Songs That Should Have Been #1… ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, by Elvis Presley

The Stargazers, Don Cornell, The Johnston Brothers, The Dream Weavers, Jerry Keller…? Nope, me neither. But they’ve all had the honour of topping the UK singles chart.

How well a single performs in the charts can be influenced by various things… promotion, star power, tastes and trends, time of year… pure luck. And that most fickle, unpredictable of  factors: the general public. Do enough of them like your song to make it a smash? Or will they ignore it, and let it fall by the wayside?

I’m taking a short break from the regular countdown to feature five discs that really should have topped the charts. Be it for their long-reaching influence, their enduring popularity or for the simple fact that, had they peaked a week earlier or later, they might have made it. (I’ll only be covering songs released before 1964, as that’s where I’m up to on the usual countdown.)

Next up…

Well since my baby left me…


Heartbreak Hotel, by Elvis Presley

 reached #2 in June 1956

OK, OK, I know. Elvis doesn’t need any more number one singles. He’s had plenty. Back on my regular countdown, of actual #1s, we’re in 1964 and The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll is on fourteen (14!)

But… His dominance of the charts in the early 1960s is why I wish that this disc could have made the top. He had some brilliant, classic #1s – don’t get me wrong – but he also dragged a lot of crap to the top just through the power of his name. If only we could swap ‘Good Luck Charm’, or ‘Rock-A-Hula Baby’, or ‘Wooden Heart’, for this burst of primal energy.

This was Elvis the hip-swiveller, Elvis as Moral Panic, Elvis the Pelvis edited from the waist down… And it’s a really clever song, too. A broken heart imagined as a real place – a hotel where broken-hearted lovers cry in the gloom, and the desk-clerks are all dressed in black. It was inspired by a real-life suicide, which is some heavy shit for a pop song in 1956 (for comparison, it was kept off the top-spot in Britain by the banal, saccharine stylings of Pat Boone, with ‘I’ll Be Home’.) And when that guitar solo kicks in… Oh boy. The King was most definitely in the building.


7 thoughts on “Songs That Should Have Been #1… ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, by Elvis Presley

  1. Pingback: Songs That Should Have Been #1… ‘Stranger on the Shore’, by Mr. Acker Bilk – The UK Number Ones Blog

  2. I cannot believe we live in a world where this was not a number one…this song is rock and roll…
    Pat Boone number one at anything except as a sleep aid mystifies me.

  3. Pingback: Songs That Should Have Been #1… ‘Please Please Me’, by The Beatles – The UK Number Ones Blog

  4. Pingback: 197. ‘Crying in the Chapel’, by Elvis Presley – The UK Number Ones Blog

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