many of those big ballads of the 70s. He seemed to be a sucker during those years for a song with a relatively quiet verse followed by a big sing-along chorus – I’ve Lost You, You Gave Me a Mountain, Padre, Your Love’s Been a Long Time Coming. And many more. And let’s be honest, they’re great fun to sing when no-one’s around!
But you’re right about there being a narrative to some of them. Mountain is like three years of a soap open in 180 seconds! But that got more common in the Memphis sessions with songs like Long Black Limousine or Kentucky Rain, and then, later, something like I Washed My Hands in Muddy Water. It's not a dramatic ballad, but it’s definitely a story-song. As an aside, I always think Just Tell Her Jim Said Hello and Do You Know Who I Am fit together as a pairing for that reason. First, we have Elvis viewing his ex from across a restaurant and building up the courage to go over. Then, in Do You Know Who I Am, we get the conversation when he makes that move.
EIN: In researching Reconsider Baby and listening to Elvis’ recordings, did you form a view on the impact that his growing dependence on prescription medication had on his creative ability (especially in the 1970s)?
SB: Nothing really that, as a fan, I didn’t think before I started. I do think that RCA did a really good job of hiding that decline from record buyers for quite a long time. Albums had been disappointing, but somehow Elvis’s medication issues didn’t seem obvious on them – until Elvis Presley Boulevard. That’s an awful record. But even on the Moody Blue album, what was going on in Elvis’s life was pretty well hidden again. Thankfully he was in better form in October 1976 when some of those songs were recorded. And Felton Jarvis did such a good job of masking the ragged nature of Unchained Melody, for example.
I think one thing I didn’t realise before I did the research was the way fans had started agreeing with the bad reviews by around 1976. While there are letters in newspapers chastising reviewers that had been honest about Elvis’s performances at the time, there were others saying, “you know what, you’re right.” Even ones from fans. I was particularly happy with my analysis of what was going on in the press around that time. I think it’s one of the most interesting sections of the book, along with the detailed story of the 1956 fallout that we discussed earlier.
EIN: Given the musical period Elvis arrived in, he was not known as an album artist, although Elvis Presley, Elvis, King Creole, Elvis’ Christmas Album, Elvis Is Back!, His Hand In Mine, and How Great Thou Art are generally regarded as exceptional releases. However, From Elvis In Memphis is an album many regard as his finest. Given the albums that followed, was From Elvis In Memphis just an aberration in Elvis’ post-1968 recording career?
SB: I don’t think so, because up to and including Elvis Country, Elvis was issuing a string of very good albums. But it is worth remembering that From Elvis in Memphis has only gained classic status over time. It wasn’t greeted with universally good reviews from critics at the time, and the music on what we refer to now as Back in Memphis was treated even worse. The music from that era of Elvis’s career that got almost unanimous praise was what we now call In Person. The other album to benefit from equally good reviews is the Memphis live album from 1974. Variety hated it, but elsewhere it’s quite surprising to see how well it was received.
EIN: You also comment on the titles of some Elvis’ albums, for example, calling “Something for Everybody” bland. Isn’t that a label that can be also attached to a number of his 1970s albums such as Elvis “The Fool” Album, Elvis Now, Elvis Today, and Raised On Rock?
SB: Yes. By that point, nobody cared, which is a shame, especially with Elvis Today, because I think that’s actually a really good album, despite a couple of weaker tracks. It could have been sold as a follow-up to Elvis Country with a bit of imagination. And probably a single of I Can Help might have got some attention.
EIN: What about the titles for, and musical merits of, the RCA Camden budget albums, Flaming Star, Let’s Be Friends, Almost In Love, Elvis Sings Hits From His Movies, et al? They are fondly regarded by many fans (including EIN) and their content was eclectic to say the least.
SB: To be honest, I tend to view Almost in Love as almost a regular album. The music on that really is very good indeed. I’m not sure how Long Legged Girl ended up on there instead of, say, Hi-Heel Sneakers, but there’s no perfect Elvis album! It is with those “hits from the movies” albums that the Camdens lost their way. Even I Got Lucky and C’mon Everybody had a purpose – putting some songs out on LP for the first time. But the artwork on the covers is just weird. Talking of artwork, the UK artwork for Almost in Love is great. The Burning Love album made no sense at all – although, oddly, it has a theme running through it: all the movie songs are based on folk songs or classical pieces.
EIN: Shane, having studied Elvis’ full song catalog, what is your brief critique of the following 10 songs:
SB: Oh, yikes!
I love Elvis’s Blue Moon. It’s just an utterly unique song in his legacy. There’s nothing quite like it. And it’s still pretty much a mystery where that arrangement came from.
I first heard Blue River on the 60s box, and rather liked it. I still do, oddly, even though I’m more than aware that it’s probably unfinished, and the song itself leaves a bit to be desired. But it’s fun, and that’s enough for me sometimes.
Dixieland Rock (King Creole)
I just wish it was longer. An extra couple of verses would have been great. But it’s a wonderful combination of jazz and rock, and that trumpet solo is brilliant. As an aside, it’s so good to have King Creole on Bluray. The previous home video releases all had framing issues, with people’s hair cut off at the top of the frame. That’s all been corrected now, and that black and white photography just looks wonderful.
Don’t Cry Daddy
It hasn’t aged well. I just think it’s too saccharine for cynical modern audiences (including cynical me!). It’s all done very well, of course, but I think there were much better songs from Memphis that should have been a single.
I Beg of You
This isn’t a favourite, either. It’s in that Don’t Be Cruel or All Shook Up vein, but it just seems slightly awkward. “Contrived,” I guess is the word. It feels like a cynical attempt to repeat past successes, and it’s just not as good.
This was one of the first Elvis songs I heard. Mum had Hits of the 70s, and it was on there. I didn’t much like it as a kid, but then you grow up and realise just how good a record it is. The blending of the voices is just so beautifully done. And it rather demonstrates that those May 1971 recordings didn’t have to be as mediocre as they were. In this song, Elvis is thoroughly engaged, and his voice sounds so much better than on the Christmas songs.
The Girl I Never Loved (Clambake)
I really like this little ballad. There’s something about that build up of emotion in the verses of the song that seems to attract Elvis’s attention and gets a good performance out of him.
Why wasn’t it a massive hit? I have no idea. Elvis’s best rocker of the 70s for me, but nobody was listening. I don’t know why.
Where No One Stands Alone
A wonderful climax to the How Great Thou Art album. Sadly, I think some of the effect is lost because they decided to tack Crying in the Chapel on the end. Chapel should have been on the end of the first side, not the second, because it’s something of an anti-climax after the big finish of Where No One Stands Alone.
A Little Less Conversation (Junkie XL’s remix)
Well, it was successful, there’s no arguing about that. I never bought it, though. It isn’t my thing, but it’s done well, and was enough to launch a new interest in Elvis that lasted quite a long time. You can’t complain about that.
EIN: In your opinion what are the worst one or two songs Elvis recorded?
SB: There are quite a lot of contenders! Oddly, I can cope with the silly movie songs much more than I can the songs that just kind of “exist” and are so bland that they don’t even register with me when they come on sometimes. I’d suggest Only Believe is one of those types of songs. It’s just so dull, it’s just there. I’d rather listen to Life - at least it makes me have a reaction to it! And if we’re looking for really bad performances outside of the movie years, then Hey Jude or The First Noel. Neither should have been released.
EIN: Apart from Junkie XL’s fabulous remix of A Little Less Conversation, other remixes (eg. Paul Oakenfold’s Rubberneckin’ and the various Spankok recordings), have failed to make a major or lasting impression. Why do you think this is the case and are there any Elvis songs you think could be remixed as hits?
SB: I think they haven’t made their mark because of the same issues that plagued Elvis’s career: if you keep redoing the same thing then people will get bored of it, and the spark of inspiration will get smaller and smaller each time you repeat the exercise. The hit remixes were the right thing at the right time, but it was two decades ago. I don’t object to them, I should add, they’re just not for me (although don’t get me started on the RPO albums – they’re an abomination).
I still think Clean Up Your Own Backyard could become a hit at some point. The lyrics are just a relative now as in 1969 (perhaps more so). Politically, it’s bang on the money right now.
EIN: After so many “greatest hits” type releases, (how) can Sony Music have another major album hit with Elvis?
SB: I don’t think it can. Times have changed, and I can’t think of the last time I saw an album by anyone advertised on TV, which doesn’t help. And it’s not just Elvis – there’s not likely to be a hit Sinatra album either, or Jimi Hendrix or Louis Armstrong (or whoever). Oddly, Sony didn’t really release anything to coincide with the film biopic last year, which I found a bit odd, although certain past hits collections did get back into the charts again. But Sony has emptied the vaults, too. There’s nothing left to get people excited - not even the fans. Even after all those years of waiting for the Elvis on Tour box, I’m not sure many fans got that excited about it when they finally heard it. I didn’t even buy a physical copy of it.
There needs to be something – some event or film or advert - to spark off an Elvis resurgence – and I’m not talking about an anniversary. We’ve been there and done that. Anniversaries are tired and old – and sadly the Sony release strategy is tired and old, too, and lacking in inspiration and imagination. It’s the same producers coming up with the same stuff. There needs to be fresh blood, I feel.
EIN: Elvis was a master of rockabilly, rock and roll, rhythm and blues/blues, country, gospel, pop, ballads, Latino, neo-operatic, soul, and even (a touch of) jazz. Are you aware of any other singer who has been able to successfully interpret songs across as many music genres as Elvis?
SB: Probably Bobby Darin was the only one who did all those things successfully – I don’t mean commercially successful, but artistically successful. With him you have rock n roll, rhythm n blues, blues, country, pop, ballads, various different types of folk, protest songs, jazz, swing, an album of duets, showtunes. Having written about both Elvis and Darin, it’s interesting that Darin never made the same album twice, whereas Elvis seemed to repeat what he was doing over and over despite his versatility.
EIN: You have written non-fiction (both Reconsider Baby and your listener’s guide to the late, great Bobby Darin, are critically acclaimed) and seven novels and a few books of short stories. Do you have a genre preference?
SB: I wrote a slim book of ghost stories for Christmas in 2021, and then followed that up with a novella in the same vein last Christmas. They’ve been such fun to do – written, edited, proofed and published within about a six-week period in both cases. I very much enjoy writing them, and there’s no big chunk out of your year involved. I’ve enjoyed the Listener’s Guides, too, but they take a long time because everything is referenced etc. That’s rather tedious and time-consuming – but I think if you’re self-publishing, you have to show from the outset that you know what you’re doing and that you’re professional and referencing everything in an academic way (even when I could have done it differently) adds some gravitas to the project.
EIN: Do you have any ideas/plans for another book about Elvis or another musical artist?
SB: Not at the moment. I’m just finishing up a 50th Anniversary Edition of the Bobby Darin Listener’s Guide – it’s 50 years this December since he passed away. That should be out in November. The new edition wasn’t planned, but I started some work on a sessionography during the lockdowns, which I was going to issue separately as a small book. But then there were some exciting new finds (demos, live recordings, lost session tapes) that I was given access to, and it suddenly made sense to put everything into the one book. It’s a big one – A4 size and 540 pages!
There’s certainly not going to be another Elvis book as far as I can see. I thought about a book about his films, but my heart’s not in it. To be honest, I’ve written over 200,000 words on Elvis in the Listener’s Guide, and so I think I’ve probably said enough!
My plan for the next few years is to work on a book about film history. My PhD was a film history project, as was a 2017 book I have published through Bloomsbury. But this one will be aimed at the general public rather than academia. But it’s going to be a long project, and I’m aiming to break it up with various fiction books along the way.
EIN: Shane, is there anything else you would like to say to EIN readers?
SB: EIN and its readers have always been very supportive, and so just a simple “thank you.”
EIN: Shane, thank you for taking time out to talk to EIN today. We wish you all the best for sales of the latest edition of what is one of the best releases about Elvis’ music……Reconsider Baby - Elvis Presley: A Listener’s Guide.
Follow Shane Brown on X (Twitter): @shanebrown74
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Read EIN’s review of the 2017 revised edition of 'Reconsider Baby'
Read Shane Brown’s 2017 interview with EIN’s Piers Beagley
Interview by Nigel Patterson.
-Copyright EIN September 2023
EIN Website content © Copyright the Elvis Information Network.
- EIN note, the images used in the interview above are not from the book.
PLEASE CHECK OUT plenty more Shane Brown articles below...
Book Review "Reconsider Baby: Elvis: A Listener's Guide": Elvis Presley made over 700 recordings during his life. This book by author Shane Brown examines all of them. Session by session, song by song, Reconsider Baby takes the reader on a journey from Elvis’s first recordings in 1953 through to his last performances in 1977.
This significantly expanded and revised edition of 2014’s Elvis Presley: A Listener’s Guide provides a commentary on Elvis’s vast and varied body of work, while also examining in detail how Elvis and his recordings and performances were discussed in newspapers, magazines, and trade publications from the 1950s through to the 1970s.
The text draws on over 500 contemporary articles and reviews, telling for the first time the story of how Elvis and his career played out in the printed media, and often forcing us to question our understanding of how Elvis’s work was received at the time of release.
Can another detailed examination into Elvis' musical legacy really be worth buying? (Hint, the answer is a big YES!)
Go here as EIN's Piers Beagley reviews the newly expanded look into Elvis' musical legacy, including some choice book extracts...
(Book Reviews, Source,ElvisInformationNetwork)
|- 'ELVIS In The 2010s' A Personal Review of the Past Decade: Rather like Elvis’s own career, each decade since Elvis’s death appears to have had a theme or identity of its own. Clearly the late 1970s were difficult for RCA as they struggled to find the right direction with which to take their posthumous releases, and so it was the 1980s that was the decade when the company slowly but surely learned how to look back at Elvis's legacy and start to make some sense of it.
The 1990s were when that reached a peak, with the decades boxed sets, and the Elvis in the 90s series, thus bringing virtually the whole catalogue back into print in a coherent way.
