Going For A Song: ‘Mystery Train’

Elvis Presley – Mystery Train

Scotty Moore died this week. I’m choosing ‘Mystery Train’ to mark it because I feel those early Sun recording he made with Elvis Presley, Bill Black and Sam Phillips in the summer of 1954 are beginnings (and some endings too I guess) for Elvis, for Scotty, for music, for popular culture in general. It is Greil Marcus who summons this up and articulates it so well in his book Mystery Train, in the chapter Elvis: Presliad (which if you haven’t read already I really recommend you do).

Marcus writes specifically of the recording of ‘Mystery Train’. How Scotty ‘as he always did, lives up to Elvis’s passion […] gives us one hard solo, which seems to hang the song between what it has always been and what Elvis is making of it”. I love this description as it recognises that – if ever it was in doubt – these songs needed Scotty Moore; that the history that came after was dependent not just on Elvis, but an introduction, and then three young men, strangers really, getting into a room and struggling, and then succeeding, to create some music; music, which for them, the very creation of was success enough, never mind what we all know came next.

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