The Story of... 'Suspicious Minds' by Elvis Presley

8 January 2019, 16:10

Suspicious Minds
Picture: RCA

By Tom Eames

It's one of his most famous songs, but did you know its backstory?

Elvis Presley's huge version of the song helped cement him as a legend during his comeback in the late 1960s, but what is it all about and who recorded it first?

Here's all the fascinating facts you need:

  1. Who wrote 'Suspicious Minds'?

    The song was written and first recorded by American songwriter Mark James.

    James also co-wrote 'Always on My Mind', also a future hit for Elvis, as well as various songs for the likes of Brenda Lee, BJ Thomas and others.

    In 2015, he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

  2. Suspicious Minds meaning: Who wrote it?

    The song is about a dysfunctional relationship, and various feelings of mistrust within it, and how the couple need to move on in order to survive.

    James later explained that one night, he was playing around on his Fender guitar and using his Hammond organ pedals for a bass line, and came up with a catchy melody.

    At the time, he was married to his first wife, but still had feelings for his childhood sweetheart, who was also married.

    James's wife had suspicions of his feelings to the other woman, and James felt it was a tricky time as all three were "caught in this trap that they could not walk out of".

  3. How did Elvis come to perform it?

    In the original version, James sang the lead vocals, with backing by the Holladay Sisters.

    His label loved the song and released it, but they didn't have enough money to promote new artists, and the song didn't preform very well.

    Later that year, label producer Don Crews told James that Elvis Presley had booked their studio to record his From Elvis in Memphis album.

    Crews asked James if he had any songs that would be right for Elvis. James felt Presley needed a more mature rock song to bring him back as a Tom Jones-style singer.

    Both men felt 'Suspicious Minds' was perfect, and James urged others to get Elvis to hear it. After hearing the song, Elvis decided he could turn it into a hit.

  4. How was the song recorded?

    via GIPHY

    Elvis's 1969 recordings at American Sound Studio followed his successful '68 Comeback Special, which interested producer Chips Moman in making recordings in the King's new style of rock, gospel, country, rhythm & blues, and soul.

    'Suspicious Minds' was recorded on January 23, 1969, between 4am and 7am.

    It took eight takes to produce the full song, which also involved Elvis overdubbing himself on the same night.

    Mark James was in Memphis at the time, but he was not at the recording session. He had walked into the recording studio a few days earlier, and felt that Elvis was uncomfortable with his presence. As he did not want to ruin things, he decided to stay away.

    At first, James thought the new song sounded too slow. When he later heard the full version, he remarked he was "blown away". It is said that In later years, whenever Elvis saw James, he would cross the room to say 'hello'.

  5. The song was almost never released

    The song was nearly halted over a copyright dispute. Elvis's business partners said they wanted half of Moman's publishing rights.

    Moman then accused them of stealing, and Elvis's people threatened to stop the recording session. Harry Jenkins of RCA agreed with Elvis's people, as he sensed that the song would be a big hit.

  6. Why does the song fade out and in again?

    via GIPHY

    Elvis's main producer Felton Jarvis made the strange decision to add an early fade-out to the song at 3:36, lasting for 15 seconds before fading back in.

    The first verse then continues until it completely fades out.

    In 2012, Moman told The Wall Street Journal that Jarvis was never happy with Elvis recording at American Sound Studio, as "it was a control thing."

    He added: "So when Jarvis took the tape of 'Suspicious Minds,' he added this crazy 15-second fade toward the end, like the song was ending, and brought it back by overdubbing to extend it. I have no idea why he did that, but he messed it up. It was like a scar. None of which mattered. Soon after the song was released, Elvis was back on top of the charts."

  7. How did it perform in the charts?

    The song was Elvis's final US number one before he died, and it also reached number two in the UK.

    He was beaten to number one in the UK by 'Two Little Boys' by Rolf Harris.

  8. Who has covered it?

    In 1986, the Fine Young Cannibals released a cover featuring backing vocals by Jimmy Somerville, reaching number 8 in the UK. Singer Roland Gift said that Elvis had come to him in a dream and told him he would record the greatest ever version of 'Suspicious Minds'.

    Gareth Gates also covered the song, taking it to number one in 2002 as part of a double-A side with his Will Young duet cover of 'The Long and Winding Road'.

  9. Suspicious Minds lyrics:

    We're caught in a trap
    I can't walk out
    Because I love you too much baby

    Why can't you see
    What you're doing to me
    When you don't believe a word I say?

    We can't go on together
    With suspicious minds
    And we can't build our dreams
    On suspicious minds

    So, if an old friend I know
    Drops by to say hello
    Would I still see suspicion in your eyes?

    Here we go again
    Asking where I've been
    You can't see these tears are real
    I'm crying

    We can't go on together
    With suspicious minds
    And we can't build our dreams
    On suspicious minds

    Oh let our love survive
    Or dry the tears from your eyes
    Let's don't let a good thing die

    When honey, you know
    I've never lied to you
    Mmm yeah, yeah