115. ‘Wooden Heart’, by Elvis Presley

Oooh, what’s that? An accordion? Yay!… Said no-one ever. Nothing good ever starts with an accordion.

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Wooden Heart, by Elvis Presley (his 7th of twenty-one #1s)

6 weeks, from 23rd March – 4th May 1961

And what could you possibly add to said accordion to make an even more annoying sound? Ah, yes – an oompah band. Or at least the flaccid remnants of an oompah-band. So with this pair of musical buzzkills we enter Elvis’s short-lived ‘Lederhosen phase’: Can’t you see, I love you, Please don’t break my heart in two, That’s not hard to do, Cos I don’t have a wooden heart…

This is – for want of a better, more descriptive word – bad. At least Elvis has the decency to sing it like he’s embarrassed. He’s on auto-pilot – none of the emotion we were hearing on ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’, none of the bombast from ‘It’s Now or Never’ and certainly none of the energy we were hearing from him a couple of years ago on ‘Jailhouse Rock’ and ‘I Got Stung’. The song, like the oompah-rhythm, plods along until it fizzles out.

There’s no strings upon, This love of mine, It was always you from the start… And then, if you thought it sounded lame in English, just wait until you hear it in German! Or, more accurately, in Swabian – a southern German dialect. Interestingly, this adds to the list of unusual-languages-other-than-English to feature on #1 hits. We’ve had cod-Italian (‘Mambo Italiano’), cod-Scots (‘Hoots Mon!’) and now Swabian-German, but still no French, Spanish or Italian…

Anyway, at least Elvis keeps this bilge short. Two minutes; done. ‘Wooden Heart’ featured on the soundtrack to ‘G.I. Blues – the movie shot by Elvis during his time stationed in Germany with the army, in which he plays an American soldier stationed, with the army, in Germany. And if you watch the song in the context of the movie – here – with the puppets and the children and everything it kind of works. It’s kind of cute. Separated from the movie soundtrack, though, and restricted to a black vinyl disc… I struggle to understand why anyone needed to buy this. It’s genuinely one of the worst #1s so far.

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And. AND! This single didn’t just sneak a week at the top… It spent six weeks there. A month. And a half! This is how famous Elvis was in 1961. Whenever anyone makes the old joke about an artist being so popular that they could release a fart and it would go to #1, this is what they’re talking about – the six weeks across March, April and May 1961 in which ‘Wooden Heart’ was Britain’s top-selling record. Which makes sense, since the oompah parts do, to an infantile mind such as mine, sound a bit like someone farting…

If nothing else, this disc confirms what we have long suspected: that rock ‘n’ roll Elvis is long dead. Long, long dead. ‘Wooden Heart’ isn’t so much the final nail in the coffin of Elvis the rock ‘n’ roller as the litre of gasoline chucked on the coffin while it burns. When I was a teenager just getting into Elvis I always skipped this track on his Greatest Hits. Even then. But – grasping for a silver lining here – at least this means that Ricky Valance has some competition for Worst #1 in my next recap!

18 thoughts on “115. ‘Wooden Heart’, by Elvis Presley

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