Elvis Presley is a towering figure in the annals of rock so it might seem like blasphemy to make dance remixes of his songs. However, two dance remixes of Presley tracks became huge hits in the United Kingdom. Here’s a look at how fellow rock ‘n’ roll icon Paul McCartney reacted to these dance remixes.
How a pair of remixes brought Elvis Presley back to the British charts
Musical trends ebb and flow. The rock and traditional pop stylings of Presley made him an icon in the 1950s and 1960s but those genres fell out of favor by the early 2000s. How better, then, to market Presley to a new generation than to remix some of his old songs into dance tracks?
First, the Presley estate released Junkie XL’s remix of “A Little Less Conversation.” The remix makes heavy use of a synthesizer — an instrument never used in Presley’s hits — and electronically distorts Presley’s vocals. It’s a far cry from the original in terms of both sound and success.
The original version of “A Little Less Conversation” reached No. 69 on the Billboard Hot 100. Considering Presley had several No. 1 hits, this isn’t impressive. However, the remix reached a peak of No. 50. In addition, the Official Charts Company reports the Junkie XL remix reached No. 1 in the United Kingdom. This is especially impressive given Presley had been dead for decades when his estate released the remix.
The estate went back to the well, releasing Paul Oakenfold’s dance remix of another late-period Presley track, “Rubberneckin’.” Like Junkie XL, Oakenfold took significant liberties with the original, making it more electronic. The Official Charts Company says this remix reached No. 5 in the United Kingdom.
What Paul McCartney said about the effect of remixing Elvis Presley
These Presley remixed were released around the same time Paul McCartney released a new version of Let It Be called Let It Be… Naked and a 30th-anniversary reissue of the album Yellow Submarine. In an interview posted to his website, Paul Du Noyer asked McCartney if he felt the future held an endless array of remixes.
“I start off by digging my heels in and saying ‘Oh, you should never do that with Elvis or The Beatles or The Stones. They’re pure and should remain like that,’” McCartney said. “But there is an argument about the young kids coming up. Sometimes that’s how they’ll hear an artist. They hear it down a club and go ‘Who’s that? Elvis? Who’s he?’ It seems incredible but there are young people who don’t know who Elvis is and who The Beatles are. They also don’t know who JFK is – they think it’s a chicken restaurant. The point being, you could argue it’s a good thing just to get people introduced.”
How a company wants to use dance remixes to revitalize the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll in 2021
McCartney isn’t the only one who feels this way. According to Rolling Stone, Presley’s image is currently managed by Authentic Brands Groups. The CEO of Authentic Brands Group, Jamie Salter, plans for 2021 to be “probably the biggest year in the history of Elvis Presley.” Part of this push to make 2021 the year of Presley is to start releasing more EDM remixes of Presley’s songs, with the Junkie XL remix of “A Little Less Conversation” as the model. McCartney thinks remixes help introduce younger generations to Presley — and the people in charge of Presley’s image agree.