In 1968, a young and aspiring singer-songwriter was just beginning his career. Another, more veteran performer was beginning to pull his from the depths of a decade-long slump.
The singer-songwriter was Mac Davis, who hailed from Lubbock, Texas, and had yet to cut a full-fledged record yet. He would later put out several hit albums as a country-pop crossover act in the seventies and eighties.
The performer was, of course, the legendary Elvis Presley, having just come out of a very un-creative year, at least publicly speaking. 1967 had him star in three films: Clambake, Speedway, and Stay Away, Joe. In the same year, Elvis had recorded “He’s Your Uncle, Not Your Dad” and the Jerry Reed classic “Guitar Man.” Guitar Man was relegated to B-Side of the Clambake soundtrack album as one of Col. Parker’s “bonus tracks.”
But 1968 was a turning point for both men. Earlier that year, Elvis starred in “Live A Little, Love A Little,” a trippy film based on the novel “Kiss My Firm But Pliant Lips.” The sole single release from the film was the bland ballad “Almost in Love,” sided with a song Mac Davis had co-written with Billy Strange, titled “A Little Less Conversation.” Davis had originally written the song with Aretha Franklin in mind, as a bluesier pace than Elvis later recorded it.
But when the opportunity came up to write a song for a scene in which Elvis seduces a woman obsessed with horoscopes and fateful alignments, Davis submitted the song with hopes for its inclusion. The other song that Elvis actually recorded for this scene was a ballad called “Let’s Forget About The Stars,” but it was moved to the soundtrack of the western film “Charro!,” was subsequently dropped from that, and later simply relegated to the compilation album “Let’s Be Friends.”
Later that year, Elvis starred in his now-classic “Comeback” NBC television special. Though Col. Parker wanted a Christmas-themed show exclusively, director Steve Binder had different ideas for Elvis, and, hiring Billy Strange as musical arranger for the special, set out to help the King reclaim his career.
The last section of the show was a mini-movie featuring a medley of some of Elvis’ previous songs in a semi-autobiographical order. The original concept of the special was to intersperse this content with live concert footage, linking it all together with a re-recording of “A Little Less Conversation.” In the end, the idea was dropped and the recording remained unreleased until 1998’s “Memories: The Comeback Special” CD.
In 2002, preparing for the Nike Football (Soccer in the United States) World Tournament, Nike funded a massive international marketing campaign featuring the world’s best football players going head to head in caged matches. For the background track, they hired Dutch DJ Junkie XL (Real Name Tom Holkenberg) to create a hip dance track that would be open and accessible to fans of football around the world. He had heard the master track of “A Little Less Conversation” a year earlier when it had been used in the soundtrack of the remake of “Ocean’s Eleven,” and, with Elvis’s estate’s approval, used the ’68 Comeback Re-recording to create the track that changed the entire public’s perception of Elvis in the 21st century.
The track shot up the charts around the world, hitting number one in over 16 European nations, including the UK. In the United States, the song topped a singles sales list (as US charts have now converted to basing their stats on radio airplay rather than actual consumer purchase of singles.)
Since its release, it has been featured in at least ten feature films and several television programs, most notably the show “Las Vegas,” in which the remix serves as the show’s theme song and the popularized song, which had only reached #69 on the charts when first released on 1968, became the song practically synonymous with Elvis Presley and the public image of Elvis, a fat singer in a jumpsuit, changed practically overnight again to a young, hip, talented artist that left the world a great cultural legacy.