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Sep 04

ELVIS PRESLEY – “His Latest Flame”

Popular21 comments • 2,657 views

#129, 11th November 1961

Maybe “His Latest Flame” is so endearing because Elvis is losing for once. Not that you’d know from the airy arrangement – or from the first verse, the song saving its unpleasant twist for a little while. It rests on a tweaked Bo Diddley beat, an undercarriage of such pedigree and power that the rest of the band can afford to give the music a little space and delicacy. Sonically it’s Presley at his lightest, but that seems to bring out the best in the man. Presley tackles the song with authority, the showboating of his recent hits left behind: he respects its simplicity and gives a more subtle performance than you might expect. Listen to him in the final, repeated bridge and verse, how he hints at despair and anger before settling on defeat. It’s not that he couldn’t fight for Marie – this is Elvis Presley singing, after all – but it’s that there’s suddenly nothing worth fighting for.

7

Comments

  1. 1
    Joe Williams on 29 Aug 2005 #

    Another Elvis double A you’ve missed – ‘Little Sister’ was on this too, though ‘His Latest Flame’ is better known.

  2. 2
    Lena on 16 Feb 2007 #

    I am trying and failing to think of The Smiths song that is clearly influenced by this…

  3. 3
    Marcello Carlin on 16 Feb 2007 #

    Rusholme Ruffians

  4. 4
    Lena on 16 Feb 2007 #

    Ah, thanks! And didn’t he get dolled up (as the British say) to look like Elvis for a cover too? Hmmm…

  5. 5
    Lena on 16 Feb 2007 #

    Or, you know, when the Smiths were around…such a short time, come to think of it…

  6. 6
    Marcello Carlin on 17 Feb 2007 #

    Well, Elvis was on the cover of one of the Smiths’ singles (I think “Shoplifters Of The World Unite” but I’ll have to check on that). Morrissey did get dolled up as Terence Stamp for the cover of “What Difference Does It Make?” since the Smiths couldn’t get clearance in time to use the original photo…

  7. 7
    wichita lineman on 13 Jan 2009 #

    Morrissey was in NME around the time of Shoplifters in mascara, as I recall, but denied he was trying to look like Elvis. This was shortly before he decided he’d rather look like Stinky Turner, the clot.

    It’s a shame in a way that His Latest Flame and Little Sister were used on the same 45 as they were equally popular (reached no.4 and no.5 respectively in the US) but, if separate A-sides, would have leavened the weight of Nashville slowies and lightweight film songs that made up his next few releases.

    Both sides written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman at their peak. They had given him the rollicking A Mess Of Blues, a no.2 the year before, and would also punt the glowering Suspicion and Viva Las Vegas his way. But they stopped trying so hard when the films got sillier – the themes from Double Trouble and Girl Happy will make you squirm with their rote melodies; the latter is played incredibly fast, as if people couldn’t wait to get the thing over and done with.

  8. 8
    jeff w registered on 28 Apr 2009 #

    My third 10 (chronologically) and my favourite Elvis track – curiously it shares a couple of lyrical ideas with “Cathy’s Clown”. Don’t know what that says about me.

  9. 9
    wichita lineman on 28 Apr 2009 #

    His best double A apart from Hound Dog/Don’t Be Cruel, has to be a 9 or 10, but I can’t remember what I gave it (drunkenly did the whole lot in around 45 mins) – can we possibly see our marks out of ten again? And/or the average so far?

  10. 10
    Tom on 28 Apr 2009 #

    If you’re logged in both are visible! The average so far on this is 6.8

  11. 11
    wichitalineman on 28 Apr 2009 #

    Thanks boss!

  12. 12
    swanstep on 8 Jun 2010 #

    A terrific record, certainly at least a 7 (but then things like Jailhouse Rock have to go to 9). Not just shrewdly strip-mined by Marr for the brilliant Rusholme Ruffians (‘a skirt ascends to a watching eye, it’s a hideous trait on her mother’s side’ – god, how I wished to have written that!), but segued to and fro’ RR in live performances, e.g., as collected on Rank. Vids are on youtube if you are interested, e.g., here.

  13. 13
    swanstep on 20 Jan 2012 #

    I recently discovered that this track was strip-mined 3 years before The Smiths, on an excellent album track, ‘Want’ by The Expressos. It wasn’t anywhere on youtube so I’ve put it up there with a Ball of Fire (1941)-flavored vid. if anyone’s interested.

  14. 14
    richard thompson on 30 Mar 2012 #

    Wild in the country was a number one in the nme chart

  15. 15
    wichita lineman on 3 Apr 2012 #

    Swanstep, I’m shocked by the black hole the Expressos seem to have fallen into – no wiki, no spotify, in fact nothing out there bar your youtube entry and a Betty Page review on rocksbackpages. They had enough press at the time. Any idea what became of them? Obvs I’m most interested in what became of Roz Rayner.

  16. 16
    swanstep on 3 Apr 2012 #

    @Wichita, 15. There’s this page, which has some further links. And Roz R. used to (~2010) update an Expressos myspace page which appears to still be functional.

    In general tho’, the micro-generation of short-lived, female-fronted bands from around 1980 with rock and girl-group influences and without new wave pretentions just does seem to have been largely forgotten. Thus, e.g., there are nifty Holly and The Italians songs up on youtube where my praise is the only comment.

    I guess it’s always the way – a lot of the fine detail of musical periods is of no interest to subsequent generations, who reasonably just stick to the peaks. If someone big *now* picks up on some earlier period’s lower tier stuff (e.g., Dave Grohl doing a cover of The Passions’ I’m in love with A German Film Star, LCD Soundsystem stripmining god-knows-what!) then it’ll be remembered but not otherwise.

  17. 17
    wichita lineman on 3 Apr 2012 #

    Thanks. And I’m glad you say that about the “fine detail of musical periods”, it makes me feel my book might be of some use! Not that it contains an Expressos chapter…

    The Photos were another group in that vein, their album was a no.4 hit but I don’t recall hearing a single song by them. The Tourists, too, who I for one much prefer to Eurythmics.

  18. 18
    swanstep on 3 Apr 2012 #

    17, you’re welcome. BTW, I always liked/enjoyed St Etienne’s pointers to ‘fine detail’ things I’d never otherwise have heard of, e.g., World of Twist. Thanks for that.

  19. 19
    Billy Smart on 3 Apr 2012 #

    Oh, while Wichita is reading this page – If he wasn’t already aware of it he might be interested in getting last year’s Network DVD collecting all 17 surviving editions of the various versions of ‘Sunday Night at the London Palladium’ dating from between 1957 and 1974, as it includes a vintage performance from Paul and Barry Ryan (as well as much more of variable interest).

  20. 20
    hectorthebat on 5 Mar 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010)
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Dave Marsh & Kevin Stein (USA) – The 40 Best of the Top 40 Singles by Year (1981) 31
    Guinness Book of Hits of the ’60s (UK, 1984) – Tim Rice’s Top 10 Songs

  21. 21
    lonepilgrim on 19 Jun 2014 #

    the lyric is a masterpiece of compression – and the tale sounds timeless – the truncated Bo Diddley riff and Elvis’ terse delivery in the verses create a sense of thwarted momentum before the bridge cuts loose with some unhinged piano and the words spilling out more freely that express the passion that is being held back.
    I suspect that the conversation between two friends that begins the song may have been an inspiration for ‘She Loves You’ which replaces the heartbreak of this with a sense of camaraderie and hope.

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