In The Number Ones, I’m reviewing every single #1 single in the history of the Billboard Hot 100, starting with the chart’s beginning, in 1958, and working my way up into the present.
Elvis Presley wasn’t really trying anymore. There’s no other way to put it. By 1962, Presley’s whole approach to singing — his hiccuping, his quick and sudden descents into baritone, his soft and vulnerable upper register, his interplay with backup singers the Jordanaires — had hardened into shtick. He regularly topped charts around the world, and he didn’t have to work especially hard to do it. And “Good Luck Charm” is evidence of that — a perfectly OK song with no ambitions to be anything other than a perfectly OK song.
Of course, the crazy thing about Presley was that he had the charisma and confidence to make a mediocrity like this work. There’s a big wink in Elvis’ voice on “Good Luck Charm.” It’s like he knows it’s not that great of a song but he can get it over through sheer hammy force of personality. He seems like he enjoys the challenge. He’s clearly having fun singing “Good Luck Charm,” and that fun, even on this loping and undistinguished shuffle, is infectious.
As it would turn out, “Good Luck Charm” was the beginning of the end. Maybe the public was finally getting sick of Presley’s rote, stakes-free pop-star era. Or maybe it was the behind-the-scenes drama that came after. Col. Tom Parker, Elvis’ manager, had a policy that songwriters would turn over the rights to their songs to Elvis’ publishing company. But in the case of “Good Luck Charm,” Aaron Schroeder, half of the songwriting team behind the track, had enough of it, and he tried to get it registered under his own publisher at the same time. The team of Schroeder and his co-writer Wally Gold were among Elvis’ favorite songwriters, but after the legal battle over “Good Luck Charm,” they stopped working with him, and so did plenty of other A-list songwriters. Maybe that’s why Presley’s momentum stalled. Or maybe it was just his time.
Whatever the case, Presley would not return to #1 for years, until after his 1968 comeback special. It would take a genuine masterpiece, “Suspicious Minds,” to get him back up there. And after that, he’d never score another #1. So let “Good Luck Charm” stand as evidence that you can coast on charisma for a while, but that you can’t do it forever.
BONUS BEATS: I had to reach pretty deep for this one. Here’s Alvin & The Chipmunks covering “Good Luck Charm”: