'All Shook Up'

How Elvis shook up the world - with a little help from Otis

EIN Spotlight by Paul Simpson -

Otis Blackwell liked to boast that he could write a song about anything. So when music publisher and lyricist Aaron ‘Goldie’ Goldmark dropped a Pepsi on the floor and urged Blackwell to turn that into a hit, the songwriter did precisely that.

But Elvis' classic 1957 hit wasn't the first version released - yet he transformed the demo into something unique with a playfulness, sense of freedom and simple instrumentation that were all reminiscent of the more innocent, earlier understated sound of Sun Records.


In this EIN Spotlight respected author Paul Simpson takes a close look at this US best-selling single of 1957...

Otis Blackwell liked to boast that he could write a song about anything. So when music publisher and lyricist Aaron ‘Goldie’ Goldmark dropped a Pepsi on the floor and urged Blackwell to turn that into a hit, the songwriter did precisely that.

Picking up the bottle, he shook it and picked up a pen to compose All Shook Up. He wrote the song so quickly that the Pepsi was still cold when he finished.

That is the most commonly accepted view of All Shook Up's genesis. Yet Elvis biographer Peter Guralnick argues that Presley had long thought that All Shook Up, a popular teen catchphrase at the time, would make a great title for a song.


R&B singer Vicki Young, who briefly wed Hal Blaine, the drummer on many Presley sessions in the 1960s, had cut a song in 1954 that shared only the lovestruck scenario and the title with the classic that Elvis would make famous.

David Hill recorded Blackwell’s song on 7 November 1956

Cornily arranged, with a Tin Pan Alley-style vocal backing, and an over-enthusiastic saxophone solo, Hill’s rendition is fun but forgettable, although vocally, he gave it all he had. Released on the R&B label Aladdin, it lacks the authenticity that typified its best records.


David Hill’s real name was Dave Hess and he later penned I Got Stung, a great, underrated Elvis single distinguished by one of the King’s most dynamic vocal performances and a faster variant of the shuffling beat that powered All Shook Up.

Elvis heard Blackwell’s demo, loved it and drew on it for his own inimitable version.

Blackwell’s rendition had an infectious energy that Hill’s lacked, propelled by some vocal pyrotechnics – he embellished the chorus with loud cries of "Oh" and sometimes stopped the song to deliver the punchline "I’m all shook up" as if he was talking to the listener. He also threw in a few Elvis-like vocal inflections.

The demo rattles along nicely and still stands up as a minor gem.


(As an aside, Blackwell and co-writer Winfield Scott took a completely different line when penning songs for Presley's movies. Largely ignoring cues to supply material about shrimps, chambers of commerce and Old Macdonald, they – as Scott said – preferred to write a song in the belief that, if it was good enough, it would make the cut. This strategy paid off spectacularly with Return To Sender in Girls! Girls! Girls!).

So what did Elvis do differently when he cut All Shook Up? Engineer Thorne Nogar made the most distinctive difference to the arrangement, overdubbing Elvis slapping the back of his guitar, just as he had done on Blackwell’s Don’t Be Cruel. As Ernst Jorgensen notes in Elvis Presley: A Life In Music, this enhanced "the combination of laid-back feeling and driving beat that made Blackwell’s songs unique."

Although the great Scotty Moore was playing on 12 January 1957 in this Hollywood Radio Recorders session, the guitar that really drives the song’s shuffling rhythm is Presley’s.

Elvis’s All Shook Up has a consistency of mood, feel and sound that Blackwell’s lacks. His dual vocal with Gordon Stoker gives the words more resonance and the arrangement slows down beautifully to make the most of Elvis’s vocal flourishes on such lines as "My heart beats so it scares me to death".

It’s instructive to play this song alongside Mean Woman Blues, recorded at Radio Recorders the following day. On Claude DeMetrius’s blues classic, Elvis sings with much more abandon and swagger, tilting the number towards the commercial mainstream. On All Shook Up, his vocal is beautifully controlled – he sprinkles the number with just the right amount of "ooh, ooh, ooh’s", "yeah, yeah, yeah’s", grunts and pauses, never threatening to unbalance what is, ultimately, a beautifully delicate melody.

