9
Oct 06

ELVIS PRESLEY – “The Wonder Of You”

FT + Popular29 comments • 5,148 views

#289, 1st August 1970

The first live Number One since “My Old Man’s A Dustman”, and a similar symbol of a singer’s transformation from firebrand to beloved entertainer. Though – just like Lonnie – the entertainer was always part of Elvis’ make-up, and the fire never quite died out. Recorded in Vegas, “The Wonder Of You” is a could-be-a-lady-could-be-God number that lets Elvis mix devotion and hip-wiggling in crowd-pleasing proportions. It’s a rotten song, inviting its singer into a show of pious mock-humility, but Presley refuses – his version has a warmth the tune probably doesn’t deserve. He never recorded “The Wonder Of You” in a studio, which makes perfect sense: with an audience there, the “you” has a third, literal meaning. “You touch my hand and I’m a King / Your love for me is worth a fortune” – indeed.

3

Comments

  1. 1
    Marcello Carlin on 9 Oct 2006 #

    The biggest-selling single of 1970, and also the last UK number one Elvis had in his lifetime. Originally recorded by Ray Peterson, who had a US hit with it a decade previously. I always view it as Presley slightly sending up his audience – “I guess I’ll never know the reason why/You love me as you do/That’s the wonder…the wonder of you”; the subtext being, “dammit, you suckers are falling for this???!!”

  2. 2
    Ken on 9 Oct 2006 #

    For some reason, I can’t help but listen to this song without hearing Eric Idle crooning “Why are we here? What’s Life all about?…”

  3. 3
    Chris Brown on 9 Oct 2006 #

    In a way, I guess it’s sort of sad that this got to be a Number One when ‘In The Ghetto’ and ‘Suspicious Minds’ didn’t (at least not on this chart). But there is a certain likeability about this, undeserved though it might be.

    Supposedly, Elvis asked Ray Peterson for permission to cover the song. Peterson said, “You don’t need to ask, you’re Elvis Presley” and Elvis retorted, “I do need to ask, you’re Ray Peterson.” I’m not sure I believe it either.

  4. 4
    koganbot on 9 Oct 2006 #

    You pretty much nail it. There’s the detachment I often feel in the ’70s material, good or bad, as if the voice itself is saying, “This is Elvis’s voice singing this song.”

  5. 5
    Doctor Mod on 9 Oct 2006 #

    It’s a half-hearted performance at it’s best. Elvis is just going through the motions of being an Elvis impersonator. The voice is heavy and tired–rather like the man himself–and the performance seems rushed, as befits a throwaway piece. This is not to say that he’d lost it completely–“Suspicious Minds” shows he could still perform credibly, even if not with the panache he still had a decade earlier.

    So I wonder what RCA was thinking in releasing such an uninspired disc. Could it be they perceived the vacuum the Beatles left behind them was so huge–and that Elvis really was so miraculous in his “comeback”–that just about anything touched by the hand of The King would do?

    People have been known to believe crazier things…..

  6. 6
    Tom on 9 Oct 2006 #

    Well it made a lot of money for RCA so they clearly made a good business decision!

    I think it’s very possible that a lot of Elvis’ original fans had gone on a similar aesthetic journey to the King, away from rock n roll and towards a softer, more Engelbert-ish type of music. So something like “Suspicious Minds” (which almost hit #1) was a more credible comeback, but this track showed those fans that their love of Elvis could still be relevant.

  7. 7
    Chris Brown on 9 Oct 2006 #

    If the Elvis discography thus far has taught us anything, it’s that RCA always thought anything with the Elvis name on it would do – and indeed, Sony BMG still seem to think that. I don’t even think this is the worst Elvis Number One, still less the worst Elvis single. But the more I think about it, the worse it sounds.

  8. 8
    Daniel_Rf on 10 Oct 2006 #

    Elvis possibly the most frustrating artist ever, as far as recorded material goes? There’s just *so much good stuff*, and a lot of it wasn’t singles, and a lot of the singles were rotten. I ended up buying the complete 50’s and 60’s boxed sets, and will someday get the 70’s one as well (and probably the 60’s movie one too, god help me); I don’t think there’s any other act where I’ve been as patient in sifting through disc after disc, trying to find the good stuff.

    I’ve never actually heard “The Wonder Of You”, but I gotta say C&W influenced schmaltzy late 60’s/early 70’s Elvis might just be my favourite kind. “Suspicious Minds”, “Gentle On My Mind”, “You Gave Me A Mountain”, “Only The Strong Survive”, “Kentucky Rain”, etc. etc. etc.

