It’s not as notorious as “Having Fun with Elvis on Stage” but it’s probably the most famous Elvis bootleg to actually contain music. Released on the “Dog Vomit Sux” label (a subsidiary of “Dead Obese Guy Enterprises”), Elvis’s Greatest Shit kifes shitty b-sides and soundtrack songs and presents them in a lovingly disrespectful package. The goal, apparently, was to remind people that Elvis was human.
Honestly, it compares favourably to Roy Orbison’s efforts at making disco, or Brian Wilson’s rapping, or the more ghoulish Beatles songs such as “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.” Greatest Shit isn’t as musically intolerable as you might think or hope. The main reason? It has Elvis singing on it.
As a performer, he’s too good, and he keeps making these bad songs sound better than they have a right to be. “Old McDonald Had A Farm” made me laugh at the start, but then Elvis’s timeless baritone got me under its spell. The songwriting is consistently dreadful, but that doesn’t mean the songs are also consistently dreadful. The end result is often like a skilled poker player winning the river on a bad hand.
Elvis came from the period when albums existed to promote singles. Stab down a turntable needle at random on nearly any late 50s to early 60s LP and you’ll likely hear impaled bad music bleeding and writhing through your speakers. Elvis was no exception – even his some of his supposed classics sound boring and uninspired to me. I don’t believe “Now or Never” have been a hit without the push of the Elvis name behind it.
A lot of these songs come from soundtracks – specifically, films from his flower-necklace-and-hawaiian-guitar days, and obviously they sound odd with no context. And a lot of them are gag songs, with comical lyrics – “(There’s) No Room to Rhumba in a Sports Car” takes a courageous stand against dancing inside moving vehicles, and “US Male” (often considered the album’s classic) is full of funny chauvinism.
The packaging’s a hoot, too. The back cover contains images of nonexistent Elvis LPs “Dead on Stage in Las Vegas, Aug 20th 1977” and a vocal duet with Richard Nixon. The front cover contains the iconic picture of Elvis lying in his coffin – ultimate proof that Elvis was human.