Rolling Stones unreleased: Don’t Be Cruel
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Written by: Otis Blackwell
Recorded: EMI Pathe Marconi Studios, Paris, France, Jan. 15-March 3 1985
From Martin Elliott’s book THE ROLLING STONES COMPLETE RECORDING SESSIONS 1962-2012:
The session was flowing along and this Elvis Presley number again features Keith Richards and Mick Jagger duetting in drink sodden, slurred fashion to a piano backing.
“Don’t Be Cruel” is a song recorded by Elvis Presley and written by Otis Blackwell in 1956. It was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002. In 2004, it was listed #197 in Rolling Stone’s list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The song is currently ranked as the 173rd greatest song of all time, as well as the sixth best song of 1956, by Acclaimed Music.
“Don’t Be Cruel” was the first song that Presley’s song publishers, Hill and Range, brought to him to record. Blackwell was more than happy to give up 50% of the royalties and a co-writing credit to Presley to ensure that the “hottest new singer around covered it”. But unfortunately he had already sold the song for only $25, as he stated in an interview of American Songwriter.
Freddy Bienstock, Presley’s music publisher, gave the following explanation for why Presley received co-writing credit for songs like “Don’t Be Cruel”. “In the early days Elvis would show dissatisfaction with some lines and he would make alterations, so it wasn’t just what is known as a ‘cut-in’. His name did not appear after the first year. But if Presley liked the song, the writers would be offered a guarantee of a million records and they would surrender a third of their royalties to Elvis’.”
Presley recorded the song on July 2, 1956 during an exhaustive recording session at RCA studios in New York City. During this session he also recorded “Hound Dog”, and “Any Way You Want Me”. The song featured Presley’s regular band of Scotty Moore on lead guitar (with Presley usually providing rhythm guitar), Bill Black on bass, D. J. Fontana on drums, and backing vocals from the Jordanaires. The producing credit was given to RCA’s Stephen H. Sholes, although the studio recordings reveal that Presley produced the songs in this session by selecting the song, reworking the arrangement on piano, and insisting on 28 takes before he was satisfied with it. He also ran through 31 takes of “Hound Dog”
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