Random Tracks: Elvis Presley’s “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You”

With the upcoming release of Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis, I’ll be marking the occasion by reviewing all of Elvis Presley’s 18 #1 hits on Billboard including 11 that topped pre-Hot 100 charts and 7 that topped the Hot 100 after its 1958 inception.

Elvis Presley- “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You”

HIT #1: July 28, 1956

STAYED AT #1: 1 week

By all accounts, the creation of “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You” was a very troubled one. By April 1956, “Heartbreak Hotel” was about to reach #1 on Billboard and Elvis was easily becoming a massive nationwide sensation. For producer Steve Sholes, he wanted Elvis to get back to the studio right away to record a follow-up single to strike while the iron was hot. Touring in Texas, Elvis and his band quickly boarded a small plane that developed engine troubles along the way to Nashville’s RCA Victor Studios.

At the session, Elvis recorded “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You” by order of Scholes and even for a gifted performer like him, the frantic put-together nature of the session was not a good experience. Elvis kept screwing up the song over 17 takes to the point where he and the band stopped and Scholes considered the whole song to be a lost cause. But knowing it’d be difficult to get Elvis back to record with his touring schedule, Scholes listened back to the takes and cut up all the parts he liked splicing the takes together, a practice that not many were doing in the ‘50s, to form what the song we know today, Elvis’ second #1 song.

Reading that tumultuous backstory, you can’t tell it from listening to the song. It doesn’t sound like it was spliced from different takes and that Elvis was miserable recording it. And as a song, “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You” presents itself as a very uncomplicated one. It’s all about Elvis in the throes of infatuation. He wants this girl to be with him all the time and never leave him. He thought he could live without romance until she came along and will now love her eternally. Musically, it’s not far removed from the doo-wop ballads popular at the time only with more of a rock and roll beat with the “aahs” of the backing vocals and the high note piano pounding. It’s not anything hugely amazing but Elvis had the talent here to elevate what would have easily been a very forgettable song.

Coming out amid “Heartbreak Hotel’s” run at #1, “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You” was pretty much bound to follow along in its success. The single garnered about 300,000 pre-orders, the biggest for RCA Victor at the time. The song got to #1 on both the country and Top Sellers chart which chart historians use to count as Elvis’ second #1 as it only got up to #3 on the Top 100 chart in the pre-Hot 100 days. Today, the song isn’t in the higher tier of Elvis songs but is still a perfectly fine song thanks to Elvis’ performance. Many more of these would follow. 

GRADE: 6/10

BONUS BEATS: Here’s the video for Meat Loaf’s 1978 hit “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” which was inspired by “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You:”

(“Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad peaked at #11.)

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