“Heartbreak Hotel” is a song recorded by Elvis Presley. It was released as a single on January 27, 1956, Presley’s first on his new record label RCA Victor. His first number-one pop record, “Heartbreak Hotel” topped Billboard‘s Top 100 chart, became his first million-seller, and was the best-selling single of 1956. It was written by Tommy Durden and Mae Boren Axton.
Well, Since my baby left me
These opening words set the tone, this is not a happy-song…
I got this record from my aunt when I was about 7 or 8 years old (1973/1974), I couldn’t comprehend the heartache and suffering in the lyrics. I just thought it was the coolest thing I had ever heard. I still got that record. It is worn and scratched and it’s still the coolest record in the world.
Heartbreak Hotel (audio):
Heartbreak Hotel credits
“Axton and Durden give different accounts of how the song was written. Durden’s account is that he had already written the song and performed it with his band the Swing Billys before he presented it to Axton. Axton’s account is that Durden had only penned a few lines of the song, and asked her to help him finish it. She says that the report of the suicide “stunned” her, and she told Durden, “Everybody in the world has someone who cares. Let’s put a Heartbreak Hotel at the end of this lonely street”. They were interrupted by the arrival of Glen Reeves, a local performer who had previously worked with Axton. The duo asked Reeves to help with the song, but after hearing the title he remarked that it was “the silliest thing I’ve ever heard”, and left them to finish it themselves.The song was written within an hour, and Durden recorded it onto Axton’s tape recorder.”
The song was offered to several artists before Elvis, many of them declined and described the song as strange and morbid . Durden and Axton offered Presley a third of the writers’ credits if he would make it a single, Elvis agreed. Presley recorded the song Jan. 10, 1956. It was his second song recorded on his new label RCA, following “I Got A Woman”. It was released 27th of January 1956.
Heartbreak Hotel, Milton Berle Show:
From the british newspaper The Independent:
“Heartbreak Hotel” started with Elvis, accompanied by a walking bass from Bill Black, reminiscent of Willie Dixon’s work with Muddy Waters. Scotty Moore played assertively and Cramer’s piano pattered like rain. Elvis broke down in each verse, effectively method acting like James Dean. The song was nailed on take seven, but sadly, most of the tapes were wiped. The influence of Johnnie Ray’s “Cry” is self-evident and the song could be a parody. Presley’s dirt-seeking bio-grapher, Albert Goldman, opined, “‘Heartbreak Hotel’, which is an extravagant and highly-exaggerated account of the blues, was more a psychodrama than a musical performance. As such, however, it was an extraordinary novelty and it moved rock music into another imaginative space.”
“Heartbreak Hotel” became Elvis’ first gold record, staying the top of the pop charts for seven weeks in the spring of 1956.