The 2000s were when errors of judgement at retail level started to occur (despite huge successes like Elv1s), but also when FTD came into its own and flourished.
And so what will we make of Elvis releases of the 2010s when we look back on them from the future?
Go here for EIN contributor Shane Brown's personal take on the highs and lows of Elvis product that has come our way over the last decade....
The Memphis Sessions - 50 Years ago Today: It seems impossible that it was fifty years ago this month that Elvis walked into American Studios in Memphis and started work on what are probably his most celebrated sessions, maybe even better than those made at Sun.
Not as influential, of course, but certainly deeper and darker from both the point of view of lyrics and Elvis’s emotional involvement. He was no longer a (relatively) innocent teenager singing about love to his sweetheart, but someone who had really experienced love as an adult.
Elvis could also sing about loss in a way he couldn’t fifteen years earlier, he had lived, and he seemed to pour all of his experiences into the recordings at America, and didn’t care about laying bare his soul. In fact, he knew he had to.
This was make or break....
In this fascinating article EIN contributor Shane Brown investigates the importance of The Memphis Sessions and the press reaction from the time...
|'Orgies and Orgasms: Presley in the Press 1956'- an in-depth Spotlight: By the beginning of 1956, everything was in place for Elvis Presley to burst onto the national and international music scene. Within weeks of his signing to major label RCA he would record Heartbreak Hotel, his first single for RCA and his first to reach number 1 in the U.S. charts, and then, at the end of January 1956, he would appear on national television for the first time.
Despite all of the success that 1956 would bring Elvis, with three singles and two albums reaching the top spot in the U.S. charts, the year would also prove to be a difficult one when it came to his treatment in the national and international press.
Mainstream media published reviews such as...
"Every girl watching him sees herself as Elvis’ partner in his fantastic writhing orgy"
and "Presley is suggesting he is about to have a self-induced orgasm!"
So, let’s go back in time and examine how a single television performance in June 1956 resulted in a change of attitudes towards Elvis within the media from little more than curiosity about the new phenomenon to downright hostility and revulsion.
Go here as EIN contributor Shane Brown investigates the phenomenon of Elvis in 1956 - and what the media made of this new, and middle-America shocking, entertainer.
|'Think Twice: Elvis in The Studio 1971': The forthcoming 'Back In Nashville' boxset is going to shine the spotlight on Elvis' 1971 sessions which have traditionally been ignored by the official label. In this fascinating and detailed article EIN contributor Shane Brown examines these all too easily dismissed Nashville sessions and discovers some real gems.
It’s very easy to look at the March, May and June 1971 recordings out of context. While the recordings are certainly not up to the standard of those from June 1970, it’s also true to say that Elvis was in a very different place personally by spring 1971.
In June 1970 Elvis was riding the crest of a wave with his recent successes but by January 1971 he was in the newspapers due to an ongoing paternity suit.
The Presley’s marriage was on the rocks and Elvis was having problems with his eyes.
However despite all of this there was something very interesting going on during the 1971 sessions.
Find out more as Shane Brown investigates these controversial 1971 Nashville Sessions....
|COME ON FTD! Let's Speed Things Up A Little!: EIN has very strongly supported the FTD label from the start even though their quality control has slipped at times.
Recently this seems to have got worse, perhaps due to the producers Ernst Jorgensen and Roger Semon's extra work with mainstream SONY releases.
The last couple of FTD live soundboards have notably run slow dragging down the pace of Elvis' performance. This has also been an issue on some previous concert releases.
On ELVIS LAS VEGAS '74' FTD the dates were wrong with the two shows reversed from what the cover indicated.
Do FTD collectors deserve better or should we be happy to have anything released with faults and all?
Go here as EIN contributor & Elvis author Shane Brown investigates.
Are you a FTD collector - we want to know YOUR THOUGHTS
|Trying To Get To You: The Truth Behind The Elvis And Roy Orbison Show Rumours: For decades there has always been an unsubstantiated rumour that Elvis Presley appeared as a guest on Roy Orbison's TV show on the local station KOSA.
The Roy Orbison website notes that both Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley performed on Roy’s TV show in late 1955.
Respected author Colin Escott wrote in his book Good Rockin’ Tonight about a kinescope of Elvis on the Roy Orbison TV show actually existing.
Some keen Elvis fans have said that they have seen this very kinescope at Elvis Week shows back in the 80s.
But like infamous Pied Piper of Cleveland does this footage really exist and is there any real proof that Elvis did appear on the Roy Orbison TV show?
Shane Brown (author of Reconsider Baby: Elvis: A Listener's Guide) has done an immense amount of investigation and thinks he has found the answer.
Go here as EIN contributor & author Shane Brown investigates and checks the facts and the fantasy.
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