The story of “Heartbreak Hotel”
By Ahmet Abdulaziz….
There must be hundreds of songs written about hotels. The writers and singers, both renowned or otherwise, must have written and sung many songs about hotels. Some of these must be about some particular hotel, with the name of the hotel as the title of the song. For sure, there is not any other song about a hotel, other than “Hotel California” by The Eagles, which has carved a place of its own in the world of music.
But there is yet an another song with the title “Heartbreak Hotel”, which has got a very special place in the music world. This is the song sung by Elvis Presley, way back during 1950s. Rather this was one particular song which had made Elvis a star of the music world. The song was the first hit of Elvis, which topped the Billboard’s Top 100, chart. It became the first million-seller of Elvis Presley.
“Hearbreak Hotel” thus has its unique place in the world of music, as it made Elvis the singer, a world star.
There is an interesting story behind this song. Tommy Durden, a musician and guitarist, read a newspaper item about a person who had killed himself, after erasing everything that could make him recognisable, and had left a note saying “I walk a lonely street”, on a piece of paper. Just by way of chance, he showed the news item to Mae Boren Axton, who was a high school english teacher, who was also a song writer. She had a couple of hit songs to her credit.
In late 1955, Axton was working as a public relations secretary for Tom Parker, who was the manager of Elvis at that time. It’s said that when Axton met Elvis for the first time, she had told him that he was a good singer, but all that he needed was a hit song. She has been quoted as saying to Elvis, ” You need a million-seller and I am going to write it for you”.
While Axton and Durden were discussing this particular event of suicide of that man, they thought that there could be a “hearbreak hotel” at the end of the “lonely street”. In fact that was the spark, that led Axton to start penning down this song. They instantly painted a picture of a place where ” broken-hearted lovers cry away their gloom”. That was the beginning of visualising the whole scenario to be penned down by Axton.
On 10th January 1956, Elvis recorded “Heartbreak hotel”. That was just 2 days after he had celebrated his 21st birthday. Initially, the producers were reluctant in releasing this song, because the whole song was a bit away from the popular topics of the music market of that time. But Elvis insisted, and the song went on air. To popularise the song, Elvis personally sang this song in a number of live shows and interviews. The song clicked, in no time, and so did Elvis. The song became his main song, as it kept on leaping on the music charts.
Axton continued writing songs afterwards too, but no other song could become as popular as “Heartbreak Hotel” .
To this day, the fans of Elvis Presley, play this particular song, when they remember him. Hereunder is a video of Elvis singing “HEARTBREAK HOTEL” in 1956.