A Room At The Heartbreak Hotel

I don’t know much about Elvis. Oh, I know the standard stuff, famous singer, became a bloated parody of himself then died of eating too much. I’ve seen the pictures, I’ve seen the conspiracy theories. I could probably name a few of his songs and I could possibly sing some of his lyrics. I guess I like some of his stuff? I’m probably just a little too young to have him be a big part of my life like others do (like Larry). So when I hear the words Heartbreak Hotel, it’s not Elvis that I automatically go to, it’s U2. In fact, I literally had to go to YouTube to listen to the Elvis song to remember it, I just couldn’t get the U2 song out of my head enough to get Elvis in.

What’s the word for mixing up lyrics? Whatever it is, I definitely have it on this song. Reading the lyrics for this review I find myself reading lines that I had no idea what they were, and had made up my own. Does that make this song better or worse? Possibly the biggest difference in lyrics is where I thought the words were “I dream of you, like Valentino,” when they were actually “Like Judy Garland, like Valentino.” I guess my words could make sense in some ways.

This is the rare U2 song with backing singers. They occasionally have others sing backing lyrics, or lead lyrics like Johnny Cash in The Wanderer, and sometimes others play some music on their albums too. But it’s not very often. The song also features a horn and/or brass section at the end (I don’t know how to describe it), which plays out the music and is kind of interesting. Not necessarily good, doesn’t make or break the song, but it’s interesting. I don’t know how they add in pieces like that, or people like the backing singers they used. Are they just hanging round the studio waiting for someone to use? Did they create the song with backing musicians in mind, and someone arranged for them to be there when needed? Or were they heard somewhere and someone said hey, let’s use them in a song? I don’t know how any of that part of the music business works. I really don’t know how a band like U2 - guitar, bass, drums - would decide to use horns or organs or backup singers.

I haven’t said yet that I really like this song. It is one of the best b sides that U2 have released (it was the b side to Angel of Harlem). It has bounce, it starts with interesting organ music, ends as a prayer, it’s just a good song all round. I do see the idea that it’s referring to Elvis, that’s obvious given the song title. I don’t see it too much in the lyrics though. “You give your life for rock and roll” is the most obvious, and also “You let them suck your life out like honey” is a bit more of an allusion than a literal one. But the rest of it, it seems more to be about a woman than about Elvis. Maybe a lost love, once again. Maybe just a woman he met on the street, or talking about some woman lost in the world, someone who had high hopes but has fallen, turned to drugs or prostitution. And the song does end with endless chanting of the title, which I have said before is something I don’t necessarily like, seems like just a way to fill in the extra time in the song.

My rating for A Room At The Heartbreak Hotel: 6 / 10