Elvis Presley’s “Girl Happy” Reviewed
When the Beatles called on Elvis Presley back in 1965, they asked him when he was gonna stop making lousy movies and get back on stage (though not in those words). Presley claimed to be enjoying making movies, and his 22nd album, promoting the 30 year old Elvis on Spring Break with co-eds and his back-up rock band, babysitting a Mafioso’s daughter in Fort Lauderdale might have been fun to make, and a simple pleasure to watch, but as music it is pretty moribund stuff. The questioning Beatles were recording Rubber Soul at the time.
It feels like a question of drugs. The Beatles had graduated from booze to pot, and Presley had devolved from speed as a young truck driver, to downers as a bored to insanity matinee idol -and eventually would lead to his way too young death. You can feel it all over “Girl Happy” -a hit movie and album but one that seems a step behind itself, lethargic, self-evident, and infantile. Which, being something on the lethargic, self-evident and infantile myself, I liked it at the age of nine and like it at the age of 59. It is fun but silly and useless. And, as the Undertones noted a coupla decades later, it’s never too late to enjoy dumb entertainment.
Of course, it is a little difficult to see Presley movies in the same light today, essentially El’s movie roles were the story of a serial date rapist who falls in love. For all its innocence, the terrific pop track “Fort Lauderdale Chamber Of Commerce” is a little creepy and pedatory: “Any male in Fort Lauderdale who is not pursuing a cute female will automatically land in jail…” . The rest of the songs here, as Presley and the rock combo he is performing with, go girl happy, tend to be the same sort of stuff, from the title track to “Wolf Whistle”.
Some of the songs are better than you’d expect, “You’ll Be Gone”, which didn’t appear in the movie, is a very dramatic Cole Porter steal written by Elvis and two members of the Memphis Mafia. “Do Not Disturb” is Pres at his serial dater rapist best, “Do The Clam” ain’t “Slice And Sand” but it is a smart little dance track with Scotty Moore sounding like Hank Marvin. Boot’s sax solo is terrific.
Speaking of Scotty, he is still there, so is DJ Fontana, so is Boots Randolph, the Jordanaires recovering from Patsy Cline’s passing, are here . Give Elvis this, he had a loyal streak.