289. ‘The Wonder of You’, by Elvis Presley

Well, look who’s back! Over five years on from his last #1, Elvis is back in the building. What version of Elvis are we on now? We’ve had the ‘Sun’ Records Elvis, Elvis the Pelvis, Army Elvis, Post-Army-Chart-Dominator Elvis, Terrible Movie Soundtrack Elvis…

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The Wonder of You, by Elvis Presley (his 16th of twenty-one #1s)

6 weeks, from 26th July – 6th September 1970

’68 Comeback Special Elvis has been and gone – he didn’t make the top of the charts, though ‘Suspicious Minds’, ‘In the Ghetto’ and ‘If I Can Dream’ were all decent-sized hits. Now we’ve arrived at Vegas Elvis. The jumpsuits, the rhinestones… It’s one of his most distinctive looks, the favoured outfit of the modern Elvis impersonator.

‘The Wonder of You’ sweeps in, the instruments sounding brassy and confident, as if the very fact that they are being played on an Elvis record is giving them an extra decibel. And the man himself can’t wait to get singing, joining in with the intro: Woah-woah-woah-woah… His voice sounds deeper, thicker than when we last heard him, crooning on ‘Crying In the Chapel’.

When no-one else can understand me, When everything I do is wrong… I’m not going to lie, this record is a big bucket of schmaltz… You give me hope and consolation, You give me strength to carry on… But I love it. I especially love giving it a good old belt out in the shower. Elvis has plenty of excellent shower-songs, but this is the ultimate. I guess I’ll never know, The reason why, You love me as you do… That’s the wonder, The wonder of you… Who is the ‘you’ in the title? Priscilla? God? The listener? It works, because any old schmuck can sing it to their loved-one and come away looking cute.

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Completing the ‘Elvis at the MGM’ feel are the crowd noises. Yes, we have our first ‘live’ number one since, I think, Lonnie Donegan a decade ago. They applaud at the start, when The King begins to sing, and they cheer at the end when the song rises to its finale. He never actually recorded ‘The Wonder of You’ in a studio, amazingly. At the very end, as the final note appears over the horizon, Elvis’s voice is faded right back into the mix. It’s a disappointingly muted end, a sign perhaps that his voice was beginning to fade. Of course, the next Elvis (Elvis MK VIII?) will be prescription drugs ‘n’ burgers Elvis.

And, sadly, the next Elvis we’ll meet on this countdown will be The Late Elvis. Yep, this is the last UK chart-topper of his lifetime. ‘The Wonder of You’ had been around for a while, though. It was written in 1959 by one Ray Peterson, and recorded by Ronnie Hilton (remember him, from way back in 1956?) and The Platters. Their versions are fine, though a lot stiffer than this one. Apparently Elvis had asked Peterson’s permission to record the song, and Peterson had replied with an ‘Um, you don’t really need to ask, cause you’re, you know, Elvis…’

Very few acts who scored number ones in the sixties managed to keep their runs going in the sixties. There was a sudden and sharp cut off: The Beatles (to be fair, they split up in 1970), The Stones, The Beach Boys, all the Beat bands… The door slammed down on New Year’s Eve 1969. Except, obviously, these rules didn’t apply to The King. In fact, with his 16th #1 he creates a whole new club: artists who have scored chart-toppers in three different decades. Even now it’s a select club, reserved for big names: Madonna, Michael Jackson (if you count The Jacksons), Eminem, Kylie… and Cliff Richard, who has hit #1 in an outrageous five different decades. Yep, plenty more Cliff to look forward to, coming up right here…

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13 thoughts on “289. ‘The Wonder of You’, by Elvis Presley

    1. I listened to the earlier versions while writing this, the Peterson one, and Ronnie Hilton and The Platters, and they’re nice enough. They just don’t have that Elvis special-something…

  1. Now, THIS, I do not remember being on the radio (like our Yellow River conversation). And, all I want to do is hurl. I grew up with Elvis music in my home. My dad was a big Elvis fan. But, Vegas Elvis? Nope. After the ’68 comeback, my dad was done. Vegas Elvis was a caricature…not the man that set the world on fire. He was just his own nostalgia.

    I’ve “heard of” this song but, never “heard” it. I lasted about 30 seconds before dry heaves started.

    That poor man should have shot the Colonel and gone into the acting he really wanted to do. He was a fine actor and had wonderful range.

    1. I’ve loved Elvis since I was little, so am probably biased. You’re right that Vegas Elvis isn’t what he once was, but it was a huge improvement on mid-sixties Elvis and the endless crap soundtrack albums… ‘Do the Clam’ and ‘Rock a Hula Baby’, eesh…

      I think he still elevates this schmaltzy record beyond what it should be, compared to if, say, Barry Manilow recorded it. But I don’t know if that’s actually true, and if I’m hearing what I want to hear because it’s The King.

      1. I would have to be the opposite. I’d rather have crap 60s Elvis than Vegas Elvis. I actually loved all of his silly movies…as well as his serious rolls…what few there were. My dad had “Rock-A-Hula Baby” on a 45 and I wore it out on my little portable turntable.

        I like Manilow, too but…maybe it’s the song I’m having trouble with. It’s too “Sinatra/Martin/Lounge Lizardy”. LOL!

      2. It is… I wouldn’t enjoy it half as much if it were by another singer. And I only picked Manilow off the top of my head. The 70s had a lot of this type of song/singers

  2. badfinger20 (Max)

    That voice is still great but the Elvis I love was before he joined the army. I did like Suspicious Minds and Promised Land…but after the army he wasn’t the same…and those damn movies.

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