Well I’ve got a gal, she’s as cute as she can be
She’s a distant cousin but she’s not too distant with me
We’ll kiss all night
I’ll squeeze her tight
But we’re kissin’ cousins ‘n that’s what makes it all right
All right, all right, all right
Hmm, call me a prude Elvis but personally I think it’s a damn good idea to keep your hot little twig out of your family tree, if you know what I mean. He of course does no such thing on his 20th LP, Kissin’ Cousins from 1964. I inherited this from my grandparents along with a few other Elvis soundtracks and I’ve kept it purely for sentimental reasons. Just as well because I really wouldn’t keep it for musical reasons. Oh dear, this is not 26:15 of incest-themed joy.
Obviously like all rank Elvis soundtracks it comes from an equally rank film, I saw all of them as a kid but don’t remember this one at all. basically as far as I can tell its just that old, old story that’s been told so many times before – Boy given job by army to site ICBM missile facility on his cousin’s land, Boy meets identical cousin, Boy meets beautiful country cousins who compete for his affections, Boy is menaced by boy-crazy female hillbilly gang and then some stuff happens that I can’t be arsed paraphrasing from Wikipedia. Personally, it’d make me want to join an armed insurgency against Hollywood if I was from Tennessee.
There are two worthwhile musical moments on Kissin’ Cousins, the first is the title track, included here in hillbilly and ‘normal’ mode, it’s very minor Elvis and would wither and die if placed in direct comparison with even a third-rate Elvis hit, but we’re making do here. The second is a bonus track, one of two tagged on the end of the LP – yup in 1964, Elvis was so far of the curve on that one. Anyway, it was an off-cut from previous abandoned LP sessions called ‘Long Lonely Highway’ and is a brisk shuffle where Elvis actually gets to sing and swing like Elvis and put some proper feeling into it,
It’s a long lonely highway without her by my side
And it’s a trail full of teardrops that keep on being cried
It’s still second-rate Elvis, but it has to be said in this company that feels like a victory.
Why so dire? okay the Direger counter made the most noise when scanned over ‘Barefoot Ballad’ and ‘Smokey Mountain Boy’, the rest are mostly just inoffensive schmaltz to my tired old ears. Now ‘Smokey Mountain Boy’ sounds like the bastard offspring of ‘Colonel Bogey’ and a thousand Disney rejects, singing an homage to home that only a dribbling near-death simpleton could truly enjoy; whilst ‘Barefoot Ballad’ is a hillbilly hoe-down take on that old ‘Dem Bones’ song I don’t know the proper name of. Personally I think that even the dribbling near-death simpletons who enjoyed ‘Smokey Mountain Boy’ would complain about ‘Barefoot Ballad’ and once you’ve lost the dribbling near-death simpleton demographic then I reckon your days are marked.
Bear in mind that this was all happening in 1964, Beatles-shaped things were flexing their muscles and the legions of rock were about to pounce, wielding ideas like originality, integrity, artistry, authenticity as cudgels. Elvis’ management had taken him so far into the mainstream by this point, ruined any kind of credibility the man had in terms of material and/or youth so thoroughly that he would never truly appeal to any discerning music lover again*. Still, someone had to make these mistakes first, so others didn’t – shame it had to be someone as good as Elvis had been though.
I prefer this by Australia’s, second, finest:
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*until he picked a couple of very good tunes later in Vegas – but I don’t want to mention that here because it wrecks my argument. Oh and the ’68 Comeback Special – same argument applies. Now, shhhh!