Written by Sam Bobrick and Beverly Ross, “The Girl of my Best Friend” embodied everything that was different between Elvis pre and post army studio recordings. Up to and including his final fifties recording session on 10 June 1958, almost every session had included something which was gritty, edgy rock ‘n’ roll, but immediately from the outset of his first post army recording session, on 20 March 1960, the output had evolved into quintessential inoffensive teen pop. This was a trend that would continue, with the occasional exception, throughout the sixties until those sessions in Memphis in early 1969, which would again see a complete change of direction.
Almost to a man within the Elvis camp, his first post army recording session was viewed as monumental success, and this was Elvis’s most productive session ever, and the new technology made it his best-sounding, culminating in six masters being achieved, and all in less than twelve hours. The six masters recorded yielded a million-selling single and five album cuts, but still with an inadequate amount of material for a new album. With this in mind Elvis returned to Studio B ready to tackle a new set of songs, pushed by an RCA deadline of April 5 for the additional album masters, but also hoping to get a single or two knocked off in the bargain. The subsequent album, with RCA aware of the continuing interest in Elvis’ recently completed national service, found itself with the title “Elvis Is Back” and despite it’s obvious change of direction from what had gone before, this album would become a firm fans favourite and a classic in it’s own right.
Chronologically the tenth post army recording by Elvis, “The Girl of My Best Friend” was also the fourth of twelve recorded at that second recording session on 3 April 1960, again at RCA’s Studio B in Nashville. After attempting four takes of “It’s Now or Never”, Elvis took a break for his favorite Krystal burgers, before settling down to work on “The Girl Of My Best Friend.” It didn’t really fit any of the singer’s particular musical interests, and the band took a while to work up an arrangement, but in ten takes, the most of any song in the session, they had a potential hit. In spite of the potential that they saw, it never received a single release in the United States but saw a release in the UK where it would reach #9 on the pop charts.
The decision not to give it an American single release may have been made by RCA at an executive level, given that it had been first released in 1959 by Charlie Blackwell as the B-side to his single “Choppin’ Mountains, and released by both Mary Vine and Rai Donner in 1960, which may have seemed like saturation in releases of the song. It is likely that they saw a release for the song as a single in the next few years, but no such single release was forthcoming.
The song itself in it’s raw state is nothing particularly special or unique in terms of writing, but it is Elvis’ fine performance which elevates the song from mediocrity to a potential hit. Elvis’ vocal is perfectly judged, and as such makes the listener sympathise with the almost impossible situation that the protagonist finds himself in.
It is interesting whilst listening through the takes to note that the first few takes were at a slower tempo, and that they almost seem to accidentally stumble on the faster tempo. It also takes almost until the last couple of takes before Elvis final overcomes the obvious problems that he was having with his phrasing during the song.
As with all of these videos, to get the most out of the audio, I highly recommend you use ear /headphones and turn the volume up as much as you dare!