Elvis Presley’s been dead longer than Avril Lavigne’s been alive. But despite more than two decades of decease, Presley recently scored his 18th #1 hit in England, which puts him 18 ahead of Ms. Lavigne. Who said dead men tell no tales, or, better yet, shake no tails?
That hit — which topped the British chart for four weeks and pushed Presley past the Beatles’ 17 #1 hits — was based on a remix of the 1960 track “A Little Less Conversation,” created by Junkie XL’s Tom Holkenborg for a Nike World Cup soccer ad. The techno’d track, which was not originally scheduled to be a single, features Elvis’ signature sultry vocals goosed with some dance-floor-ready big beats.
Anyone who has bought the single, which features the surprisingly funky original version, knows that JXL didn’t have to do that much to freshen Elvis’ sound for the Xbox generation.
Which got us to thinking: what if we asked a bunch of today’s hottest remixers — from hip-hop junkies the Neptunes to techno talents John Digweed and the Crystal Method — what they would do to make the original king of bling a little livelier for today’s music fans?
“As a producer, you really want to dig in the crates and find that overlooked song and try to flip it and make it hot,” said Chad Hugo of the Neptunes, who has had his way with plenty of hot acts, from Limp Bizkit to Britney Spears. Though he hadn’t heard the “Conversation” remix, Hugo said he had another idea for a surefire mix that he thought could bring some of the King’s heat to the street. “I’d take ‘Hound Dog’ and have Snoop drop in and hit a verse on it,” he said. “That’s a no-brainer.”
He might be one of the most popular progressive house DJs on the planet, but John Digweed, who has remixed tracks by Underworld and New Order, saw no point in another remix of the man who topped this year’s Forbes.com Top-Earning Dead Celebrities list with $37 million.
“I don’t think it would be cool to hear another Elvis tune in a nightclub,” Digweed shouted over the blast furnace of sound in the dance tent on a recent stop of Moby’s Area2 tour. “I just don’t see the point. It was original the first time. Tom [from Junkie XL] did a great job, and there’s plenty of other bands who deserve to be remixed.”
If approached, Digweed swore he’d say no, even for a million dollars. Really? “Yes, absolutely.”
Ken Jordan of the Crystal Method didn’t need Dr. Evil-like numbers to play ball, though. Not only did he have a track in mind (“Suspicious Minds”), he’d already figured out the beats per minute rate to use (122-123) and dredged up some fond memories of the King.
“It’s the perfect tempo … for us,” said Jordan, whose latest mix CD with partner Scott Kirkland, Community Service, features remixes of P.O.D. and Rage Against the Machine.
“But most importantly, [it came out at a time] when Elvis was at his best,” he said. “Not at his best musically, that would have been in ’56, but this is when Elvis was the absolute best at being Elvis. He was doing loads of drugs, he still looked great, he was wearing absolutely crazy costumes, doing karate, going off on wild escapades with Richard Nixon and getting away with it all. That’s the Elvis that I love.”
The idea of reinventing the King is something the late singer’s company, Elvis Presley Enterprises, and his label, RCA, are seemingly always in the process of. While the latest spurt of activity (such as the slew of Elvis songs in the Disney flick “Lilo & Stitch,” a hip video to accompany the “Conversation” remix, and a compilation of #1 hits due Tuesday, featuring crisp, remastered classics) might feel like a remix of his career for the new millennium, his estate doesn’t see it that way.
“The #1 album is certainly an effort to reach new audiences and a younger generation, because they are the future,” said Todd Morgan, Director of Media and Creative Development for Elvis Presley Enterprises.
He noted that both Disney and Nike came to EPE requesting to use the King’s songs, to which they gladly obliged. “A remix had been in our plans for a long time, and this one just really seemed to make sense,” Morgan said. “But EPE reaching out to younger audiences is nothing new.”
In a separate bid, (which Morgan said the estate does not support) Tomato Records recently jumped into the fray with its own remix album of live Elvis recordings. Roots Revolution: The Louisiana Hayride Recordings compiles 16 tracks recorded by Elvis on the popular radio program from 1954-1956, with additional musical accompaniment by contemporary musicians layered on top of the original tapes to enhance the spotty sound of the masters. The album is not unlike the officially sanctioned “virtual” Elvis tours that crisscross the country, in which former members of the King’s band play along to videotapes of his singing.
With Morgan saying future Elvis remixes aren’t out of the question, perhaps the estate should look to the king of Majorcan DJs for some ideas, because DJ Sammy knows a thing or two about bringing a song back from the past.
The Spanish trance DJ has been battling Elvis on the charts with one of the other biggest worldwide dance hits of the year. His remix of the 1985 Bryan Adams song “Heaven” put a techno touch on what was formerly a classic rock ballad (see “DJ Sammy Reaches ‘Heaven’ With A Little Help From Bryan Adams” ). While it was easy for him to pick that track to spruce up, Sammy said picking just one Elvis track is virtually impossible.
“I would have to sit down with every song, and even then I couldn’t choose,” Sammy said, offering a solution Elvis’ manager, legendary huckster “Colonel” Tom Parker, might have come up with himself. “I would pick all of them and spend the next two years taking 20 seconds of each and doing the ultimate megamix! Because he’s such a legend, such a maestro, that I would be embarrassed to leave out any song.”