Second to None: The Rubberneckin’ Saga

Elvis’s 21st century comeback compilation, “Elv1s: 30 #1 Hits,” was a massive seller, helped in large part by the popularity of the “A Little Less Conversation” remix and by a huge marketing scheme by Sony/BMG.

But the scope of Elvis’s musical career was far too large for one 70 minute disc, so a follow-up was in order. Elvis: 2nd to None was released in 2003 in an attempt to ride the wave of Presley’s newfound popularity with a younger generation who had known him only as the mockery their parents had made of him.

Elvis was everywhere again. In movies, on TV, and most important, on the radio, and not just on the oldies stations. Contemporary artists were speaking out about how Elvis had influenced them and their music. From hip-hop and punk to pop and soul, everyone seemed to be feeling the Elvis buzz.

Where the goal of #1 Hits was to make the end-all compilation of Elvis’s top-charting hits from the US and UK, 2nd to None was definitely to show off the obscure side of Elvis. Many of the songs had long been ingrained in pop culture, like the movie song “Viva Las Vegas,” or “Blue Suede Shoes,” while others were less so, like “I Feel So Bad,” and late 70’s “Moody Blue.”

The main two draws of the album were the long-lost master recording of an alternate theme song for Elvis’s film “Roustabout,” and the Paul Oakenfold remix of “Rubberneckin’.”

The track was originally recorded during the 1969 Memphis recording sessions, when Elvis had recorded legendary tracks like “Suspicious Minds” and “In The Ghetto.” The sessions are frequently hailed as Elvis’s best in his entire career, and compared with his early sessions at Sun Records. Elvis had, for a year then, been riding a high brought on by the success of the NBC “Comeback” Special that had thrust him into the limelight again. The song itself, penned by Dory Jones and Bunny Warren, was a very 60’s song, with groovy lyrics essentially about going on a drug trip, was recorded in a meager two takes, (three if you include a false start,) and originally relegated to the B-side of “Don’t Cry Daddy.” (Another Mac Davis song, for those into tidbits.)

However, it was also incorporated in the movie that was part of the deal Col. Parker and Elvis had signed with NBC for the TV Special, 1969’s “Change of Habit,” in which Elvis played a hip doctor who worked in the deep urban city and co-starred with Mary Tyler Moore. The song, with its driving bass beat, actually influenced the tone of the other movie’s songs. “Change of Habit,” “Let Us Pray,” and “Have a Happy” all have a similar prominent bass part, though they were recorded at sessions far different from the Memphis sessions.

When, in 2003, Sony/BMG and EPE teamed up for a second hits compilation to follow “30 #1 Hits,” they sent the word out to many successful DJ’s that they wanted to include another remix, this time with “Rubberneckin’,” which was from around the same timeframe as “A Little Less Conversation” had been recorded, and had pretty much the same level of obscurity.

They received several submissions back, and from three that they endorsed, only one became the official single that was released to the mainstream public and included on the 2nd to None package, and that was the one produced by veteran DJ Paul Oakenfold. The song became an overseas hit again, much like “A Little Less Conversation,” only this time, the King himself was actually included in the promo video that went with it.

The video itself stirred up minor controversy within the Elvis community due to the female dancer flashing her panties at the camera, but the song enjoyed decent radio play and gained fairly good ground on the charts around the world. The song was later included in several films and TV shows, much like “ALLC” was. But what very few people were aware of, was that Sony/BMG had approved the release of two of the other remixes done at the time.

One remix, produced by DJ Jason Nevins, was released online as a digital-download only. It featured a heavy beat and a more prominent guitar riff, focusing less on the “groove” and more on the “grit.” For some unknown reason, the remix was even released with a “Parental Advisory: Explicit Content” notice, although there’s nothing in the track to indicate any reason for that designation.

The other was released through a website accessible only by purchasing a special Elvis-themed phone card available only at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club in the United States. A special code on the back allowed you to enter a site that had a few exclusive videos, desktop backgrounds, and two preview tracks from 2nd to None, “Viva Las Vegas,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” and this remix, produced by a Canadian duo called DNA Project.

This version of the song, interestingly, has not been found anywhere else online and is actually my personal mp3. The original .wma file was lost when the computer I downloaded it on crashed, and my only backup of the song was a cassette tape I had made from holding a tape recorder up to the speakers of my computer. (I was 14 years old at the time, mind you!) This is a digitized version of that cassette tape recording, and from what I can find, the only copy of the song available on the internet.

“Rubberneckin'” was certainly a very obscure track that was prime for remixing, and after it came out, some Elvis fans kept crying for another remix of another late 60’s track, while others, steeply opposed to the concept of remixes, begged Sony/BMG and EPE not to release another. And they wouldn’t… for another long five years…

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One thought on “Second to None: The Rubberneckin’ Saga

  1. The Jason Nevins remix appears to have been scrubbed from history. Even though I purchased it from iTunes, it no longer appears in my Purchases. The Amazon page has disappeared. Hmmm.

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