The Return Of The King: Rubberneckin' With Elvis

by Adam Mico

Back in 1969, Elvis was in the midst of his big comeback. After years of poorly-received and similar-sounding movie fodder, he cradled R&B, country and pop to recreate himself as a relevant artist. Radio smashes came out full-force with anthemic cuts like "Suspicious Minds," "Kentucky Rain and "In the Ghetto." When originally released, "Rubberneckin'" was only capable of garnering a modest cult following after this tune was buried as a B-side to "Don't Cry Daddy" and used in his embarrassingly-received final film, Change of Habit.

"Stop, look and listen, baby… that's my philosophy..."
As a fan, I was always curious to why a track like "Rubberneckin'" was never given its due prestige and released as an A-side single. The original "Rubberneckin'" boasted showstopping proto-funk and supremely soulful background vocals by The Sweet Inspirations. Immediately catchy, this crystalline bubblegum number was a 'should've been' club-stepping epidemic that sadly was given its antidote while still in infancy.

RCA Records obviously wanted to continue to capitalize on Elvis' regained momentum following the release of Elvis: 30 #1's with Elvis: 2nd to None. For this effort, Paul Oakenfold was enlisted as the captor and modernizing expander of the spirit of "Rubberneckin'" for the new compilation's highly-anticipated single. For those you who don't know Paul Oakenfold from Adam (:wink:), his remixing resume includes U2, Happy Mondays, The Cure, The Smashing Pumpkins, Duran Duran, Madonna and New Order. On a global scale, he is arguably the most in-demand DJ/remixer. Unfortunately, after Junkie JXL's nearly blasphemous butchering of Elvis' "Little Less Conversation," my anticipation of hearing Paul's turn on "Rubberneckin'" was tempered.

A few short days ago, I was able to capture an exceptional rendering of the finished single. Unlike Junkie, Oakenfold's mix actually built on the original recording; samba, piccolo with hip-hop inflected drum and bass actually provided a base track with the masterful layering of the original support. Thankfully absent are the collection of second-hand gizmos and the blatant track-chopping that JXL used amateurishly on "A Little Less Conversation." An illuminating Oakenfold trick was his application of panning* on Elvis' vocal track, because it was not overused and it helps divert a listener from the song's weakness, which is moderately repeated and inane lyrics.

*...that's all right with me, baby*
With Elvis' mojo ringin' and the manipulation of a groovy samba track with full-bodied background vocals/grunts, this remix would meet the expectations of Austin Powers himself. "Rubberneckin'" (Paul Oakenfold Remix) is habit forming and its side effects may include convulsions (on the dance floor) and permagrin. On 9/9/03, you can freely listen for your contact buzz when "Rubberneckin'" will be officially released as a single in record stores and radio airwaves.


*Panning is the sound balance shift from one speaker to another.

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