This December 24th, I’d like to wish everyone who reads ‘The UK Number Ones Blog’ a very merry Christmas. And to celebrate the festive season, let’s welcome back one of the most famous figures in Western popular culture – a man famous both for his large belly and his garish, all-in-one outfits… No, not Santa… Elvis! Yes, it’s him again. His third chart-topper of the year – and it’s only June! Like that urban myth about rats in a city; in 1961 you were never more than seven feet from an Elvis Presley #1 single.
Surrender, by Elvis Presley (his 8th of twenty-one #1s)
4 weeks, from 1st – 29th June 1961
Or, more accurately, you’re never more than a month away from an Elvis #1 single. There were just four weeks between ‘It’s Now or Never’ and ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’, then another four weeks before ‘Wooden Heart’ came along, and exactly four weeks later here we are with ‘Surrender’. Surrender? The UK Singles Charts surrendered to Elvis a long time ago. And these aren’t just flash-in-the-pan chart toppers either – they’ve all settled in at the top for a long haul. Eight weeks, four weeks, six weeks, and now another four. Very few acts can claim to have had this kind of hold over the top spot.
To the song, then. I’ve long been familiar with this. One of the first tracks on CD2 of the Greatest Hits I bought aged sixteen or so. It’s never been my favourite Elvis song. Nor have I ever hated it. I’ve never had any strong feelings about it, I guess, but I should really muster up some kind of opinion about it or this’ll be my shortest post yet.
The intro is cool – I’ll give it that. It always makes me think of the James Bond theme. Dun-dada-dun-dada-dun-dada-dun… And then The King comes in. When we kiss my heart’s on fire… Burning with a strange desire… I’m still slightly disappointed by his voice, all smooth and honeyed as it is. I have to keep reminding myself that rock ‘n’ roll Elvis is dead, or at least in a decade-long hibernation. He sings it well, though. Obviously he sings it well. It is Elvis, after all.
So my darling please surrender… All your love so warm and tender… Let me hold you in my arms dear… While the moon shines bright above… The lyrics look pretty ridiculous, written out like that. I mentioned in my post on ‘It’s Now or Never’ that Elvis never really did subtle, and this song is ‘It’s Now or Never’ distilled and concentrated. This is Elvis on heat. The best bit is when he comes back round for a final chorus, and murmurs: Won’t you please… Surrender to me… It’s playful, it’s flirty… It’s high camp. I’m being won round as I type this, on the fourth or fifth listen. I’d put it in my Top 10 ‘Elvis Songs to Belt Out in the Shower’ (‘The Wonder of You’ is number one, in case you were wondering.)
And in terms of his post-army, sixties number ones thus far – I’d rank ‘Surrender’ as No. 2 of 4. Behind ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’ but ahead of this track’s big brother ‘It’s Now or Never’. Incidentally, ‘Surrender’ is also based on an old Neapolitan ballad, ‘Torna a Surriento’ – yet another chart topper harking back to decades earlier. And then ‘Wooden Heart’ ranks fourth. Of course. I hope I’ve left you in no doubt as to how awful that particular song is.
I think one of the reasons why I’ve neither loved, hated nor felt very strongly at all about this record is the fact that it’s so short. One minute fifty-two seconds and out. It’s over before you can really think about it; and it was never worth the effort of skipping on that old Greatest Hits CD.
There’s not much more to say here. Like I said, we’re never far from the next Elvis Presley-based #1. We’ll see him again in fo… No! Shock horror… We will have to wait a full TWENTY weeks until his next chart-topper! Is this the beginning of the end for the King, and his dominance over the UK charts? Is he preparing to leave the building? (*Spoiler Alert* No, it’s not and no, he isn’t.)