This is a tough song to review. It’s a tough song to listen to, as well. I remember listening to Elvis Presley And America a number of times when I first listened to The Unforgettable Fire. It has a really good sound, but what I was trying to do was figure out just what the lyrics Bono was singing are. I think that’s a problem for everyone, since googling gives several variations of the lyrics, and even the official site’s lyrics don’t sound like what he’s singing.
Supposedly Brian Eno had slowed down the music for A Sort Of Homecoming, played it back and told Bono to sing. And Bono sang, without any written lyrics, and just made up the entire song on the spot. And they recorded it as he sang, and that became the song on the album. That is a crazy story, of course, but one I can absolutely believe. In those days Bono was at his musical best, and was able to write some great lyrics (just listen to The Unforgettable Fire, some of those words are amazing). I can certainly see him just making up a song on the spot. I could do it myself, but my version would be terrible, would be way out of sync with the music, and wouldn’t flow nearly as well as this song does. Maybe he had the angel from Stay singing the words to him.
The story also goes that he was thinking about Elvis Presley as he sang, thus giving it the name. Supposedly the Elvis of the latter days, when he was fat and tired and still a huge star in Vegas. I don’t see that at all in the song, there’s nothing that mentions Elvis, or even that gives the feeling of Elvis. I could see it being as simple as Larry - a huge Elvis fan - wanting to call it that (I make this up of course). I really have no idea.
There are few lines in the song that I completely understand the whole of the line. Those lines suggest to me that this song is about a relationship, and what they are saying and what the tone of the music is saying is that it’s a sad relationship (“Hopelessly, so hopelessly, I’m breaking through you and me”), or a sad point in the relationship, but the singer has faith that they will continue (“You’re through with me, but I know that you’ll be back for more”). But the end of the songs suggests that even though it’s a stormy relationship (“And this rain keeps on coming down, and this sky is alive”) they will eventually be reconciled (“And you pick me up, bits and pieces on this floor”).
So with all that, I do like this song. I don’t listen to it often, and it’s not one I seek out to listen to unless I’m in that kind of mood. And when I do I also like to listen to it’s album-mate, Indian Summer Sky, as well. They both seem to have a more bassy, deeper kind of tempo. It is a melancholy feeling when listening to Elvis Presley And America, but somehow in a good way. It is, if possible, melancholy with an upbeat sound in there as well. Is it truly the music from A Sort Of Homecoming, just slowed down? I don’t have a way to tell that. If I listen to the first part of Homecoming, before Bono begins to sing, then I listen to the start of Elvis, I do kind of get a similarity there between the music, especially the drums, just slower. So maybe it is.
My rating for Elvis Presley And America: 4 / 10