In their seminal Elvis The Illustrated Record, Mick Farren and Roy Carr argue that All Shook Up marks a definitive farewell to the rockabilly sound of Sun and nods towards the more orchestrated rock and roll epitomised, at its most lavish, by Big Hunk Of Love. Yet listening now, the song seems to look forward - as Farren and Carr suggest - but also back. The playfulness, sense of freedom, simple instrumentation – for once DJ Fontana’s pounding drums are conspicuous by their absence – are reminiscent of the more innocent, understated sound of Sun.

All Shook Up has the same kind of mysterious, yet magical flow as the earlier Presley/Blackwell hit Don't Be Cruel, which so impressed Sam Phillips he drove off the road to savour the sound when he first heard it on his car radio. Both chart-toppers seem, to quote Elvis in the film G.I. Blues, to "ooze" rhythm.

RCA producer Steve Sholes loved the idea of Elvis, famed for his shaky legs, cutting a song entitled All Shook Up. Presumably, he, RCA, Parker and Elvis were even happier when the recording topped the charts in the US for eight weeks and the UK for seven, probably shifting around 2.5m copies, making it America’s bestselling single of 1957.

All Shook Up soon proved one of the King's most influential records. The Beatles, who performed the song regularly in their early years, added "Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!" to She Loves You in conscious tribute. In the January 1969 during the Get Back sessions, Paul McCartney and George Harrison cut a spirited cover of the song, a performance that remains unreleased because they couldn’t remember all the words. In 1999, McCartney paid homage, covering it as a solo artist.

In 1969, All Shook Up was the raucous opening track of the Jeff Beck Group’s album Beck-Ola. This cover is more of a heavy jam with Rod Stewart letting rip on vocal.

Suzi Quatro’s 1975 version, a minor US hit, is straighter, delivered in the signature style she made famous on such hits as Can The Can. Elvis was so impressed he invited her to Graceland. She didn’t go and has regretted it ever since.

Blackwell’s classic has since been covered by Billy Joel, Ry Cooder and Robert Palmer and radically reworked by American husband and wife duo The Cucumbers in the early 1980s, their revamp proves how strong the song is.

Go here for The Cucumbers version


Dolly Parton channelled Elvis to cover the song in London in 1983. Her rendition is not especially distinctive but the preamble, in which she talks about getting up on the barn and pretending to be him as a girl, is delightful.

Those memories – and her eager appropriation of the King’s mannerisms – are entertaining proof of the inspirational effect the song had on millions of teenagers across the world.


On All Shook Up, Elvis performs a kind of musical alchemy. He takes a laid-back, lovelorn slice of classic rocking pop, with no political message and, with a "yay, yay" here – and a surprising pause there – transforms it into a subtle, shuffling statement of rebellion.


Spotlight written by Paul Simpson (design/ images by Piers Beagley)
-Copyright EIN July 2016

EIN Website content © Copyright the Elvis Information Network.

Click HERE to comment on this article


DON'T MISS these recent, previous fascinating EIN Spotlights by Paul Simpson

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Interview with 'Elvis Films FAQ' author Paul Simpson: "Elvis Films FAQ"  was reviewed by EIN as one of the best Elvis books published in 2013... "Paul Simpson examines every angle of Elvis’ film career and writes about it in a very engaging and enjoyable style. The real triumph of this book is that it will make you want to watch all of Elvis’ films one more time! Highly recommended."

While Elvis' Hollywood years are full of mystery, and Elvis Films FAQ covers them all! Elvis Films FAQ explains everything you want to know about the whys and wherefores of the singer-actor's bizarre celluloid odyssey; or, as Elvis said, "I saw the movie and I was the hero of the movie."
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After all if Elvis Presley had not wanted to be a movie star, he would never have single-handedly revolutionized popular culture.
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It is a mightly entertaining book - but go here as EIN's Piers Beagley investigates to see whether this new book by author Paul Simpson really answers all the questions you need to know ....

(Book Reviews, Source;ElvisInfoNet)


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