Elvis Presley is an icon without comparison today, pure and simple. His face is arguably the most recognisable in the world of any 20th century musician, and after his death came to be known as the “King of Popular Music”. Looking back at his discography, there are so many hits that have become stock phrases in the currency of music writing. Everybody knows or has heard of the likes of “Hound Dog” and “Return to Sender”, which shows that the music he made back in the 50's and 60's is still fresh and relevant today. But one song in particular captured the publics imagination.
Heartbreak Hotel was the track that catapulted Elvis into the public eye, having been released in January 1956 it went straight in the charts at the number 1 spot. The song was first performed for an RCA concert in Nashville on January 10, 1956, which Elvis played with his band The Blue Moon Boys to great critical acclaim.
The song was the audio equivalent to a love potion, sending girls into raptures with the smooth sound, moody lyrics and swinging hips of his performance. The classic tune was originally written by songwriting masterminds, Tommy Durden and Mae Boren Axton, who were inspired to pen the song after reading about a heartbroken man who committed suicide from his hotel window in the middle of the night after his love left him. The song came as part of Elvis' self-titled debut album which was a sensation as soon as it hit the press, clocking up a massive ten weeks at number 1 on the U.S. Billboard Album chart.
Elvis was the first rock and roll star to reach the number 1 spot in the album chart, and the first white American to appropriate what had been seen as “African American music” in this new way. The sound struck a chord with Middle America, it captured the zeitgeist of the moment and the cover photo of the album showing Elvis singing passionately with a pearl white acoustic guitar came to symbolise this age when inhibition was cast off and the kids let loose.