Before the U.S. Army shipped Elvis overseas in 1958, he recorded a bundle of tracks to be parceled out as singles in his absence. The intent was to keep him in the pop music scene so that he would still have a career when discharged – even the King of Rock and Roll couldn’t survive a two-year disappearance from the popular consciousness. (That “A Big Hunk o’ Love” managed to hit #1 as late as August 1959 proves the savviness of that business decision.) “Good Luck Charm” could be easily mistaken as a relic of these sessions, especially given the very un-rock and roll sound of his post-“Stuck On You” number ones. Yet the fact that “Good Luck Charm” was recorded in 1961, not 1958, puts Presley in the same bind as Connie Francis – this is the sound of an artist whose enormous popularity shielded them from noticing that the pop audience was moving on to something else.
The difference between Presley and Francis, though, is that Elvis had changed his sound. His three previous number ones sported the influence of the European ballads and arias that he had discovered while posted in Germany, each one more baroque and melodramatic than the last. But once you’ve released a hit single featuring a rambling, faux-Shakespearean spoken-word monologue, there isn’t much higher on the bombastometer you can go. So like so many bands who follow a bloated sophomore album with a stripped-down, back-to-basics “return to form,” Elvis sought refuge grounded in the sound that had initially made him famous. But, as many of those bands have found, it’s difficult to recapture that raw spark once you’ve lost it. Which isn’t to say that “Good Luck Charm” is bad – it’s perfectly capable – but compare it with “A Big Hunk o’ Love” and the latter has a vitality, a freshness, that the former lacks. This is Elvis treading water as much as it is a return to his roots.
Like Francis’s “Don’t Break the Heart That Loves You,” “Good Luck Charm” signals the end of Elvis’s reign atop the pop charts – with one exception, which scraped in during the twilight hours of the ’60s. He would continue to record some great singles, many of which charted high – “Return to Sender,” “Blue Christmas” and “Viva Las Vegas” among them – but these would be overshadowed by his decreasingly meritorious movie career and the mediocre-to-terrible singles that soundtracked it, many of which actually were leftovers from his pre-Army sessions. But unlike Francis, the King of Rock and Roll would successfully rejigger his sound – and, with it, reclaim his throne at the top of the Hot 100. 6
Hit #1 on April 21, 1962; total of 2 weeks at #1
69 of 970 #1’s reviewed; 7.11% through the Hot 100