In early 1969, Elvis Presley recorded a cover of the song “Suspicious Minds.” It became a hit for him, his final song to hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. According to musical arranger, Glen Spreen, it shouldn’t have been such a success. When Spreen and the other people who worked on the song first heard the finished version, they could hardly believe how bad it sounded. 

Elvis Presley’s ‘Suspicious Minds’ didn’t sound the way his musical arranger planned

In 1969, Spreen, the musical arranger for the second to last version of “Suspicious Minds,” listened to the finished version. He could hardly believe what he was hearing. In this version, the volume faded out in a false ending before returning in a lengthy coda.

“I mean, we laughed at it — let’s put it that way — when we heard the fade,” Spreen said in the book Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley by Peter Guralnick. “You know, to do that kind of thing live, because the audience is there and they’re participating, they’re with him, that’s one thing, [but a record’s something else].”

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Spreen wasn’t the only one who felt disgusted with the finished song. The musicians who worked on it with Elvis were also stunned.

“Gene Chrisman was probably the most vocal about the whole thing — he used very blunt words in describing what he felt,” Spreen said. “Bobby Emmons just had this blank, amazed look on his face, and we all just kind of went, ‘God, how can they do this?’ as it kept going and going and going. But we couldn’t do anything about it.”

‘Suspicious Minds’ became a hit for Elvis

Despite what Spreen, Chrisman, and Emmons thought, the song became a hit for Elvis. He performed it for the first time in a concert at the International Hotel in Las Vegas and released it as a non-album single less than a month later.

The song was No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was his final song to achieve this.

He couldn’t stand it when people took creative control over his songs

Typically, Elvis did not like it when people tampered with his musical vision. According to Priscilla Presley, one of the rare times Elvis pushed back against his manager Colonel Tom Parker’s guidance was because he tried to change Elvis’ sound.

“[Elvis] liked to work as a team — with his voice, the backup singers, and the instruments all recorded at the same volume,” Priscilla wrote in her book Elvis and Me. “He didn’t want his voice out front alone. He liked the impact of the whole group. It was his sound, and it was a fabulous sound until one day Colonel said there were complaints from fans and from RCA that they couldn’t hear Elvis well enough.”

A black and white picture of Elvis Presley sitting near a camera. He has a towel around his shoulders and holds an acoustic guitar.
Elvis Presley | Bettmann/Contributor via Getty

Elvis wanted his music to match his vision rather than the vision of record executives.

“This is one of the few times Elvis bucked heads with him, stating, ‘I’ve been singing that way all of my life. What do a few heads in RCA know about music? I’ll sing the songs the way I hear them.’”

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