There are many words which should not be connected to our darling Elvis. Only doesn’t belongs in any category with Elvis. He’s not an only, he’s an extraordinary exception to every rule approaching perfection. How can one say it’s only love or only devotion or only adoration. It’s Elvis, it’s love. If this was a jigsaw puzzle, only couldn’t be wedged in. If this was a crossword puzzle only would have been removed from the dictionary for use. If this was a word search, only would be the unused word never to be crossed out.

There are certain songs that seem to bypass the ears and strike directly in the heart. “It’s Only Love” falls into that category at the top of the list. This one was recorded at Studio B in Nashville in May of 1971, ushering in the wonderful 70’s matured Elvis Presley sound.

The end of that Spring’s greenery and the beginning of Summer’s blooms saw a big and overdue change in the Whitehaven neighborhood. In June of 1971, it was decided the street signs designating Highway 51 South were to be replaced with Elvis Presley Boulevard. The City Council of Memphis Tennessee officially changed the name to honor their most prestigious citizen. Just one of many honors bestowed on him, but this one was close to home and he loved it. 

He adored Memphis and Memphis adored him. The first sign was erected in January 1972 at a ceremony right outside Graceland with Memphis Mayor Wyeth Chandler and Elvis’ father Vernon. Back in 1957 at the time of purchase, Graceland was far into the country. By the 70’s, shopping centers, housing developments and apartment complexes surrounded the most famous address of the most famous resident, 3764 Elvis Presley Blvd.

The link below to this song recorded about the very same time features a simple and easy 2 minutes 37 seconds. It has no distracting photos, not that he is ever distracting but you can focus solely on the lyrics and the sound. There is only the beautiful album cover from Elvis Now to view here.

This track starts and my heart skips a beat or two knowing what is to come. As with so many songs of this era, there are certain words and notes that he hits, seemingly ordinary words and phrases that he touches, and they head straight to my very soul … sunlight, has, of, destiny, all of these in the first few lines … it’s the intonation that travels the straight and narrow with no flowery bypass. It simply strikes. These words roll from his core to mine. Perhaps that seems like a idyllic stretch to many, but some will likely understand. It’s not in the words he says but rather him saying the words.

I sense these very intense real connections in many of his 1970’s slower tempo songs and ballads. Certain words wrap gently around me. The way they are spoken, the dialect softness and emphasis grabs and holds tight in a beautiful, sweet, loving way. Perhaps that was my formative years of paying closer attention and romanticizing what I had once only heard, but I now listened with purpose.

In 1971 I was only approaching my teenage years. I had no knowledge of romantic love or sex appeal or passionate feelings outside of movies and television shows, all vague and age appropriate. But I loved fairy tales and looked forward to my one day happily ever after. It didn’t involve Barbie and Ken but rather Rusty and Lucky and guitars and race cars and love songs. It was a delightful innocent age.

Some look back at the mild and often unrealistic portrayals of young love in the 60’s and early 70’s and criticize the less than true depictions of life, the happy endings and the pure virtuous kisses. Compared to today it’s contrast is that of black to white, up to down, east to west and galaxies apart. But the truth is, I’m glad it was the way it was. Often there is too much stark reality and the delightful skewed escape is a welcome refuge. The harsher truths arrive soon enough.

Fellow Houstonian Mark James wrote Suspicious Minds, but he also wrote It’s Only Love, and our perfect Presley did It more than justice in his ideal Elvis mature manner. Carole King, James Taylor, John Denver, the Bee Gees and the Doors had their hits then too, all with songs that I immediately recognize to this day and I like them. I like them a lot. But there is a Presley difference, always has been, always will be. 

The link connected by tenderness is unbreakable, held fast by a special affection and is something no one else will ever have. It’s not “only” love with Elvis, it’s a complete and total love, without question and without end. Thankfully.

Listen and enjoy.

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It’s Only Love

Words and Music by Mark James/Steve Tyrell

I see the the sunlight in her hair

I feel the warm smile that she wears

She has no recipe for love

But I just can’t get enough

From the distance of my mind

Clock that’s ringing says it’s time

Wake up to my destiny

It’s time to face reality

It’s only love that I feel inside

But I’ll get by somehow

It’s only love, there must be something else for me girl

I tell myself that it’s not real

There’s nothing left for me to feel

I’ll just be going on my way

Tomorrow brings another day

Only love that I feel inside

But I’ve got to be strong

My mind’s made up, it’s only love

But I know I’ll get by, take my heart and my pride 

And just throw it aside

It’s only love

It’s only love, it’s only love, it’s only love

It’s only love

It’s only love

Recorded: 05/21/1971 first released on single