|A LOOK AT THE SPEEDWAY ALBUM
A Forgotten Flop or a Diamond In The Rough?
By Steven B. Roberts
Is the soundtrack to Elvis Presley’s film 'Speedway' a forgotten flop, or a diamond in the rough? The album is constantly either grouped with other
soundtracks such as 'Double Trouble', 'Frankie & Johnny', 'Harum Scarum', or is completely overlooked altogether. It is interesting to note, that to this
day, the soundtrack has only appeared once on Compact disc. This was part of the “Double Features” series in the 1990s. Another notable mention, is that
the mono version of the original album sells for over $1500, it is extremely rare with only 300 copies supposedly pressed according to RCA Victor pressing
I first acquired an orange label re-issue of the album on my 12th birthday. I woke up and crawled out of bed to see what was waiting for me in the living
room. I had asked for “Elvis records” and I knew there would be some waiting for me. As I ran down the hall there was a giant box wrapped in blue paper
with a card and a balloon. A few days before my dad had carefully looked at my Elvis collection and written down the albums I already had. From there he
went to the local store and bought me about 25 albums and wrapped them up in one big box.
As I tore through the paper and opened the box, I began to flip though my new massive collection, and 'Speedway' was among them. I liked the cover and
thought it was pretty cool. I listened to it once or twice, and didn’t actually give it another listen until about a year ago when I acquired a scarce ( the album
was not a good seller, thus original issues are not common) original issue of the album.
Though probably one of his least loved films, the soundtrack to Speedway makes an honest attempt at making a rock record, and is short on the plot
orientated music which fans care little for. Instead , side one is loaded with some solid dragster/garage rock, while Side B gives us some fine songs not in
the film as bonus/non-soundtrack material.
Speedway, (the title track) is dragster rock at it’s finest, and gets the adrenaline pumping quickly. Like Blue Hawaii, it reminds us, that had Elvis taken a
shot at songs by The Beach Boys or Jan & Dean, it would have yielded interesting results.
There Ain’t Nothing Like A Song is considered a duet with Nancy Sinatra, though the daughter of the chairman sings maybe three lines. This would be
Elvis’ fourth, and last, duet with a female singer.
Your Time Hasn’t Come Yet Baby oddly enough, boarders on a Rock-Steady or Calypso Jamaican influence. The track was actually released as a single
by RCA Victor at the time.
Who Are You is in the same vein of Brazilian Bossa Nova. Presley would use this style on Almost In Love the next year, which is a strong fan favorite.
He’s Your Uncle Not Your Dad is a humorous plot song, and the kind that lead to the dismissing of Presley’s soundtracks by rock critics for years. The
lead singing which features a swap between Presley and the Jordanairs , doesn’t quite measure up to the same practice heard on How Great Thou Art or
His Hand In Mine, but it does tend to grow on you after a few listens. Regardless, it’s likely He’s Your Uncle Not Your Dad didn’t wind up on many mix
tapes in the 80s and 90s. The following track however, may have.....
Let Yourself Go is one of Presley’s sexiest and suggestive songs with a fuzzy garage guitar lick and blues rock background. The seductive lyrics are a
kick back to the era of "When Elvis Ruled The World". Let Yourself Go was even included in the 68 Comeback Special and has consistently wound up
on Best Of Hollywood type compilations.
The listener also gets the impression that Elvis is enjoying the song, instead of being annoyed by it, which can be easily heard on other soundtrack albums.
And this is another reason the album deserves a second listen.
The original issue of the album also featured something no other Elvis record ever featured before. A solo spot sung by big name co-star. Though one
can't really say that RCA Victor got their money’s worth in Nancy Sinatra’s You’re Groovy Self. Like much of Sinatra’s recordings after These Boots Are
Made For Walking, it sounds exactly like what it is. The twentieth attempt at a sequel to that song.
Five Sleepy Heads isn’t the greatest moment in Elvis History, and is similar to a song like Big Boots in G.I. Blues. Elvis sings the children to sleep and
the adults too.
Western Union is a clever clone of Return To Sender, but none the less, a good Elvis record for this time period. A good beat, hip lyrics, and superb
backing by the Jordanairs, makes it as strong as any of Presley’s Nashville output at the time.
Mine is a beautiful ballad with the RCA Victor “Nashville Sound” strongly in place, and could have fit onto any country singer’s album from the 1960s easily.
Soft backing by the Jordanairs and gentle key trickling by Floyd Cramer , coupled with Elvis in strong voice, make the Chet Atkins production sound of the
time come out full swing.
Going Home is up-tempo sixties country and western that reminisces Stonewall Jackson, Marty Robbins, or Johnny Cash. A story teller song about coming
home from the old west, puts Elvis in Gene Autry's boots , and provides a pleasant surprise cemented in side 2 of the album.
Suppose has always been a favorite ballad among Elvis fans, which is why many may find it odd that it originally debuted on this particular album. Sung
passionately by the Presley ‘voice in conversion’ (between the 60s and 70s Elvis) with the Nashville sound once again prominent.
Over all, Speedway is a far better record than it’s given credit for. I find it odd that lesser albums such as Fun In Acapulco or Double Trouble have
received multiple re-release, yet Speedway has been issued only one time. It is noted though, that no out-takes from Speedway have ever appeared on
official release or bootleg.
Also, the CD version (as part of ) on the Double Features edition has very little difference in sound than the vinyl version. So whichever you choose, you
will basically get the same fidelity and mixes. Though it is my opinion, the original vinyl pressing provides the best listening experience, due to it's power,
warmth, and deep groove.
Steven B. Roberts
Just wanted to add to this interesting look at the Speedway soundtrack album, the album has been released as a stand alone CD as part of SONY's 75th
Anniversary series this year (2010).
The Speedway album failed to enter the UK charts back in 1968.
Let Yourself Go, the single also failed to chart in the UK and only reached #71 in the U.S.
You're Time Hasn't Come Yet Baby did show up on the UK charts, peaking at #22 but as with it's flip side, it only managed #72 in the U.S.A
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