  9. 9
    blount on 10 Oct 2006 #

    daniel there’s lots of really great stuff in 70s elvis. mind you not “the wonder of you”, which used to always blow my mind with how often it would somehow manage to squeeze onto greatest hits with other much better (and much better known to me at least) hits somehow getting left off. i don’t think i ever ever heard it on oldies or country radio growing up and i definitely heard ‘moody blue’, ‘kentucky rain’, ‘don’t cry daddy’, ‘promised land’, and obv. ‘always on my mind’, ‘suspicious minds’, ‘in the ghetto’, ‘burning love’, and god knows ‘an american trilogy’.

  10. 10
    Marcello Carlin on 10 Oct 2006 #

    It should be noted that “In The Ghetto” and “Suspicious Minds” both peaked at #2 in the UK, behind Thunderclap Newman and Rolf Harris respectively.

  11. 11
    Erithian on 10 Oct 2006 #

    I have to disagree with a number of you on this one, I think it’s a cracking record. Not in the same class as the abovementioned number 2 hits, I grant you, but I’ve always thought songs like this and “Burning Love” demonstrate just why “Vegas Elvis” worked – the powerful voice and arrangement making a great statement out of a fairly slight song. And there’s no need to dismiss the original as an impersonator!

    When you’re a kid, anybody who was famous before you were born seems like ancient history. We’re just coming now to the period when I really got interested in music, and when my mum played Elvis it sounded like someone from long ago… but in 1970 Elvis was 35 – the same age as “Born in the USA”-era Springsteen, the age Richard Ashcroft is now and a year older than Liam Gallagher.

  12. 12
    Marcello Carlin on 10 Oct 2006 #

    Elvis should have lived long enough to cover “The Drugs Don’t Work.”

  13. 13
    intothefireuk on 10 Oct 2006 #

    You can hear Elvis begin to send himself up during the verses where he starts to sing the backing whoa-oh-ohs as well as the lead. His personality shines through the song and although no longer at his peak he still injects just enough passion to pull it off. I was fond of it at the time and I still am. Shortly after this he went into an artistic slide that he never recover from.

  14. 14
    wwolfe on 11 Oct 2006 #

    If Elvis is still alive, a la “Bubba Ho Tep,” I wonder what he thinks of Warren Zevon’s “Jesus Mentioned,” among many others.

    I think it’s a bad sign when the discussion about a work is more interesting than the work itself. That’s what we have here, for me: really interesting observations, pro and con and mixed, about a song that represents my least-loved of all of Elvis’s styles. This sounds like Celine Dion cut and that’s not a happy thing.To put in another way, when the down and dirty, loosey-goosey black-leather Elvis of the comeback TV special said, “Moby Dick!” while he lifted his mic stand like a harpoon, I wish he’d plunged it right through the heart of Mario Lanzo Elvis.

    The emotion I get from so much of Elvis’s post-comeback comedown is that of a man who spent all of his energy in a tremendous act of will by which he broke free of the bland Hollywood trap he’d let himself be caught in, only to look around and find himself in a very similar trap in Las Vegas. He sounds demoralized and defeated, knowing he can’t summon forth another effort. There are a few exceptions – for my money, “The Promised Land” would be the best from his dying fall period – but overall it’s a melancholy body of work.

  15. 15
    Daniel_Rf on 11 Oct 2006 #

    “Elvis should have lived long enough to cover “The Drugs Don’t Work.”” – see also “Love Is A Battlefield”, “How Soon Is Now?”*, “I’m On Fire”…

    * ok, I only really thought this one was a good idea when I was 15.

  16. 16
    Chris Brown on 12 Oct 2006 #

    Maybe what I like most about this is that it could have been so much worse.

  17. 17
    blount on 13 Oct 2006 #

    speaking of late potential elvis covers – does anyone else have as much difficulty figuring out what the hell elvis’ “golden years” would’ve sounded like if he had actually followed thru and covered it?

  18. 18
    Marcello Carlin on 13 Oct 2006 #

    Being American, you won’t be aware of the long-running British kids’ TV show Crackerjack, each episode of which closed with an extended sketch incorporating the big pop hits of that week, but one particularly legendary episode featured Peter Glaze’s rendition of “Golden Years” – and even though in 1975 he was about the age Elvis would have been now had he lived, his rendition is probably not that far removed from how Presley would have tackled it, only British, and in a tweed jacket and deerstalker.

