With two actual Jungle Room Session threads on this forum, I rediscovered the song Never Again. It didn't give me those before, but now it did: goose bumps. Bleary eyes. Can't help it, "I'm an emotional sob". The lonely death of Prince still in my system, the lonely years of Elvis in my vaines by now.
Part of a note, written by Elvis in 1976:
From another part of the note:
Wayne Newton bought the whole note at an auction and wrote song about it. The Letter:
We know Elvis has never been the same after losing his mother. And he couldn't handle the loss of his wife. For a house build for two ain't a home, when it's lived in by one. One lonely one.
The Jungle room sessions started on February 2, 1976. On February 1 it is said he flew out with the Lisa Marie to Denver to get some Fool's Gold Loaf sandwiches:
David Adler's book contains a detailed account of the event that made both Elvis and the Fool's Gold Loaf sandwich famous. On the night of February 1, 1976, Elvis Presley was at his home Graceland in Memphis, entertaining Capt. Jerry Kennedy of the Denver, Colorado police force, and Ron Pietrafeso of Colorado's Strike Force Against Crime.
The three men began discussing the sandwich, and Presley decided he wanted one right then. Presley had been to the restaurant before, while in Denver. Kennedy and Pietrafeso were friends of the owners and hung out there often, so they were driven to the Memphis airport and boarded Presley's private jet, the Lisa Marie, and flew the two hours to Denver. When they arrived at Stapleton International Airport at 1:40 AM, the plane taxied to a special hangar where the passengers were greeted by Buck Scott, the owner of the Colorado Mine Company, and his wife Cindy who had brought 22 fresh Fool's Gold Loaves for the men.
They spent three hours in the hangar eating the sandwiches, washing them down with Perrier and champagne. Presley invited the pilots of the plane, Milo High and Elwood Davis, to join them. When they were done, they flew back to Memphis without ever having left the Denver airport.
February 1, 1976 was his daughter's 8th birthday. Looks like she wasn't with her father that day. Those divorced with children, know how lonely that can feel. No matter who else is with you. No matter what else you're doing.
Next day: session time. Elvis appears in his Denver police uniform. It is evident that his mind is not on the session. Between 8.00 pm and 9.30 am three songs are recorded: "Bitter They Are, Harder They Fall", "She Thinks I Still Care" and "The Last Farewell". No happy songs. They must have reflected the mood he was in.
The next day only "Solitaire" was recorded. A song about a man, a lonely man, who lost his love through his indifference. It's obvious: Elvis stayed at Heartbreak Hotel. He seemed so lonely, considering the songs he recorded, so lonely he could die. I feel that loneliness, listening to songs like this. And that is art to me: transporting emotions.
The same day Elvis got his Memphis Police Reserve Captain I.D. picture taken during the sessions on February 3, 1976.
Everyday there were recordings.
Betweens session on February 6, 1976 Elvis received his staff reserve captains badge from Chief Crumby:
The February 6 session started out with Never Again. The song I wanted to focus on in this topic.
Never Again was written by Billy Edd Wheeler and Jerry Chestnut. It wasn't recorded by anyone else before. It's an original Elvis Presley song. And those were scarce at that time. That makes this song interesting and stand out from many of the others recorded that week.
Chestnut wrote other songs Elvis recorded, T-R-O-U-B-L-E, Woman Without Love, Love Coming Down (original by George Jones) and It's Midnight (co-written by Billy Edd Wheeler as well). It's Midnight, which Elvis directed to Priscilla during a show in 1974 by commending "Listen Cilla" (0:44):
To me this shows Elvis took some lyrics very personally. He felt what he sang. And that came across. With Never Again as well:
I hope I never ever love anyone this much again
I can't take it anymore
I've been hurt before
But never ever quite like this time
What will become of me when you're no longer here?
If I can't stop loving you
What am I to do?
You'll be free but where will I be?
Now that I'm used to love, how can I stand alone?
Now that love has come and gone
Like the ending of a song
A song my lonely heart keeps singing
Where do I go from here? Will I get over you?
If so, next time I'll be smart
I'll know before I start
A heart that don't care, don't get broken
I hope I never ever love anyone this much again
Never ever, never again, never again
James Burton is playing an acoustic guitar on this song. The early takes are somewhat off-tempo. At some point Lamar Fike walks in during a take, to which Elvis halts the performance on that take. At another take Elvis changes the line "A heart that don't care, don't get broken" into "A heart that don't love, don't get broken". The master is take 14 (there was no take 13).
Let's have a listen to the undubbed master of the song, with Elvis' state of being in our thoughts:
And finally the well-known overdubbed master, as was released on the From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis Tennessee album in May 1976:
Goosebumps. Bleary eyes.
Some say the songs he recorded were mediocre. To me they're more than that. Knowing the lonely state he was in. Some say the session lacked creative tension. Elvis felt too comfortable in his own house. His own room.
Creative Tension: the gap between a vision and current reality. (Peter Senge)
Just my opinion:
The current reality was that Elvis wasn't in the best shape to deliver what he used to. But he tried. Taking 10 to 14 takes to get things right were no exception during the Jungle Room sessions. He took 13 for Never Again, excluding the rehearsals. Elvis had a vision alright. He knew what he would like it to sound. The condition he was in was a hindrance. But he tried. And that created enough Creative Tension to get him out of the comfort zone, which was a pretty narrow zone at the time.
Getting him even more out of his comfort zone at that period in time would have been too much for him. When you're in a depression (which he probably was), you want to make your world as small as possible. You withdraw. The two sentences "Make the world go away. Get it off, get it off my shoulders," describes that feeling somewhat imo.
So I would challenge the opinion that there wasn't enough tension to create during those sessions. For Elvis there was. Most songs sound and feel autobiographical to my ears, heart and belly. Looking back, these sessions were his "Black Star", his "American IV: The Man Comes Around", his "Way Back Home". That is something I can feel in my eyes, listening to songs like Never Again from these sessions.
The complete Never Again session: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1khnplSzxRs