“A Little Less Conversation” was the surprise hit of 2002, and it introduced Elvis to a whole new generation of fans who had never heard “Heartbreak Hotel” or “All Shook Up.” It probably has the most interesting story of any of Elvis’ #1 hits. For starters, how many songs top the charts thirty-four years after they are recorded?
In 1968, Elvis filmed one of his last movies, Live A Little, Love A Little. The musical director needed to come up with a song for a scene where Elvis tries to get a beautiful girl to leave a swimming pool with him. Budding songwriter Mac Davis got the assignment. Davis had already penned “A Little Less Conversation” in hopes Aretha Franklin would record it, but she showed no interest, so he submitted it for the Elvis movie. It was the beginning of an association with Elvis that produced the hit songs “Memories,” “In The Ghetto,” and “Don’t Cry Daddy.” It was also a significant step in Mac Davis’ own career, as he later became a major recording artist, with hits of his own like “Stop and Smell The Roses” (#9) and “Baby Don’t Get Hooked On Me” (#1).
In the late 60’s, many of Elvis’ singles came from movie soundtracks, and although Live A Little, Love A Little was a box-office bomb, that didn’t stop the tradition. “Almost In Love” was released as the A-side, backed with “A Little Less Conversation.” “Almost in Love” peaked at #98, but enough DJ’s flipped the record over and played the other side that “A Little Less Conversation” entered the charts for four weeks, peaking at #69.
Later in 1968, Elvis recorded another version of “A little Less Conversation” for a production number in the ’68 Comeback Special. It was cut from the final show, but it did make it into the special’s soundtrack album. Then, for the next thirty-four years, the song languished in obscurity.
That changed in 2002 when Nike Corp. wanted a special song to use in their promotional ad blitz during the TV broadcasts of the soccer World Cup. Nike’s theme for their sports shoes at that time was “Just Do It,” and someone on their staff suggested the “less talk and more action” lyrics of “A Little Less Conversation’ would be perfect for the campaign. The brain trust at Nike agreed but thought the original arrangement was dated and needed to be revved up for the modern age.
Soon, they connected with a Dutch musician and producer, Tom Holkenburg, who modestly described himself as a “master alchemist, electronic daredevil, and breaker of sound barriers.” He was one of Europe’s hottest producers, and much of his work had been in advertising music. His specialties were industrial rock and techno, and he did his thing under the pseudonym JXL. J stood for “junky”, XL stood for “expanding the limits” of music. JXL stirred up a truly incredible mix of techno sounds, all built around the original vocals and accompaniment.
The Nike ad featuring “ A Little Less Conversation” appeared on television all over Europe in the spring of 2002. The music was so popular that people called the stations and asked to hear the ad again and inquired where they could buy the CD. When RCA/BMG Records heard about this, it didn’t take them long to oblige. They put out a CD with three versions of “A Little Less Conversation” on it: a three-minute thirty-second version for radio play, a six-minute version as a dance track, and the one-minute thirty-nine-second 1968 original.
“A Little Less Conversation” soon topped the charts in over thirty countries all over Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and of course, the USA. However, the strange story didn’t end here. The multi-platinum CD Elvis’s Thirty #1 Hits came out a short time later. You probably have a copy, so check out the song list. There are actually thirty-one songs. RCA/BMG added “A Little Less Conversation” to boost sales, and the fans got a bonus song.
“A Little Less Conversation” certainly proved one thing. Elvis may be dead, but his music and influence live on.
© 2006 Philip R Arnold www.elvisblog.net