  19. 19
    Erithian on 13 Oct 2006 #

    Great new tangent, Crackerjack cover versions, deserves a thread to itself. They did “Bohemian Rhapsody” one week…

  20. 20
    Marcello Carlin on 13 Oct 2006 #

    Another one I remember was “Year Of The Cat” where they changed the Peter Lorre reference to “Tom and Jerry contemplating a crime” and at the end Peter Glaze produced a furry kitten, metaphor, what metaphor?

  21. 21
    blount on 13 Oct 2006 #

    haha weirdly enough if you asked me ‘what’s crackerjack?’ i couldn’t’ve told you (or at least wouldn’t’ve said ‘brit children’s tv show’) AND YET I THINK I HAVE SEEN THAT EPISODE!!!! i remember shortly after arriving in iceland one morning hungover watching this old rerun of a british children’s tv show WHEREIN A SCENARIO IDENTICAL TO AS DESCRIBED ABOVE TOOK PLACE and i remember thinking ‘europe’s fucking AWESOME’.

  22. 22
    dog latin on 28 Nov 2006 #

    For what it’s worth, this is my favourite Elvis song.

  23. 23
    Mike W. on 1 Dec 2006 #

    Hey,

    Actually, being an American (United States Person as opposed to the rest of the Western Hemisphere…who are all Americans).

    Elivs and this song, The Wonder of You, fits nice.

    Some know of Elvis’ decline. That’s fine. But, Elvis, when he did this recording live knew what he was doin.

    In the Holiday show I’m doing with “challenged” kids, it fits.

    Not only fits, but is apropos.

    Elivs is easy to pick on, especially in his latter days. But, he still sang songs that were cool.

    I hope I never become as cynical as some here.

    What a shame, yes, some are talking more about outside the song.

    Hey, IT IS THE SONG! Not the magician who sings it. Or, maybe it is.

    I just hope all cynics and “there ya’ go” types are just a little bit warmed.

    Merry Christmas (or Holiday…as the politically correct say) and may the New Year in 2007 be cool.

    Mike

  24. 24
    DV on 1 Dec 2006 #

    The key thing about this awful recording is how long it takes the audience to realise what the song is.

  25. 25
    Mal on 13 Sep 2007 #

    I think his concert performances are really a great achievment. There have been few universaly popular performers who have perfomed so many concerts in such a short space of time as Elvis did between 1968 and 1977, I believe it was over 1000, in venues large and small. When I listen to this particular track, it seems to sum up Elvis, effortlessly (almost casually) delivering a number that few can reproduce, even with the aid of modern sound manipulation systems. Almost celestial in nature, given the perfouness of the message being delivered. I was 12 in March 1977, when I first heard an Elvis track released when he was still alive (Moody Blue) and it lept out at me, from then on I was captivated by his voice. This number “The wonder of you” was played at a funeral of a friend, with great impact given the acustics in a small chapel, Elvis’ voice and delivery so devine. I also lost my father recently, and have been listening to this song more than ever, gives me encouragement and inspiration to make a positive impact on my child and those around me in the same as my father had on me and those around him. A fitting memorial also to Elvis.

  26. 26
    Waldo on 15 Sep 2009 #

    This for me remains a belter despite (or more realisticaly because of) it long being recognised as a pissed-up old geezer song. I would argue that you simply have to be tired and emotional to go anywhere near this thing and the beauty is that the song is so short you can’t really fuck it up to any great degree. It’s the sort of thing that Frank Butcher would have sung to Pat. A karaoke great before its time. It’s a wonderful record.

  27. 27
    Lena on 26 Apr 2012 #

    The Wonder of the Female: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/grace-of-boy-kinks-lola.html Thanks for reading, everyone!

  28. 28
    Lena on 30 Apr 2012 #

    And so to Manchester: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/think-primitive-act-local-hotlegs.html Ta for reading, everybody!

  29. 29
    Ken Shinn on 30 Jul 2012 #

    Crackerjack cover versions? One I fondly remember was Don Mclean as Doctor Jekyll being chased by Peter Glaze as his shocked, trying-to-stop-him-downing-the-potion Victorian chum around the lab, tauntingly singing Queen’s “Now I’m Here” – and, of course, triumphantly emerging as Hyde on the line “I’m just a – JUST A NEW MAN!” There was also a Doctor Who sketch – “‘Ello My Dalek!” – where the whole song concerned wasn’t sung, but the Doc (McLean again) gleefully confronts one of his well-known bionic nemeses by wondering if he’s “come down from Somerset, where the Cyber-apples grow”…

Add your comment

(Register to guarantee your comments don't get marked as spam.)


If this was number 1 when you were born paste [stork-boy] or [stork-girl] into the start of your comment :)

Required

Required (Your email address will not be published)

Top of page