34) Elvis Presley – “It’s Now or Never”

 “Stuck On You” may have lacked some of the verve of Elvis’s pre-army hits, but he abandoned rock and roll entirely for his next #1, “It’s Now or Never.”  Presley had heard Tony Martin’s 1950 hit “There’s No Tomorow,” based on the Neapolitan aria “‘O Sole Mio,” while stationed in Friedberg, Germany and commissioned new lyrics on his return to the U.S.  While he had been serving in the army, pop chart rock and roll had gone soft.  Chuck Berry was in jail, Jerry Lee Lewis had scandalized the public by marrying his 13-year-old cousin and Little Richard became a Christian evangelist.  Rock and roll’s fan base had always been teenagers, but younger teen idols crooning a sanitized version of rock were in large part replacing the rootsier innovators.    In order to compete, Elvis had to tone down his image a bit, to appeal both to the  softer tastes of the teen audience as well as to adults.  Presley had recorded ballads before like “Love Me Tender,” but “It’s Now or Never” was his attempt to reach out to the easy listening crowd who would likely remember Tony Martin’s hit from a decade earlier.  “It’s Now or Never” was also Presley’s attempt to validate himself as something more than the hip-swiveler who drove teenagers crazy with his black music.  Not only did he have a great voice for rock and roll, but he had a great voice period.  The vibrato is perfectly measured, the timbre is rich and he nails the high note at the end of the song.  It’s no wonder that his next two #1’s are of the same ilk (one even borrows its ethnic arrangement).  “It’s Now or Never” was Elvis meeting his audience’s parents, proving that he wasn’t as bad as everyone said and that he was worthy of their time and affection.  7

Hit #1 on August 15, 1960; total of 5 weeks at #1
34 of 964 #1’s reviewed; 3.53% through the Hot 100

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1 Comment

Filed under 07, 1960

One response to “34) Elvis Presley – “It’s Now or Never”

  1. Action Man

    The rare ballad that has some life in it. Very smartly paced and the high note at the end just brings it all home. Love it

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