Why the 1st Version of Elvis Presley’s ‘Such a Night’ Got Banned

Elvis Presley’s “Such a Night” is a cover of a scandalous song that sounded a lot more sincere than the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s version.

It’s easy to forget now, but some of the classic rock hits from the 1950s and 1960s were considered obscene at the time. The controversial original version of Elvis Presley’s “Such a Night” was originally by a different group. That didn’t stop the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s cover from becoming a hit.

Elvis Presley’s ‘Such a Night’ appears to be about a 1-night stand

“Suspicious Minds,” “Hound Dog,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” and numerous other Elvis songs were first recorded by other artists. “Such a Night” is no exception. The original 1953 tune came from the R&B group The Drifters. Today, The Drifters are most known for their hits “Save the Last Dance for Me” and “Under the Boardwalk.” “Stand by Me” singer Ben E. King was once a member of The Drifters.

“Such a Night” includes lyrics like “Oh, that night ooh what a night / It was, it really was such a night / When we kissed, I had to fall in love” and “Came the dawn, dawn, dawn, and my love was gone.” “Such a Night” seems to chronicle a midnight stand. According to the book American Singing Groups: A History from 1940 to Today, the Detroit radio station WXYZ banned The Drifters’ “Such a Night” for being too risque.

Elvis was known for his racy style during his golden years, so it only makes sense he’d release his own version of “Such a Night.” His rendition stays true to The Drifters’, at least on a compositional level. However, rock ‘n’ roll is the devil’s music, and the devil is in the details.

The Drifters and Elvis Presley made versions of the song that feel completely different

The Drifters’ “Such a Night” is pretty lo-fi. Clyde McPhatter’s distinct high-pitched vocals are sincere, even if they’re unorthodox. The song might be about a one-night stand, but McPhatter’s voice paints it as a meaningful one-night stand, one he might remember for years to come.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Elvis performs “Such a Night” with a wink and a smile. It feels less sexual than the original because he performs it like he’s singing a novelty track like “Do the Clam” or “Rock-A-Hula Baby,” not like he’s baring his soul. The Jordanaires perform backup like they’re in on the joke. The production is the sort of slick pop that Elvis embraced in the early 1960s. The two versions of “Such a Night” feel like they’re from different planets.

How the American public reacted to ‘Such a Night’

Elvis’ “Such a Night” was a modest hit in the United States. The track climbed to No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100, staying on the chart for eight weeks. “Such a Night” wasn’t a flop single, but it wasn’t a commercial bullseye either. The tune appeared on the album Elvis Is Back! That record reached No. 199 on the Billboard 200 for a single week in 2011.

“Such a Night” wouldn’t raise eyebrows now and that shows how much society has changed in the intervening decades.

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